The last two decades have seen spectacular advances in sales and marketing software, and business software of all types, thanks in large part to the transformative power of the cloud. By lowering the financial barrier to entry to moving the responsibility for security and maintenance to the vendor to the automation of upgrades, the cloud has delivered a long list of benefits to sales and marketing users.
It’s also made deployment much, much easier – sign the contract, get your data loaded, log in and go. That means faster return on investment and a more immediate impact on sales outcomes.
But the cloud also has its drawbacks. As cloud software has become easier to deploy, one of the selling points often touted is that it can be implemented without assistance from IT. That sounds good on its face, but there’s a dark side: that ability to bypass IT can be dangerous.
According to the most recent study by cloud security vendor Netskope, the average enterprise-level company used 935 cloud applications. Certainly, not all of these are sales or marketing applications. But since cloud app use has ballooned in recent years – up from just 397 in January of 2014 – in many organizations little thought is devoted the identification of the best of these tools and the best ways of using them together. They solve the particular problem of the person introducing the software into the company, but that’s where all thought ends about the software’s role in the greater technology environment.
At a certain point, driven sometimes by the CFO’s questions about the many entries in the ledger for software, businesses realize the need to rationalize the salestech and martech software stacks, and to consolidate and share data. That’s when the poor IT organization gets called in: it has to come in, assess the scope of the problem, clean up the mess wrought by this proliferation of applications and the resulting re-silo’ing of data, and help the organization achieve what it could have achieved much more easily had a more integrated approach have been part of the plan from the outset.
This concern is starting to grow. In RightScale’s 2016 State of the Cloud survey, 26 percent of respondents identified cloud cost management as a significant challenge, a steady increase each year from 18 percent in 2013.
To overcome the crushing need to rationalize hundreds of cloud applications, businesses are grudgingly bringing the CIO back into the conversation. The CIO doesn’t simply need to fix what ails the company today – he or she also needs to establish a strategy that helps avoid unnecessary complexity in the future. He or she needs to be a reality-checker and a pragmatist who can temper ardor for a quick solution by reminding managers about the long-term effects of introducing new software tools.
How does that manifest itself? In some cases, the CIO ends up being a sort of software Zen master, with the saying “in all things, simplify” as his mantra. To achieve that aim, one strategy might be to push back against the “Best of Breed” approach to software, which is often much more expensive initially and has higher integration and maintenance costs, and move toward a suite of connected solutions from a single vendor, minimizing the number of customized connections that must be maintained and reducing the number of contacts needed for support.
The CIO might end up chopping away at existing parts of the software infrastructure – Cloud applications sourced by sales managers that might be their pet solutions. That might seem to cast the CIO in the role of a spoilsport. In actuality, it makes the CIO a hero to the business: he’s the CFO’s hero for avoiding redundancy and maximizing return on investment; he’s the sales manager’s hero for enabling sales data to be used in a more integrated way to drive improved sales performance; he’s the salesperson’s hero for working to reduce the number of applications that need to be used during the sales process; and he’s the marketer’s hero by helping ensure that data is as easily shared as possible, making it easier to deliver better leads and understand how sales is using them.
Ultimately, the CIO plays a role in creating better experiences for customers and sales pros alike. A happier sales team stays with the company longer, and longer-tenured sales staff is more likely to deliver the value-driven assistance that customers desire and require.
The cloud is a great thing – but it’s no substitute for the wise counsel of someone who can help the business assemble a better set of solutions that costs less money and gives the sales and marketing organization a simpler, easier-to-use collection of tools. Make sure the CIO is playing a central role in the evolution of your sales and marketing stack.
Today’s post is by guest author, Chris Bucholtz, Director of Content Marketing at CallidusCloud, a lead to money suite giving sales and marketing a connected platform to close more deals faster.