James Farhat, CEO of Applications Consulting Training Solutions, an ISV and technology solution provider based in Jacksonville, Fla., spoke with Small Business Trends regarding his experience in becoming a cloud-ready IT company and in transitioning his clientele to the cloud.
Farhat said that his company’s transition has evolved alongside the needs of his customers and changing technology trends.
“Our transition evolved along with our clients’ needs and how technology has changed,” he said. “We felt like we’re always ahead of the game, or try to be at least, and felt the marketplace was moving in that direction.”
Based on his desire to be a trendsetter, Farhat began moving his company toward cloud-readiness five years ago, to get ahead of the competition.
“Because we did that five years ago, we’re sort of the go-to partner,” he said. “We have a lot of experience and use cases and have had a lot of success. Now that the market is moving more and more that way and adopting cloud-readiness, it’s provided credibility for us, making it easy to get clients and grow the business.”
Farhat started his company based on his passion for technology, a background in training and consulting and a desire to solve business problems.
“I’ve always been in the training and consulting business, but I’ve been in technology for a long time,” he said. “I have a tremendous amount of passion for technology and solving business problems. This is a platform for our organization to do so and to follow the methodology and mantra that we set forth.”
Inhibitors to Cloud Transition
Farhat’s passion for moving clients into the cloud has, along the way, been met with resistance and problems. He cited the following inhibitors:
Need for Education
“Educating clients to understand the opportunity the cloud presents is an issue,” he said. “There’s not enough education out there or enough adoption. I think that’s the biggest problem with a transition. Clients look at it more as a technology feature set versus the opportunity to help save a tremendous amount of cost in their business.”
Resistance From Executives, IT Staff
Farhat indicated that business owners and CEOs resist cloud transition due to a lack of understanding or concerns over security while IT staffers feel their jobs may be at risk.
To overcome such resistance, Farhat said, “We educate people and try to the lay the facts out, such as the savings and cost from the business profit center and that no issues with security exist. In translating it to the IT side, we talk about where the opportunity is for them and that their jobs aren’t in jeopardy.”
Downtime a Concern
Another topic Farhat covers in the education process is making sure that clients understand that downtime is a risk they must face but that there are ways to combat it.
“You are still somewhat at the mercy of the cloud provider to some degree,” he said, “but you’re also at the mercy of the person building the network or your Internet provider, so those have always played a role too.”
Farhat added that education begins during the sales cycle as well as in the proof of concept phase.
He cited, as an example, a large transportation company client.
“We did some education with their leadership and built a value proposition with Partner Sales Executives so they could really see what was going to happen,” he said. “We created a spreadsheet, an executive PowerPoint deck and came up with the best message for them to take all roles into consideration during the decision-making phase.
“We tried to make them feel comfortable that what we’re doing puts them in a better position for speed to market and more agile iterations for delivering technology for their external customers. As a result of that preparation, we ended up closing a $1.4 million deal.”
Time and Cost, Variables in Transition Process
When asked about the time involved in a transition, Farhat said it’s not an “hours” issue but that it depends on the client’s needs.
He also asserted that cost is a variable, and could run as little as $1,200 for a small business with 10 people to millions for a large corporation.
“I think at the end of the day you might have an average cost, fully loaded, of $2,400 a year per employee if you moved everything to the cloud and you had everything cloud based,” he said.
Farhat added that, often, he will bring in a financial analyst who can help the client see the opportunities from an economic perspective, such as the savings the business can accrue as a result of a reduction in IT labor costs or the lowering of maintenance expenses related to manual processes that can now be automated.
Best Place to Start With Cloud Transition
According to Farhat, no one size fits all when it comes to the best place to start making the transition to the cloud.
“You have to look at what your business problem is and what you’re trying to accomplish,” he said. “It is the business outcome that drives where you start.”
Farhat did say that his company has done a lot with platform as a service, advanced analytics in the cloud and sales performance management, building client portals in the cloud.
Farhat concluded his remarks by emphasizing the need to ensure the customer is well educated on the risks involved in making the transition and on the opportunities that exist as well.
He provided this advice to other IT companies contemplating becoming cloud-ready:
“Make sure that the client understands that risks have always existed. That doesn’t mean that you don’t try to drive home the opportunity for the business to save on IT operational management costs and provide a better infrastructure for their organization using the cloud. However, getting them to understand and come to terms with that is not always easy to do.”
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