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How SMBs can cut costs and boost productivity with cloud computing

By Perry Offer, CEO, Dialogue Communications

Recent research has shown that cloud computing has helped 62% of UK start-ups get off the ground and scale as they grow, while driving between 25 and 75% increases in profits. I’ve been running numerous SMEs for 20 years and have witnessed first-hand how the cloud has helped triple our revenue and double productivity year-on-year, so I wanted to share a few thoughts on how small businesses can embrace the power of the cloud.

Don’t do it alone

The first step on your cloud journey is to assess your business requirements. What do you need to achieve? Which challenges do you need to overcome? What are your ambitions? This will help you determine the technology needed to support your business. For us it was important that we could build several aspects of our business such as finance and operations on a common platform to create better synergy effects. However, as a small business, there’s no point in building your own platform, a process which takes up the time, money and resources that many SMEs just don’t have. Instead, get the technology from a single cloud provider. You can then either implement it yourself or work with one of the provider’s partners, which is easy,  great value for money and will get your cloud up and running in no time. It only took us two months to implement the first stage of our salesforce.com cloud solution.

Unlock the app advantage

Once you’ve successfully implemented the cloud, you should be installing apps that will help you to support and streamline core business areas. Think of your business as a camera, through which you see your market and your customers. This camera needs a sturdy tripod, in order to provide an undistorted image. Commerce, operations and finance are the tripod’s legs – the fundamentals that underpin your business – so these should be your starting point. Here at Dialogue, we installed several apps from the Salesforce AppExchange that have allowed us to simplify and standardise a range of common tasks, such as on-boarding new recruits and managing holiday requests and currency conversions; resulting in great long-term efficiency gains. For example, resourcing requirements in our finance department are down by more than 50%, while the management accounting cycle has reduced from 20 days to just five.

Don’t rest on your laurels

Efficiency gains are great, but the challenge is to sustain them year-on-year. Things move incredibly quickly, especially in a small business world. Margins are tight and if you don’t move fast enough, your competitor – who could be two doors or two continents away – is going to eat you for lunch. Your business needs to be as flexible as possible, and the cloud can help you achieve this. With a platform-based approach you can switch things on, change things, do what you want in a heartbeat – that’s the essence of salesforce.com and that’s why we use it – to get the 360-degree view of the business we are aiming for, you must be entirely on a cloud platform. 

Now it’s your turn

As SMEs, we’re all looking for straightforward ways to add margin, avoid catastrophe and double productivity. To achieve this, we need to do everything we do today in half the time tomorrow. From my experience, the cloud can help you to challenge the way you do things – and to do them better. It’s easy to set up, makes us more efficient, and supports our businesses’ flexibility. It helps you to achieve more for less; work faster and smarter. From spending around £75,000 on cloud licences, we get to unlock potential savings of £1 million per year. The business case of implementing the cloud is a no-brainer, so why not start today?