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Cloud Dilemmas: Analysis Paralysis


Analysis paralysis is alive and well. In fact, today it is stronger than ever, thanks to an overabundance of options in the marketplace.

While my 21 years as a consultant seem rather short compared to some of my more senior colleagues, I have seen a lot of changes over that time span. From the analog-digital conversion, to Y2K, to the emergence of VoIP, I have rolled right along with the changes.

But we are in a very strange place today. The cloud really has lived up to its hype of being an industry disrupter -- a massive disrupter. It is no secret to this community that it is changing EVERYTHING in this business.

From the consultant perspective, we are used to change, embrace it, and sometimes even profit from it. Keeping up with changes in the industry has never been a huge problem, as the methodology and processes we have followed for years have always applied. Where there is a mess, there are opportunities for consultants to help sort things out. And boy do we have a mess today.

The problem isn't that the cloud itself is a disruptive technology. The real disruptive force comes from the fact that everyone is taking a radically different approach to cloud implementations.

Cisco, Microsoft, Avaya, Mitel, NEC, Shoretel, Interactive Intelligence, Unify. That's eight different companies with eight unique strategies for deploying cloud services. Check that -- that list of eight probably represents 40 or more different strategies for deploying cloud services, not to mention their on-premises offerings.

Another problem is that new services and products are being rolled out every few months. There are big changes going on inside the major players, dramatically effecting how products and services are delivered. Changes in the landscape of the business used to take years, if not decades. We are now seeing seismic shifts happening in a matter of months.

And while a plethora of deployment options is perfect for the organization that knows precisely what it wants, this presents an obstacle for those that don't know what they need.

A lot of businesses are struggling with the reality of too many options. And it isn't just as simple as throwing an RFP out on the street -- there are just too many options to uncover in traditional processes.

Instead, planning and thinking needs to become extremely strategic, and priorities must be clearly understood by all members of the executive team. All parties need to be on the same page, understanding all opportunities, risks, expense components, and management challenges of the various available options. Only then can a path be mapped out to help lead to a decision. But how many times does that actually happen in the real world?

Most often, this level of strategic planning never takes place, and without it, one has to consider all options of all vendors to try to find the best solution. And even then, how do you know the right solution is the right solution when you find it? You can't just write an RFP for all possible options and have it spit out the right answer. Instead, you keep sitting through meeting after meeting and never get even close to a decision. There are simply too many options to consider, and without a clear goal in mind to drive the process, analysis paralysis sets in.

The conversation, which can take up to a year, often goes like this:

Because it can take the scope of a year to analyze all the available options, things can change so much during that time that the customer winds up more confused than when the process started. This can lead many businesses to continue to try to just get by with their legacy PBXs.

In the past, questions could be sorted out in the RFP process. And while RFPs certainly still have a place today, the selection process has been become more of a collaboration between the vendor and the customer, and in the case of my engagements, the vendor, consultant, and the customer. But even before the conversation begins, the customer really needs to do the necessary homework. Below are three keys to help avoid analysis paralysis and to keep the project moving forward to the best possible outcome:

All vendors have multiple offerings in every possible stage of the product lifecycle. This is a difficult time to make a decision, but the opportunities get more exciting every day as technology matures and offers increased value for solving business problems.

At the end of the day, the increased challenge is a good thing: It forces organizations to go through the process of formalizing their strategic vision for a communications solution, something that has been missing in most projects since, well, forever.

"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communication technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.