Cloud technologies have transformed the enterprise in many exciting ways. Cloud-based apps, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), and other as-a-service models are making organizations more productive and agile. By empowering teams to focus on innovation, rather than merely managing the technology behind it, organizations are savings resources and spending more time on their core business. Cloud-based technology platforms that usually fit into ecosystems or stacks consist of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) apps, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, and other workplace productivity tools like those for project management or Unified Communication & Collaboration (UC&C) tools. Other platforms might include HR systems, service management, or industry-specific systems.
However, when moving ‘full speed ahead’ in adopting cloud-based applications, many organizations have let planning and strategy slip, leaving a disjointed technology stack in its place. In many cases, different technologies have been patched together, with some data sharing capabilities between them, while others operate independently. In fact, Gartner tells us the average worker uses 5-8 cloud applications in addition to the technology platforms managed by the IT department. (Source: Gartner). These extended cloud-based ecosystems can drain productivity and spending. To protect against inefficiencies, industry insiders suggest focusing on building an integrated IT system or technology stack. Let’s look more closely at what makes up a robust IT ecosystem and review steps to take when building one.
- Look at the existing ecosystem around cloud-based solutions – The ecosystem around cloud-based applications includes people and tools that exist to support it. When defining a SaaS ecosystem, organizations should consider their loyalties or preference for G Suite or Microsoft products. This will help determine applications for SaaS integrations down the line. It’s also critical to consider the status of the technology framework and the investment being made in its future success. Look for applications that support a company’s overall objectives and development philosophy, for instance. Experts recommend also asking questions, such as:
- What’s the development community saying?
- Is there interest in the software still growing?
- Are scheduled user conferences available? Tutorials, articles or how-to guides?
- Is there investment from any big players in the industry to continue development? (i.e., Google is behind Angular, and Facebook is behind React, etc.) (Source: Dev6)
- Stronger through integrations – One of the primary benefits of best-in-breed, cloud-based applications is that they can improve performance in multiple areas of the business. Organizations are finding that they can further automate activities by adding layers of integrated applications. Examples might include adding collaboration tools, file sync, and document sharing or calendar applications to support productivity. Or, organizations might add verification capabilities between a dispatch or service management application and an ERP stack, that validates specific service calls are routed to certified technicians, for example. In most cases, these platforms are integrated to further automate and streamline activities across the enterprise, whether it’s improving customer interactions or driving greater collaboration. Teams looking to add new cloud-based solutions to a stack should look at compatibility and integrations across the organization, as they relate to more significant business processes- instead of building limited point-to-point integrations. Not only that, to expand the IT ecosystem, companies need to look for ways to open applications to clients and customers down the line. Add-on integrations might include APIs for clients or customers to build mobile apps, desktop apps, or other systems on top of the technology.
- Technology stacks aren’t static – When building a cohesive IT ecosystem, it’s imperative to remember that stacks aren’t static. Stacks are made up of diverse platforms and integrated applications that might change over time as ecosystems mature and business needs change. According to Accenture, for example, some technology stacks might be higher than others based on the maturity of applications and unique business needs. They suggest the number of integrated applications for each platform. As organizations build their cloud-based strategies, their technology stacks are reorganized, and application integrations continue to grow.
A robust technology ecosystem is a digital foundation for a company’s cloud-based strategy. Companies looking to get the most out of their investments should build a stable but agile technology framework supported by compatible platforms and deep application integrations. Greater planning and evaluation upfront can help business become more productive with the ability to leverage cloud technologies to adapt and excel.