Seven tips for selecting a cloud services provider

Seven tips for selecting a cloud services provider

Summary: Here are seven ideas to help you choose a professional services company for your cloud implementation.


Recently, I have had several conversations with buyers struggling to select service providers for the cloud implementations.

Six tips for selecting a cloud services providerCloud photo credit: Michael Krigsman

The choice of services provider can determine the success or failure of any enterprise deployment, as my many posts on the IT Devil's Triangle make clear.

Also read: Exploring the Devil's Triangle

After choosing which software makes sense for your organization, deciding on a services provider is the next significant decision. In fact, quality and availability of professional services may be important criteria when deciding which software to buy.

Given the differences between cloud and on-premise deployments, it is important to select a services partner with the right experience. Here are seven tips to point you in the right direction:

  1. Demonstrated expertise in the product you are buying. Find a provider with deep knowledge in the specific product you plan to buy. Ask the service provider for a list of engagements with your proposed product – including the particular modules you are considering.
  2. Expertise in your specific vertical. Seek service providers with clear experience in your particular industry and market segment. Ask for references in your industry, with companies that have similar characteristics, such as revenues, number of employees, and so on. If you are a small machine shop, for example, don’t hire a services provider that specializes in implementing software for multinational manufacturers.
  3. Complementary solutions. Some implementers have such deep expertise in specific vertical segments that they develop specialized software add-ons that could benefit you. Implementers that have developed vertical solutions often have sophisticated knowledge of that market and great technical expertise.
  4. Global implementation expertise. Enterprise cloud deployments can go global quickly, so select a partner with international experience, if relevant to your company. Your services partner should have experience with remote training, international support, and accounting and regulatory issues in your overseas markets.
  5. Cloud integration skill. Ensure your professional services team knows how to leverage “cloud-to-cloud” integrations using web services. Cloud integrations can save time and money, so use them when possible.
  6. Committment to iterative development and user adoption. User adoption is the lifeblood of successful enterprise deployments. Find a services provider with proven experience using iterative approaches to align IT and business users. 
  7. Hire a company you like and trust. Your implementation is one step in a long-term relationship between you, the software vendor, and the services provider. In the end, credentials don’t mean anything unless you trust the person sitting across the table. Trust builds confidence and creates durable relationships that will endure over time. Do business with companies that place your success at the top of their list.

We can hardly overstate the importance of professional services on enterprise software implementations. Although we often think that cloud is simple and easy, any business transformation effort requires the right guidance and experience. For that reason, professional services is equally important to cloud deployments as to on-premise implementations. (This list is adapted from a white paper I wrote for NetSuite.)

Please comment with your advice and experience on professional services in the cloud.

Topics: Cloud, CXO, Enterprise Software

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  • Great info, thanks.

    Those are certainly important areas. However, my practical problem with selecting a vendor has always been the knowledge/honesty of the particular salesperson contact. It does take a bit of research to uncover core capabilities let alone mitigating strategies of the cloud. Let the buyer beware, etc.
    • Just like any other vendor/VAR

      My biggest vendor successes have been where I not only have a sales rep, but a [ul]dedicated[/ul] sales engineer. More often than not, it's the SE, not the rep, that becomes the primary vendor contact and the rep just becomes someone to push paper. Nothing against reps, but they often are only technologically literate enough to sell their products and keep their company on your radar, very few are proficient enough to come in, look at my environment, and not only pitch the solution I've asked about, but cross sell. Cross selling may sound like a bad thing, but a good vendor's not going to use the shot gun approach and pitch everything in their portfolio. They're going to understand your environment and corresponding issues and sell things that fit and solve problems, so I actually appreciate the cross sell (with such vendors), as that's where their value lies.
  • One More Thing to Consider

    In addition to software implementation expertise, customers should also seek guidance on what activities need to change in order to create the business outcome that called for the a solution in the first place, and specifically how the software will enable those changes. Changes that are limited to the procedure level are very different than those at the business operating model level.

    You need to consider whether the software can facilitate those changes and how (i.e. with custom programming or through configuration settings). But also, and in some cases even more importantly, if your company needs changes to its business operating model, how your company will manage through those changes to operations and organization.

    Some implementation companies are good at software implementations, but don't have the expertise in business operations issues or design. This doesn't mean you shouldn't hire this vendor, but it does mean you should look for an advisor who can help you. And then it's a matter of getting your advisor and implementer to work cooperatively.
  • Tip 8

    Tip 8. Emigrate to a country which has enough broadband bandwidth to support general cloud computing!

    Using our standard British Telcom provided broadband connection, I can upload about 4GB per day to a remote server. Assuming we are not using the line for anything else, and that there were no broadband outages at-all, then simply uploading our 6TB dataset would take 1500 days! That's nearly FIVE years!

    I should just add that our broadband is down at least once a week. Also, BT's underground junction boxes are notorious for filling with water every time there is a light shower within 20 miles. And the approximately 3.5km of spider-wired copper cables between our place and the telephone exchange vary between 50 and 100 years old. Several BT engineers have admitted that these underground lines should have been replaced "years ago" but that it is "too expensive to replace them". Consequently, our broadband can be considerably slower than stated above.

    Faster lines are available in some places, but they are expensive. Even then, BT still owns all the exchanges and is more concerned with profits for its shareholders than service to its customers. Consequently, any notion of cloud computing for small business users here in Old Blighty, is somewhat pointless, IMHO.

    Best wishes, G.
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    Lisa Dreher