The Cloud: What is it, reallyAnd why does your CMT software need it. 

Current pressures facing the engineering services industry, including the labor shortage, increase in mergers and acquisition (M&A) activity, and client satisfaction, are driving strategic initiatives to remain competitive in today’s dynamic and evolving landscape. 

According to Flexera’s study, 2023 State of the Cloud Report, “economic uncertainty is driving a reduction in corporate spending, but the need for innovation and increased revenues remains high – and the cloud represents an engine of innovation.”  

Nearly half of survey respondents from the report indicated their organization plans to move from on-premise software to a cloud-based solution because, “you can’t innovate in a digital world without the cloud.” 

But what exactly is the cloud, and what problems does it help solve for your organization? Not all instances of ‘the cloud’ are the same, nor should they be treated equally. When evaluating the right cloud instance for your CMT software solution, there are four primary factors to consider: 

1. Profitability

A best-in-class solution offers a complete technology cloud infrastructure with no hardware or software instance to download, install, or maintain. Clients typically pay an annual or monthly subscriber fee with regular maintenance, support, and standard training included at no additional cost.   

The activities to implement are typically a one-time cost and commonly referred to as ‘configuration.’ Cloud-based solutions are often built on a single code base, allowing innovations to be shared across the platform. Speed to value is critical for engineering services. A full implementation and integration phase typically takes 1-3 months, and direct ROI is often achieved within 6-12 months, or less.  

It’s also important to seek strategic project plans for implementation that allow for flexibility of specific services lines or select offices. World class cloud solutions will provide support toward growth and expansion down the road. When human capital is stretched thin, implementation flexibility and long-term support are more important than ever. 

Leveraging cloud technology unlocks the opportunity for indirect ROI as well when it comes to in-house IT equipment and non-billable activities. Consider the use of vehicles and how a cloud solution could impact the mileage, how handheld devices and operating system requirements could be freed from limitations, or how to decrease the number of platforms used that might disrupt workflows. There are many factors to consider outside of a cloud solution’s direct ROI that can impact your bottom line. It may be worthwhile to gather personnel from various departments to ask what a cloud-based solution could do for them. 

2. Security

A best-in-class solution is a device agnostic, multi-tenant SaaS infrastructure that allows for transparent data encryption, single sign-on (SSO) and two-way authentication or MFA (Multi Factor Authentication), and automated UI tests to ensure browser security, compatibility, and reliability.  

Listed below are must-have elements to your cloud infrastructure: 

  • High Availability and Fault Tolerance – A system’s ability to operate continuously without failing for lengthy periods of time. Typically, this means a sophisticated system is available for 99.98% annual uptime or greater and able to support demand from everyday business or, mission critical operations, with constant real time monitoring. 
  • Flexibility and Scalability – Ability to quickly increase or decrease resources as demands change, allowing for consistent system performance. This helps businesses avoid upfront equipment and disaster recovery costs while adding a layer of convenience for administrators. 
  • Data Residency – The physical or geographic location of where data is stored. Leading providers will store data across multiple regions within the United States and Canada to satisfy compliance, security requirements, and reliable disaster recovery plans. 
  • Data Retention – Protocol of what and how data is stored, archived, backed up, and secured over time. Modern cloud systems will perform frequent backups every hour or less, and full backups of databases and systems at least daily. 
  • Data Encryption – End-to-end encryption is a security method that keeps your communications secure. With database encryption (either in transit or at rest), no one can read data as it travels over public channels / the internet. 
  • Disaster Recovery Plans – How a cloud-based solution supports or manages the quick recovery of your organization’s systems and data after a disaster. 
  • Data Isolation – This is used to keep data safe from external cyberattacks and internal threats. Using a virtual private cloud provides data storage, servers, and production infrastructure, which ultimately keeps your data secure and available 24/7. 

The best cloud-based solutions need to keep pace with the evolving cyber threats and should be conducting third-party monthly external vulnerability assessments. 

A simple understanding of ‘the cloud’ is that it’s the internet, and there’s always a chance of losing connectivity. Leading providers will usually offer some sort of offline working capabilities. Seek to understand how solutions can continue to support your business in the case of losing connection due to power outages, remote working areas, or other unique events. 

Fun Fact: Did you know you could reduce your cybersecurity insurance premiums by partnering with cloud solutions? If you’ve recently updated your security tactics, connect with your insurance provider to learn more.

3.  Standardization

Industry-leading cloud-based platforms are coded with best practice capabilities. They often include a layer for configurations, creating seamless upgrades to the core code layer in the platform and enabling custom workflows and data capture for each of their customers. They also support seamless integrations through web services or an Application Programming Interface (API).  

Given the seasonal nature of the engineering services industry, adopting a cloud-based solution will support your firm’s unique needs by using customizable implementation plans and user types, and by leveraging flexible packages, contract terms, and permission sets. 

The opportunity for efficient, standardized operations that comes with implementing a cloud-based CMT software solution will empower project teams, increase job satisfaction to retain talent, and grow revenue, and provide the experience to help individuals grow professionally and personally. 

The very best cloud solutions off the shelf will allow the customization and standardization that your business needs to maintain brand recognition and enable the people within the business to do more with their skills towards differentiating value in the marketplace.  

There may also be opportunities to shift the burden of maintaining compliance for practiced standards (i.e., ASTM, AASHTO, DOT, etc.) onto cloud vendors instead of in-house, helping your firm be more proactive toward industry changes instead of reactive.  

Using a centralized system of record to enable data-driven decision-making and product execution will save time, support a seamless workflow, create greater transparency, maintain compliance, and mitigate risk.  

4. Innovation

Preferred CMT software solutions offer continuous deployment, free upgrades and batch product enhancements, and industry-leading capabilities delivered to you as part of the subscription offering. This ensures all users are operating on the same system and same version, providing an equal experience regardless of where they are. 

Industry-leading providers also offer zero downtime releases across all users at once. Not only does this apply to upgrades, but in the case of emergencies, patch deployments, and bug fixing, providers can quickly deploy corrective actions without interruption. (Psst – in comparison, on-premise providers offer new functionality only 1-2 times per year, and typically require outages and sequence planning of who and when upgrades are performed)! 

Innovation should be at the forefront of modern cloud solutions. It’s important to question providers and understand the direction at which solutions are heading. If your business is partnering with a software provider, look to better understand how their initiatives align with yours, and how you can be involved via feedback loops and two-way communications. 

Agile Frameworks was established in 2011 to support technology disruption, providing engineering services teams with digital tools and automated processes that connect the construction project network. Our flagship product, MetaField®, is a cloud-based application to manage project specifications, schedule, dispatch, test, collect, and assemble results to accurately deliver information to clients in real time. Contact us to learn how our industry-leading cloud-based solution will create significant cost and time efficiencies for your CMT firm. 

Learn how one MetaField user leveraged the solution for custom workflows and data capture for each of their customers

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