Tuesday, 8 July 2014

At the Horizon – Does Cloud meet OnPremise?

At the Horizon – Does Cloud meet OnPremise?

On one of my long flights, I had ample time to reflect on our experiences working with customers on the terra firma (the on-premise world of Siebel) and in the cloud (primarily,   I was struck by how similar these applications have become.    

We have had as our internal CRM for over five years and I have always marveled on how easy it has been to implement.  Yes, it required no programming.  We were able to configure it within a couple of hours and our team was fully functional – no training necessary.  For Siebel specialists that we are, this was indeed too good to be true! 

Platform as a Service or On-premise in the Cloud

Simplicity and ease of implementation has been the engine behind’s rapid adoption across many customers.  Salesforce has since released a lot of powerful features such as Apex programming, Visualforce, Salesforce1, the ecosystem, etc., to evolve from an SFA application to an enterprise-level front office platform in the cloud.  These features have enabled customers to write custom scripts, create custom objects, add custom fields, and design custom applications, workflows and processes – something commonplace in the on-premise world.  The flexibility offered by these features in on-premise applications is what got many of them into trouble.

Insights from the Field

Indeed we see customers with cloud-based CRM apps facing challenges similar to those seen in the on-premise world.

I was talking to the Director of Sales Processes of a customer regarding initiatives they have underway.  She mentioned “Reducing Sales Drag” as their main initiative for the year.  I asked her to elaborate upon what ‘sales drag” meant to them.  She listed user adoption, complex user interface, too many approvals, and non-standardized rules as issues they are trying to address.  My jaw dropped open.  These are things we normally hear from customers who have had on-premise apps such as Siebel. 

I was visiting with another client a few weeks ago.  Our discussions touched upon various topics, one of which was expanding the footprint of across their organization.  The Director of IT was concerned that a wider roll out of Salesforce would be a non-trivial task.  One of their divisions had already used 438 fields on the Customer object!  A wider roll out would hit up against the limit of 500 fields per object in Salesforce.

The Takeaways

In each of the above cases, after some further due diligence we uncovered the root causes for these problems. These are lessons many on-premise customers have learnt, albeit too late, and are equally applicable in the cloud world.

1.    Process Design: Because it is on the cloud doesn't mean that process design can be ignored.  Invest in designing the right processes before embarking on the implementation.
2.    Release Hygiene:  Just because it is easy to add a new field, implement an Apex script, and quickly release it to production, doesn't mean you should.  One needs to make sure the changes are in line with the process design that has been agreed upon for the application.
3.    Coding Discipline:  Cloud is no more about No Software.  Apex is the lingua franca across  One needs to follow the software development best practices in order to obviate performance and maintainability issues.

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  1. Interesting article, thanks. Seems that - independent of the software suite in use - ignoring the homework such as process analysis and good design leads to the same problems.

  2. Yep, who would have thought it ! ;-))