Top 5 questions on Cloud Services That Small-and-Medium Enterprise Owners Should Ask

We hear so much about Cloud Services and how such technology could help businesses in improving operations. It all sounds good but does it make sense for micro-business owners to invest in such technology?

In this post, The Neo Dimension asks Mr Peter Doherty, Principal Solutions Consultant, ServiceNow on cloud technology.

 

  1. As part of the Singapore’s agenda to build a “smart” nation, there are a lot of initiative/grants in Singapore to help SMEs(Small-and-Medium-Enterprises) to build up their technology infrastructure. A lot of SMEs in Singapore see the need to invest in technology but fail to see the “why” and “how” cloud services could help them. What’s your opinion on this and how does a cloud service provider help to fulfil the needs of these business owners?

 

According to Gartner, IT spending by SMEs is expected to grow an average of 3.8%, exceeding the 2.8% average growth for the overall IT market in the next five years. This is putting a lot of strain on those mid-market organisations to make wise choices on where to invest. Traditionally that investment would have gone on infrastructure, software and people to run it though you need to ask whether that is a wise investment.

 

Today the smart investment is paying for an outcome and consuming a service delivered through the cloud. So the why is quite simple, you do not need to tie your money up in expensive hardware, software and people! You shift your spending to pay for what you consume to support your business and free the rest up to drive innovation and capture market share.

 

Some of the other drivers are:

  • Experience increased flexibility and accessibility: Cloud technology equips your staff with the necessary resources to work from anywhere. Studies have proven that increased mobility increase employee satisfaction
  • Scale and streamline processes: Cloud technologies enable businesses to increase productivity and eliminate manual processes through automation.

 

The second question of the how is a little harder, especially with the choice of cloud services available. The thing is, do not hold out for perfection! When selecting a Cloud Service, you need to ensure that they will be able to support your business, and not just from a functionality perspective. The Service provider needs to have high availability and security as well ensuring the privacy of your data.

 

The real big benefit to the SME is allowing them to focus on more strategic activities such as driving growth and revenue opportunities for the business. We believe that companies that invest in the enterprise cloud can gain a competitive advantage, delivering benefits that go far beyond simple cost savings.

 

 

  1. How should SME owners, especially to those less tech-savvy ones, proceed in adopting cloud services to their business?

 

This is a delicate balancing act between front and back of house operations. Often times SME rely heavily on manual processes to run the business and this just will not scale. So firstly look at those business processes that will benefit from bringing discipline and automation to them. If your whole accounting and payments systems are run off spreadsheets, personal databases and email this is a clear area where consuming these as a Cloud Service makes a lot of sense. You would be amazed by how many processes are underpinned by email and spreadsheets, even in Fortune 500 companies. By automating these you will deliver efficiencies that can free people up to concentrate on revenue generating activities.

 

Do your research and pick something that best fits your organisation and where there needs to be change, make it to the organisation, not the Cloud Service. Stay as close to out of the box as possible.

 

Do not be single point sensitive – choose something that covers off a number of functions you need and not multiple point solutions as you will end up having to spend a lot of time integrating these systems.

 

Integrations then become very important as you move your back end financial systems to the Cloud and you need them to work with your customer facing web presence. This means that you will generally need to rely on external consultancies so choose one that has a broad range of consulting services, especially in Cloud solutions.

 

  1. What are the consideration factors when selecting a cloud service?

By now we have all heard the phrase, ‘data is the new currency’. This means that whatever data is being stored by businesses is often time sensitive, highly confidential and mission-critical. Therefore, when selecting a cloud service, it is imperative that IT decision-makers look for a cloud service that has achieved comprehensive industry security compliance such as the ISO27001 certification, or the Multi‑Tiered Cloud Security Singapore Standard, which is required for Singaporean government entities.

Also high up on the priority list, are concerns over availability and uptime. In other words, the cloud platform needs to be entirely operational – 24/7, at all times with zero room for extended maintenance time-outs or other points of failure.

At ServiceNow, we understand the needs of businesses and have developed our Enterprise Cloud solution so that it requires no downtime necessary for upgrades. This is done through with redundancy being built at every layer of our cloud. We also deliver an industry-leading minimal 6 hours of quarterly planned maintenance, a remarkable difference from other industry players out there.

Performance and scalability are also other important aspects that businesses need to consider. Business needs are not likely to stagnant for long and business owners will need a cloud service that will allow them to map their IT journey in tandem with the ebb and flow of the enterprise.

 

  1. Is it necessary to hire IT-qualified professionals to run the company’s cloud system?

The answer is dependent on the cloud system that your company is using. The beauty of working with a company like ServiceNow is that we will handle all the hosting, maintenance and other equipment-related issues. Cloud service management systems like our CRM or Service Management systems have been designed to be end user-oriented. In essence, business owners then only need to place all their focus on actually utilizing the benefits of the cloud, allowing them to improve productivity levels and achieve overall business objectives.

 

  1. After-sales service is important to SME owners especially to those who are less tech-savvy one. What should a business owner look for in the after-sales services?

After-sales service needs to be in sync with the customer and is an important component for both the customer and the service provider. Availability is extremely crucial because companies need to be assured that there is a dedicated team that is one call away from offering troubleshooting advice and addressing urgent issues. This needs to be for when your business needs the service and not the 98-5 working day of the provider.

 

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