5 key benefits obtained when choosing a cloud based software

Some months ago I was involved in the selection of a CRM for my company. The first decision was easy to take: we needed a cloud based CRM. Why?

The benefits

We are a young start-up so the next benefits applied to us:

1. No investment required. It is all Opex, no Capex. You just pay a monthly fee based in the number of licenses that you order.

2. No installation needed. You access the application just with your browser. This means you don’t need any additional hardware either.

3. You can access the CRM from anywhere (if you have internet access, of course) and also from mobile devices too.

4. No maintenance efforts required. As there is no installation in our systems we don’t have to maintain the software either. The software provider is in charge of that.

5. We don’t have to update the application. The software provider takes care of that and includes the service in the monthly fee.

Lithium-CRM

CRM System (image by Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA 3.0)

The risks

But we also had to consider some potential risks. The most important ones were:

1. Will our data be safe out of our premises? There is no system 100% safe. You must study well your provider and ask for guarantees about any possible safety risk.

One point to consider is that if you compare the security level of any of the big cloud players with what an average (SMB) company can do there is a huge gap in favor of the first one.

2. What if our service provider closes and stops the service? To be protected against this possibility you should consider working with companies with years of experience and a solid financial situation. So, more homework for you.

3. Can we have legal issues if the data from our customers is out of the EU? It depends on the level of the personal data that you keep but it is very interesting to have your data in servers physically located in a EU country.

If you must use a provider who has its servers in the USA you will have to check that he is included in that Safe Harbor lists.

4. Will our data be available whenever we need it? In this case you should compare the level of availability between different service providers but also the level of availability that you could have with your own infrastructure.

After all these considerations and some discussions with the shareholders of the company we decided to start using a cloud based CRM.

But there are many of them. In another post I will share the methodology that we used to choose amongst the existing offer of service providers.

What about you? Does your company use cloud services? Why? Are you considering to start using them in the near future?

5 key benefits obtained when choosing a cloud based software

Using a Blog to support your Project Management Information System

Last summer I started reading “Social Media for Project Managers”, from Elizabeth Harrin. There were many concepts I already knew and some tools I was already using but the book gave me some ideas to use those tools for new purposes. One of them was using a Blog as a part of the PMIS (Project Management Information System) as a project log.

Blog image from http://www.sxc.hu/profile/svilen001
Blog image from http://www.sxc.hu/profile/svilen001

How we use a blog in our project

We started using a blog in a software development project I am managing. The team is young and they are used to these kind of tools so it was not difficult to convince them to start blogging everyday their project activities.

As we all are not working at the same office and also some team members have different working hours, we thought that this tool would help us with its universal accessibility (well, in fact we have limited the access to the blog to the project stakeholders).

These have been the results

After some months of work we have:

  • A project log, explaining what we have done and why we have done it that way. A knowledge repository.
  • A tool useful to train new team members is they are needed in the future.
  • A tool to collaborate. We can receive feedback from the community of project stakeholders through their comments at the blog posts.
  • A tool to build relationships between the team members, as not all of them are collocated.

Some difficulties and risks

But not everything has been easy. We have had establish some ground rules about what to post and how. As every stakeholder may read a post it is not easy to decide the kind of information to include as not all of them have the same needs.

There are some posts that are for internal use (just for the team members), some others are for everybody involved in the project and we are working now in the weekly project status reports, for the project sponsor and the final product users.

As everybody can read every post, the tool we use to filter are tags. If you want to read a project status report you must look for “status” tags in the blog. When a team member looks for some information about the data base he must use some of the tags we have previously agreed to use for these issues, and so on.

What’s your opinion?

What about you, are you using any social media tool to support your projects? What has been the most difficult challenge you have faced to deploy it? What have been the benefits for the project? Any negative result?

Using a Blog to support your Project Management Information System

Cloud computing: marketing e incertidumbre

La pasada semana he asistido a un evento sobre cloud computing organizado por un conocido grupo de comunicación en el sector de las TIC. Este es un tema que me interesa especialmente porque creo que es el futuro. Sin embargo, siendo un concepto muy tratado, cada organización puede aproximarse a él de formas muy diversas.

La nube: el concepto

El cloud computing se basa en la facilidad de acceso a sitios remotos que hoy en día proporciona internet. El concepto engloba la provisión de aplicaciones, datos, almacenamiento e infraestructuras de forma transparente para el usuario, que no precisa conocer ni la configuración de los sistemas ni su ubicación física.

, via Wikimedia Commons”]

La nube proporciona transparencia y flexibilidad al usuario final. Eso es bueno para “organizaciones líquidas”, concepto que he conocido a través de Jaime García Cantero (@jaimegcantero), que es en lo que se están convirtiendo nuestras empresas progresivamente: con límites y formas cambiantes, cada vez menos definidos y en constate trasformación.

Como he apuntado antes, no hay una única forma de consumir el cloud computing. Cada organización deberá adaptarlo a sus propias necesidades y circunstancias: habrá quien contrate aplicaciones como servicio, quien busque sistemas de almacenamiento ubicuos y flexibles, quien desee mantener servicios como el correo electrónico bajo su control directo o quien lo contrate como servicio a grandes proveedores como Google, quien virtualice, quien comparta servidores con otras organizaciones y quien trabaje con su nube privada.

, via Wikimedia Commons”]

En cualquier caso, creo que la mejor forma de aproximarse al tema es analizando servicio a servicio todos los que son prestados por el departamento de TIC, considerando sus necesidades de disponibilidad, su criticidad, las normativas legales que en cada caso apliquen, … y buscando un buen socio que nos acompañe en todo el proceso, asesorándonos sobre los mejores proveedores y la mejor estrategia a seguir.

Y es que el mercado de la nube está todavía poco maduro, en pleno crecimiento, como lo demuestra que el número y pelaje de los proveedores de cloud computing vaya en aumento día a día. Hay operadoras de telecomunicaciones, proveedores tradicionales de servicios de housing y hosting, grandes corporaciones internacionales, …

, via Wikimedia Commons”]

Y también hay mucho marketing. Se habla mucho de la nube pero, como pudimos comprobar en el evento al que hacía referencia al principio de la entrada, las empresas todavía la usan poco. No ocurre así con los particulares, ya muy habituados a gmail, dropbox, spotify, etc.

Incógnitas

¿Cómo evolucionará este mercado? ¿Quienes acabarán siendo los players principales? ¿Cómo se acabará segmentando? ¿Qué beneficios reales acabarán obteniendo las organizaciones? ¿Será suficientemente seguro?

Y yendo más hacia las afectaciones concretas de un departamento de TIC, ¿cómo afectará la nube a nuestra base instalada (nuestros activos)? ¿seremos capaces de convertir aplicaciones (cloud) estándar en aplicaciones de negocio (personalizadas)?

Y, en particular, los CIO y/o responsables del área de TIC, ¿serán capaces de transformarse de gestores de activos en gestores de servicios?

Conclusiones

En conclusión; mi impresión es que por ahora hay mucho marketing y demasiadas cuestiones abiertas.  Sin embargo, creo que es un camino que nuestros departamentos de TIC deberán transitar si nuestras organizaciones quieren seguir siendo competitivas. Habrá que ir poco a poco, dando pasos lentos pero firmes y tratando de ir resolviendo incógnitas por el camino.

Cloud computing: marketing e incertidumbre