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Does Everything Really Belong in the Cloud? Guest Opinion

Carol Kline, Chief Information Officer, TeleTech

Cloud. It’s hard to avoid the hype these days as it seems that every technology company on the planet is trying to send their customers “to the cloud.” Being in the cloud sounds sexy, and cloud-solutions providers readily dangle the cost-savings carrot in front of every new business prospect. But before heading skyward, businesses need to critically evaluate cloud solutions like they would any other potential technology solution to ensure they can achieve viable, effective results. It’s time to separate the substance from the smoke with a practical look at the benefits of both hosted and on-premise solutions.

Friendly Skies

To be clear, cloud technology has undoubtedly revolutionized the way many businesses operate and the benefits are extensive. Companies like salesforce.com deserve a lot of credit for bringing the cloud to the mainstream via solutions such as Sales Cloud and Service Cloud. The cloud can bring the flexibility to handle seasonal volumes, to try new technologies [e.g., chat, social Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Short Message Service (SMS)] and to change your cost structure. As a potential cloud client, companies just need to be prepared to know what to ask for, how to ask for it and how to hold technology partners accountable for contact center results.

In the contact center world, clients are increasingly seeking cloud-based solutions as they better understand the cost-of-money benefits and overall cost-of-ownership benefits that are often discussed (e.g., data center space, resource acquisition, training and retention, upgrades, carrier costs, etc.). The cloud also allows smaller businesses and companies with capital expenditure constraints to take advantage of enterprise-class technologies at an attractive price point.

One of the most often overlooked benefits of deploying in the cloud versus on-premise is time-to-benefit.  A typical CRM implementation or switch upgrade can take between 18 months and 5 years for a full implementation.  In the cloud, those timeframes are reduced to months.  If you are looking to host your contact center solutions in the cloud, ensure you select a partner with a proven track record of implementations and operations similar to your existing and future needs.

Grounded, but Still Moving

But cloud solutions are not a silver bullet. There continues to be benefits to on-premise solutions, as well.  While some companies’ IT departments are focused on core systems like manufacturing software and logistics programs, there are others who have invested over the years in skill sets and technologies around converged voice and data and multi-channel communication suites.  In those companies, maintaining the momentum of those centers of excellence may be a strategic advantage worth continuing to cultivate.  Additionally, there are CFOs and investor communities that are both cash-rich and appreciative of the stability/predictability of the same ol’ depreciation expense every month instead of a variable OpEx model.

Companies rich in existing talent, technologies and cash may have a hard time seeing their way to the cloud, especially if there are few market pressures driving change around customer interaction methods.  Managing the change to move to the cloud may be an unnecessary distraction in the short-term, and maybe even in the long-term.

Unique Challenges, Custom Solutions

The bottom line is that, just like most business solutions, rarely does one size fit all. There are a number of significant factors that will drive a company’s decision to adopt cloud or on-premise solutions, and in many cases, companies don’t have to choose one or the other. The potential benefit of hybrid solutions is especially relevant for organizations that operate in global markets and need greater agility. Companies demand problem-solving solutions that integrate their needs and offer balanced – and co-joined – business value.

The company culture is an important factor in determining the mix of on-premise and cloud-based technology, as well. For example, there is true ROI for going hosted/cloud for any size of contact center, but if your company does not have the temperament (procurement practices, metrics-driven performance) and mindset to make partnering with a cloud provider a success, it will not work and is likely a waste of time for both parties.

In addition, company culture (and possibly country-specific regulations) around customer “personal data” may remain a reason for some organizations to remain on-premise. However, with today’s advanced security protocols, cloud-based services rival, and even exceed, on-premise technology for information protection and compliance with industry and regulatory requirements including the Payment Card Industry (PCI), healthcare and other industry specific requirements.

The business value of a hybrid solution can both save and make money, using the cloud products that best meet your needs and best manage customer interactions for better revenue generation.

It’s time for technology decision-makers to take serious look at their hosted and on-premise solutions and keep the best of both worlds.  Companies should not jump to the cloud until they have evaluated their options and determined an option that gives them a balance – or hybrid – of solutions.

About the Author:

Carol Kline, TeleTech chief information officer, is responsible for driving TeleTech’s IT strategy and operations, including the launch of the company’s next generation of technology innovation.  She has more than 20 years of experience in managing dynamic technology environments and global operations teams.

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