Recent discussions and work situations have caused me to think a lot about cloud applications.  This pondering has included research of varying degrees into dozens of these sort of solutions.  The good and bad news is that there are more options than ever before.  That being said, it is time to examine ways that we can make the most of this overabundance of choices.  Of course, your options will vary based on your situation so let’s look at the different approaches.

Start-Up Mode

The first (and most comfortable) situation is when you are in start-up mode.  This situation is where you have no legacy concerns and nothing that ties you to any particular product.  We see this occur when a business is starting out but also when a new department is formed or even times when management decides to start with a clean slate.  That last situation is rare but does occur, and it has value.

The first step in this situation is to research the options available.  You can go to Google to find the top or best applications for your needs and will often be rewarded with lists of candidate cloud applications.  There is a common problem with this approach that is easily avoided.  The landscape is moving so fast that an article over a year old will likely not include some excellent options and may have products on the list that no longer exist.  When you do the research, make sure you are seeing results in the last year and compare notes on multiple sites/resources to look for hidden gems.

Vetting and Selecting

I highly recommend you get a list of three to five options as your “short” list.  This should give you variance in cost and features while avoiding the loss of days of time researching too many options.  It may seem overwhelming to whittle down a list of dozens.  However, when you start with a list of needed or highly desirable features, I find you can review and eliminate at least a few solutions per hour.  If you can not find enough information on an application, then that alone may be a reason to keep them from the shortlist.

The key to finding the best solution for you is to create a firm list of needs and wants as part of evaluating solutions.  There will be a large number of cloud applications that can fulfill some of your requirements.  However, each will have its strengths and weaknesses.  When you match those against your needs, then your list will quickly come into focus.

Existing Systems

The more substantial challenge is when you have existing systems.  These cloud applications that are being used (or any other form of them), have momentum and history.  The users are familiar with the current solution(s) and often prefer to stick with a frustrating system rather than face change.  That is a valid concern.  However, the changing landscape makes it worth your time to periodically review the latest applications available.  The features of existing systems advance and new competitors are created.  The risk of moving to a new system can be substantial but so can the productivity boost.

When you research your options, you should take an approach almost identical to a case where no current solutions exist.  The significant exceptions are that you also need to be concerned about migrating historical data and re-training your users.  Fortunately, these are effectively just another couple of requirements.  One last note, as you move through this process, you might find that there is only a small increase in productivity in the new system.  That can be an indicator to stay put with your current solution.  Nevertheless, the rise of viable cloud applications can be a path to lower maintenance costs, fewer headaches, and a streamlined approach to your needs.  Do not forget to consider the big picture.

Constant Change

There are books and white papers written to help with the RFP process and selecting the best solution for your company.  The point I want to reiterate is that cloud applications have opened up enterprise solutions to businesses in a way that can meet almost any budget.  Take advantage of free trials and demo periods to check out what else is available.  You might have exactly what you need but what if a considerable improvement is only a few clicks away?

Rob Broadhead

Rob is a founder of, and frequent contributor to, Develpreneur. This includes the Building Better Developers podcast. He is also a longtime student of technology as a developer, designer, and manager of software solutions. Rob is a founder and principle of RB Consulting and has managed to author a book about his family experiences.In his free time, he stays busy raising five children (although a few have grown into adults). When he has a chance to breathe, he is on the ice playing hockey to relax.

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