A cloud-based analytics solution can really change the way you view things, from the tiniest bit of data to the most complex business problem that you are trying to solve; however, you’ll want to proceed with caution as this can impact the people, process and technology within your organization. There are several complexities to understand before you embark on this gravity-defying experience, so to speak. In this blog, I hope to help you understand some of the challenges, benefits and risks with moving your modeling and analysis to the cloud.
One of the things you have to consider from an organizational perspective is if you already have an on-premise (non-cloud-based) solution. In such cases, migrating all your processes, data, models, and analytics to a cloud-based solution is not as straightforward in the current evolutionary state of the cloud. Needless to say, this only matters with a product that supports both options. If you are starting with a cloud-based or software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution in mind, migrations are not an issue for you to consider.
Most cloud-based products tout the collaborative benefits of their solution. While this is accurate from a product solution standpoint, the collaborative benefit also extends through to the design and build stages as well. It’s not that on-premise solutions do not allow you to facilitate a collaborative approach, it’s just that cloud-based solutions force you into an agile mode of thinking, designing and building. The benefits of an agile methodology were well documented and known even before cloud-based solutions popped up – the cloud just makes it easier to follow an agile approach.
Let’s now take a look at the cloud from a design perspective. The key thing to remember is that a cloud-based solution still doesn’t absolve you of the need to design your process and application correctly. What I mean is that a bad design is still just that – a bad design. Bad designs will continue to plague your organization with the bottlenecks that existed before you decided to move to a cloud-based solution. Even in such cases, the cloud solution will most likely bring the bottlenecks to the surface much faster as a result of its inherent increased flexibility and transparency to all processes and data.
Security is another area that plagues analytics and modeling. It’s easy for organizations and employees to protect archaic ways of running their business sometimes in the name of security. While this may be true for very specific circumstances, this is not the case for most of the analytics and modeling we see. Moreover, when your solution is designed with the right level of access and security from the start, you shouldn’t run into such situations of security playing catch up. In addition, cloud-based solutions give you more flexibility with designing security around different layers of your business – applications, processes, models, tasks or data.
Change management is sometimes put on the backburner when organizations embark on a cloud-based solution. Change management is critical to any change an organization makes but it becomes an extremely critical success criterion when moving to the cloud. There is certainly fast adoption of cloud-based solutions but it most likely comes at the cost of losing some control. For example, data hoarders who reveled in a non-cloud environment certainly lose control of the data they used to manage as a result of the increased transparency of the data. Resistance to change thus sometimes amplifies with the move to cloud solutions. This resistance reverberates through the organization at a much faster pace than other non-cloud solutions primarily due to transparent and open nature of the cloud. Just remember that managing the change is as, if not more, important than actually making the change to the cloud.
With the cloud, we sometimes forget the need to evaluate things we used to take for granted. For example, a simple task like printing a report may not be as straightforward as you think in the cloud. Cloud-based applications designed with the future in mind are often designed without the need for paper in mind. That being said, we might have gone paperless in a lot of areas, but in the majority of analysis and modeling tasks, you may still have a need for printed reports as opposed to using the cloud on a tablet. Again, this is just an example of one simple task – there could be several that you may need to evaluate that specifically impact your business.
Just remember that while gravitating towards cloud-based solutions can transform the way you analyze, model and transact, it still remains an enabler to manage your business better. If you had a process that was cloudy to begin with and fraught with bottlenecks and you end up transporting it to the cloud, it will still remain cloudy but you may just be able to identify those bottlenecks a little earlier and easier with the cloud. Process can indeed be your friend and moving to the cloud can make the friendship a little closer if designed right.