5 Ways Finance And Commerce Companies Can Improve Cloud Deployments

Like all technology trends, the cloud technology model emerged with a lot of hype and promise. It’s wise to step carefully into new ground, especially in the risk-averse finance and commerce segment where information has more privacy, security and regulatory concerns than nearly any other. Despite all this, a number of financial companies are making headway with cloud-based technology solutions across lines of business including ERP, CRM, supply chain, procurement, commerce, and front office applications.

Adopting cloud-based solutions offer a real opportunity for vast operational and technical improvements. In its narrowest definition, it’s a better, cheaper, faster, more scalable way to host software applications and large amounts of data. In its broadest view, cloud represents a transformative force, where new business capabilities and customer experiences can be launched and scaled with amazingly shorter timescales, lower costs, and reduced risk.

Cloud can enable business transformation in ways traditional on premise approaches have not, given the long implementation schedules and major capital investment traditional approaches require. But with this opportunity for transformation comes a need to embrace change, and follow best practices that support successful implementation and adoption.

Know your Limitations

Due to their size and departmental silos, finance and commerce organizations typically have a large and diverse portfolio of existing technology systems, many gathered through years of acquisitions, new product launches, or the adoption of new technology. Some applications may not be early candidates for cloud due to limitations on security or usage. In fact, a recent industry study on cloud adoption by Frost & Sullivan validates this with 61% of financial services companies citing an “inability to meet compliance requirements” as a reason for not moving certain applications to the cloud. 1

Other business processes may still reside in manual or paper-based operations, making a move to the cloud challenging. According to the Frost &Sullivan research, 53% of the financial companies surveyed have adopted a “cloud first” approach for new applications but do not plan to migrate legacy apps. 2

Adopt Best Practices

So where does a company start?

First, do some homework. Talk to your peers and employees to identify the right business processes that make sense for your organization. But while you do this, keep in mind that you’ll want to follow some best practices for successful cloud deployment and adoption. Here are five ways finance and commerce companies can make sure that they get off on the right foot for any cloud deployment:

  • Have a comprehensive cloud vision, strategy, and blueprint. Before embarking on any cloud campaign, you need to understand the purpose for your change. Many companies mistake cloud as merely a technology play and miss the opportunity to layout a vision for significant business transformation, stated in clear business objectives, goals and benefits. In fact, this lack of careful planning may be the hardest challenge to overcome.
  • Create a realistic, well-designed roadmap and implementation approach. Beyond your vision, you need a tactical plan. Too often, companies bite off more than they can chew too quickly or have initial scopes so expansive that they are unobtainable to achieve quickly or successfully. Before starting deployment, make sure your team is ready to handle the process.
  • Get leadership buy-in. Not getting leadership buy-in, including the CEO and CFO (and perhaps CMO, COO, CHRO, etc.,) can hinder decision-making and progress on your major initiatives. Again, if your cloud initiative is only supported by IT and the CTO, the real transformative business benefits of the cloud may go unrealized and the organization may resist adoption, or the process may be seen as a failure. By getting everyone on board you increase the potential for success overwhelmingly.
  • Choose the right platform, consulting partner, and vendors. This is a no-brainer, but having the right technology and the right team behind you are both critical aspects of any cloud deployment. Without this, mismatches and small failures can derail the entire initiative. Major cloud initiatives are large undertakings that require the right set of technologies, skills, and a long-term, highly collaborative relationship. Choosing the right partners — be it the provider, the consult, or the implementation team — is essential to success.
  • Build in time for organizational change management. New technology can be a challenge for any employee, but moving from a traditional on premise solution to new, cloud based applications can seem overwhelming. Cloud technology can only be as effective as its users, so organizational stakeholders must buy in to the change and be provided with the right skills, behaviors, and resources to accept and embrace the change. This operational change management should extend from the board room to every employee impacted by the change.

When Cloud Meets Change Management, A Story of Success

After years of acquisitions and piecemeal technology implementations, a leading cash management business realized the company could perform better. They just needed to have a holistic, integrated view of information across their entire enterprise, including the customer experience and the front office, mid-office functions such as the supply chain, and back-office functions such as finance.

They company’s vision was to become a “smart enterprise” enabled by digital transformation and analytics, and driven by simplified and standardized global processes. But company leaders knew this type of transformation would be impossible using traditional technology and approaches. A cloud strategy, however, provided the flexibility, speed, scalability, and economics that could make such a transformation not only feasible, but also extremely compelling.

The company was careful to select the right cloud platform and consulting partner for the job based on the distinct needs of the organization. “We did a fairly lengthy selection process, and there were several reasons we chose a combination of Oracle and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) including their ability to manage a complex architecture of software solutions,” said the organization’s CIO.

The team also knew that the entire leadership group had to be on board, so gaining buy-in with the CEO and CFO was essential. The scope of the project was also carefully designed. It would be a massive transformation, so the team planned how to pace itself through the process.

As part of the consulting and implementation team, TCS helped implement a crawl/walk/run approach. The team started slowly by transitioning parts of the front office that made visible and highly desired improvements to the customer experience, marketing, and sales organizations. It was then just a matter of working through the organization, letting initial cloud launches become successful to learn and justify further transformations in the business.

Throughout the entire process, the company focused heavily on organizational change management, being careful to train and persuade all necessary stakeholders so they would be ready for (and even excited about) the upcoming changes. With changes, still underway, this example shows that putting best practices into motion can help make digital transformation and the move to the cloud doable. No cloud initiative will be without its bumps, challenges and pivots. But learning from each other as the industry moves more quickly toward a cloud-first model will help ensure that we don’t make the same mistakes as others.

  1. “Strategic Goals Drive Cloud Decisions: Drivers and Constraints Vary by Industry, Company Size and Title,” Lynda Stratmueller, Frost & Sullivan, 2017.
  2. “Strategic Goals Drive Cloud Decisions: Drivers and Constraints Vary by Industry, Company Size and Title,” Lynda Stratmueller, Frost & Sullivan, 2017.

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Chatbots and voice assistants: Often overused, ineffective, and annoying

There’s yet another cloud service from AWS: Amazon Lex, which lets developers build conversational interfaces into applications for voice and text. It uses the same deep learning technologies that power Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant.

Lex lets you quickly build natural language conversational bots, aka chatbots. Microsoft has a similar technology, called the Microsoft Bot Framework. This seems to be a common service that most public cloud providers are looking to provide, not to mention many third parties that offer chatbot technology as well.

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Safer but not immune: Cloud lessons from the Equifax breach

I’ve stopped covering breaches. First, because clouds are nowhere to be found among them. (The focus of this blog is advice to enterprises that are moving, or have moved, to cloud computing.) Second, because it just seems like piling on a company that’s already in distress.

However, breaches are on the minds of enterprises on the move, due to the latest breach at Equifax.

What we know now about Equifax is that Equifax was aware of the breach well before it announced that hackers had gained access.Hackers made off with Social Security numbers, birth dates, and addresses of 143 million people. That’s enough to steal your identity. A few Equifax people resigned, but that does not fix anything.

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