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Cloud migration: a rare chance to rethink business processes

Jim McGeever Profile picture for user Jim McGeever December 2, 2014
Don't rush your cloud migration, writes NetSuite COO Jim McGeever. Take the opportunity to reconsider and transform unnecessarily complex business processes

Jim McGeever NetSuite 16-9
Jim McGeever NetSuite

The traditional arguments for moving on-premise business management software to the cloud focus on speed of implementation and efficiencies in cost, time, and IT systems and personnel. It’s therefore tempting to minimize the time spent on business process discovery in favor of moving ahead quickly to realize the benefits of rapid deployment and a variety of cost savings.

But there’s an inherent danger in rushing headlong into your cloud migration project. First and foremost is the risk of bringing all the baggage of an on-premise system into the new environment, effectively recreating the old, highly problematic and poorly integrated system in the cloud. This is a particular risk for companies evaluating multiple cloud-based point solutions rather than an integrated suite of cloud business management software.

To paraphrase an old adage: organizations that do not learn from their past software experiences are destined (or doomed) to repeat them.

In fact, the move to cloud-based business management software provides companies with a unique opportunity to break with the past and fundamentally re-evaluate their business software use and value. Take the time to carefully review and then refine the business processes that currently underpin ERP, CRM, HCM, and ecommerce systems. That could entail, for instance, the end-to-end business process of taking and fulfilling a customer order or of completing a financial report, or of hiring a new employee.

Streamline and automate

With a major on-premise upgrade, the focus tends to be additive, so building on top of and expanding existing functionality, whereas the opposite is true of a move to the cloud. Adopting a tightly integrated cloud-based business management suite with a single source of data truth enables organizations to streamline and more fully automate their previous on-premise business processes. Those on-premise business processes tend to be a mixture of manual and automated processes with areas of overlapping or redundant functionality and incomplete links to silos of data.

Speaking of data, think carefully about the fate of on-premise transactional historical information and how much of it will truly be of use and valuable in the cloud. Cleansing data, particularly when extracted from a variety of sources, is an expensive business. Some organizations, if regulations permit them, will start fresh in the cloud or opt to store on-premise data but not import it into their new cloud system.

While examining a company’s end-to-end business processes and how they may be transformed in the cloud, keep the following three areas top of mind:

Think accessible

For some organizations, many of their on-premise business processes bear more than a passing resemblance to Rube Goldberg machines. In other words, what companies are trying to achieve should be fairly simple, but the software means of reaching those goals are highly complicated and labyrinthine. It’s often the result of heavy customization and plenty of bolted-on pieces of third-party software brought in to get around the limitations of inflexible on-premise business management software. So, the key question to think about is whether or not all the current complexity is needed in a new cloud system?

Simplifying business processes can help move the responsibility for maintaining those processes away from the IT department and over to the end-users, who can then assume ownership of the processes and be empowered to customize them in future. It also means the organization will no longer be in thrall to the one employee who fully understands how to use the company’s arcane on-premise accounts payable or accounts receivable processes.

Think ahead

When envisioning simpler business processes, don’t limit thinking to the here and now, but take into account where the business is headed. Many companies have run the same version of on-premise business management software for years – a situation that reflects the shape and type the organization was when it purchased the software. The key question to ponder is what kind of business are you today and do you expect to stay the same over the next five to ten years?

Arriving at an answer to that question requires factoring in shifts in what the company sells, how it sells, where it sells, and which audience it sells to, along with any changes in response to external forces like new competitors and technologies.

Think focus

Applying simplicity and forward-thinking to a system of re-imagined business processes provides the fundamental building blocks for a business software implementation. The most crucial action to ensure a successful cloud go-live is a clearly defined scope for the cloud business management deployment. Ensure that all parties involved in the decision-making process – executives and end users and any third-party implementation partners -- all agree on that scope. The key question then becomes, what will constitute a project scope that will satisfy all parties at the decision-making table?

Once there is agreement, do not deviate from the agreed scope no matter the pressure from different company departments to add in more functionality. A strong project scope can ensure a rapid go-live. Encourage employees seeking functionality outside of the initial scope to investigate and then make their case for potential customization only after the cloud business management software is up and running. Like any other IT project, cloud deployments tend to go awry when the scope of the implementation is too vague and wide-ranging or, in cases of ‘scope creep,’ when the focus of the project is continually added to throughout the implementation process.

Rethink business processes

With re-imagined, simple, future-proofed, and focused business processes, an organization is highly unlikely to repeat the mistakes it made with its former on-premise software. Instead, with the refocused business processes, the company is well positioned to increase user adoption, quickly bring new users up to speed, and eliminate previous system workarounds.

Ultimately, think of a move to the cloud as the perfect opportunity to rethink and redesign your business processes. Your future self will thank you!

Image credit: Pier sunset © kesipun -; Jim McGeever headshot by NetSuite

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