'Don't Change Anything': A Problem With Cloud Computing

The move to cloud-based services has represented a big change in how we install and manage software. However, it hasn't changed one of the fundamental principles: as soon as you start customising enterprise systems, you end up in trouble.

I was reminded of this at the Salesforce.com Salesforce1 World Tour event in Melbourne today. Hills CEO Ted Pretty was describing how the veteran clothesline manufacturer shifted to Salesforce.com last year.

"We didn't have any visibility into our sales forecast," he said. "We had no visibility of how we were performing on a service or inquiries basis."

The shift has produced good results for the company. "We've been in full deployment for nine months," Pretty said. "We can see a pipeline of about $110 million where we had nothing before."

However, achieving that result was partly due to the fact that the system was implemented without any customisations beyond adding customer information. "The one piece of advice I'd give everyone is: don't touch it. It's simpler and it's a lot cheaper," Pretty said. Roll back two decades and the same approach would have been suggested with on-premises software.

One reason that attitude bore fruit is because Pretty wasn't looking for Hills to do anything unusual with the software. "There's a soft part -- a bit of Chatter and so forth -- but at the end of the day all I'm interested in is: have you made your number?"

Even taking that by-the-box approach takes time. Nine months after installation, Pretty said that there's a lot of work to be done. "I'd say we're about 30 per cent through the journey."

As we've noted recently, changing to cloud software requires new approaches. "There are three things you get out of that change," Pretty said. "The first thing you get is visibility. The second thing you get, which is a cultural change to the organisation and people don't necessarily like it, is accountability. The final thing, which is a byproduct of the others, is the networking."

Disclosure: Angus Kidman visited Melbourne as a guest of Salesforce.com.


    Does this really have anything to do with Cloud? Sure, Salesforce is held up there as a prime example of SaaS, but the lessons learned by Hills are irrelevant to cloud. They apply just as equally to on-premise software as they do SaaS.

    It's only once you get to IaaS and PaaS that the game really changes for organisations.

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