If you’re in IT and you want to buy cloud for your company, you are in a tough spot. The fact is, the cloud purchase probably has to go through Procurement … people who are not IT experts themselves, but who are responsible for finding cloud suppliers, comparing services, and negotiating pricing to get the best value for your company.
The challenge is that “the cloud” isn’t standardized. It’s not like bolt or screw or nail – all of which have very well-defined specifications used across the industry. In that case, Procurement can get quotes from suppliers, develop a data matrix, and deliver the information up the chain for a decision. Done.
The cloud? Well, there are no globally, nationally, or even regionally-accepted standard terms for a particular cloud service. Each vendor is completely different. That means Procurement can’t develop a nice, neat matrix for cloud providers with names across the top, attributes and services down the side, and respective costs at the bottom. What they’re more likely to have is half a dozen stacks of paper, none of which appear to correlate with each other, making apples-to-apples comparisons impossible.
So how can you help Procurement to buy the cloud you need? How do you help them to weigh features, benefits, functionality, services, and – finally – pricing? The answer: you have to encourage them to ask the right questions. Here are the top 5 you should be absolutely sure that Procurement has on their list of queries:
1. What does our company want to accomplish with the cloud?
The questions begin inside the company – not outside it. Procurement needs to talk with all the key stakeholders to determine the business goals and objectives for the desired product. Make sure you are part of that discussion! What problems are you, as a business, trying to solve for?
2. Which cloud providers do our trusted resources and associates use?
The next question will go outside the company, but not to the suppliers – yet. You want Procurement to ask around. Talk to buyers at other companies. Check out the research done by organizations like Forrester or Gartner . Ask your other vendors and suppliers whom they would recommend. Don’t worry – Procurement is good at this. They know that referrals are golden!
3. What does each cloud provider specialize in?
When Procurement has a potential supplier, encourage them not to jump right into discussing specific services. First, they should ask, “What do you specialize in?” Suggest that they should watch out for:
- “Umm …” If a provider can’t answer this question, Procurement should steer clear!
- “We do it all!” Nobody does it all. Period.
- “We are a great fit for every company.” Wrong. Every business is unique – you want someone who has targeted their cloud to solve a specific set of problems.
What you and Procurement are looking for is a cloud provider who is aligned with the business goals and objectives you established in question 1.
4. What services does each cloud provider offer?
Obviously, you want to know what services a prospective cloud provider offers. The trick here is that Procurement needs to spread a very wide net with their questions, because you want to know a lot of things, including:
- What services the provider offers that will meet your currentneeds.
- What services they offer that will meet your potential futureneeds.
- How their services will dovetail with all your other IT services.
Talk with Procurement about integration. Remind them that at some point the cloud will probably be integrated with every IT service you have, handle every application, affect every process, and touch every person. It may not happen for years, but they should assume that it will. You want a cloud provider who will solve for problems that exist today and for transformation that will happen tomorrow.
5. How does each cloud provider’s pricing work?
Pricing is a tricky one. Many cloud providers have hidden costs – sad, but true. They will quote the bare minimum, knowing that you will need to upgrade or that data usage will expand, etc. Procurement should look for a cloud provider who is upfront about what costs will be in the beginning and how those costs are likely to change over time based upon your business requirements. To be sure that all the pricing facts are on the table, you will need to help Procurement target questions around services, security, backup, storage, recovery, maintenance, etc.
The key to buying the right cloud is really about collaboration. IT and Procurement need to collaborate together on what questions to ask and what answers are most relevant. These five questions will help both sides: they will help Procurement gather the information necessary to make a sound purchasing decision, and they will help IT get the right cloud for the business.