For some businesses, "the cloud" has become synonymous with security risks, data breaches, and ambiguous policies. Despite its efficiency, many organizations are getting caught up in perceived risks, holding back and hindering their businesses or global support teams. This hesitation is understandable, as one size rarely fits all, especially when companies add cloud-based applications to their on-premises business.
Yet the benefits of moving software applications into the cloud can render significant advantages. According to a 2013 report from Constellation Research, "The cloud is an effective means to deliver differentiated services quickly and provides greater flexibility for meeting customer demands." KPMG's Technology Innovation Survey 2013 ranks the cloud as "the biggest driver of business transformation for enterprises in the next three years," listing real-time information and productivity as benefits. There's also the potential to lower maintenance costs.
The question isn't if you'll need to add to your on-premises business by delivering SaaS-based cloud solutions, but when.
Getting through this without sacrificing your treasured on-premises customers can be extremely challenging. When your shareholders agree that it's time to introduce cloud-based solutions to your customers, the normal reaction is to focus time and attention on supporting the new products—essentially diverting the focus from the on-premises support business that has to date been responsible for your financial stability and success. But it doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing situation.
The following steps can help you transform your global support business into a hybrid cloud/on-premises model, while smoothly transitioning your valued customers and meeting their business and operational needs.
Prepare customers for the transition
It's important for organizations to recognize the need to proactively expand the focus of their support business to include support for new and subsequent cloud-based applications. Throughout this transformation, key process changes will be required across all parts of your support business to successfully launch a new cloud application to subscribing customers.
The success of any transition will depend on your support team's ability to manage customer expectations, while ensuring the best possible customer experience. Create scalable and efficient support processes by leveraging industry best practices, aligning team member expectations, and continually expanding the technical knowledge of all of your support teams—your business will turn your on-premises support practices upside down, so it's critical to develop successful transformation strategies.
Prepare your team to support the cloud
Organizations should begin the transition by auditing current processes and assessing what fundamental changes are necessary to support the cloud.
First, your company should focus on auditing current on-premises support processes and platforms. Identify key global team members who will receive intensive cloud-based application and process training—the cost of recruiting and training technical experts is significantly higher than tapping into experts on hand.
Second, audit your company's global escalation processes by identifying process points that can be modified and enhanced to respond more easily to cloud-based customer escalations and resolution requirements. The end result will allow for more effective communication exchanges (from your organization to partners to customers) and the incorporation of key enhancements to your issues management software to make data gathering and troubleshooting documentation more efficient.
Remain agile to meet customer needs
The key to expanding your organization's support offering is to recognize that support processes and team member responsibilities dynamically change. For cloud-based applications, organizations must evaluate and implement new support channels with the same methodical approach used for on-premises applications, while remaining agile to meet the rapidly changing needs of the new cloud-based customer population.
Cloud-based solutions are ever changing, and with agile software development fueling aggressive enhancement and bug resolution timelines, releases of monthly (or shorter) intervals place an incredible strain on knowledge transfer for the customer as well as the internal support team. Therefore, both must provide real-time updates on what is coming and rapidly understand all of the new functionality that results from rapid release cycles. The following actions are key to helping your support team during this pivot:
- Re-evaluate the current support model: Never assume that the support model that worked when you were solely supporting on-premises products will continue to meet your customer needs when supporting hybrid products. Your new model should be agile and robust enough to meet these new demands.
- Align customers on cloud-based features: Customers today require rapid and informed responses in real time. Create robust self-help knowledge base content so your cloud-based customers can quickly get the answers they need to solve their own questions. Your knowledge base should be simple, convenient, and effective.
- Evaluate and leverage support channels: As your model evolves to support hybrid products, it's important to monitor the success of this transition. Focus on what works by continually reviewing your support channels and deploying those that result in the greatest issue throughput and customer satisfaction levels.
Consistency is key
The transition to the cloud is an ever-evolving process, but you must not lose sight of your high-value on-premises customers. Instead of focusing time and attention on supporting new cloud-based products, continue to maintain great customer service and monitor satisfaction levels. Re-evaluating your current support model, aligning customers on new cloud-based features, and evaluating support channels will keep your support team on the right track, while making the transition secure and seamless for your on-premises customers.
Dave Baca is the vice president of global support at ANCILE Solutions. He has more than 27 years of experience in commercial and defense sectors.