Multi-cloud Deployments for BI and CPM Solutions
In the world of business intelligence (BI) and corporate performance management (CPM), sometimes it feels like technology has been moving at a rapid pace, and other times, it might feel like everything has sped up all of a sudden. And both can be true. Technology innovation has arguably been picking up speed, building a momentum that can sometimes increase exponentially as certain breakthroughs lay the groundwork for the next scaffolding to go up – and so forth. Cloud computing is one of those breakthroughs that continue to add to their options in developments that seem to come both organically and rapidly. One of the relatively more recent business culture developments involves multi-cloud deployments. This article will zoom in on what multi-cloud deployments are and do, as well as what they can do for BI and CPM processes.
There are several buzzwords and jargon related to cloud deployments. One of my favorites, as a word person, is “failover.” Techopedia defines failover as “the constant capability to automatically and seamlessly switch to a highly reliable backup. This can be operated in a redundant manner or in a standby operational mode upon the failure of a primary server, application, system or another primary system component. The main purpose of failover is to eliminate, or at least reduce, the impact on users when a system failure occurs.” Now, failover isn’t specific to cloud computing, but in that context, a multi-cloud deployment offers failover in terms of relying on a second cloud server in the case of system failures. But let’s define multi-cloud deployments first.
What is Multi-Cloud Deployment?
The term “multi-cloud deployment” might be self-explanatory as it means what it sounds like: the simultaneous utilization of two or more cloud computing systems. While hybrid cloud deployment refers to using both a public cloud and a private cloud hosting on-premises solutions, multi-cloud means that you’re relying on more than one cloud service provider. Multi-cloud deployments provide redundancy of system support in instances of hardware or software failures but also help the consumer to avoid “vendor lock-in,” which is another buzzword in the context of cloud computing.
The two main drivers for a multi-cloud deployment have been identified: a back-up plan and avoiding vendor lock-in. Having a back-up cloud provider when your frontline cloud experiences an outage may seem like commonsense, especially when you consider how that can occur. Cloud platform issues range from a single cable connector failure to an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), or from natural disasters to acts of cyber warfare, which we’ve seen an increase recently, at least in the political sphere. You can also experience a large-scale network outage with a single hard disk/drive unit failure if that malfunction happens at a critical point in the system, like a host computer. Therefore, a cloud backup for your main cloud computing platform makes sense. But what about vendor lock-in?
With cloud computing being relatively new, but also seemingly the only path forward, consumers are ready. That said, there is this concern that there’s a tradeoff for the benefits of modern, hosted, and managed to compute, and that feels like a lack of control. Enter the term “vendor lock-in.” Even with the scalability and scope that a public cloud provider can deliver, being locked in with a specific vendor means that you’re bound to particular protocols, standards, and tools of your selected cloud vendor. This could be expensive later if you decide to migrate to another provider. On top of that, some cloud providers are going to be more suited or even exclusively offered to support specific applications. For example, you might want Microsoft Azure to host Power BI and other Microsoft-friendly BI or CPM tools. However, if you’re interested in big data solutions, you might opt for Amazon Web Services or Google’s cloud because they might be built to handle that better. Additionally, you might want to keep some more sensitive/critical information or systems on a private cloud behind a firewall. Regardless, as your systems are likely quite diverse, it probably makes sense to consider diversifying your cloud experience – for safety and for consumer preferences in regard to vendor lock-in.
How Does Multi-Cloud Deployment Work?
A multi-cloud deployment can be challenging, considering you’re working across distinct cloud environments from different vendors. The complexity of disparate technologies, interfaces, services, and terminology because there is no standardization across vendors makes it difficult to smoothly move between them. There’s also the interoperability aspect – or lack thereof – to consider.
Generally, you are going to have to use workarounds or APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to make your CPM or BI solution’s configuration work on different platforms and cloud. There are specialized tools, like a cloud management platform (CMP) that is a suite of integrated tools that provide automated management of private and public clouds, which can be used to create a seamless multi-cloud deployment. But multi-cloud does require a higher level of expertise in figuring out what to move to the cloud – and where, when, and why. This involves a likely increase in overall management overhead, whether you’re investing in VPN connections or just monitoring. Simply, the implementation of different platforms requires more diversified expertise. Furthermore, the diversity of the cloud environments prove difficult when it comes to understanding the pricing differentiators among all of the cloud providers and the services they offer.
CPM & Budgeting Strategies
Gathering the Data
If we’re all using Excel, then all of our data will line up perfectly, right? Maybe in theory, but even with basic templates, individual units that work separately leave too much margin for error. Manually collecting the necessary data to create a budget in the first place too often becomes a burden. For example, if your organization requires consolidating Excel spreadsheets from multiple business units, accurately converting budget scenarios becomes complicated. Allowing for human error, manually assembling a budget risks incorrect distribution of data, causing friction within the organization. Having one single space for budgets, forecasts and data has numerous benefits, one being streamlined communication channels. With a central location for budgets, there is no confusion of where reports and data need to be sent. Overall, organizations with multiple business units need to be able to rely on data provided.
Staying on Track
Different business units have their own schedules, deadlines, and in the case of multi-national organizations, currencies. Aligning all of these varying elements can contribute to a months-long budget process. For example, automatically distributing reports by user automates a process prone to human error. Additionally, eliminating the heavy lifting manual processing entails, allows individual business units to stay on track with their respective schedules. Overall, automation can even save time in the steps preceding processing your budget.
Using the Right Tools
As described above, consolidating data and automatically distributing reports to various users can make your processes more efficient. Similarly, the ability to edit reports without a specialized ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) developer would also save time. However, the challenge of attaining that functionality becomes a whole process in and of itself. For companies that have a manual process, Investing in budgeting and reporting technology is required. Having an integration between the ERP system and budgeting tool saves time, money, and probably a few headaches. The right solution varies but always starts with evaluating your organization’s current ERP system and types of reports used.
It’s difficult to discuss solutions for scaling companies without mentioning cloud software. Simply put, there’s a reason so many companies are switching from on-premise solutions. For growing companies with several moving parts, cloud software does not require data being stored in one place at one time. Conversely, cloud software enables collaboration from different locations, allowing for seamless communication and updates between business units. Implementing an on-premise solution sparks debate about investment and efficiency, whereas cloud software only requires a subscription.
How to Build a Corporate Performance Management (CPM) Solution
Let’s talk about strategy and goals. There are many reasons for communicating strategy but very few organizations include strategy as part of the planning process. The managers and employees who handle the budgeting and forecasting process should know the strategy and goals prior to planning. It should also be front and center while entering the data. A goal of the company should be to provide the strategy and goals prior to, during, and after entering data.
The first step is to define the organization. This includes the organization’s purpose, core values, and the company goal. Some of these may not change over time, but review them annually to ensure that they remain true. Other areas, such as SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats), industry trends and key initiatives will change regularly and can be altered quarterly.
The departmental strategy and goals are very similar to corporate, but many of the sections are unnecessary. The organization’s purpose, core values, trends, threats, and goals are not necessary. These come from the corporate strategy and are pushed down to the departments. However, each department must know its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This should be documented as it can gradually change. See how weaknesses are improved upon, strengths are magnified, opportunities are taken advantage of, and threats are minimized at a corporate level. Entering goals is extremely important, not just at the corporate level but at a departmental level as well. The departmental goals should align with the corporate goals.
Initiatives are internal projects that help strategies to be successful. Strategies without specific and detailed plans and persons responsible for their success will fail. Organizations should not have more than a few initiatives a year, as it is crucial that employees across the company understand them. However, within each initiative, there will be many projects and tasks that need to be completed in order to finish the initiative and hit the goals.
Setting up a culture of completing the initiatives in a timely manner is key. A manager or executive should be responsible to complete each initiative project. It is extremely important that the executives and project managers meet on a regular, whether weekly or bi-monthly for status updates.
Along with initiatives, an organization can track the successes and failures of employees. They can also track the significance of each task to the organization. This way, an employee who finishes multiple tasks may seem more valuable than an employee who only completes a few tasks. But by tracking this it may be viewed that the latter is much more valuable. An example is an employee who completes 10 mundane tasks that each take a couple of hours to complete. They are still crucial, but many employees could have finished these same tasks. The latter employee, however, worked on tasks that required planning, dedication, is vital to the growth of the company, and required multiple hours of work.
Learn More About Multi-Cloud Deployments
Multi-cloud deployments are becoming an important consideration in terms of cloud approach as most businesses are planning to move to the cloud as a platform in the next couple of years, if they’re not already there. There is a lot to think about, and it will be important to include all of your technology and business workflow stakeholders in the planning process. Solver, Inc. is happy to answer any questions and review Solver’s easy-to-use, Excel- and web-based budgeting and reporting solution that enables collaboration, streamlined decision-making capabilities for your BI experience.