3 Ways the Cloud Preps SMBs for their Next Big Move
Another graduation season has passed and many of us were fortunate enough to celebrate this momentous step forward with the young adults in our lives. I’ve talked quite a bit with graduates about their educational and professional goals, and I realize I ask them many of the same questions I ask small business owners looking for guidance on what their next big move should be. “What are you passionate about?” “What unique talents do you bring to the table?” and most important of all, “What does success look like to you?
Just as every graduate has very personal responses to questions about the future, every small business has its own, unique plan for the future. Small businesses around the world are finding that technology, particularly cloud computing, is a major factor in graduating to the next level of growth. In fact, a recent survey by The Boston Consulting Group reveals that small businesses who adopt the latest information technologies – like the cloud – increased their annual revenues 15 percentage points faster than companies with lower levels of technology adoption.
Many small businesses I’ve worked with are disheartened by resource constraints or an extremely competitive marketplace, and assume that they could never manage sizeable growth. But cloud technology can help small businesses graduate to their next growth phase in 3 specific ways:
1. Customer size and industry. One of the most challenging aspects of running a small company is predicting what resources the business will need – enough to scale for expansion, but not so much that it overspends. With the cloud, small companies are able to effectively compete for large pieces of business that require more manpower (and computing power), and succeed in servicing and retaining it once it’s theirs.
With a subscription model, the business pays only for the seats it needs on a monthly basis. A small business could match the supply of its services with an increase in demand, like seasonal spikes in contracts management or scheduling and invoicing at a landscaping business. Also, if a large piece of business requires that you run specific software at distinct points in time – for example, to process monthly invoices in a program preferred by a new customer – the small business only pays for its usage, and not for the rest of the time when the software would go unused.
2. Geographic reach. The cloud can help small businesses establish a global footprint by allowing them to reach, collaborate and communicate with employees and customers through tools like web and video conferencing services, and foregoing many of the traditional expenses associated with forming global connections.
Finding a communication and collaboration solution to help its employees work better together across different time zones is imperative for small businesses wanting to expand the reach of their products and services. DeForest, Wisc.-based Evco Plastics is a great example. With 10 plants across the U.S., Mexico and China, the custom plastic injection molderrequired a solution that would bring its international team members together for crucial meetings and allow them to work jointly on projects, as well as one that wouldn’t burden its local IT teams. After implementing a cloud solution, Evco realized it could reduce costs, improve collaboration and reduce approval and production times to help keep customers across time zones satisfied.
3. Workforce development. Cloud-based programs can lead to greater collaboration and communication, particularly for businesses with remote employees or employees whose “offices” are primarily on the road or at home. Remote working options that enable better work-life balance, diminish transportation costs and allow employees to complete unfinished work at home have been shown to improve employee job satisfaction. This is important because a critical factor in growing a workforce is the ability to keep good employees on board.
What’s more, cloud technology opens up hiring strategies to identify the right people for the job, regardless of their geographic location, and employ feet-on-the-ground in key client locales. Mom Corps, a staffing firm focused on flexible work placements, was a prime candidate for using the cloud for this purpose. After five years in business, the company wanted to be able to franchise its operations and grow its franchisee base in strategic growth markets. Microsoft Office 365’s cloud-based productivity suite enabled Mom Corps to use instant messaging, collaboration tools and a centralized document platform to stay in touch with colleagues and help new franchises around the country feel connected to the business. As a result, new employees and franchise owners at Mom Corps have flexible working arrangements and robust technology access no matter their location.
Is your small business ready to graduate and grow into a brighter future? If so, learn more about the cloud and its power to help you make your next big move by visiting the Microsoft Small Business Hub.
Cindy Bates is the Vice President U.S. SMB and Distribution at Microsoft.