As businesses are starting to open their doors again to their workers and clients, many lessons have been learned from the advent of the COVID 19 pandemic.  First and foremost is the need for Business Continuity (BC) Planning.  In this regard, many entities in Corporate America have come up short on this end, and that is part of the reason why mobilizing an almost 100% virtual workforce became a total nightmare.

Now, with some sense of normalcy starting to return, CIOs and CISOs have a better grasp of the fundamental need to have such a plan in place, and more importantly, to rehearse on a regular schedule, and to keep that plan updated in real time from the lessons learned.

Second, CIOs and CISOs are also understanding the importance of the Cloud, and how it can be used to leverage a workforce quickly in case a second wave of COVID 19 hits again.  This is the focal point of this article.

The Benefits of Moving Your LOB Apps To the Cloud

Most businesses today, to some degree or another, use the Cloud, and in particular, Azure in order to gain access to what are known as “Software as a Service”, or “SaaS” based applications.  Many organizations, especially that of the small or medium sized business, use it for off-site storage for mission critical information and data.

But Azure offers a lot more than just this.  For example, given the sheer power of this Cloud platform juggernaut, any business, no matter how large or small, can literally move their entire On Premises IT infrastructure to one that is hosted in the Cloud.

Of great importance here are your Line of Business (LOB) applications that both you and your clients access on a daily basis.  Here are three different scenarios in which Azure can be used to deploy them in a Cloud based infrastructure:

1. Migrating a traditional Claims Processing system into a more modern Web/Mobile front facing application:

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In the above diagram from a high level overview, this type of Azure based deployment can take all of the information and data from the disparate sources in the IT infrastructure in your company, and condense all of them down to a central point.  From here, your employees will then be able to access all of this from just about any device, including laptops and smartphones.  The following provides a summary of how this can be accomplished:

  • The mobile app on your employee’s smartphone is fully authenticated through the configurations that have been set up in the Azure Active Directory;
  • From here, the employee can then have access to different databases, for example, that of SQL Server;
  • Power BI can then be used to present all of the information and data that has been harnessed in order to present all of this into a unified view for ease of understanding;
  • The above two processes can also be used to access data from your CRM, such as Salesforce or SAP.  This can be extremely useful for your road warrior employees, who are constantly on the go, meeting with prospects and trying to close deals.

2. The creation of a Cloud based mobile Customer Support Portal:

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From the illustration above, the following process takes place:

  • Your customer can enter any feedback that they wish to with what is known as a “Web Endpoint”
  • From this text is then transmitted and posted to the Microsoft Cognitive Services Text Analytics (which is a specialized app) that filters out for the keywords that the customer has used. Also, based upon the context of the text, this API can also build a “sentiment” in order to gauge the mood of your customer.  For example, if they are satisfied, happy, or just simply frustrated and upset;
  • This information then gets transmitted to your Microsoft Dynamics CRM;
  • The customer is instantaneously thanked for their feedback;
  • If this feedback falls below a certain preestablished threshold, it then also gets automatically transmitted to your customer service department for a quick resolution.

3. Adding New Customer information:

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In this application, you can store information about a new customer into your CRM in just a matter of minutes.  Once again, this will also prove to be especially useful for your road warrior employees.  The following process is observed:

  1. Information about your new customer is entered into the “Web Endpoint”;
  2. A picture of your customer (if you have one) is then transmitted to the Cognitive Services Face, which is also a specialized API. The name of your new customer and the picture are then correlated and matched up against one another;
  3. The name, picture, all relevant contact information, and any notes about meetings are transmitted to Dynamics 365 (or other) CRM;
  4. All of this is then entered automatically entered into your email system for future Email blasts;
  5. This information can also be accessed via Power BI.

The Primary Benefits of Using Azure For Your LOB Apps

There are many benefits for using Azure, some of which are as follows:

1. High speeds:

With legacy networking systems, speed and throughput can become critical issues.  Bottlenecks and chokepoints very often come about, which can take time to diagnose and resolve.  But with Azure, you are guaranteed of extremely quick speeds, based upon three key areas:

  • The speed of your Cloud deployment;
  • The speed of your Cloud based infrastructure;
  • The speed of scalability (this simply means how quickly you can ramp up or ramp down resources according to your needs on a real time basis.

2. An increased level of agility:

With this, your software development team can build all sorts of complex apps in Azure.  In other words, they can collaborate and fix issues (especially those that are security related) in just a matter of minutes.

3. Expand your global reach:

Thinking about putting out further reach for your business both domestically and on an international level?  Well, look no further. With Azure, you do not need to invest in expensive brick and mortar offices.  All of your employees, customers, and prospects can gain access to everything that they need, anywhere or at any time wherever they may be in the world.

4. Software development with unified tools:

With Azure, you can create a new line of business application on the fly, with the popular tool known as Visual Studio.  In other words, you have complete control of the Software Development Lifecycle (SLDC) at one central point which has many functionalities such as:

  • Version Control;
  • Module Testing;
  • Unit Testing;
  • Final delivery to the customer.

5. Affordable Pricing:

Just imagine, if you had to deploy those applications covered in the last section as On Premises solution.  This would of course be a very costly proposition to undertake, but not with Azure.  The pricing is very affordable, but best of all, it is fixed and monthly.  So, you know well ahead of time what your financial expenditure will be, and thus, will be able to present this to your CFO in an organized fashion for quick approval.

6. Security is easy to deploy:

Given the new onslaught of Cyberthreats that have been brought on by COVID 19, and the compliance maze of the GDPR and the CCPA that businesses are still trying to comprehend, Azure can solve both ends of these spectrums for you.  For example, there is a wide range of tools that you can use straight from your Cloud portal, which includes the likes of Encryption, Multifactor Authentication (MFA), Single Sign On (SSO) solutions, etc.

Conclusions

Finally, with Azure you do not need to replace old workstations in order to keep up with the new LOB apps that you are planning to deploy.  You can create what are known as “Windows Virtual Desktops” (aka “WVDs”) in order to sync everything up. Also, you can use the WVDs to access those older LOB apps that are not compatible with the Windows 10 OS.

To get a true, quantitative feel with the financial benefits that you will get with Azure, try out this free calculator.

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