The Cloud, as it has now been named affectionately, has opened up a huge number of options for businesses to work smarter whilst staying focused on what really matters.
It has taken away the need for the distractions involved in building and maintaining a large infrastructure in order to enable the business to perform what at the end of the day are normal tasks.
An example to illustrate why the Cloud exists and what it is might be a good way to start. Let’s say for instance that your members of staff regularly need to fly from A to B or C.
Do you buy a corporate jet, equip it with a crew, hire someone to manage the aviation taxes and book slots at the various airports? Are you going to find out how to make arrangements for fuelling and maintenance? What colours and materials do you use in the interior? How many years do you keep the jet before it will need replacement? When is it due to have upgrades? What food and drink do you stock on board?
Would you really go down that route? Or do you just go to an already established airline and buy your people Premium Economy tickets to their destination?
Just buying tickets might not allow you to choose the colour of the interior or what brand of whisky is stocked on-board, but is that really why you are flying in the first place? Getting your people from A to B or C was the purpose, right?
It does make you wonder. Why would anyone do the equivalent of buying a plane when all they need is regular access to a good quality flight?
That, in a nutshell, is the comparison between traditional software solutions and the Cloud equivalent. Cloud systems generally offer ready made solutions that you can use without having to worry about hosting, maintenance, upgrades, staffing or indeed how to make it user friendly. You can often choose how you apply or use the software, but there are also elements that you do not have much influence on.
The Cloud companies are set up to service, that is their business. They live from charging regular affordable subscriptions, not one-off consultancy or massive license charges. They know that you will only renew your subscription if you are happy. They know you did not tie yourself to a large capital investment to get started. So they are more inclined to provide help and support all the way, all the time.
The world of Cloud systems has been evolving very quickly. Some simple consumer facing applications have millions of users, giving them an enormous amount of feedback. This feedback is valuable and acting on it is of course an ideal way to evolve the system and stay ahead of the competition.
Good business Cloud systems are built with a plethora of settings and switches so you can choose how to use them for your needs. This means you can run a custom version of the Cloud application independently from other companies using the same service, without losing the advantage of having things automatically and centrally managed, hosted and upgraded. It allows you to create a custom platform through a simple guided process rather than building it by, well, building it…
Cloud applications can make the difference between ‘Let’s get started!’ and ‘Where do we start?’.
The Cloud even makes an impact in very complex business applications. In the example of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM systems), a hot topic in for instance the fashion industryat the moment, this can make the difference between what feels like an immediate impact and a traditional implementation that drags on for many months.
A Cloud based PLM system can cost as much as 60% less than a traditional version and because of its pre-set ease of implementation it can let a business get started properly a whole season earlier than would otherwise be possible. That, you would agree, would have a seriously different impact on any business.
This difference in impact becomes even more significant with every upgrade. In the Cloud, generally upgrades appear regularly with a notification from the provider to all the users on how to start making use of new functions. In the on-site or hosted software world upgrades are physical events that need special arrangements and further investment.
If you are looking at systems at the moment, keep the end goals in mind. Unless you are an IT service provider, your goal is not to own the most fantastic in-house IT infrastructure known to man. Your goal is to get the job done, and get it done well. So choose your tools accordingly.
Ask yourself some simple questions to validate that you are on the right track for your business. Do not get distracted by bells and whistles, but stay practical and focus on your end goals only:
- Why do I need a system in the first place? List your key reasons before looking.
- Will this system get the job done, quickly and efficiently?
- Will I use all the features shown to me? If so, why and how?
- How many hours will my staff need to spend to really get up and running?
- In five years, will we still have a system that is up to the job at hand as things progress in our industry?
- Wat is my cost per employee, per year?
Cloud based systems, by their very nature, live online. Typically they are accessed through secure connections, similar in strength to those used to access your bank account. Because of this you and your colleagues can access your system from anywhere, which also makes collaboration with your team, customers or suppliers so much easier.
So check if there is an established Cloud option in the realm you are looking in. If so, include it in your line-up. Remember that the old RFP process might not be so relevant when it comes to Cloud, as the proposal is already clear and ready to go from the start. Without even thinking about it, you are probably using many Cloud applications at home for things like email, banking, watching video or gaming. You might be surprised to see how many advantages the Cloud can bring to your business.