As clouds gather on the horizon, its usually a sign that severe weather and chaos is coming. It could be said the same of the Cloud we talk of when we talk about cloud technology. The reason I say this is that the Cloud has the potential, and indeed is already beginning to radically change the landscape of business. Digital disruption has become like a strong wind eroding the coastline leaving beachfront properties long established vulnerable. The Cloud has indeed uprooted the traditional and old school business model that had been standing steadfastly for so long. Furthermore, the Cloud, has leveled the playing, small business is no longer hindered by budget when it comes to investment in technology. This has created an opportunity for business to compete with the big boys by taking advantage of traditionally corporate only technology and deploying it for their own improved business efficiency. I am a believer that if smaller business can make some investment in the cloud, they can build systems like those in bigger corporations but at the same time won’t lose their identity as a dynamic and flexible business venture. Let’s face it, there are high attribution rates in small business, they need all the help that technology can give them. Every business has a life cycle – every business is born, every business lives and every business dies. Whether it’s through closure, takeover or external factors, no business can afford staying the same. Every industry you look at you see smaller competitors gobbled up by their bigger rivals. Why are small businesses so attractive? It could be because they are the new kids on the block bringing with them a new tool set, a refreshed vision and they have a clean idea of where to find innovation. Often bigger companies inadvertently build complacency into their systems, rigid processes and frankly many of their staff has been there many years or even decades, doing the same work, the same way, year in year out, decade in, decade out.
Small business must embrace innovation and reach for it if it wants to differentiate itself and compete with me big bags. Its system needs to be agile, adaptable in a world where you the information you gain today becomes obsolete tomorrow. In years gone by me have worked on large scale projects where CRM and business analysis was only attainable for large corporations. A time where we talked in hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is not the case anymore. CRM is now available in the cloud for a small monthly fee, and business analysts wander the business world offering free advice on social media and agile project work is now accessible to the little guys. It’s in the interests of consultants to help these business with technology because a considerable number become big players later. And as a business analyst and CRM consultant there is no greater satisfaction than to watch a business grow and establish its identity. Furthermore, any business must ensure that their systems grow with them. This is the beauty of CRM in that it can be anything to anyone. The one cloud platform that can solve any customer facing business problem. It is the one platform that can deliver a systemised vision for your business without compromising your ability to adapt. But what is more important in its adaptation and execution. Having the right IT professionals by your side. These guys who know their stuff but more importantly know how the bona fide business world works – not just techies. The right consultants are those that listen and drive users to what they need to do complete their tasks efficiently in its simplest form. Complexity doesn’t prove competencies and extensibility doesn’t mean problem solved. Business is done by people and if people can’t do something with the technology implemented than its failed. People, process and technology all need to work together for success. An effective consultant will work with you on all three.
Solving business problems involves focusing on these areas – people, process and technology. Any business owner will tell you that a business that adopts a robust system will deliver great efficiencies and have happier and more productive workers. When leadership and direction are shown by the business leaders in these areas it is a lot easier for workers to know their roles and therefore focus on their specific tasks and do them well. For too long technology rather the introducing efficiencies has instead delivered distractions, unnecessary complexities. The number of times I have seen technology solutions will little or no input from staff or little or no training to staff is unbelievable. If you look too history, it is often the ill-equipped leader, the indecisive leader, or the leader that does not listen to the advice that have led to the most humiliating defeats in history – this is true in business too. Organisations that fail to show leadership an innovation will always eventually fail. Even more catastrophic, some are so big and so negligent that they will bring down their partners, customers and suppliers down with them. Look at recent economic history, the best innovation came from small business in industries where there were many players. When you need to fight for your piece of the pie you are forced to differentiate, forced to innovate. Big companies, specifically, monopolies struggle with this! They are too big, too slow to adapt to a changing world. When decisions and strategy need several levels of approval, when there is too much middle management or when approval for basic tools takes time – it’s a systematic problem. Imagine a large corporate bureaucracy, too busy managing itself rather than for focusing on its primary functions such as servicing its customers. Such bureaucracies eventually fail. They become too obsessed with themselves and not their customers. This is where outsourcing IT strategy and managed services to technology partners makes sense. A world where a small business owner can focus on what they do best and let their IT provider drive modern technologies, projects and innovation: They get professional advice and specific support services without allocating resources internally.
Customer Service and is the primary service that a business should focus on and this will always lead to increased revenue. Less time is spent on support and back office services and more time is spent with the customer and on the customer. This is what grows the pie and any tool that assists with this is critical. CRM in the cloud is such a tool, as all business development and customer interaction is tracked whether it be by email, phone or appointment. But it’s not just about insight, it’s about structure as this about building a consistent customer engagement and experience and if a customer can feel confident in their experience your business which will provide the same experience and service irrespective of the time of day. Whether it is rapport with a staff member or the product/services they are inquiring about. Customers always tend to arrive to the tried and tested option, the safe option, the option of least risk and if you agree that most of your business comes from returning customers, then it is an imperative that you provide a consistent experience, and even though other aspects of business might change, your customer delivery tools and process remains the Same. CRM helps you achieve this consistency by streamlining your processes and applying consistent methodology to each customer, opportunity or interaction. It is not just the tool but the framework on how you do business. Furthermore, valuable insight can be gained from capturing customer experience allowing you to tailor future correspondence with clients based on their interaction. This is what makes marketing automation so powerful! Not only can you streamline the sales process but you can also automate the promotion of products and services to customers based on their experience and interests. This set and forget approach to targeted marketing frees up time for small business owners to work on strategy because the day to day tactics of marketing and selling take care of themselves. It means that why your systems are taking care of daily business, you can plan and focus on the growing your future. This is the real opportunity that business solutions in the Cloud offer to small business owners.