​Having personally helped hundreds of companies evaluate Skytap for software demo and evaluations, I wanted to pass on my top 3 successful habits for running a cloud trial. If you worked through the suggestions in my prior blog piece Five Successful Habits for Selecting a Cloud Provider, you should have a foundation to build upon and should be ready to try a few cloud providers that best match your requirements.

Before we begin, let me recap the top 5 questions to ask when investigating a vendor before you start a trial:

    1.    Name Your Requirements

    2.    Set the Baseline: Compatibility and Cost

    3.    Establish a Technical Fit

    4.    Ask Use Case-Specific Questions

    5.    Scope the Pricing Conversation

If you’ve answered these key questions and found a few vendors that match your criteria, it’s time to get your hands dirty. How often do sales teams get to be on the other end of the sales cycle anyway? Have fun—it’s your turn!

1.) Set Success Criteria Among Groups and for the Trial as a Whole

I’ve found that success criteria are unique amongst the different groups participating in a cloud service trial. To keep it simple, I’ll call these groups developers (i.e. end users), managers, and IT. Most developers care about writing code, testing, and being able to work independently. Managers want group reporting for chargebacks, along with control and user management. And IT primarily wants security and visibility. In order for a product to succeed, it will need to meet the needs of each of these groups.

More detailed trial success criteria can be taken directly from the requirements you outlined earlier during the initial Questions to Ask When Vetting a Cloud Service Provider phase.

Here are a few more things that most developers need to be able to do:

    1.    Import existing VMs from on-premise labs

    2.    Take snapshots to create templates

    3.    Allow complex network topologies

    4.    Open API for integration into existing tools (Jenkins, Jira, etc)

    5.    Set role-based management and user quotas

    6.    Control security and access policies

Once you’ve outlined your success criteria, you should share them with the team and each vendor you’re going to work with. I find this is a necessary step as it gets everyone on the same page and working toward a common goal.

2.) Create a Schedule

Having a schedule goes hand-in-hand with the common goal from the success criteria section, because evaluating a cloud provider will never be your primary role at work. Undoubtedly, you’ll get busy doing something else during the trial that takes away your focus for a period of time. By creating a schedule, you can monitor the completion of milestones during the trial and build a foundation that will ensure the highest probability of success. When building a house, you wouldn’t start with the roof first and build down—you’d start with a proper foundation. I say this because all successful trials start with the IT team and/or administrators setting up security policies, permissions, and user quotas—that’s your foundation.

With that in mind, make sure you work closely with your IT group first, then bring in the managers, and lastly the developers. Give each group time between tasks, and hold everyone accountable. At Skytap, we work closely with each customer to build a foundation and train every group at each milestone. Ask your cloud provider if they’ll do the same, as it will greatly increase the probability of success.

3.) Set Weekly Checkpoint Meetings

This is a perfect time to bring each group and vendor into a room or onto a conference call and discuss the work completed—in addition to answering questions and making course corrections for the next week. I find that weekly meetings for the duration of the trial are often frequent enough to ensure people don’t drop the ball, but are infrequent enough to avoid making people feel overwhelmed.

It’s up to you whether you include the vendor during the meetings, but I would recommend it because it’s a chance for your team members to receive training. As I outlined in the schedule section, you’ll want to get IT up to speed first, followed by the managers, and finally the developers. If you use the weekly meetings as an open forum to address questions, along with using it as an opportunity to train each group, it will allow a successful rollout of the cloud vendor at a steady progression. As I previously mentioned, Skytap includes training and support, so be prepared to ask for this from your cloud vendor so you can work hand-in-hand during the trial.

Running a successful trial may be a little more involved that you originally imagined, but it’s well worth the time. I find that companies who come prepared and include the various groups have the highest chances for success—ensuring that no blockers come up on the last day.

And let’s not forget that each group usually consists of a very diverse set of people, and between the developers/testers, managers, and IT—coming to a consensus on many points can be a challenge. But if you plan well and get everyone on board from the start, you can almost guarantee a successful trial that will help you choose a cloud provider to fully adopt into your development and testing framework.

– Alex

Alex is our West Coast Sales Manager. He brings 8 years of successful enterprise customer management to the team and has helped hundreds of organizations transition to Skytap Cloud. If you have questions for Alex, or for a general cloud specialist, don’t hesitate to get in touch.