Procurement · 31 July 2018

3 ways to work smarter with cloud technology

The cloud is offering business owners new ways to connect their people, places and things

Small businesses that use cloud services on a daily basis are 21% more profitable than those yet to embrace new tools. Here’s how tapping into this technology will make your workforce more productive and your business more profitable.

Most business needs today can be solved with technology, from accounting to marketing. For sole traders and micro businesses, your accounting software might be the most useful piece of technology in your arsenal. But how do you run your business, network, make those crucial customer contacts if you’re completely desk-bound?

This is where cloud-based technology comes in. You may be using cloud tech already. For example, business tools like your accounting software (or its app version) will help you invoice, chase payments, and file away VAT bills on the go.

In fact, the more cloud-based tech tools you use, the greater your earning potential. According to recent research from the Enterprise Research Centre, using cloud-based ecommerce, online accounting and customer relationship management software can generate a 13.5% increase in sales per employee in three years. That’s a solid return on your investment, considering the cost efficiency of subscription-based tools in the market.

Gone are the days when paying thousands of pounds for a software license that will expire the next year is acceptable. The technology that business owners need are now cheaper and more convenient.

Anne Sheehan, Enterprise Director at Vodafone UK, believes the old digital order is over.

“Yesterday’s inflexible IT infrastructure is providing diminishing returns. It’s relativity costly; and employees need tools that enable them to communicate, collaborate and respond to customers as quickly as possible,” Sheehan explains.

“As digital transforms the way services are delivered, the IT imperative is one that needs to join the dots between any number of communication platforms, be that instant messaging services, traditional voice platforms, chatbots and other AI programmes.”

“The future lies in connected communications that can support interactions regardless of where they start.”

3 ways to use cloud-based technology right now

  1. Managing cash flow

Invoice finance has emerged as one of the most effective cash flow solutions for small business owners stuck chasing late payments, and technology is making it even more accessible. Cloud platforms such as Autopaid allow business owners to access the funds from unpaid invoices and therefore boost working capital.

With digital tax returns on the horizon, accounting software is another essential for small companies. Cloud providers like QuickBooks and FreeAgent offer tailored packages to help business owners move from spreadsheets to new technology and stay on top of their tax liabilities.

Good financial housekeeping is also dependent on expenses management; and cloud-based tools like Webexpenses have begun to lift the daily bookkeeping burden from business owners, from payroll to receipts.

  1. Efficient communications

Through cloud-enabled real-time data sharing, business owners can boost communications with team members, making a shift roster available to staff on Deputy, for example.

Collaboration is crucial for small, growing businesses, and cloud-based tools such as Google Drive and Dropbox can be updated by any team member wherever they are.

The cloud is also enabling business owners to instantly share important financial data with accountants or partners. Banks have been teaming up with accounting software providers to offer customised data feeds to company decision makers looking to manage finances more efficiently.

  1. Establish a roaming office

With simply an internet connection or mobile data, entrepreneurs can take their company anywhere. Most apps are now available on smartphones and tablets, delivering new levels of flexibility to business leaders. Social media tools like Facebook can be used on-the-go, allowing you to make important decisions wherever you are.

Sheehan continues: “Today, it’s perfectly normal for people to want to switch between, or blend, communicating via webchat, video conference, telephone, instant messaging, email and more in the course of a single day. And they want to do so seamlessly.”

Establishing this “anywhere office” means your team are more agile and responsive to critical business and customer requirements, keeping company productivity high and encouraging collaboration outside of the traditional four walls.

Offering your workforce greater flexibility will also create happier employees, who in turn will work harder for the business.

“The move of IT and communications to the cloud makes this possible, making data available to those who need it when they need it,” says Sheehan. “You can know when people are available and OK to be contacted; and be able to speak to customers in new ways that are more convenient to them.”

“The combination of digital technology and cloud offers new ways to connect your people, places and things. It presents the chance to rethink not only the way you work but unlock new customer opportunities.”

As service and experience overtake reputation as the drivers of consumer brand loyalty, small business owners have been urged to invest in innovative technologies to attract and retain customers’ attention.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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