​Having personally helped hundreds of companies evaluate Skytap as a virtual training cloud provider, I wanted to pass along my top 3 habits for running a successful cloud trial. If you worked through the suggestions in my previous blog piece: Questions to Ask When Vetting a Cloud Service Provider, you will have a foundation to build upon and should be ready to try out the cloud providers that best match your requirements.

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

  1. Identify 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.

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

I find that success criteria can be broken down between the different groups that will be affected by picking a cloud provider. To keep it simple I’ll call these groups end users, managers, and IT. Each group will have a different list of success criteria that need to be fulfilled and met with varying features by the cloud provider. For instance, most end users are Instructors who care about replicating the classroom and student experience, while managers want group reporting for chargebacks along with scheduling, and IT wants security and visibility. All three groups have different requirements, and in order to succeed, you’ll need to make everyone happy.

As you can probably imagine, the 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 examples of things virtual trainers need the ability to do:

  1. Import existing VMs from training lab
  2. Snapshot to keep custom training labs or take daily milestones
  3. Provide student access and connection testing
  4. Plan ahead with a classroom scheduler
  5. Have over-the-shoulder instructor/student view
  6. Set role-based management and user quotas
  7. Control security and access policies

Once you’ve outlined your success criteria, make sure to share it amongst the team and with 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 towards 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 end users. 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 conference call and discuss the work completed, along with answering questions and course correcting for the next week. I find that weekly meetings for the duration of the trial are often enough to ensure people don’t drop the ball but infrequent enough to not be overwhelming.

It’s up to you whether you include the vendor during the meetings, but I would say yes because of the chance to train your team members. As I outlined in the schedule section, you’ll want to get the IT/admins successful first, followed by the managers, and finally the end users. If you use the weekly meetings as an open forum to address questions, along with training each group, it will allow a successful rollout of the cloud vendor–starting with the foundation up to the roof. As I previously mentioned, Skytap includes training and support, so be prepared to work hand-in-hand during the trial to ensure the highest probability of success.

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. You’ll need to replicate a classroom experience in the cloud, so following these three simple steps will ensure your training organization becomes a profit center and picks the best vendor that suits yours needs.

And let’s not forget that each group usually consists of a very diverse set of people, and that 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 virtual training 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.

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