6 Best Practices for Getting Business Value from the Cloud

Read time: 9 mins
A Hand Touching a Cloud

value-from-cloudHow does a 100-year old business reinvent itself? When American Express Global Business Travel had an opportunity to rethink their whole technology stack, they decided to go 100 percent cloud. The newly agile company now has a single source of the truth that’s given them the ability to make data-driven decisions at the speed of business today.

In a recent webinar Coupa IT Strategist Kendra Von Esh spoke with Steve Curts, chief strategy officer for American Express Global Business Travel, to learn the secrets to the success of this cloud transformation. Guest speaker Liz Herbert, vice president and principal analyst from Forrester, joined to share insights on cloud adoption gleaned from their research across thousands of enterprises around the world. Liz has been tracking cloud adoption for Forrester since the early 2000s, when people were still wondering if it would ever amount to anything. Today, we share some of Liz’s insights, along with her six best practices for cloud success. Here’s Liz:

There has been steady growth, most years in the double-digits, in all areas of the cloud. Based on the revenue data we track, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) clearly is the fastest growing and biggest part of this market.

Solutions are getting more and more sophisticated, to the point that they're really able to displace some of the entrenched legacy applications, not just in terms of features and functions, but in terms of business results.

Need for Speed

Why are companies interested in the cloud? Any conversation with a C-level executive in the last two years has been focused on speed. They’re looking to engage with customers, partners and employees in a faster and more agile, dynamic way.

Cloud is a way for them to achieve that broader business goal. It's not just the up front speed of implementation, deployment and adoption, but the ongoing ability to iterate, and for the business to take control of the solutions. You have better data, and more self-service reporting.

Lingering Skepticism

We still see hurdles. When we talk about how the cloud is becoming mainstream and Forrester puts an idea out there like, "Cloud has the power to transform the way you do business today," we oftentimes get some skepticism.

People question, "Is the cloud really secure? Could it really achieve the performance requirements that we need? Are we going to have control issues and everything feels like a black box?” These concerns have decreased in the 10-plus years that we've been researching this, but they continue to come up.

Over the same time period, solutions have become much stronger in almost every area, from security to performance to integrations to customizations. We encourage clients to take a balanced view.

We’ll see people get hung up on a particular concern about security or performance, all of course very important elements, but they often don't step back to ask, "What are we achieving today? How does the cloud stack up to that?”

So, I wanted to share some of the best practices for really achieving business value. These are the ones that come up time and again when we're working with our clients on their transformation to the cloud.

1. Look at the value of specific apps. Are there a lot of users? Is agility a benefit? Is there an advantage to being in a real time, always connected environment?

2. Roll out in an agile, iterative way. For a lot of clients, there is a major change management issue around working in a faster, more agile, iterative way. But that really is the key to driving better business results.

3. Maintain a balanced perspective. Don’t focus only on the risks and concerns about what can go wrong, but put that in perspective with what you have today that is already going wrong and what business value you're able to achieve with this new breed of solution.

4. Change the way you think about vendor selection. Cloud really is a new way of working. It is much more about an ongoing service that continues to improve over time. Don’t take an old software RFP, or an old web hosting RFP and try to use it to evaluate cloud solutions.

5. Keep IT involved. Business has a new and much more empowered role, but IT has a critical role around due diligence, integration, and architecture strategy. You have to figure out what that mix is, how involved IT needs to be in some of the decisions versus where business can have more flexibility and freedom.

6. Look to technology partners. Cloud is about best-of-breed solutions. They do work together through web services and many are pre-integrated but you still need developers, integrators and implementers. Many firms simply don't have those skills in house so we're seeing a lot of reliance on technology partners, either the SaaS vendors themselves or services partners.

We believe that as the world moves to digital, and we hear every day about new disruptive start-ups or even 100-year old companies that are reinventing their brand and their services. We believe cloud is a key enabler of that shift.

If you consider the smart, real-time engagement that can take place on a cloud platform, where partners, employees and suppliers are all interacting and collaborating, that really unlocks an entirely new way of doing business.