[Second in a series: In the previous post, we discussed the importance of ensuring that cloud adoption supports business strategy. In this installment, we consider how critical it is to find the right cloud partner.]
When the leaders of Sourcingpartner Inc. decided it was time to trade in a largely manual warehouse management process riddled with bottlenecks for a modern, cloud-based alternative, they knew their choice of a cloud provider was critical.
As a key distributor to some of the largest office supply businesses in the world, for Sourcingpartner, operations during the back-to-school season must be flawless. NetSuite, with its SuiteSuccess end-to-end customer engagement model taking companies from zero to cloud in 100 days, turned out to be the partner it was looking for.
"When you're dealing with any company, you do have to worry, 'will they deliver what they promised?'” said Sourcingpartner CEO Steve DiPasqule. "Once you're putting money into it, you expect the answer to be yes. SuiteSuccess delivered better than we expected."
And it wasn't just that NetSuite delivered the solution on time; it also made the potentially nerve-wracking experience of migrating to the cloud more manageable by sharing leading practices and a wealth of experience in wholesale distribution deployments throughout.
"There was never a day that went by where we didn't have guidance," DiPasqule said.
Digital Transformation Coming to Manufacturer’s, Wholesaler’s and Other Product-based Companies
There is a huge difference between a cloud provider that does little more than provide logins and developer tools, and one that works closely with companies to ease the often-harrowing process of adopting a new technology platform.
And when you're a complex and fast-growing wholesale distributor, and you're taking your first steps into the cloud, having the right provider is critical to avoiding potential interruptions to your business.
It also figures to become a competitive necessity. IDC predicts that half of all manufacturers will be leveraging the cloud, mobile computing and advanced analytics to facilitate innovation on the shop floor. What's more, IDC expects 75 percent of manufacturers to undergo digital transformations by the end of 2018. That means a lot of competitors matching up with technology partners to get much smarter.
The right cloud provider can address that competitive pressure by helping a company establish the right foundation for its technology, whether that means digitizing existing business processes or enabling the business to pivot on a dime if needed.
Smoothing the Transition
The latter is exactly what Action Health, a maker of healthcare packaging products was trying to do when it turned to NetSuite. The company, which was known as Action Bag at the time, had made the difficult decision to sell its retail gift supplies business to focus on the faster-growing healthcare market. And while it was looking for a cloud platform that would help it to differentiate itself, it also wanted a partner that would help to smooth that transition.
By the time NetSuite Services had finished assisting Action Health with the deployment, and the system started churning out previously inaccessible information, it was clear that Action Health had an environment that would enable it to make more — and better — use of data than it ever had.
"NetSuite was the change agent throughout the whole process, and really set who we are today and how we operate as a company," said Sean Cwynar, president of the company, which his grandmother founded.
Stories like these illustrate how a good provider-customer match can make business look easy, but finding the right provider is anything but. In fact, it's one of the more difficult parts of a company's initial foray into the cloud.
For that reason, companies looking to follow in Sourcingpartner's and Action Health's footsteps should ask themselves some important questions before evaluating potential provider. These can range from basic considerations such as 'Where should I start?' to more company-specific concerns such as 'Where's my demand coming from?' and 'How am I going to facilitate that demand?' The point is simply to establish a strategy for entering the cloud that ties back to your specific business needs.
This is not to suggest that a company has to have everything about its cloud journey mapped out before picking a provider; in fact, the eventual provider should be relied upon to help flesh out that strategy.
Stairway to Heaven – How is your Business Partner helping you Evolve?
This is precisely the approach NetSuite takes. Rather than see ourselves as a mere vendor, we prefer to have customers think of us as more of an advisor. We have established what we call a "stairway to heaven" for every industry we serve. Think of it as a thought process, or a strategy, for how to execute.
In many ways, it's also an exercise in aligning the partner with its customers' goals. Customers come away from the process with a grasp of how our technology works with their processes, the knowledge that we understand their specific business and industry, and confidence that they've chosen the right cloud provider.
Eventually, the goal is for the cloud provider and customer to form a lasting partnership that's built on a common goal: Ensuring the customer's success.