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Behind every Cloud migration horror story lies an identifiable point of failure that originates in the planning phase. In some cases, it can start with choosing the wrong Cloud partner.
Say a small professional services company wants to move from Microsoft Dynamics GP to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. The company’s planning team identifies a great partner with superb ratings in the right price range but misses that it has an enterprise-heavy portfolio and little experience with Microsoft solutions focused on small to midsize businesses (SMBs).
As a result, the company may not gain the functionality they need to get the most out of their tech investment. More likely, they’ll get an out-of-the-box solution with noticeable gaps. Worse, they may learn (the hard way) their partner doesn’t offer the ongoing high-touch support they need as a smaller organization.
As Russ Riley, Director of Cloud Services at Enavate, said in our Digital Transformation discussion: “When you pick a partner, that’s not just a business relationship. That’s almost like a marriage.”
So, before you say “I do” to a Cloud partner, make sure you truly understand what they offer so you can determine if it’s the right match.
Here are a few of the most important questions to ask a Cloud provider before you decide, including advice for identifying red flags.
It’s not enough for them to have read up on your industry needs. A partner who has migrated companies in your industry will understand your pain points and solve them. They’ll be more familiar with functionalities that are essential to your operations. They can identify Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) that would benefit your business and help determine the best path to the Cloud for your budget and industry.
For instance, an industry-focused partner can quickly identify the order of applications that would yield significant returns upfront and set a strong foundation for future applications and initiatives if you plan to migrate in phases.
Also, request references in your industry vertical – and reach out to learn about their experiences.
“I would ask them very specifically, ‘What is your expertise around the applications we’re moving to the Cloud?’ That, in our world, is important. And not many have expertise around the actual applications, especially with an ERP system.” – Kevin Armstrong, Enterprise Strategy Leader at Enavate
The partner you choose should be familiar with your migrating applications and the Cloud environment you want to adopt. Each of these components has its complexities. A partner who has handled them will understand how to maximize them for customers and recognize when an application or Cloud environment would be problematic.
“If you require a private Cloud because you require granular control over the components of the environment, we’ve got you covered. If you require large scalability and flexibility, we’ve got you covered in the public Cloud. Our approach is, ‘We’ll bring the right Cloud model to you.’” – Chris Lavelle, Ground to Cloud Strategy Senior Leader at Enavate
Keep in mind that some partners specialize primarily in implementing infrastructure and do not provide application expertise to ensure your applications will function properly and remain secure after implementation. Your partner must have a team that can do both well, make sure they have a proven track record of success with the service, support and solutions you need. For instance, at Enavate, our Cloud experts have application layer expertise and work with clients to ensure their total solution is compliant, functional and secure.
“We’ve always brought together the platform expertise and the application expertise. You can go to almost any Cloud provider and get Cloud expertise. We add additional value with deep application expertise. Not only can we move their ERP application to the Cloud, but we can also move most, if not all, of their other applications that can run in the Cloud.” – Chris Lavelle
When you are confident in a partner’s industry and solution knowledge, determine whether their approach is to provide technology or partner with you on your goals and strategy. Not all partners take a collaborative approach, and companies benefit greatly from working with those who do. When your partner helps you make critical decisions around your Cloud migration, you’re more likely to hit the mark with each step. You’ll also waste less time on detours and delays.
“Are they going to actively work with you to help you achieve your goals? Do they partner with you, or are they simply selling you the technology?” – Kevin Armstrong
For instance, if you pursue Cloud implementation before you think about any necessary compliance, you could find yourself stuck in limbo for months – even years – trying to get your compliance in order. A true Cloud partner ensures you take the appropriate steps first. That includes mapping out the timing, order and makeup of your Cloud migration, as well as determining whether specific applications need rebuilding in the Cloud environment.
“It’s becoming more important that technology providers like us take on a management consulting mentality. We must help our clients help themselves. We have to help them see the value in these technology initiatives and fully understand the benefits they can reap. That’s part of the client experience: bridging the gap between the client’s needs and their technology, providing solutions, and providing long-term support – making it seamless.” – Kevin Armstrong
How can you tell if you’re talking to a partner and not just a technology provider? First, if they’re not asking detailed questions about your business before they start suggesting solutions and offering demos, they’re probably not taking a partnership approach. Instead, your provider should be curious about your goals, strategies, areas of opportunity, growth plans, budget constraints and more. Only then can they customize a roadmap that gets you from A to Z smoothly and successfully.
“If they don’t have a migration plan, we can help them build out that migration plan based on best practices with a listen-first versus technology-first approach.” – Kim Harrison, Client Account Manager Team Lead at Enavate
For many companies, migration isn’t as simple as dragging one application over a Cloud icon. There are usually ISV solutions to migrate, customizations to consider, and new platforms and capabilities to explore and add. Your partner should have strong relationships with the types of ISVs you use and/or require, as well as with their solution providers and any other relevant businesses.
As part of this question, ask which solutions the partner typically engages with because they do not provide that particular solution on their own.
“If it’s me, I want to know, ‘OK, this is your sweet spot, but I have other needs, and I trust you as my partner. Do you have that network I can bring to bear, so I don’t have to go do that legwork?’ It’s part of an honest conversation, but it’s also part of testing the network of the partner you’re choosing to work with.” – Kevin Armstrong
Importantly they should also have strong, healthy internal relationships. A partner’s company culture directly affects the service they’re able to provide.
“We play well with ISVs. We have very strategic relationships. And we empower our people. People want to be here. People are happy to work here, which then relates to the client experience.” – Kim Harrison
Security, support and compliance (in some cases) are top concerns for organizations when it comes to a Cloud environment. However, when considering the level of expertise, you need to find with the right Cloud partner, it may be better to let them do the heavy lifting.
Your partner should keep up with current threats and monitor and protect your data 24x7. They should also provide services to help you measure your risks and test your compliance regularly. Their support service should also be available 24x7.
“Support is key. Our Cloud has 24x7x365 support. When you come to us for support, we know your environment. We know the ISVs on that environment, where that environment sits, the geolocation. We know where it’s being backed up. We know everything about that account.” – Kim Harrison
The SLA is a critical factor. It documents all intentions discussed, sets a timeline and methodology, and makes guarantees clear. So, make sure it has everything you need.
Compliance can be a tricky area. First, be sure you understand the role your partner plays in compliance service and support. For example, it may be that a partner only “enables” compliance. Additionally, “adhering” to PCI, HIPAA, or any other industry-related compliance standards can differ from “being” compliant.
“A lot of companies will say, ‘We adhere to PCI compliance,’ but that doesn’t mean they have a full audit done. It just means they have the procedures and processes that say they can adhere to it.” – Russ Riley
If you have any questions for us, connect with one of our Enavate Cloud experts to start vetting whether we’re a match for your business needs and goals.