Tag Archives: Marketing

The Most and Least Popular Cloud Applications

Many companies are reluctant to put applications with sensitive data in the cloud. In the U.S. and Europe, the applications least frequently shifted from on-premises computers to the cloud were those that compiled data on employees (e.g., payroll), legal issues (legal management systems), product (pricing and product testing), and certain customer information (e.g., customer loyalty and e-commerce transactions). Still, some companies had shifted applications with customer data to the cloud, especially in customer service, and many planned to shift a number of customer-related applications to the cloud by 2014.


 

  • Cloud applications most frequently shifted from on-premises technology
  • Cloud applications least frequently shifted from on-premises technology
  • Case study: Dell Inc.

In the previous section, we mentioned that across all four regions of the world, companies were in most cases putting the largest share of their cloud applications budgets in marketing, sales and service. Yet in spite of that, many companies appear to be staying clear of putting sensitive data into cloud applications.

We found this to be the case in looking at other data in our survey. In the U.S. and Europe (where we had large-enough sample sizes to explore what applications companies had in the cloud in each of the 10 core business functions), we found that the applications that were most frequently shifted from on-premises computers to the cloud were those that typically do not have highly sensitive information on employees, customers, new-product plans, and other data that companies go to great lengths to protect (see Exhibit VI-1).

In the U.S., when we looked at the applications that were least frequently shifted to the cloud from on-premises computers, several of them were applications that often store highly sensitive data:

  • Legal-related – legal management solutions (which can contain the status of lawsuits against a company)
  • Employee-related – compensation planning (employee salaries) and payroll/time and attendance systems (which, of course, in the U.S. can have Social Security information)
  • Product-related – product testing systems (which often compile data on product efficacy and of course reveal a company’s product launches), and pricing and promotions systems (which, in competitors’ hands, can tip off pricing changes)
  • Customer-related — customer loyalty (which can reveal buying preferences), customer/market research applications, E-commerce, and customer analytics — all of which can risk customer privacy and provide competitors with useful targeting information
  • Risk-related – risk assessment and monitoring systems, which compile data on a company’s most vulnerable activities

In all five areas, less than 20% of companies had shifted on-premises apps to the cloud (see Exhibit VI-2).

Still, that doesn’t mean that all customer data is being kept out of the cloud. For U.S. companies’ customer service applications, 42% have shifted customer order-entry systems from on-premises technology to the cloud. And 37% have moved their archived customer records to the cloud. (See Exhibit VI-3.)

In addition, the numbers in the chart above indicate that many companies’ fears about putting customer records in the cloud are likely to subside. When asked what customer service applications they expected to be in the cloud by 2014, the majority expected to shift their customer order entry, archives of past customer records, post-sales inquiries and online customer communities from on-premises to cloud-based applications.

In looking at marketing applications, we found such hesitation to put customer data in the cloud looks like it will decline by 2014. At least half of U.S. companies plan to shift customer research, e-commerce, customer analytics and social media data to the cloud by then. And even 39% of companies say they’ll shift customer loyalty systems to the cloud by 2014. (See Exhibit VI-4.)

Dell: Riding a Tsunami of New Cloud-Based Marketing Tools

As the computer company that became known worldwide for its direct model, Dell Inc. has had to master the Web, email and other online marketing tools to get customers in the fold and keep them there. Of course, the company has much to boast about, growing from a concept in the University of Texas dorm room of founder Michael Dell to a multibillion-dollar juggernaut of the global technology industry in less than 30 years.

But now comes the cloud. It ushers in a whole new set of online tools that serious online marketers such as Dell must experiment with. In fact, Dell has adopted a marketing strategy for public and large enterprises that puts cloud applications at the center of its channels to customers. “The cloud is very appealing to us,” says Rishi Dave, executive director of online marketing for Dell’s large corporate, public and government enterprise division. “I live in constant paranoia of innovation overtaking us in the online space. So we constantly are reviewing, evaluating, and testing new offerings from cloud providers to see who is at the leading edge so that we are using the latest, greatest marketing tools.”

Online marketing has become a blood sport, especially in the computer industry. Competition in the IT market has become so fierce that products are quickly commoditized and margins rapidly squeezed. Hundreds of millions of dollars ride every week on whether a technology company can troll the vast World Wide Web looking for enterprise customers ready to change vendors. A snarky comment in a LinkedIn or Facebook group, a complaint Tweeted for all to see, and other digital droppings can lead a company like Dell to identify a ripe prospect – or a customer ready to defect.

Before the advent of social media, the ways companies like Dell used software to track what was being said about them on the Web, in calls with customer reps, and in emails. But the world of marketing applications has changed dramatically. Dell uses Salesforce.com to manage its CRM efforts. And now the Round Rock, Texas-based IT giant is also using other cloud vendors’ marketing-related applications. “This means we can innovate more quickly,” says Dave.

He is experimenting with cloud-based gamification — as Wikipedia defines it, “the use of game design techniques and mechanics to solve problems and engage audiences” — to both entertain and enlighten current and prospective customers. The company sees gamification as important for getting rapid feedback on new products and marketing collateral.

Gamification Delivered in the Cloud: The New Dell Marketing Tool

A great example of how Dell drove results fast with cloud-based marketing applications came at its first annual conference for global customers, Dell World, held last October in Austin. Four months prior to the conference, Dave and other online marketers at Dell decided they needed a novel way of interacting with attendees, one that would engage them more deeply and give Dell a deeper understanding of what solutions customers cared about.  Working with a cloud-based gamification vendor, Dell used mobile gamification to reward attendees for downloading Dell content at the event, sharing it with their peers, and letting others know about it through sending out Tweets, visiting physical locations at the conference, and exchanging contact information.

A big advantage of working with a cloud vendor for the game application was that Dell’s online marketing group didn’t have to request a system that would touch the company’s internal IT infrastructure.

The Biggest Barriers to Adopting Whole New Cloud Applications: Giving Up Control and Changing the Way Dell Markets

In working with vendors of cloud-based marketing applications, Dell has had to learn how to deal with a new set of business partners – many of which are small startup companies that need to handle a large, global firm. “When you no longer own the technology, you have to be much better at managing cloud vendors and developing partnerships,” explains Dave, who says the firm evaluates as many as a dozen cloud marketing application vendors at any one time. “You have to have a process to identify the right partners, and you have to learn to relinquish total control.” In contrast to marketing applications built internally (over which Dell can determine every feature, function and interface aspect of the software), using cloud vendors’ marketing applications means Dell must give up control of product features, look and feel.

This, in turn, means Dave and his team must carefully evaluate whether Dell can change its marketing processes to take advantage of a promising new cloud-based marketing application. “It is relatively easy to identify new tools but a big challenge lies in absorbing them,” he says. “This requires looking at it from an internal business process perspective.” Cloud applications that require too many internal changes – or vast amounts of training to master it – have a much higher barrier to adoption. “A limiting factor is how much training, additional resources, and process changes are needed. Also, providers must eventually be able to scale their capabilities as their organizations grow.”

Of course, one of the big attractions of cloud marketing applications to Dell (and many, many other companies) is turning a fixed cost (licensing marketing applications software and the purchase of servers to run it) into a variable cost. If the company doesn’t like a particular cloud application that it has been using to sort out sentiments aired about the firm through social media, it simply stops using the service. Dell doesn’t have to remove the software from servers in its data center – and most of all, it doesn’t have to buy the extra servers need to run the software in the first place. Those applications run on a cloud vendor’s software.

All in all, Dell sees cloud-based marketing tools as critical to effective marketing in the present and future. Online marketing chief Dave believes that cloud vendors selling applications for mobile phones, tablet computers and other highly portable digital devices will be especially important to Dell given that its large-company customers do a large and increasing share of their daily tasks through such devices.

“We constantly trial cloud providers to see who is developing the latest tools,” Dave says. “Our use of such tools will absolutely grow. And as we ramp up our mobile strategy, cloud becomes critical.” As a case in point, he and his team are already thinking about creating games for the next Dell World conference that can be played on any digital interface – smartphones, tablets and PCs.

 


TCS Cloud Study – 10 Key Findings
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Summary of Key Findings

In the fall of 2011, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) conducted an extensive study on how 600+ primarily large companies (most with more than $1 billion in revenue) were using applications in “the cloud” – software residing on remote data centers that organizations access via the Internet. Such data centers can be run by third parties that co-locate applications of multiple companies (so-called public clouds). Or these data centers can be run for the sole use of one organization, operated by that organization itself (private clouds).


Public cloud computing vendors provide shared computing resources (hardware and software) to companies that don’t want to incur the cost of such IT infrastructure. A cloud vendor’s offerings typically provide computing resources on demand, automated system deployment and scaling, and pay-per-usage pricing.  There are three primary benefits of cloud services: computing resources on-demand (which saves companies from having to plan ahead for securing such resources); the elimination of upfront commitments to IT (and thus avoid purchasing new hardware, software or whole data centers for computing demand that may be uncertain in the future); and pay-per-usage pricing (e.g., processors by the hour), which reduces the amount of computing resources that are sitting idle.

TCS believed that while numerous studies have been published on cloud computing since 2008, none had deeply explored how business functions such as marketing, sales, R&D, distribution, manufacturing, operations, finance and others were using cloud applications (also known as “software as a service,” or SaaS).

We designed the study to explore five core issues:

  • The factors that are driving companies to put their applications software in the cloud – whether those cloud applications were shifted from computers on-premises or were entirely new applications that had no on-premises predecessors
  • Which cloud applications have been adopted by what business functions and why
  • The benefits they had generated to date from shifting on-premises apps to the cloud and from launching entirely new apps in the cloud
  • The success factors to generating buy-in, adoption and benefits
  • Their future plans for cloud apps – specifically, what types of cloud apps their business functions planned to have by 2014

 

We conducted several research streams. The first was quantitative research: an online survey of 600+ companies from four regions of the world.  The survey was extensive and polled the experiences of both senior business functional managers and corporate IT executives.

The second stream of research was in-depth interviews with six companies on their attitudes and experiences with cloud applications.  Their stories shed further light on what’s driving companies to shift existing applications or put new applications in the cloud, the benefits and competitive advantages those applications are generating, and the challenges to getting the organization to adopt cloud applications (both those in public and private clouds). These companies were:

  • CTB/McGraw Hill – an educational assessment testing company that believes cloud applications will help it fund the investments it needs to continue to move its school assessments from a print to an online world.
  • Commonwealth Bank of Australia – One of the four largest Australian banks has moved dozens of sales, customer service, HR, operations and IT applications to the cloud over the last three years. The result: the ability to offer bank customers a range of innovative new banking services.
  • Dell Inc. – The $61 billion technology company has been using the cloud to provide engaging online marketing programs that win over customers and keep them coming back for more.
  • Major telecommunications services company – Why a telco is rapidly shifting on-premises applications to the cloud in order to create common applications and cut millions of dollars in data center costs.
  • Large consumer products company – How cloud computing has helped the $5 billion company more effectively field consumer complaints while keeping technology costs low.
  • AOL Inc. – The cost savings and other benefits that the iconic consumer online media company has gained from a new private cloud.

 

Our final stream of research was capturing the experiences of TCS cloud experts – professionals who are working with companies on a daily basis about cloud computing issues. From our analysis of the data from all three research streams, we uncovered 10 findings that explain how large companies around the world are using cloud applications, to what benefit, with what concerns, and with what future plans:

Finding No. 1Despite the hype, cloud applications do not rule the large corporation, although their usage is expected to increase significantly. Cloud applications are still in the minority of all applications in companies (19% of the average large U.S. company’s applications, 12% in Europe, 28% in Asia-Pacific, and 39% in Latin American companies). But they expect the ratio of cloud to on-premises applications to increase greatly by 2014.  The case of Australia’s largest bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, illustrates why many companies have gained a voracious appetite for cloud applications. (Read more)

Finding No. 2The biggest driver of cloud applications is not to cut IT costs.  IT cost reduction is an important factor, but not the most important. Rather, standardizing software applications and business processes across a company (in the U.S. and Asia-Pacific) and ramping systems up or down faster (in Europe and Latin America) are the most highly rated drivers for shifting on-premises applications to the cloud. And the factors driving companies to launch entirely new applications in the cloud are quite different – to institute new business processes and launch new technology-dependent products and services. The case of assessment testing company CTB/McGraw-Hill shows why cloud computing will become a key tool for delivering pioneering IT-enabled offerings. (Read more)

Finding No. 3The early returns on cloud applications are impressive. Companies using cloud applications are increasing the number of standard applications and business processes, reducing cycle times to ramp up IT resources, cutting IT costs, and launching a greater number of new products and processes. The story of a major telco shows the ambitions of the some of the most aggressive cloud adopters. (Read more)

Finding No. 4Customer-facing business functions are garnering the largest share of the cloud application budget.  Marketing, sales and service are capturing at least 40% of that budget in all four regions. The experiences of Dell’s enterprise sector online marketing function shows how one large company is trying to get closer to customers through cloud marketing applications.  And a new private cloud at Web media company AOL Inc. explains how a technology-dependent company can make its technology more responsive and cost-effective. (Read more)

Finding No. 5Many companies are reluctant to put applications with sensitive data in the cloud. In the U.S. and Europe, the applications least frequently shifted from on-premises computers to the cloud were those that compiled data on employees (e.g., payroll), legal issues (legal management systems), product (pricing and product testing), and certain customer information (e.g., customer loyalty and e-commerce transactions). Still, some companies had shifted applications with customer data to the cloud, especially in customer service, and many planned to shift a number of customer-related applications to the cloud by 2014. (Read more)

Finding No. 6The heaviest users of cloud applications are the companies that manufacture the technology hardware that enables cloud computing (computers/electronics/telecom equipment), while healthcare services providers are the lightest users (in terms of average number cloud apps per business function).  (Read more)

Finding No. 7The most aggressive adopters of cloud applications are companies in Asia-Pacific and Latin America. They report having much higher percentages of cloud apps to total apps – and bigger results from cloud apps than their peers in the U.S. and Europe. We show how a large consumer products company uses the cloud to respond rapidly and effectively to consumer issues around the world. (Read more)

Finding No. 8Despite a significant shift to cloud applications, most companies (especially in Europe) remain conservative about which applications they put in public clouds. Less than 20% of U.S. and European companies would consider or seriously consider putting their most critical applications in public clouds. But 66% of U.S. and 48% of European companies would consider putting core applications in private clouds. (Read more)

Finding No. 9The keys to adopting and benefiting from cloud applications are overcoming fear of security risks and skepticism about ROI. (Read more)

Finding No. 10Companies evaluate cloud vendors most on their security and reliability/uptime capabilities – and far less on their price. This was the case in all four regions. In fact, price typically finished at the bottom of a list of nine factors in making the cloud application purchasing decision. (Read more)