Blue sky thinking: working the cloud to drive innovation

Digital transformation has long been central to conversations about the future of work. Until recently, this paradigm shift was being driven predominantly by larger organisations with the resources and expertise to make the transition relatively seamlessly.

Back in 2018, 76 per cent of businesses with over 200 employees were using cloud services compared with 35 per cent of those with four or fewer. Today, however, in response to a pandemic that is leaving few unaffected, small businesses are increasingly looking to cloud software as they strive to respond and recover. For SMEs, advantages such as increased efficiencies, reduced operational costs and improved agility aren’t just applicable now, but long into the future too.

Pay as you go

Cost, which once made technology the exclusive domain of big businesses, should no longer be considered a barrier for SMEs. An advantage of the cloud stems not only from lower operational costs but the ability to avoid large upfront costs in exchange for smaller, ongoing models such as pay as you go. It’s part of a broader democratisation of enterprise technology.

What’s more, it also provides the flexibility to scale up or consolidate “scope”, as and when a business requires it. So, if you’re a seasonal business, you can scale up your use during peak season, and then scale back down again when the demand for your products or service typically cools off.

Customer convenience

Today, customers value convenience and increasingly prefer to find things online – browsing for products, reading reviews and making purchases – through a website, online store, phone, live chat, or even social media. If you can’t give them the multiple touch-points they want, someone else will.

Cloud applications for sales and customer service offer sophisticated customer management functions which benefit both business and customer. In areas like marketing, sales and customer support, integrated apps facilitate interactions across multiple channels, syncing data and insights about individual customers across all of them.

For businesses, it reduces their cost-to-serve by removing the real-time burden and human engagement from every interaction – especially important for small businesses looking to grow.

Serve millions, yet serve them individually

Cloud technology enables personalised experiences on a scale that was once incomprehensible. Small businesses can continue providing the tailored, personal services that are a hallmark of SMEs, on a much broader scale as they grow.

Customers expect tailored recommendations, personalised experiences, unique interactions and the cloud offers that flexibility. Customised web pages speak to individual shoppers, using their browsing histories and purchase preferences to customise the entire experience. Its personalised goods and services, but at high-volume.

Be credible, no matter your size

On the cloud, no one knows how big a business really is. As simple as it sounds, perception matters, and the cloud can help your small business appear anything but small. Even a fledgling business with a few employees can appear large and sophisticated through intuitive software that automates processes, provides a broad range of services and is more responsive to customer needs.

This allows companies to not only capture new business but also gain the business of larger customers who expect more. Cloud services enable innovation and improve efficiency for businesses seeking more. And for small businesses, after all, every operational efficiency and competitive advantage matters.

The cloud helps small businesses become more agile, evolve their product or service, tailor offerings to individual customer preferences, and make informed, data-driven decisions about products, processes and markets. Long after coronavirus has gone a new “normal” will exist, but the benefits of the cloud will remain; the byproducts of which are innovation, broader horizons and blue sky thinking.

Vijay Sundaram, Chief Strategy Officer, Zoho 

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