Archives For Cloud Computing

(Editor’s note: This article was originally published on destinationCRM.com)

Cloud-based SaaS solutions offer some great benefits, but be careful. Getting trapped in a proprietary cloud solution can lead to a loss of control—of your data, your security, and maybe even your career.

The cloud is certainly having its day in the sun. Social, mobile, and now the cloud have taken turns topping IT priority lists for large enterprises. This notion was underscored when a recent Bitglass survey of 92 CIOs and IT leaders revealed that 55 percent of respondents said their companies embrace a “cloud-first” strategy. Such reverence is hardly surprising. The cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) model offers a lot of advantages for many enterprise solutions. Rapid deployment of off-the-shelf software systems can be affordable, present a low barrier to adoption, and provide an excellent way to prove new ideas quickly. This has certainly made it easy for many companies to implement new software, but there are pitfalls that must be watched for and avoided.

Most cloud solutions are available only in proprietary, multitenant, shared-infrastructure, single-cloud configurations—a big black box in the sky. There is little or no opportunity for companies to decide where they want their applications and data to reside. Public cloud of your own choice? Private cloud? Within your own country’s borders? On premises? A hybrid combination of these? In some cases, all these options are off the table. The only choice is the vendor’s proprietary cloud—a model that just doesn’t work for everyone.

Security concerns, regulatory requirements, and enterprise integration strategies should be carefully considered before deciding to “lock in” with a solution that’s limited to a single vendor’s proprietary, public, shared-infrastructure cloud.

It’s interesting to note that a recent Gartner study, Market Share Analysis: Customer Relationship Management Software, Worldwide, 2014, states that 47 percent of CRM software revenue was generated from SaaS-based CRM applications in 2014. But that means the other half of CRM revenue was generated from private cloud, managed hosted, and on-premises solutions. The more sophisticated multinational companies with intense data integration and data security needs are turning away from the public cloud and choosing the private cloud for their CRM needs.

I recently met with representatives of a large company in the financial sector about a new CRM deployment. Without hesitation, they said, “There is no way we are putting our customer data in a public cloud environment where we lose control.” This is an understandable reaction: Around the world, companies in highly regulated industries like financial services, healthcare, and the federal government must comply with strict regulations that govern the handling of personal information and sensitive data. An out-of-the-box shared infrastructure cloud CRM offering will not meet these strict regulatory requirements.

Compliance is becoming an even greater challenge outside the United States. Many countries have strict rules governing the collection and storage of customer data. This has led to an increasing drive for data localization. For example, Germany requires that data about German users must be stored within the country’s borders. Recent court rulings against the USA-EU Safe Harbor framework and the proposed “Safe Harbor 2.0” data transfer rules will lead to many companies deciding the best way to stay compliant is to keep customer data stored within the same continent and same country, if possible.Cloud Portability Image

In addition to compliance issues, data security concerns have caused many CIOs to delay shared-infrastructure, public-cloud deployments. One of the main concerns for organizations is that information stored in the public cloud is beyond its control. Imagine investing in the best security tools and having the most sophisticated authentication protocols, but still being at the mercy of your cloud vendor’s security mechanisms for managing your most precious asset, your customer data. Your top-notch information security team has no visibility into those security controls, and you have no way to move to another CRM cloud vendor if those security mechanisms are challenged or, worse, fail. It’s not a comfortable feeling. Couple the loss of control with the media’s constant reporting of embarrassing high-profile data breaches such as happened with Anthem InsuranceAT&T, and even Ashley Madison, and the unease about having customer data exposed grows—which is understandable, given the obvious consequences: compromised reputation, lost business, and fines levied for regulatory violations.

Another large multinational electronics manufacturing company I recently worked with reviewed all of the public-cloud CRM solutions available and determined that moving its large volumes of customer data across multiple public cloud vendors was not only potentially unsecure, but too costly. With tens of millions of customers around the world connecting with it across a variety of brick-and-mortar and online channels, the dollar costs of storing that data in a public cloud service and the costs of accessing its own data for reporting and integration purposes via that cloud service did not work out. Global enterprises find the very size and complexity of their customer data challenging to manage and integrate in the public cloud. All of these cost and control issues melt away when the CRM solution is managed in a private cloud, often by one of a variety of different expert-managed cloud service providers.

Organizations should have the freedom to implement the systems and architectures that best address their needs for security, regulatory compliance, and data integration. The cloud is a great option. But getting there shouldn’t force you into an environment that puts your data, your business, or your career at risk.

A popular argument for deploying SaaS software is that it “just works.” It is simple for users to get started and use everyday without burdening the IT department. This argument has merit. The cloud has put the power in the hands of the user and minimized the need for IT to troubleshoot software issues. Instead, users can simply open up a browser and be productive.

However, that doesn’t mean technical concerns have been eliminated, they are simply hidden below the surface. SaaS customers need to understand the technical details of service they are using, especially when it comes to mission critical business applications like a CRM.

There are three major areas that can affect your business – maintenance, software upgrades and outages:

  • When is routine maintenance scheduled and how long will the system be down during that period?
  • How frequently are software upgrades made?
  • How will the upgrades affect how the application looks, and relatedly, how much of learning curve will there be to understand product updates?

Think about the consumer services like Facebook and Twitter that you are used to using everyday. There is an adjustment period when even a minor tweak to the service changes “the look and feel.”

Now, imagine coming into work on a Monday morning – and the tools you use to do your job are suddenly barely recognizable due to a major product upgrade? How would that affect your productivity for the short term? Or, imagine as a manager of dozens of sales reps, you get the message that you need to immediately begin training on a new CRM because the old system is “going away.” What if this happens near the end of the quarter?

The IT department is responsible for maintenance and upgrades for software they deploy, and are usually responsible to plan for changes. But regular employees, and entire companies can be negatively impacted by changes both expected and unexpected.

When you rely on software applications to run critical parts of your business, any downtime is costly. The inability to access data, reach and respond to customers, or close deals equates to lost revenue or other hard costs. Research firm Gartner estimates that an hour of downtime for a critical system costs a company $42,000 on average.

And, if you are leaning toward the argument, “an outage is so rare, it won’t happen to me.” SaaS services delivered via the cloud are susceptible to outages. Just last month, an Amazon Web Services data center went down, taking access to Netflix, Reddit and Nest with it.

Now, think about what happens if your sales automation or customer support system goes down. You can probably tolerate a few minutes of downtime, but if it last hours or even a full day, it will dramatically affect the bottom line.

If you unexpectedly, or even with some warning, lose access to your systems – rebuilding that same system with another software product takes time and lots of energy. Costs include:

  •      Purchase of replacement software
  •      Staff or consultants to replicate customizations in the new system
  •      Staff learning curve and training costs
  •      Potential legal costs for re-acquiring data

All of these costs are significant. They can hinder operations at the largest of organizations, and could be catastrophic for smaller businesses. Thus, it is of utmost importance to ensure you have access to your data and system in light of any type of disaster or unforeseen “outage” of your SaaS applications.

By choosing a SaaS vendor with multiple deployment options, open software so the data can “live on”, and a solid business continuity plan – you can deploy cloud and SaaS apps with the highest level of confidence.

The Safe Harbor Framework that permits the transfer of data between the United States and Europe is in jeopardy.

Last week, the Advocate General, a legal advisor to the European Court of Justice (the European Union’s top court), released his opinion on the EU-US the Safe Harbor framework, which he said is invalid. He said the agreement does not do enough to protect EU citizens’ personal information when it reaches the United States.

The Safe Harbor agreement has been around since the year 2000. More than 4,400 companies are Safe Harbor certified. U.S. and European companies rely on the EU–US Safe Harbor framework to permit the lawful transfer of personal data from the EU to the U.S.

The ruling is not yet final, and the EU court’s judges will issue a final ruling in the coming months.  If they follow the Advocate General’s recommendation, which they often do, this will cause significant headaches for U.S. companies that serve customers in the EU.

A reflection of increased digital privacy concerns in wake of the NSA scandal and Edward Snowden leaks, the ruling has the potential to impact thousands of U.S. and European companies. It presents serious challenges for U.S. SaaS providers who have built their businesses under the framework of the Safe Harbor agreement.

Without the Safe Harbor agreement in place, data that originates in Europe may need to stay strictly in Europe. This includes everything from payroll to customer data. Some large enterprises have tried to stay ahead of the issue by investing in data centers in Europe.  However it should be noted the local data centers don’t fully solve the issue.

While this ruling does present challenges for SugarCRM, the company is better equipped than “SaaS only” solutions that lack local or on-premise deployment options. SugarCRM offers multiple deployment options and can continue to provide viable alternatives for EU customers, including:

  • Local hosting through various partners including “in country” hosting by T-Systems
  • On-site deployment options that require simple instance migration, meaning customers do not need to transfer their data to Sugar

Other SaaS/premise mix providers may be hard pressed to keep their customers, as SugarCRM is one of the only multiple deployment CRM providers offering a single code base across all deployment options.

SugarCRM has customers in more than 120 countries. We realize companies around the world are subject to many different laws and regulations. Legal requirements in one country may be inconsistent with legal requirements applicable elsewhere. Hence, we offer a multi-tenant cloud service, a private instance in the cloud, and also allow customers to deploy on their own internal clouds. A flexible deployment approach allows our customers to more easily comply with international data security and privacy laws.

The following is a guest post from Jeremy Cox, Principal Analyst, CRM, Ovum.  ext Jeremy Cox

It is always reassuring  when a firm takes its own medicine and uses some of the same portfolio of products that it recommends to its customers. I refer of course to IBM’s global deployment of Sugar, integrated with many of IBM’s Smarter Commerce applications, to support a 45,000+ strong sales force. IBM’s Smarter Commerce portfolio, provides  customers with the tools to create a fully integrated all-channel,  informed and joined up customer experience.  Sugar works together with the Smarter Commerce portfolio and provides the user-centered  interface into all relevant customer information to provide what Ovum calls smart, connected interactions.

The Smarter Commerce story is relevant to multiple industries, both B2B and B2C or combinations. Irrespective of industry there are several common attributes that have to be orchestrated in a coherent manner if firms are to gain advantage from the Smarter Commerce portfolio including Sugar. Every industry is under intense competitive pressure in the face of rising customer expectations, globalization and the impact of social and mobile on customer behaviors and preferences.  The ability to be persistently relevant to customers by providing them with rewarding experiences across any and all channels through which they want to interact with a firm is a massive challenge facing all industries. Some like retail are particularly exposed to disruption as Amazon extends its reach and capacity, or lower cost competitors reach out to customers with more compelling offerings.

The old certainties and ways of doing business call for much deeper thinking and a more coherent approach to omni-channel commerce.

Ovum has identified 8 attributes successful firms orchestrate to gain this level of coherence. These are:

  1. Visionary leadership that seeks to put the customer at the center and orchestrates the firm’s capabilities and improvement initiatives in a coherent, connected way in support of a common goal – creating value for customers. Without this silos will flourish and impede the customer experience.
  2. Visionary leadership is also responsible for an engaged workforce, the second attribute. A workforce imbued with a set of values that builds trust with customers as well as internally with colleagues and the ecosystem of suppliers and partners is a powerful force for fostering great customer experiences. It is not just front line employees that provide moments of truth, but back office, finance, supply and distribution personnel, etc. All can have an impact. IBM’s Smarter Commerce helps connect people and Sugar’s user interface that puts the individual at the heart of the design supports greater workforce engagement and as a result a great customer experience.
  3. The ability to collaborate across and beyond the organization  in the pursuit of value creation and delivery, for customers. IBM Connections together with Sugar helps leverage this critical attribute.
  4. Acute sensing capabilities that drive real time insight and predictive foresight helps everyone in touch with the customer to have meaningful and relevant interactions. It also helps customers who prefer to serve themselves to find what they are seeking with minimal fuss and maximum convenience. The combination of IBM Cognos ,IBM Interact which provides realtime recommendations, IBM Tealeaf and Sugar ensures the right contextual information reaches the right people at the right time and in an intuitive consumable form, irrespective of the device used.
  5. A seamless and integrated customer experience across any channel with no loss of information  provides the true 360 degree  contextual view of the customer. SugarCRM has long advocated a deeper integration with the organization to deliver this. This contrasts with the typical triumvirate view of CRM being – sales, marketing and service (often in that order). That ‘typical view’ adds little value and belongs to the old command-and-control industrial era of the 20th century.
  6. The ability to innovate continuously and refresh the value that customers receive is the other essential ingredient for persistent customer relevance . Firms which succeed at this draw on ideas well beyond the traditional product development team; from customers, partners and the entire workforce. But innovation is not just about new products. It is also about developing new ways of engaging with customers that add greater value and magic moments that turn them into raging fans.
  7. Lean, simplified and connected processes across the value chain or network. The omni channel experience absolutely requires deeper thinking and a more horizontal view of how value is created and streamed across the organization and its ecosystem of suppliers and partners. Simply grafting on new digital channels will lead to failure and frustrate customers.
  8. An adaptive enterprise architecture that provides a coherent visualization of how the organization works as a system to deliver its customer centric vision and goals, is also an important attribute. Tweaking existing business models is unlikely to be sufficient and old legacy systems and legacy thinking will impede progress.

IBM’s Smarter Commerce with SugarCRM supports these attributes either directly or indirectly.  IBM’s Interactive Experience practice can help firms design and think through the detail required to deliver positive and memorable customer experiences across any and all channels. SugarCRM’s services team works in partnership with IBM to help firms take advantage of the highly elastic capabilities of Sugar.

About the Author

Jeremy Cox is principal analyst in Ovum’s global Customer Engagement Practice. Jeremy joined Ovum in July 2012, and quickly established the broader customer-adaptive enterprise context identifying 8 core attributes that organizations need if they are to be persistently relevant to their customers: leadership, an engaged workforce, collaborative, sensing capabilities to generate insight and foresight, a superior customer experience, continuous innovation, connected and frictionless processes and an adaptive enterprise architecture.

@jeremycoxcrm

http://uk.linkedin.com/in/jeremycox/

 

Leading organizations are increasing their use of digital mechanisms for the business processes of buying, marketing, selling, and servicing. To do this, many organizations are turning to IBM’s Smarter Commerce and IBM Enterprise Marketing Management. Marketing automation tools like IBM Campaign and Interact, along with Silverpop, are great for defining multi touch campaigns, cross-channel marketing across digital channels, and real time personalizations for customers on electronic store fronts.

But what happens when a customer – who may have received an offer driven from IBM Campaign – calls into a customer service center? Does the customer service agent who answers the phone – let’s say it’s John –  have a history of that customer’s past interactions, and have the right information to answer that customer’s questions? Even better, can the customer service agent reinforce an offer that may have already been presented to the customer via IBM marketing automation offerings?

What happens if a sales person – let’s say it’s Sally – is about to call on that customer? Sally could be an inside sales rep, or an insurance agent, or a personal shopper in retail. Does Sally know everything about her customer including the fact that that customer might have received an offer through email that was generated by a campaign management tool? To take that a step further – if a campaign management tool generates 1000 leads, does Sally know that seven of those leads are her customers, and does she know exactly what to do with those seven leads?

We know that IBM Campaign can precisely target a specific set of customers. But imagine if Sally, upon signing in for her work day, sees seven specific new leads that are assigned to her from that campaign, along with specific actionable information for those leads. Imagine if John, our customer service agent, was able to pull up a complete view of the customer as he was helping resolve that customer’s issues; and could even upsell the customer based on a real-time offer appearing in his customer service dashboard.

SugarCRM, an IBM Global Alliance partner, can help. Sugar is an innovative CRM system designed for every individual who engages with customers: sellers, marketers, customer support agents, receptionists, and executives.

r4_smarter_commerce.jpgSugar has integrations into IBM Campaign to surface campaign information into sellers’ daily tools, whether that be Sugar itself or IBM Notes or Connections. Sugar also has integrations to IBM Interact to present real-time offers to sellers and customer service agents. Sugar is the first major CRM solution to be validated for the IBM Ready for Smarter Commerce mark. DiGi Telecommunications is one customer using IBM Campaign integrated to SugarCRM to provide consistency across digital marketing programs and human sales and service representatives.

Organizations that integrate SugarCRM and IBM experience faster campaign-to-cash times,  more efficient marketing and sales processes, and higher customer satisfaction and value.

For more information, see sugarcrm.com/ibm, or come visit us at SugarCon, April 28-May 1 in San Francisco, or the IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit 2014 in Tampa, Florida May 12-15.

SugarCRM has been garnering a lot of press attention recently. Here are the headlines (with a brief summary) of the three stories that received the most attention last week…

ZDNet: SugarCRM CEO hints at IPO for 2013

Rachel King, who also did a profile Q&A with CEO Larry Augustin in October, discusses a possible public offering from SugarCRM in 2013 noting, “If SugarCRM plays its cards right, then an IPO within the next year seems reasonable. After all, tech companies focusing on the enterprise customer base appear to be hot commodities in the financial markets right now.”

Pulse2: SugarCRM Plans to Go Public Next Year

Pulse2

Amit Chowdhry briefly recaps the interview Larry Augustin gave to Bloomberg hinting at plans for a possible IPO in 2013.

eWeek: Resellers Discovering They Have Place in Cloud Software Sales Channel

Last week, Larry Augustine was a panelist at the Cloud Channel Summit, held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. Robert Mullins of eWeek found that resellers are discovering they have a place in the cloud application market, and Larry had a chance to talk about SugarCRM’s strong channel program.

 

At SugarCRM, we have embraced an open culture since day one. The reason why we chose to build Sugar as an open source product was because we fundamentally believe in the ideals of the open source way. Openness allows companies to more readily connect and build a relationship with their customers. While building a killer app may put the gleam in our developers’ eyes, solving our customers’ problems is what keeps the people at SugarCRM focused and driven.

After all, the purpose of a company is to create customers. And companies do this by connecting people with problems (customers) to people with solutions (employees). And our employees (we call them Sugas) really like to solve customer relationship problems.

So how does openness help build a better CRM solution? In three simple ways.

1) Focus on Users First. From the beginning, we designed the Sugar app first for the end users of the application. CRM applications have a long history of failed implementations due to a lack of adoption by the end users. Why is this? Because legacy CRM applications like Siebel and Salesforce.com have been traditionally designed for the buyer first, i.e. sales management. By embracing an open dialogue with our end users through the Sugar Forums, the SugarCRM development team is tightly connected with our end users and able to focus on solving their business problems. Our first design use case is around a customer representative getting ready to contact a customer and needing to prepare for the call, meeting or tweet. By ensuring the Sugar application is highly useful and useable, sales managers can then rely on the forecast, pipeline and issue resolution insight coming out of their Sugar application.

2) Built for the Open Cloud. The Open Cloud Manifesto is dedicated to the belief that the cloud should be open. The core tenets of the Open Cloud are that open standards and portability of applications across cloud platforms gives customers control and choice. Our customers demand control of their mission critical applications and data and require choice of their cloud platforms. From Sugar On Demand, a fully managed Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application to running Sugar on Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud platforms like IBM SmartCloud Enterprise and Amazon AWS, organizations in over 80 countries around the world choose SugarCRM for the flexibility of deployment options. Control and choice means all companies can design a CRM strategy without having to make any compromises in their IT strategy.

3) Leveraging an Open Ecosystem. Today’s most vibrant technology companies are those that get the power of ecosystems. The amplification effect of a large ecosystem of partners gives companies like SugarCRM, Google, Apple, Amazon and others a massive boost in delivering value to customers. However, we are seeing two types of ecosystems emerging: closed ecosystems and open ecosystems. The mobile phone market is a perfect example of this. Apple has built a “walled garden” ecosystem with iOS. Google however has built an open ecosystem with Android. You will find a similar duality in the CRM world with Salesforce.com creating a closed ecosystem and SugarCRM creating an open ecosystem. With an open ecosystem, our customers have more choices. From a wider and more varied choice of implementation partners to the power of SugarForge.org, the largest collection of open source CRM solutions on the Web, SugarCRM customers enjoy the benefits of choice and control not only in their cloud options but also in their ecosystem options.

A culture of openness here at SugarCRM has led to better CRM solutions, solutions better aligned to your needs and better aligned to driving your CRM success.

–Clint