Why Now is a Good Time to Move Your IT Systems to the Cloud
By Rich Murr, chief information officer at Epicor Software
Ask Google, “why move to the cloud,” and over a billion search results are returned. The top results provide many thoughtful, valid reasons to make the move depending on a company’s needs and circumstances, but there’s one reason that’s especially relevant right now for almost any organization: mobility. With more employees than ever working outside the office, companies need solutions with the features and functionality that enable workers to be productive from anywhere – a need cloud solutions are perfectly suited to meet.
So what do cloud’s mobility capabilities look like in action, and exactly how easy are they to use?
Features and Functionality of Cloud Mobility
Communicating & Collaborating from Anywhere
Many companies have employees located across multiple offices and geographies, and even the smallest of companies often leverage remote expertise from the growing gig workforce. With employees increasingly more distributed due to circumstances requiring work from home, staying connected is vital. The good news is that cloud-based communication and collaboration tools make it easier than ever to weave these distributed employees into an effective, highly collaborative team. From video conferencing, to more advanced capabilities like screen sharing, persistent chat, and file storage, these cloud solutions take minutes to purchase and configure, they have intuitive user interfaces that are easy to learn, and adaptive designs that work on almost any device. And unlike legacy on premise video conferencing, there’s no data center hardware or software to procure and install, no complex firewall or VPN configurations required to enable secure remote access, and no capacity constraints – adding the one hundredth user is as quick and easy as adding the first. The astonishing growth in the usage of these tools during the global quarantine is concrete proof of their maturity, ease of use, and value to a growing business.
Selling from Anywhere
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems were some of the first business applications to be offered as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), and for good reason: no function requires greater mobility than sales, and the ability for sales leaders and account managers to access prospect and customer information real-time and remotely provided a competitive advantage. Cloud-based CRMs have had many years to fine tune their mobile experience, and it shows. While most large enterprises have adopted cloud-based CRMs, it’s not uncommon for smaller companies to still use CRMs that are locked inside of corporate data centers, which hampers mobility, or to use something as rudimentary as spreadsheets, which can severely limit functionality. Like communication and collaboration tools, basic CRM pricing is commodity-level and can be purchased with the swipe of a credit card, allowing companies to begin entering contact data and managing relationships and opportunities instantaneously from anywhere. Combine cloud CRM with cloud communication and collaboration capabilities (e.g., to deliver product demos to clients, or to connect prospects and reference customers), and the experience for both sales staff, prospects, and customers is even richer. If you’re in sales and find yourself printing customer information before you hit the road, know there’s never been a better time to move online.
Operating Your Company from Anywhere
Whether your business is a traditional brick and mortar, ecommerce, or both, employees are needed to manage and schedule the delivery of goods and services, operate supply chains, collect payments, run payrolls, and pay taxes. ERP solutions that support these critical functions have existed for decades, but many of these solutions lagged behind others in migrating to the cloud, which may partially explain why so many back-office employees remain tethered to a corporate office or cubicle. With ERP in the cloud, many (and increasingly most) of these functions can be executed from anywhere. Old habits die hard (I’ve visited customers that still have ten-key calculators with built-in printers on their desks), but thoughtful leaders will find ERP cloud solutions provide far greater operational flexibility. Cloud solutions may even expose long-standing business processes that can be optimized for efficiency and a better customer experience. Anyone who still goes into the office to print invoices and stuff them into envelopes should be first in line to consider moving to the cloud.
Cloud’s Ease of Use
Easier for IT
Designing, deploying, operating, scaling, securing, and upgrading the IT infrastructure and applications that support business functions can feel like a Sisyphean task at times, but cloud solutions dramatically ease the burden. With cloud solutions, many of these tasks are handed to service providers, which in turn frees IT staff to focus their time and attention on a smaller number of critical technology and business tasks (such as improving security) and partnering with their business colleagues on value-add activities like data governance and business process improvement. Virtually every IT capability is available in the cloud today, and even those solutions inherently on premise (e.g., local area networks) have been enhanced by cloud management components. Other than inertia, there’s little to stop IT professionals from at least beginning the move to cloud.
Easier for Everyone
For all the economical, medical, and social challenges created by the global COVID-19 quarantine, the use of cloud technologies has demonstrably made these challenges less severe and more manageable. Cloud systems allowed many companies to transition their employees en masse to WFH status, which has allowed significant economic activity to continue while promoting social distancing – both for WFH employees and for those who still needed to work on site. And cloud social solutions (e.g. Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.) allowed everyone to stay connected with little to no training, for nothing more than the price of an Internet connection, or cell phone and data plan.
COVID-19 is serving as a catalyst for companies to accelerate exploration and adoption of cloud solutions, and the urgency around enabling work from home or even work from anywhere may now be the biggest driver. Fortunately, the timing to switch over has never been better. Cloud solutions are ubiquitous, more cost-effective, and easier to implement the ever before.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.