Cloud technology is not just for big business. While the costs, including implementation, may have pushed cloud solutions out of the investment scope of many small to medium sized companies in the past, that is no longer the case. Cloud technologies are now ubiquitous and affordable. The flexibility and cost model provides businesses of any size with a chance to compete on a level playing field against even the biggest competition. Plus, by removing reliance on often ageing in house systems, companies can both achieve essential resilience and take advantage of the latest in innovative technology, including real-time data analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).
Yet these mid-sized businesses are also head down, wrestling with constantly evolving operational challenges, from skills shortages to supply chain delays and raging inflation. Management teams lack the time and often confidence to explore technology innovation and, as a result, too many companies are missing vital opportunities to cut costs, boost efficiency and reach new customers.
The cloud is now an essential foundation of successful business operations and, as Guy Parry- Williams, Managing Director, Imedia8 explains, it’s time to talk to a trusted partner that can demystify the cloud and create a one stop shop business focused solution that delivers immediate operational benefits.
Every business is, to a greater or lesser degree, digital in 2022. Even the smallest companies have moved to online accounting packages such as Sage or Xero. Companies have web mail services and Office 365 or Google Docs. Many rely on online marketplace platforms to buy stock or make sales. These solutions are all in the cloud – and yet far too many mid-sized organisations still feel excluded from access to the cloud technologies that have transformed operations for the vast majority of their larger – and often smaller – competitors.
In many ways, these organisations – the medium sized SMEs – have been overlooked by cloud services providers. Ten years ago, the largest businesses were wooed by Amazon, Microsoft and Google; they were helped to create a cloud strategy and embarked upon a transition away from on premise systems. The big providers then moved to the next tier of companies, those employing hundreds or thousands of staff. More recently, the smallest businesses that were previously running nothing more complicated than a few PCs have found it easy to sign up to subscription services.
But this still leaves a significant proportion of mid-sized companies that have been totally ignored by the market. Companies that are still wrestling with aged on-premise systems; that have never explored powerful machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) tools or gained access to real time data analytics. Companies that risk being left far behind the competition.
For companies without an IT Director, all the talk about digital transformation and embracing the cloud can appear either daunting or completely irrelevant to the business. What is the cloud? Where is the business’ data located? What is the difference between Software as a Service (SaaS) and subscription software? Does it have any relevance to a company managing food distribution or an NGO providing healthcare to individuals across the world?
Despite the confusing language, this is a far simpler approach to buying and running essential technology systems and services. The cloud is just a giant data centre – a massive location full of racks and racks of servers. There is no essential difference to the on-premise computer room that companies have had for years – it’s just bigger. The real benefit is that the time and resources required to ensure the IT infrastructure is up and running is handled by someone else on the business’ behalf, to specific levels of high availability performance.
And that, as every business discovered during the pandemic, is an increasingly important benefit. However immature a company’s digital evolution, every business relies on technology. From tracking deliveries to allowing customers to place orders, system failure adds cost and stress. Business interruption is recognised as a serious operational risk – which is one of the reasons that mid-tier organisations are now realising they have missed out on the cloud benefits for too long.
While the cloud is now affordable and accessible, this is a significant strategic change. Companies should never make an investment in new technology without first considering their strategic direction. Cloud transformations can be complex and, unless well executed properly, can lead to serious operational inefficiencies and data leakage. It is vital to consider how and where the cloud can support business needs – rather than focusing just on technology change.
A trusted provider that can host, manage and support the entire infrastructure – while also acting as an outsourced IT Director, and developing custom software – can ensure the transition is both smooth and targeted. Furthermore, it can ensure that while the priority is to rapidly migrate to the cloud to gain efficiencies and cost benefits, the business does not overlook opportunities for innovation.
For many business owners, taking the step to have an open, honest conversation that focuses on operational goals rather that the details of cloud technology can be an eye opener. Like the logistics company based at Heathrow which was astonished to discover that live flight data could be integrated into its systems. Using this information within automated systems – such as updating delivery information to customers – and providing new levels of data insight and analysis saved the business £100,000s every year, providing ROI within months.
Every business will have a different priority – from fears of power blackouts that could take the entire operation offline to the need to respond to an agile competitor muscling in on a key customer base or attracting top talent by offering flexible working. The adoption of cloud technologies, from accounting to customer relational management, can deliver immediate benefits that reflect key business goals, from revenue growth to improved resilience, reduced costs to improved mobility.
Yet too many mid-sized businesses are still missing out due to a lack of cloud knowledge and support – and a cloud market that takes a tech-first approach that can be both confusing and irrelevant. It is the business led focus that is key. Investing in technology, including the cloud, is just one more business decision. Get it right, and it will repay the investment quickly. It should not be daunting: working with a supplier that can quickly demystify the cloud can both transform the cost base and unlock unimagined opportunities.