What’s your cloud strategy?
If you went out and launched a business today, it’s likely that you would purchase a complete suite of cloud-based products, and structure your business around the streamlined offerings that have been made possible by cloud technology.
“The reality is that most businesses are transitioning,” says Flow Software’s David Masters. “And that is a real challenge. Integration is very important to those businesses as you need your cloud-based software to work seamlessly with your on-premise software and hardware to keep your business working smoothly.”
However, businesspeople who want to begin using cloud-based apps shouldn’t panic, think it is too hard or imagine they need to replace everything. Transitioning can be done gradually, at a pace that suits your businesses’ needs and fiscal retraints – but it does require a strategy.
“The cloud isn’t just a buzzword, it’s in widespread use, but a complete transition will take time,” says Masters. “You need a plan to move from where you are to where you want to be while maintaining business continuity.”
Spark local business hubs find many of their clients have big concerns about moving to the cloud.
“Security is a big issue,” says Gordon. “Plus there are the cost implications of moving from paper to cloud. In the past people have paid out big money for consultancy services and web design and it has not been right. The knock on effect from those decisions has resonated for some time.”
However, the benefits of integrating cloud based technology can’t be emphasised enough.
“Imagine you sell t-shirts,” says Masters. “And you sell through online marketplaces like Amazon and Trade Me, because they are easier to find and give you global reach. But every time you alter the price or colour, you need to update it in six different places. Well, there’s an app for that. An app that can pull all those different sites together so you only need update your product information in one place.”
Then of course, there are warehouse management and delivery issues.
“More and more retailer are not holding any stock, but using 3PL and 4PL providers instead,” says Masters. “Their stock sits in a warehouse, waiting to be shipped once an order has been placed.”
Masters says that the use of cloud-based apps to streamline businesses, and the cost efficiency of those apps themselves, means that many small business are able to launch, even in the most remote locations, with minimal overheads.
“It’s possible you could have a couple of people sitting in a room in Motueka with just a couple of computers, buying goods from China and selling them globally,” says Masters. “They never even come into contact with their product, or their customers – every aspect of the business is outsourced and managed by apps.”
Social media is another area that causes transitioning businesses stress, says Gordon.
“Many businesses don’t use social media, and have a minimal online presences,” she says. “They are working too hard on the day-to-day business and feel they can’t keep up with the demands of Facebook or Twitter. But they need to keep an open mind, and engage with what is happening online.”
“At Spark we’re not going to stand still. Change is still on the horizon,” says Gordon, who bellieves SMEs have a real oportunity in this new digital landscape. “The internet of things, Uber, these weren’t even part of our vocabulary a year ago. Small businesses need to keep on top of these tech trends, they need to embrace the change to come.”
This story originally appeared in NZ Retail magazine issue 745 August/September 2016