How Do You Eat A Software Implementation?

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

When it comes to software implementation projects, cloud changes things. Not everything, but a lot of things. Beyond the obvious impact on the need for a level of technology and technology management, there’s something else. With the consumerization of IT, it seems the cloud has given organizations a level of flexibility and granularity they hadn’t had before. This granularity allows them to incrementally solve business problems – with ROI at each stage – and lowers the overall risk of software implementation.

How It Was

Software implementations can be intimidating. In the old days, implementations were a big deal. You invested in hardware (and a place to put it!), software and implementation services. You’d have to have a support organization to manage not just the software but the underlying hardware and infrastructure software (OS, DBMS, etc). You knew you’d have to do periodic maintenance on all of those, and eventually you’d have to upgrade as the vendor improved the software and increased functionality.  And on top of that you knew that in 3-5 years you’d have to do it all over again.

In addition to the level of effort was the availability of functionality. This was often the biggest challenge for SMB’s – the most complex functionality was only available in enterprise software, and was out of reach for many organizations.

Tasty Bites of Cloud

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) changes things. One clear benefit is the outsourcing of infrastructure support — the hardware and infrastructure software are sitting in someone else’s datacenter and you are no longer managing the application software either. Your responsibility is reduced to customization, integration and data. That’s not trivial, but compared to old school, on-premise software it’s a big difference.

So now organizations don’t have to be in the technology management business.  They can be in the functions and outcomes business. The variety of available SaaS offerings with sophisticated functionality has never been greater and it has brought with it a few serendipities. One of the most compelling is the ability to incrementally implement software.

How do you eat a software implementation? Incrementally. For SMB’s who don’t know where to start or are too intimidated, they can start with an outcome. SaaS solutions give organizations easy entry and building blocks so projects don’t have to be large.

Maria Winans, IBM VP,  Social Business & Industry Cloud Solutions Marketing  expressed it well in a discussion on one of IBM’s Cloud success stories, Sun Life Stadium in Miami. “Sun Life Stadium started with an operations discussion: how do we improve traffic flow in and out of the stadium? [SaaS solutions] allow businesses to get up and running, innovate and take risks very quickly. So they were able to incrementally move the discussion from traffic flow to food service elements, and then to how to improve the overall fan experience. “

For organizations, large or small, the convergence of cloud – big data, analytics, social, mobile – in the marketplace has created challenges and opportunities in terms of leveraging technology to innovate, connect with customers and employees, and compete in the marketplace.  They can no longer just focus on one element. However, what they can do now is leverage SaaS offerings to incrementally solve problems.  Like Sun Life Stadium, they can start with a discussion and build from there. SMB’s now have the tools to build their own complex software platform…one piece at a time.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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