Small to Midsize Business Going To The Cloud

The CIO Insight article below explains that SMB’s are going to the cloud for simple apps like email and storage.  And they are not necessarily asking IT for permission.  I suppose that is because the cloud provider supplies all the support they need, and users feel they can get by without their own internal IT department.  Probably so…

Inexpensive cloud solutions are getting more and more attractive.  Not only do you get a great app, but you get external hosting and support.  So instead of spending your in-house resources on server hosting, patches, backup, upgrades, and babysitting, you can spend it on your core competencies.

Another up-and-coming cloud app is timesheets – check out a product named Standard Time®.  Their cloud-based timesheet is superb.  And just like the simpler apps described above, all the support is handled by the vendor.  But this is no simple app like storage or email.  This thing is loaded!  Check out some of the features you get for $13 a month!

Here are two videos on the Standard Time dynamic duo – Timesheet and Project Management

Cloud-based Timesheet

Cloud-based Timesheet

Cloud-based Project Management

Cloud-based Project Management


Of course you would expect this.  It’s a timesheet, after all!  But the timesheet is extremely flexible and comprehensive.  Employees only see projects assigned to them.  Project tasks are included.  Sub-projects and phases show a full hierarchical breakdown.  There is an expense sheet, and time off tracking.

Project Management
In addition to the timesheet, Standard Time gives you project rollups.  (Yes, this is all on the cloud!  Pinch yourself!!!)  They let you track actual work verses estimates.  Track percent complete.  Attach documents to tasks.

PTO Accruals
Need to track comp time for employees working over their scheduled hours?  Got it.  Need vacation tracking?  Got it.  How about automatic time off accruals on a daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or yearly basis.  That’s in there too!

Expense Tracking
What would a consulting tool be without cloud-based expense tracking?  It’s in there too.  In fact, you can run a client invoice that contains all the timesheet hours plus expenses.  Or, you can run a report that includes them both.  Or separately.  There are even custom reporting capabilities.

It’s a little hard to believe that cloud-based hosted services have evolved this far.  I guess somebody’s been hard at work.  Check out Standard Time if you’re a consulting firm, manufacturer, or government office.  Here’s a link to their YouTube channel.  New videos are posted all the time, so subscribing is a good itea.

Should You Go Cloud?

That is the question…to cloud, or not to cloud?  I recently read an article by Sarah Fister Gale, found here:
It is interesting how many people go to the cloud without knowledge of security, back-up, redundancy, and so forth.  There is little doubt that the cloud has many positive attributes.  That is why cloud usage continues to experience robust growth.  However, too often people just assume the cloud is a magical solution with hardly any issues.  Well, that is normally the case…unless you happen to be my brother-in-law.  His company was utilizing a cloud hosted credit card processing service.  And things were great for nearly two years, until the cloud server went down and there was no back-up plan in place.  It took 3 days of hand wringing and lost sales to get back online.  In addition to immediate lost revenue, he lost long term customers.  The article above will certainly give you an idea on specific questions one should ask and a basic outline to help you make a solid choice for your cloud solutions.

How service orientation has paved the way for cloud computing

Service orientation is the successful combination of technology, business processes, and methodologies. Service orientation is especially important to outsourcing firms because it allows them to adjust not only the methodologies that they adopt in producing technologies, as well as the way they run operations. Service orientation is a way for these firms to treat both their internal and external partners as customers. It is not merely about producing technology; it also takes into consideration the enterprise culture and the various business processes involved in creating, improving, and delivering services to clients.

In his book Service Oriented Enterprises, Setrag Khoshafian suggests that in building a service-oriented enterprise, it is important to look at a “bottom up, three-layered infrastructure,” namely:

• Service building blocks, where existing applications can be combined as services to form an SOA implementation
• Composition services, which is a combination of existing services to package a new service
• Business process, which involves either service building blocks or composition services

With these three layers in mind, one should easily understand the importance of streamlining processes, such that there is no need to create entirely new products and services. Instead, project teams have to recognize the needs of clients and put together service or product suites from what are already available. The practice ultimately enables delivery teams to avoid overshooting time and resources. Instead, the focus will be on introducing innovative services to both internal and external customer domains. Ultimately, integration is the key in building SOAs, automating processes, and managing technologies.

The best examples of the popularity and success in adopting SOE is found among web-based businesses, such the most popular e-commerce and social sites. AJAX and the “mashing up” of interfaces and APIs created a trend that three years ago came to be known as Web 2.0. From simple brochure-type web sites into programmable web, SOE gained traction not only among technology producers, but more importantly, among technology consumers. However, the real gem that lies in the midst of this revolution in Web technologies is in understanding the needs of businesses (and their processes) and putting together available packets of applications.

Nowadays, cloud computing and software-as-a-service approaches are off-shoots of SOE as initially made popular in the general public’s consciousness. Large IT firms have found inspiration in Web services to integrate business processes and applications.  At this point, the issues that have plagued the outside technology consuming public provide lessons in Web-inspired or Web-based enterprise computing. Always-on reliability, seamless transaction among applications, and data security are some of the measures enterprises need to establish in conducting internal and external businesses.

Overall, deployment of technology in the enterprise and to customers will be a matter of knowing what is in stock, how it applies to the business processes of both parties, and what measures should be put in place to combine and protect the integrity of these applications.  Linking business rules and process execution allow for more realistic performance measures and better project monitoring and management.

By ExecutiveBrief

Why is SaaS only popular in small business?

While SaaS has been gaining popularity recently, it is remarkably noticeable that its popularity is still limited mostly to small and medium-size businesses. Larger enterprises are still reluctant to embrace hosted application for their IT needs.

According to a recent Forrester Research paper, “The Truth about Software as a Service,” which is a result of a late 2007 survey of IT decision-makers from North America and Europe, only 16 percent of respondents are using SaaS applications. On the other hand, 80 percent are still reluctant to adopt SaaS. Of the 80 percent, only 47 percent expressed interest, while 37 percent were “not interested at all.”

If SaaS has been gaining popularity recently, the gap between big-business IT decision-makers who were interested in it and those who were either partially interested or totally uninterested is too wide.  As if to counter the SaaS advantages that were cited in the previous blog, researchers and tech workers in big enterprises cite various reasons why it is not being widely adopted outside the realm of SMBs. 

One of the top reasons why big businesses are reluctant to adopt SaaS is business continuity. Put simply, the market’s atmosphere is fraught with uncertainty that SaaS vendors could just shut their doors easily. When it happens, where do the hosted data go? What alternatives are immediately available to end-users?

Next to business continuity, data security, vendor lock-in, and accountability are some of the issues that clients — both large and small or medium-size businesses — raise most of the time. Because many large enterprises are sensitive about their company data, they are reluctant to hand company information to third parties. In terms of accountability, there have been complaints about vendors’ dishonesty about real downtime rates and the speed with which they address it. If a service is suddenly cut off, IT departments ask how long it takes for the service to be available again and what kind of assurances are provided to address such issues.

SaaS are typically fit-for-all, so customization is another nagging issue. Maybe small businesses’ IT needs are not complex, that is why they are more willing to sign up with SaaS vendors. On the other hand, enterprises that provide more than one type of service, sell more than one product, are present in different locations, and employ thousands of employees have IT needs that are as complex as their multinational presence and multiple businesses. That most vendors do not offer customizable services to match big businesses’ needs is one of the signs that it is still in its infancy.

Related to downtimes is the issue of scalability. Can a hosted service support thousands of users who access the application simultaneously? If it cannot, can a business enlist the help of another vendor? This is where the issue of interoperability and portability also come in. In most cases, transferring data from one SaaS provider to another takes time and considerable effort.

That SaaS became popular among SMBs means it is promising. However, this promise does not translate well in big business so far.

By ExecutiveBrief

The Pros and Cons of SaaS

Why SaaS may be the next wave in enterprise computing.

Much has been said lately about Software as a Service (SaaS), which is often interchangeably referred to as “cloud computing”. While pundits may disagree on whether SaaS is cloud computing, its primary feature is application provided as a service to customers via the internet.  Because applications are hosted, this eliminates the need for installation and running of applications on clients’ computers, or even servers, as well as maintenance and support. Moreover, SaaS reduces the need to purchase and maintain hardware.

But before getting into the much-praised or marketed trend, it is worth considering first why SaaS is such a hot commodity nowadays.  According to experts, security, maintenance, and cost are among the top reasons why SaaS is being embraced by enterprises.

Moreover, due to the challenges that face companies regarding outsourcing, such as communication gaps and security, SaaS either supplements the need of businesses to outsource parts of their IT requirements. This is especially helpful for small and medium-size businesses that do not have large IT departments, or those that can only afford to pay general IT workers instead of specialists. Because staffing has become problematic due to reduced budgets that affect tech spending, SaaS offers a way to meet their technology requirements without spending more on overhead.

Whereas the application service provider (ASP) business did not make as much mark as it should have in providing enterprise computing, SaaS is being touted as the trend that will replace and even overcome ASP.  Scaling was ASP’s main challenge, which required “separate execution environment” or different server environments for hosting different applications.  SaaS replaces multiple resources to run applications with shared computing resources, such as the same software version that runs on the same platform. This proves cheaper for end-clients.

SaaS providers offer flexible contracts that have targeted costs for specific services. Many tech projects run for only a few months, so services that provide exactly what businesses need in terms of scope and time, with corresponding costs, are advantages that SaaS vendors are only too happy to explore.

SaaS provide specialized software that increasingly meet clients’ needs. As vendors gain more knowledge about what businesses want, these insights are incorporated into version upgrades, which means better software and, just as important, more responsive service.

It is common knowledge in any industry that freeing up the need to manage back-office processes, including technology services, allows companies to concentrate on bigger, more important business areas. Perhaps at the IT level itself, this is also true. Freeing up the upkeep of some technology processes allows IT departments to focus on the services that they can provide in-house.  In effect, SaaS vendors upgrade the quality of both hosted applications and, indirectly, the quality of services of in-house IT departments.

By ExecutiveBrief