Setting Expectations in the Cloud: Creating Vendor/Client Balance

Balancing Control

Balancing control with access is important for both the client and the cloud vendor.

Moving to an outsourcing provider means relinquishing control on the part of the business. But part of establishing the right kind of relationship is the responsibility of the cloud provider and their ability to set and manage expectations effectively.

Often, in an outsourced cloud context, the providers drop the ball in terms of expectation management. Clients therefore have difficulty understanding where the cloud service provider’s responsibilities end and where theirs begins, and vice versa.

Companies in general, because the cloud as a new IT has been emerging only over the last 4 to 6 years, have difficulty defining the parameters of the business relationship with regards to the new outsourced IT paradigm. Another complication for many companies is rooted in the ways that many are approaching the cloud right now. With its ubiquity and compelling price model, Amazon Web Services has become for many (including the Obama campaign) the cloud of choice. Where expectation setting is concerned, Amazon is very much ahead (or behind, depending on your definition) of the curve in the sense that they are explicit in letting their clients know that they should have no expectations where service for an AWS-based cloud is concerned.

This is not to put Amazon down by any means, since what they offer is one of the smartest and most utilized public cloud platforms in the world. What it does point out, however, is the inherent difference in a self-service model works versus a managed service model. This difference further underscores the need for businesses, which either did cloud in-house or were previously leveraging an AWS-esque cloud model, to alter the way they approach the vendor relationship once they graduate into a more robust cloud.

Part of this is also tied to what those outsourcing cloud partners need to show a client and build into the working agreement. Cloud providers need to be judicious in the way they approach such important relationship concerns like shared root access, which engaged clients will often want. Cloud providers who treat their clients like idiots will never establish the kind of relationship that forms a solid working partnership, which in turn gears both organizations most effectively for growth.

The savvy or mature cloud provider will look at the situation and realize that control is dictating the way the relationship goes. Rather, they will understand that managing the servers parallels managing expectations. The balance they can provide between access and defined roles can drastically change the nature of a relationship to one of collaboration, rather than jockeying for superiority or duplicating efforts.

So understanding, as a client, what to expect from a managed cloud provider is key to framing the relationship the right way. Prospective clients need to have a clear understanding of what they are being sold, what they have access to, what they explicitly don’t have access to. Even after these boundaries are established, there will continue to be grey area. Having a strong term of service or master service agreements to help define roles and responsibilities is key. There is also an onus on the cloud provider to very early on, in the sales process even, provide full disclosure for how business relationships typically run.

But unless a cloud provider and a client really sit down and develop a responsibility matrix that both parties can agree on, there is still the potential for there to be conflicting priorities and approaches to handling the cloud solution. This might be a overlooked part of the relationship from the perspective of a deal being done, but it will have important ramifications for how the relationship fares past the signed agreement. Having this level of detail in terms of where responsibilities fall helps ensure that gaps don’t occur, and subsequent blame can be pushed around. Holes will form, opportunities will be missed, but as long as the client and the provider are clear on where they need to be focusing their attention, these natural bumps in the road will not damage the overall business relationship and set both sides up for long term success.

Cloud Computing: Common Myths and Convincing Arguments

By Jake Gardner

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