Are Cloud Solutions For Sales, Marketing and Service Really Silver Bullets?
James Hough
By James Hough

Cloud solutions offer significant potential benefit for sales, marketing and service professionals. But a successful outcome is based on sound data and process integration, and best practice project and change management.

The benefits of cloud for sales, marketing and service

Cloud-based solutions for sales, marketing and service professional can bring many potential advantages to organisations. They are user friendly and easy – even desirable – to use, with consumer-grade user interfaces which favour simplicity and concentrate on core features, rather than trying to cover everything. This promotes higher user adoption because it removes barriers to users taking advantage of the processes and functions they really want. For example, the SAP Cloud for Customer (C4C) collaboration and reporting tools make it easier and more efficient for sales teams to gain and share sales intelligence.

Cloud solutions also reduce the reliance on IT, putting much more control of the solution in the hands of the business. Businesses can leverage features and functions faster by taking advantage of new releases immediately rather than having to wait for upgrade programs. Cloud solutions can reduce the need for costly infrastructure, moving expenses to operating costs.

We are all familiar with the regular newspaper stories about organisations losing customer data or who have data stolen. Cloud solutions can provide better security: most data centres are SAS70 Type I and Type II certified meaning that adequate controls are safeguards are in place for the hosting and processing of data. Is your data centre SAS70 certified?

Cloud is not Plug ‘n’ Play

But there is a temptation to think of cloud-based projects as a kind of “plug ‘n’ play” silver bullet to fix business challenges – a view that the software sales person could certainly encourage. While cloud solutions do offer significant potential for businesses, there is still some hard graft to do to get there. Robust data governance and process integration, and best practice project and change management are vital to ensure success.

The importance of data and process integration

When selecting a solution for your sales, marketing or service team, data governance and process integration can often be lower down the list of things to think about. And yet data and process integration is likely to be the most significant cost to the project. Any cloud solution – be it Salesforce, Microsoft, or SAP – will need to be integrated to the back-office systems, and not approaching this properly will result in on-going operational costs in terms of data quality issues, manual processing, and manual reporting to paper-over the gaps.

For example, take a sales improvement project. In general, a customer record needs to be extended in the back-office system to support order processing and billing, and specific pricing conditions will need to be put in place. Data governance needs to be agreed in terms of which system will master a customer record and pricing condition; who will be responsible for and maintain the data; and how that customer and pricing data will be made available to the other systems.

A solution to this scenario might be for the ERP back-office system to master the customer and pricing records, with users in the front-office cloud solution able to view the customer data and create a quotation that calls the ERP pricing data. There are many potential solutions driven by considerations on current business practice and systems, your specific processes, and even constraints on usage of number ranges within the back-office system. The point is that there is some work to do to work out the best approach for your scenario.

The story is similar for marketing and service scenarios. The quality of customer and contact data has a direct correlation to campaign effectiveness and customer service, so ensuring robust data management governance and processes between the back-office and cloud systems is key.

Avoid turning a Porsche Boxster into a four-seater

AgilityWorks recommend that data and process integration requirements are considered during product selection of a cloud solution, not after. Otherwise, it’s like selecting a Porsche Boxster because it’s the fastest and nicest looking car, then remembering that you’re a family of four. This will result in additional project costs of welding some new seats and headroom to the Porsche and then on-going costs of additional maintenance and lower re-sale values. And it probably won’t look that great either.

Returning to the world of cloud solutions, AgilityWorks recommend running a discovery workshop during the software selection process to understand your existing master data, relevant processes, and system landscape. The output will be a high level design on system integration requirements, which can be tested against the capabilities of the candidate cloud solutions to understand:

• What integration options are available (e.g. web services, native)?
• What integration is “out of the box” with your back-office systems?
• What are the gaps?
• What are the costs to meet your requirements?

The outcome will depend on your individual circumstances, but as a general rule (i) if you are integrating to SAP, then you should consider SAP Cloud for Customer due to is standard integration functionality, and (ii) web services integration can provide a simple, low-cost yet effective integration alternative to “deeper” integration approaches.

Best practice project and change management

The need for good project management and change management applies just as much to cloud projects as it does to any other software implement. No matter how good the solution is, confidence will be dented if for example data migration is handled poorly or training is inadequate. AgilityWorks recommend that any project starts with a Project Initiation Document (PID) which will support the alignment of stakeholders on project objectives; project scope; the project plan; and project resources and costs.

For example, you will need to think about how data migration from your legacy solution is managed and executed – what technical skills will you need? You will need to put the necessary technical infrastructure in place to allow your new cloud solution to “talk” to your back-office. You will need a project management process in place to deal with risks and issues. And with regard to change management, you will need to manage the communications plan; carry out a change impact assessment to identify business areas affected by the project and mitigating actions; ensure users are trained; and manage business cutover.


If you would like to know more about how to achieve business improvement with cloud solutions, contact us at

James Hough
By James Hough

James is the Customer Engagement and Commerce Capability Lead at AgilityWorks. He advises clients in IT-enabled sales, service, and marketing business transformation, and has recently led a series of global projects leveraging cloud and digital solutions.

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