Published on the 15/07/2015 | Written by Donovan Jackson
Cloud solutions only as good as local support is…
As insurance and consulting company JLT Australia announces a move to the cloud for the management of its professional services, it has confirmed that all the attractions of off-premise solutions must be matched with boots on the ground.
JLT has implemented NetSuite’s OpenAir solution to run the full business lifecycle of its consulting practice, including project management, resource management, time-and-expense management, and project accounting.
Speaking with iStart, Clinton Wright, national operations manager at JLT, said going to the cloud wasn’t a difficult decision. “More important than ‘cloud’ is the availability of people on the ground; a lot of companies only have presales staff when providing cloud solutions and that’s just not enough.”
Instead, he said when dealing with business problems, it is necessary to have someone local to talk it through not just before a deal is inked, but on an ongoing basis.
NetSuite’s cloud Professional Services Automation (PSA) software addresses a common problem faced by consulting companies, Wright explained. “With consulting, every hour counts. It isn’t like selling insurance policies, where if the sale isn’t made today, the revenue can still be collected tomorrow. If an hour goes by and it isn’t billed or allocated, it can’t be replaced.”
Mark Troselj, VP and GM for ANZ at NetSuite, said cloud PSA technology is relatively new to the Australian market, “With JLT Australia being an enthusiastic, early adopter.”
For JLT, OpenAir has replaced six disparate Microsoft Access and Excel databases, providing more than 150 geographically dispersed project managers and consultants with visibility and anytime, anywhere access to tools and information necessary to perform their jobs.
Despite being in one of the more heavily regulated industries (and Australian Prudential Regulation Authority recently signalling more stringent regulation for cloud solutions, specifically), Wright and JLT are seeking further advantages of cloud solutions. “We’ve got HR in the cloud with Oracle, we’re looking at financial systems and budget planning; our risk and claims solutions are on private cloud right now, but we’ll look to move those outside too.”
He provides a comment which may resonate with other businesses: “We’ve got 65 people in IT for a company of 800; we still try to internalise things too much when we should be looking to best-of-breed from the cloud, where you benefit from a constant upgrade cycle, eliminate the need to maintain infrastructure and improve access for mobile workers.”
On-site deployments, added Wright, quickly become sandbagged, with a range of excuses for not upgrading software emerging over time. “That’s why you find so many companies with Windows Server 2003 systems still chugging away in the basement when support ends.”
With cloud solutions increasingly mature and proven, Wright said all too often the wrong questions are being asked by those who could benefit from them: “Too many times we’re asking ‘will this work for us. Instead, we should be asking ‘why wouldn’t it’.”
The biggest challenges are ‘all about the data’, Wright said. “It’s data, data, data. It’s Acts [laws] and retention and access. And there are odd things that crop up around data – for example, when we wanted to move to eDocuments in Tasmania, it wasn’t Treasury or Worksafe that had a problem with it, but the Archive Department that we had to satisfy.”