If you’ve missed my earlier posts in this series on digital adoption, you can read here what we discussed about The Hierarchy of Digital Adoption and Building and Fortifying Your Digital Reputation. Next in the series, we’re discussing an important aspect of digital adoption: How to avoid being crippled by choice.

During Winter you often hear people say, I can’t wait for the warm weather; in the Summer just the opposite, it’s too hot! Business systems are similar — years ago we wanted to have more choices and the freedom to choose our own path. Now, our trouble is that we have so many options it can be downright overwhelming. At first blush, our concerns are not getting locked in as with monolithic systems of yesteryear. Instead we try to find a platform which serves our needs today with an eye towards the future. When contemplating the selection of a cloud platform people fall into two camps: cardigans and cobblers.

Cardigans represent “the establishment.” Just five years ago I would have agreed that placing yourself in this community meant significant compromise. Giving in to “the man” with the largest organizations. However, today, as transactional and valuable (referring to all other software, personal productivity, artificial intelligence, IoT, etc.) tools get more degrees of separation, your accounting system does not have to dictate the other value packed tools within your business.

Cobblers are defined as those constantly seeking software, which appears low cost on the front end yet has no continuity between applications. A few years back I gave some credence to those in this community. Ready at any cost to fling the bird at the man, just because they are frightened to lose their station as the “go-to person.” Cobblers yearn for the glory days when the organization was held completely captive by their almost magical talents.

Keep in mind that the selection of a platform has one ounce of technology and nine ounces of people. You must understand your demographic and plan accordingly. Having a split camp will be exponentially more challenging, thus your first task is to get everyone singing, or at least humming, from the same hymnal.

Now that you are harmonizing fantastically, it is time to peel this onion back a bit and get into some details. When selecting a platform, to run your valuable applications, you may consider some of these elements. I like to make decisions and communicate change as objectively as possible, so assigning value numbers to each of the elements is advised. Although your list may vary, these will get you on the right track to making an informed and deliberate decision regarding your valuable platform selection(s):

Availability. Without question, your environment needs to be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Listen with an open mind — as security has changed with cloud, offerings often do not require sophisticated VPN connections.

Compliance. Legal and HR must be involved in this element. I encourage you to consider that most of your cloud platform partners will be dealing with similar challenges. Don’t hesitate to ask how your partner is addressing common issues.vSo often we see an uninformed legal or IT security organization strangle any potential of innovation as the result of thinking “this is how it always used to work.” Also, get comfortable around compliance issues which may be your concern within the next handful of years, a notable example is the general data protection regulations (GDPR).

Encryption. Our ability to pass a key, issued by the publisher and passed to the consumer, has been protecting information for years. Depending upon your industry, and in many cases your customers’ requirements, encryption strategies will vary significantly. Choose an organization which has a positive track record of encryption with their keys and allows you to manage and control your own encryption keys if so desired.

User Experience. My expectation in today’s day and age is that I will be able to digitally “pick up where I left off” from any device, anywhere and the tools will be the same. The way in which I interact will not be impacted by the size of my screen, which is much easier said than done. If in your selection process users are expected to understand different user interfaces and experiences from application to application, get ready for a steep adoption climb.

Integration. Very commonplace within transactional-based systems (accounting, HR, work order management, purchasing, etc.) and becoming more mainstream with valuable applications as well. Graphing is the new term and process, an evolution of a services-oriented architecture (SOA). Set your sights high as your ability to leverage features across valuable applications is becoming the ante to participate in the cloud platform game.

Master data. A perfect computing environment, regardless of the variety of applications, will always have one version of the truth. One account record, one contact, and one place to go for the latest insights. As with many things over time, cost and availability become more of a reality for the masses. The trick is not placing or enforcing the data to be stored in one location but instead the convenience of leveraging this single bit of data in multiple applications. You must demand this functionality within your cloud platform.

Partners. The ecosystem of partners surrounding any cloud platform is important especially if you plan on extending the out-of-the-box functionality. Today, those jumping straight into customizing systems have not taken the time to really learn their platforms. In 2019, except for highly regulated industries, those choosing customization over configuration are often driven by their egos or attempts to make themselves irreplaceable (shame, shame).

Visualization. Your platform, out-of-the-box, must have a vehicle for you to visualize the information, period. These visualization tools, commonly known as dashboards and reports, shouldn’t just be created as “eye candy.” Rather, these tools must derive action, allowing people to visualize their business in a unique way. Avoid the consideration of tools which make your users a slave to the data, turn it around and make sure your visualizations can help users manage by exception instead.

These elements, when weighted and scored by those within your organization, will provide direction and support for your cloud platform selection and help you from being paralyzed by the wide range of options you have.

Greg Lush

VP of Innovation at EMCOR Services Mesa Energy Systems