Businesses aren’t people and things. They’re structures and ways of working. They’re essentially learned patterns that add value to other people.
In that sense, a business is a little bit like your body. It’s changing all the time as cells turn over and replace themselves. But the basic information of what makes you a person remains. It’s the pattern that counts.
Take a look at a company like IBM. Nobody who started at the company is still there now. The vast majority of people moved on or retired. And yet, IBM has an identity, separate from the people who work there. What makes the firm a massive IT brand is the processes, products, services and structures that it creates. The people and equipment who work for it are just the tools for carrying out those protocols.
So what does all this have to do with running a business entirely in the cloud? The answer is “more than you think.”
The cloud is an example of how a business goes from being a set of physical objects to a pattern. When you use the cloud, you’re not relying on servers in your building, but rather a system of information that provides the utility that your company needs. Yes, it still involves physical hardware. But that’s not your responsibility. You’re outsourcing it.
Running a business in the cloud is a tool that companies can use to boost freedom. It means the end of having to do everything in-house and it allows you to just buy services when you need them via the internet, without having to do any real work at your end.
Microsoft 365 is a good example of this in practice. Nobody installs the program on their machines in their offices. Instead, they hook up to the suite of services via an account from whatever device happens to be around at the time.
The range of services and apps available through the cloud is truly mind-boggling. And it makes running a remote business way easier than you ever thought possible. You can hire people who live on the other side of the world to carry out tasks for you, without even having to bat an eyelid. It’s quite incredible.
Running a business entirely in the cloud, therefore, means getting all your software services via the internet instead of hosting them on local machines. Instead of buying licenses for apps, you pay regular subscription fees to all the vendors that you use, reserving the option to cancel them at any time.
How Do You Run A Business Entirely In The Cloud.
Knowing what a cloud-based business is and actually building one, though, are two entirely different things.
Unfortunately, a lot of the advice out there is still about how to do old-fashioned servers and IT. It ignores the world of possibilities out there made a reality by the cloud.
Part of this has to do with inertia. People like doing things the old-fashioned way. And part of it has to do with ignorance – many people in the business community don’t understand the options available to them.
So how do you actually run a cloud-based business? Check out these ideas.
Pay For Devices For Your Employees.
Paying for devices for your employees might sound like a big expense, but it’s nothing compared to the cost of regular IT. You can probably buy all the equipment people in your business need for the price of a single salaried worker. And that’s for a regular-sized business. Companies with hundreds of employees and contractors can probably save a lot more.
The cost of buying a laptop and smartphone combo for the average knowledge worker is probably around $1,500. If people in your organisation are doing specialist things that take a lot of computation, then you might need to spend closer to $2,500. Even so, the cost is relatively small. And once you’ve made the outlay, that’s it – you don’t face the usual IT costs.
If you want, you can even put your physical hardware on subscriptions. The big vendors like Dell and HP both offer support programs to keep equipment running for several years after you buy it.
Invest In Collaboration Tools.
Workers don’t have to be in the office when you run a business in the cloud. They’re free to go wherever they like during working hours.
In some ways, this setup is great for personal freedom. Individuals can do and do what they like when they like, and they’re not stuck in the office, slogging it out for the man. But there are also downsides.
The main issue is the lack of collaboration. Businesses need to foster environments in which people continually share ideas. But when remote work atomises employees, that sort of spontaneous idea generation is challenging. And often, it doesn’t happen at all.
The good news is that there is now a host of collaboration tools available via the cloud. Find the best online video chat app for your enterprise and use it so people can share their ideas. Look for chat apps that make it easy to fire off questions instead of relying on email. And use productivity apps that allow multiple people to work on the same project at any given time.
Slack is perhaps the most famous of all these tools. But remember, there are many others. The one you choose should suit your business.
Use Productivity Tools.
The data don’t tell us yet whether we should work in offices, at home, or a mixture of both. But no doubt using productivity tools can massively enhance worker output.
Cloud-based apps have the advantage of making it possible for multiple people to edit them at the same time.
Imagine two of your colleagues working on a large report together. Traditionally, they’d break it up into sections. One person would write one section, and the other another, and so on. But with the cloud, you don’t operate under those same constraints. Employees can edit whatever they like, even if the other person on the other end doesn’t agree with what they’re doing.
This type of app feature also allows individuals to see how to structure the entire document. You’re never guessing where you should go next. Instead, you can see how it is taking shape and work from there.
Use Expense And Time Tracking.
The amount of admin done by traditional HR departments is tremendous. HR staff dedicates so much of its time to rote tasks, like filling in timesheets that it doesn’t have any time to devote to value-added activities.
Fortunately, that’s yet another thing that the cloud can solve. When remote workers log onto programs they need for work, you can use apps to automatically track the time that they spend working. Workers can then automatically clock off by closing the application. This way, you can see how many hours everyone works, and how much overtime they’re doing, if any.
The same applies to expenses. Harvest, for instance, lets you track things like project costs and meals out with clients. And other tools, like Forecard, show you how far team members are progressing in a particular activity, sharing those data with the rest of the team, helping to cut down on emails.
It’s worth pointing out that the cloud isn’t just a suite of services that you buy off the shelf. While it can be that, there are also plenty of opportunities for integration.
Let’s say, for instance, that you use a messaging app to talk to customers and you have a separate stand-alone CRM. Here’s the beauty of integrations: developers will actually combine both of them for you so you get the features you need in a comprehensive package.
Businesses integrate software products all the time. The ultimate goal is to consolidate all your operations into a single platform. But even if you don’t achieve that lofty vision, you can still benefit tremendously by getting the apps you use to work together in a way that enhances productivity.
Manage Sales Pipelines.
How many sales pipelines does your company have?
If you’re honest, you probably have several.
The main one is your shopfront or online store. And others could include your apps, social media accounts and chatbots.
The problem is that it is difficult to integrate all these into a cohesive whole. Customers want to be able to approach a business and get them to solve their problems for them. They don’t want to have to think about which channel they use when interacting. The whole thing should be seamless.
Moving to the cloud allows you to achieve this kind of customer experience. You can integrate all your digital channels into a single dashboard you can share with all your staff. That way, your customers feel as though you have a continuous relationship with them. It’s an amazing experience and a great way to differentiate yourself from everyone else in your industry.
Ideally, this post should have convinced you of the value of moving your operations to the cloud. Will you try it?