Cloud computing is one of the great enablers for businesses today to lower costs and grow quickly. Every business is a system which needs to align people, resources, information and customers. Cloud computing technologies emerged as the internet became widespread and Web 2.0 software usage and adoption grew.
For those that are still trying to understand the question, “What is cloud computing?” here are some simple parameters:
- It is software
- That runs on the internet
- Which users access with web browsers
- Or mobile devices
- On any device
- From anywhere
- That you can grow your business with
If you do online banking, then you are familiar with cloud computing. You are using the bank’s software to transact with your checking or savings account. The bank continually maintains the software. The experience is transparent to you. You are focused on getting things done, not necessarily on exploring functionality.
For some reason, as I speak with more established businesses, there is a mental block on how business systems should be structured. As a consumer, it’s easy to use cloud computing. Everything from checking the news to social media applications runs online. We use other companies’ software all the time.
Within older businesses, there is more scrutiny and older practices. The difficulty of change is more perception than reality. A young twenty-something starting a business does not have past biases and would adopt cloud computing as de facto. They integrate, experiment and move between cloud computing systems with ease. It is easy to bring it into a business operation.
As an advisor and consultant to many types of businesses, I am often in the discussion about cloud computing systems. Here are five advantages I can share which have worked in my client businesses:
- No IT headaches. Having a server internally is demanding. You have to manage this resource. Typically, an IT person has to be on staff or IT services to ensure your server is continually running with out issues needs to be part of your operations. Cloud computing eliminates this. The controls are in your web browser and accessed securely and easily from anywhere. You can focus your energy on customization and strategy rather than on IT.
- Easier to scale. Scaling is the ability to grow your business easily. When you start adding people, their tools such as their computers, phones and software need to be implemented. Again, this is an IT headache if you are using client-server systems. If they are remote, you have to have a VPN to tunnel into your secure network. Instead, you can turn on users with new logins and allow them to get going right away regardless of where they are in the world.
- Collaboration is easier. A cloud computing system allows your team to be connected in real-time. Real-time means that you can monitor how work is getting done and which documents are the most current. The databases you work with are updated instantly from each user input. Files are able to be controlled for the most recent and often a trail of revision controls. Getting things done in the cloud is possible from inherent collaboration.
- Powerful management and control. Having your team within a cloud system means everyone is contributing and working on records, files and data that is concurrent. This allows for management of the key activities and drivers of your business. I often set up dashboards, reports and key metrics pages which provide real-time business intelligence for the managers and leaders of a business. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and issues can be addressed quickly.
- Enhance the customer experience. With so much choice in the marketplace, your customers can perceive higher value in how you sell and provide your service. Cloud systems can provide customer portal information, real-time notifications and an emotional connection to what is happening in real-time with their orders, projects and relationship with you. This creates a closer customer engagement for repeat business and loyalty.
The strategies which can emerge from implementing parts of your business or your entire business altogether can create great opportunity for growth and cost reduction.
The amount of software and technology are many. It is easy to get enamored by the sheer abundance of features. However, as I have often commented, the strategy is the critical success factor. Cloud computing only has an advantage if you know what you are doing and how you want to get to the goals of your organization.
How much have you adopted cloud computing in your business? What have you experienced? Feel free to comment below.