A few weeks ago, I posted here about what I believe are some of the critical success factors for delivering cloud services. As tends to be the case when I turn in a “final draft” of a writing project, I was initially happy with it - but as I continued to think about the topic, I realized there was quite a bit I’d left out. Sure, the ideas in there - identifying incremental value, protecting profit margins, focusing on performance improvement and understanding differences between customers - are important and remain important success factors for cloud service delivery, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t add a few more that I think are important.
First, I’d like to clarify the point I made initially about understanding your customers. Of course this is important - and part of that understanding is listening to them when they provide input and feedback. But what I may have given short shrift was that listening to your customers is anything but straight-forward. There are hidden challenges here that can’t be ignored. For example, there is a very real danger in being too singularly focused on customers. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t listen to customers, but we do have to be judicious in the extent to which we take their feedback to heart. Henry Ford famously is alleged to have said that, “if he’d listened to his customers, he would have found a way to make horses faster instead of creating an automobile.” Whether he said it or not, there’s a lesson to be learned there.
The other danger of listening too much to your own customers is the idea of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your customers are your customers because they like your service - and that’s a population that’s going to want you to keep doing the same thing. By focusing only on the parts that customers like, you may miss opportunities to grow and expand.
This element goes hand in hand with another critical success factor - the ability to embrace and advocate for change. Your customers aren’t the only ones who may be overly attached to the status quo. Your own employees - from the C-suite to the engineers and coders building the solution - can fall in love with the current offering or a particular vision of the offering they are mapping to. At this point in my career, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve observed the decisions of other folks who came to a time when they knew a change had to be made or a new direction had to be taken. Inertia is a powerful force, and it can be extremely difficult to make the call to shift course. The ability to rip the Band Aid off - quick, decisive action - is essential.
When you delay making an inevitable change or try to ease into it, more often than not you’ll find yourself looking back with regrets. Of course you need a decision to be informed - an uninformed change can be a panic move. But when you’ve got a critical mass of data, inputs and information pointing you in the direction, there comes a time when you simply have to act. This can be a painful, but hopefully the pain will be short-term and lead to a positive resolution, rather than slowing you down permanently.
As I mentioned in my last post, this is a good time to revisit cloud and service offerings and, to spend some time figuring out how software tools and systems can help. I’d encourage you to download our Critical Success Factors checklist to increase the probability of your success. And for those of you who can’t get enough, stay tuned - there may be a Part 3 in the coming weeks.