THE EMERGENCE OF cloud-based technologies has been a real growth driver for many global scale organisations. But it’s not just the bigger players who need and can benefit from it.
The power of ‘the cloud’ – which lets you access applications and programmes anywhere, anytime, through the internet - and its potential to transform a business is something that I believe many small and medium enterprises underestimate.
In reality, the cloud is helping many SMEs to compete with larger organisations, often punching far above their weight and even beyond their own expectations. Everyone – from the local taxi company to an artisan food producer looking to grow – can reap the rewards of the cloud.
Flexible and scalable
While capital expenditure budgets are often restricted in a fledgling business, the flexibility that the cloud offers is perfect because it means smaller firms have access to sophisticated productivity tools that are, most importantly, scalable.
Another headache for newly established companies and small businesses can be the maintenance of daunting IT infrastructure. The cloud removes a large part of this hassle, while at the same time giving the business the flexibility to increase or decrease the level of services they need, as they need it.
For a small business whose trajectory is characterised by sudden, sharp growth spurts, often followed by equally sharp contractions, this flexibility doesn’t just reduce waste, it can save jobs.
Take this example: Property Button is a marketplace used by property professionals to reduce rental void periods and was launched in 2012. Its marketplace manages the commercial transactions and tasks relating to more than 42,000 properties – and cloud technology underpins its operations and processes.
Its CEO, Jim Urell, says that has given his company to tap into better information about customers and deliver smarter services, as well as giving the business room to grow.
Start small, act big
Alongside providing agility, small businesses using the cloud actually have access to the same technology – meaning the same level of functionality – as their larger competitors.
This access truly levels the playing field, allowing them to compete effectively with much larger organisations in ways they might not have thought possible.
Cloud from day one
For companies like Uber, which have been able to successfully disrupt the market, one of the big differentiators has been that they started with the advantage of being born in the cloud.
While many established organisations today are only waking up to the need to digitise and transform the customer experience, newer companies are ahead of the game because it’s where they started.
These startups have never had to undertake a transformation journey because they’ve never known any different – and that means that they can focus on offering innovative digital services while their competitors are still coming to grips with underlying process.
When this level of functionality, flexibility is combined with the opportunity for innovation, great things can happen. In many ways, it’s easier for SMEs to experiment as they are less restricted by deep-rooted company processes and organisational layers.
This already makes them more nimble than their larger competitors. And, when you add the agility offered by the cloud into the mix, they can truly out-manoeuvre large organisations.
Another example, Lifes2Good, the Galway-based health and beauty company that supplies Viviscal, was founded in 1997 but in recent years has seen rapid sales growth thanks to an increase in sales of core products, new product launches and new distribution channels.
Lifes2Good relies heavily on cloud-based technology because it gives them the edge they need to compete with the bigger brands such as L’Oréal and P&G. Cloud technology allows them to not only sell faster but sell smarter.
Customer-centric by nature
Perhaps the biggest opportunity to differentiate is through a seamless customer experience. The cloud enables SMEs to better serve their customers when and where they want, and in a personalised way.
And it’s never been more important to offer that one-to-one engagement, as customers today have a higher level of expectation than ever before.
By harnessing the power of the cloud, all SMEs have an opportunity to revolutionise the way they interact with their customers to not just compete with, but to get ahead of their larger competitors and build towards a smarter, customer-centric growth strategy. And, for SMEs that are making the most of this power, there’s nowhere to go but up.
Sanj Bhayro is an EMEA senior vice president at Salesforce.
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