Companies that have explored or even implemented initial cloud applications quickly find themselves faced with the question of choosing the right cloud consulting service provider. Given the sensitivity of this matter, it's crucial to approach this question with great care. Not only are the foundations for the company's future viability being laid here, but cloud adoption also brings certain risks, such as in the areas of security or finances. Drawing on our experience, we would like to provide you with a guide on how to select the right partner for your needs.
The majority of cloud consulting companies specialise in one of these three cloud providers: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. Alibaba will also play a role in the local cloud market in the near future. So before you decide on a partner, you should familiarise yourself with the differences between the respective clouds.
Cloud providers tend to strongly align their partners with their offerings. This means that you'll receive a recommendation for Azure from a Microsoft Gold Partner, for example. This is natural and not objectionable. It's actually positive when a company is convinced of a technology and focuses on it. However, you should be aware that comparing different clouds is primarily your responsibility.
Alternatively, you can consider a multicloud provider. These are service providers that haven't tied themselves to a single cloud, allowing them to offer independent advice.
Don't base your choice of partner on whether they have a local presence. Currently, there are too few service providers relative to demand and the required workload. Restricting yourself to a specific location could lead you to settle for a partner simply because they are nearby. For your cloud journey, you need a professional partner. Avoid taking unnecessary risks!
Much can be accomplished remotely nowadays. Plan for 1-4 days of on-site interaction with your service provider at the project's beginning. This allows you to establish a connection and get an impression of each other, positively influencing your ongoing collaboration.
Cloud consultants often enjoy a strong reputation among various stakeholders. They possess sought-after expertise that's in high demand and short supply these days, making them industry focal points.
A personal relationship ensures that the consultant perceives you as a priority. As a result, the incurred travel costs are a valuable investment.
Don't hesitate to continue the work remotely after that. It’s a normal practice these days, saving time and money without typically affecting the consultant's motivation or productivity. It's not uncommon for consultants from northern Germany to work on projects in the South, for example. However, if regional proximity matters to you, focus on a larger radius in your selection, aiming for a minimum distance of 200 KM.
References and experiences
Examine the partner's reference projects carefully. During a personal meeting, encourage them to share their experiences. The goal is to determine if you're dealing with an experienced partner. As mentioned before, we advise against selecting an inexperienced, low-cost provider, even for budget reasons. Doing so could turn your IT into an experimental ground, and the consequences could potentially be business-threatening.
Ask the cloud service provider the following questions:
Have your own consultants conducted the projects, or did you outsource consultants externally?
Your future partner should have their own consultants in-house. Strategic partnerships are completely normal in the industry, and that shouldn't be an exclusion criterion. However, you should find out whether the company has really built up expertise in the cloud environment or simply wants to make money from the digitization trend.
Can you set us up for a chat with your client?
Can you show us the profile of the consultant who will be working with us?
Here you will see which projects the consultant has already successfully completed.
What partner status do you have with Microsoft / AWS / Google / Alibaba?
The partner status is an award from the respective cloud provider for the company providing the service as proof of service hours and quality and in any case indicates that the partner has experience and has been awarded for it by the respective cloud provider. At the same time, a missing partner status is not an indication of poor results.
How big is your team that specializes in X?
How many projects is your team/consultant currently working on simultaneously?
The goal is to understand the partner's workload situation. If the partner is highly occupied, which is often the case, ask directly if they have the necessary resources for a collaborative project. The partner should be able to respond confidently, as it's often a matter of planning.
The number of employees is secondary. There are 5-person cloud service providers that support medium-sized companies with revenues in the hundreds of millions. An initial proof-of-concept or the first migrations don't require an army of consultants; experience outweighs quantity here. If you are an enterprise considering migrating a substantial part of your infrastructure to the cloud, it's advisable to opt for a partner with the appropriate scale.
The big consulting firms
IT giants and larger system houses are highly visible and proactive in the market. They offer a comprehensive range of consulting services and position themselves as cloud adoption experts. Typically, these firms focus on global players and larger mid-sized companies in the context of digitalization. Depending on your company size, you may have already interacted with them. While they often provide introductory guidance on new topics and define initial steps, they generally do not perform the actual work, such as cloud migration. This service is usually outsourced to specialised cloud service providers.
We recommend bypassing this step and working directly with companies that do the hands-on work. They possess technical expertise and can offer even more informed advice. Moreover, your procurement terms will likely be better, as larger firms add their markup to the hourly rate they quote you. Depending on your company's size, ensure your partner has enough consultants to collaborate effectively. The advantage of larger consultants lies in their extensive network, allowing them to bring in additional consultants if needed. However, with proper planning, you can harness this advantage yourself. Some large companies experienced in their cloud journey have recognized the many benefits of direct collaboration and are adjusting their strategies accordingly.
What else you should pay attention to
When you've selected and invited multiple potential cloud consulting companies for discussions, the time will come to choose a partner. Be cautious not to opt for the cheapest provider at all costs. Reputable service providers are in demand and can command competitive hourly rates. If a provider aims to win you over solely based on price, it's worth questioning their approach. Since no one gives away money needlessly, delve into the reasons behind this during the conversation. However, offering rock-bottom prices usually doesn't bode well for a service provider. Such pricing might be a compensation for something, like lacking experience, and we advise against it.
Setting up a cloud infrastructure is an initial step, but being able to manage and provide support for it is crucial. Your future partner should have a solution for this. They can either handle it themselves or have a specialised managed services partner on board. Integrating this aspect into your cloud strategy is essential.
Getting Started with Your New Partner
There's no one-size-fits-all solution here, but we'd like to share our best-practice experience for small businesses and the mid-market. The following approach has proven effective:
- Assessment Workshop
Together you get an overview of your infrastructure / situation and your goal. On this basis, the provider can provide a first detailed cost estimate and, if necessary, create a concept.
- Migration of a non-critical workload
Choose a workload that is not critical to your company's operations and migrate it. This is where you gain your first joint experience and the vendor can familiarise itself with the specifics of your IT environment.
- Migrate further workloads step by step on this basis.