How to embrace cloud tech to unlock business growth
In Digital, Planning growth - 12 months ago - 4 min
How to embrace cloud tech to unlock business growth
Cloud technology has enabled businesses to fundamentally rethink their operating models. We speak to business leaders that have done just that.
The emergence of the cloud has been one of the most significant technological trends for businesses in recent times. Businesses are no longer constrained by the location or capacity of their server rooms and this has had a dramatic impact on the way they operate.
Flexibility through remote working
Andy Atalla, founder of digital agency atom42, is among those taking advantage of cloud technology. He says the cloud defines how his company operates and staff are taking advantage of a suite of Google Apps, including email, calendars, shared documents and contacts. The company’s phone system is VoIP and staff also use cloud-based project management software. The business maintains an office in Camden, London. However, staff regularly work from home or in nearby cafes. “The cloud gives us flexibility and the advantage of being able to scale up and down without the need for new hardware or setup costs,” he says.
Andy says the office hub is still important to his business and that he prefers face-to-face meetings rather than hang-outs or virtual meetings. But, while he is a proponent of non-location based working, he warns fellow business owners that there are potential downsides to basing your business on the cloud. “The biggest limitation is, of course, internet speeds. In some places, the internet is slow and that can reduce productivity. The more you move to the cloud, the more you rely on your internet connection,” he says.
The key to communication in the franchise model
Cloud technology has been at the heart of the international expansion of kids’ football franchise Little Kickers. The business was originally founded in London in 2002 and now operates in 18 countries, with over 240 franchisees. Chief operating officer Frank Stanschus says operating a business in so many locations is a challenge, but one which cloud technology is ideally suited to. “All of our systems are cloud based, which makes them entirely location independent,” he says.
Franchise models require a head office or franchisor to provide support and assistance to their franchisees. This is usually done in the form of training, advice and company manuals. Little Kickers makes its manuals available online, via Google Apps, while also providing further support through Skype. “We completely rely on technology to stay in touch and work with our franchisees,” Frank says.
When location and office space are taken out of the equation, recruitment becomes less of a challenge. Staff can operate from anywhere and often working hours can be made more flexible, too. But Frank says that flexibility and home working can have their downsides. “Many of our franchisees work entirely from home, which can definitely get lonely sometimes,” he points out.
He says the key to solving this and ensuring people remain with the business is to build a sense of community online. He says the company intranet offers a virtual environment for franchisees and staff to share their concerns, ask questions and take advice. “Knowing there are many like-minded people that you can reach out to for a chat is very useful,” he says.
Getting the right IT strategy
Business owners that want to take advantage of the cloud often tend to do so in an ad hoc fashion. As new tools emerge, staff increasingly push for their adoption. But this can lead to problems, suggests IT consultant Richard Brash, managing director of Brash Solutions.
“You might start out with a few low-cost, small-scale software tools that are easily installed – solutions that speed up processes like bookkeeping, invoicing or expenses,” he says. “Then, as business picks up, you might add an e-commerce platform, then a CRM database and so on.”
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However, building your IT capabilities in this piecemeal way creates disparate, unconnected systems, he warns. It can lead to information silos and this can restrict growth. “There’s no shared view of what’s going on across the business to inform strategic decisions,” Richard says.
According to Richard, fast growth businesses need to develop a coherent IT strategy. However, he warns against this being a top-down affair. “Be employee-led. Design your IT systems around your users. Ask your staff what they need from technology to help them perform better,” he recommends. “Also, play to people’s strengths. Find people in the company who understand technology and how it relates to your business’s needs.”
We have found it helpful to use software packages that combine a number of different services into one platform, which puts everyone on the same page within your company and generally makes life a lot easier. Our software tool Geniac covers a wide range of business admin task such as accounting, expenses, team management, legal, HR, payroll, company secretarial and more to come.
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