Todd explains how your business can maintain access to your data after you've moved to the Cloud.
A few months ago, I had an "ah ha!" about cloud applications. I'll share that with you – but first, I need to set the stage.
Components of Business Technology
Every business has a technology component, and this breaks down into 3 broad areas:
- Infrastructure – The hardware and related services underlying the technology.
- Applications – Software programs performing certain tasks.
- Data – The electronic information created and used by applications.
Even a one-person business based in a home office has all of these components – the laptop and cable modem are infrastructure, the email and Office-type programs are applications, and the files stored on the laptop are data.
Now, here's the "ah ha!" I had about cloud applications – even though there are many benefits to cloud applications, they all have a major "gotcha," and it is the separation of you and your data.
Of all your technology components, data is the most valuable. Many other companies have access to the same infrastructure and applications you use. What makes you unique, what differentiates you from your competition is this – data.
Moving to "The Cloud"
Let's consider a small-to-midsize business (SMB) using three applications:
Let's say several users get frustrated with the features or performance of the in-house CRM application, and decide to find a cloud-based CRM application. The users do some research, select an appropriate application, set up information in the cloud-based CRM system, and begin using it. A similar story plays out for the PM system – it, too, becomes outsourced. All done, right?
Perhaps. Things might go along smoothly for a while, until an executive or manager wants to create a dashboard to pull together all the key measures of the business into one place. This is fairly easy to do if all applications are in-house. Now, however, the CRM and PM data are in "The Cloud."
Accessing Data in "The Cloud"
That's the "gotcha." Data in cloud-based systems is MUCH harder to access and use, beyond the intended purpose and built-in reporting of the cloud-based system. Along with outsourcing the CRM and PM infrastructure and applications, you've also implicitly outsourced your data, too.
Outsourcing Headaches – Creating Silos
When you use cloud-based software, you're not only outsourcing the cost and headaches of infrastructure and applications – you're also outsourcing a very valuable business asset, your data.
Outsourced data lives in a silo – it becomes harder to pull together information from multiple systems to get a consolidated view of your business metrics. While the downsides of data in the cloud seem to be a very abstract issue, it becomes very real and very frustrating when a company wants to pull together information for, say, some ad hoc reports for a dashboard.
Data Integration – Get The Best of Both Worlds
We're helping a client eliminate their frustrations of data in a cloud application. This client uses Salesforce for CRM, and QuickBooks Enterprise (QBE) for accounting. The CEO wants his managers and himself to have information available in a near-real-time dashboard.
Our client is currently using an Internet service which was supposed to integrate information between Salesforce and QBE, yet this service was difficult to setup, did not always work, and occasionally pulled incomplete information from Salesforce.
And the worst thing about this service? It confined our client to using only a small portion of all the data available in Salesforce. This service did not enable any of the other information in Salesforce to be accessed and used.
To overcome this, we are currently building a small data warehouse for our client, which will draw information from both QBE and Salesforce, and then store the data in-house. Once in-house, the data is available for analysis and presentation in a dashboard format.
Simply put, we're helping our client get the best of both worlds – the low-cost of a cloud application, and the high-value of using their data in multiple ways.
In Conclusion ...
The moral of this story? When you decide to outsource an application, have a plan already in place to gain access to your data. And if you outsourced an application without such a plan? Then let's talk.
Remember – it's okay to breakup with your applications and infrastructure, yet it's never a good idea to breakup with your data.
Todd L. Herman