“I don’t need a hard disk in my computer if I can get to the server faster… carrying around these non-connected computers is byzantine by comparison.” – Steve Jobs
Cloud technology has been a godsend to businesses in ways more than one. With its distinct business advantages, cloud telephony has forever changed how we view business efficiency. Some critical advantages are low costs, convenient usage plans, lack of need for extensive in-house IT staff teams, better business outcomes and flexibility in scaling up or ramping down capacity.
One advantage that is generally not much talked about is the extent to which your IT infrastructure accesses get streamlined and the way in which it drives efficiencies within the organisation. In particular, the quality and efficiency of business communications are taken to another level with cloud-based infrastructure.
Let us look at a few ways in which the cloud improves the efficiency of business communications .
Cloud eliminates boundaries between teams
Consider the case of a business’s IT infrastructure in the pre-cloud era. What the average business had was a patchwork of various business applications hosted on servers of varying architectures located in the company’s premises around the globe. While the sales data application would have been hosted on one server on the east coast, the SAP system would have been hosted from Germany and the timesheet system with a server on the West Coast.
While remote access via the internet was available even then, the ID’s were typically not managed in a standardised manner with different groups in different geographies responsible for managing accesses leading to errors and inefficiencies in enabling remote access and collaboration.
By nature of design and architecture, the cloud setup is extremely streamlined with all the applications residing in remote sites under the management of one specialised vendor. So be it your timesheet system, the SAP or the sales data application, all of these can be custom architected to be hosted in the cloud with very specific interfacing built in. This yields two key advantages:
1. Improving efficiency:
Access to all application goes through a single path, and this makes the ID management area a cakewalk.
2. Eliminates data mismatch:
Due to a higher quality of data sync, you can have 7 different people looking at the same version of information while working through issues. This provides a tremendous improvement in the quality of work products and client satisfaction.
Built to enable real-time communication
Cloud systems are architected from the ground up for easy access from various device types, including smartphones and tablets. This greatly improves the efficacy of business messaging by enabling high-quality communication on a real time basis.
For example, consider that a sales executive at a tractor company is in the field for a discussion for a major agribusiness client on possible purchases of a new line of tractors. When the client asks some technical questions regarding horsepower and fuel efficiency of a particular line of tractors, the executive can immediately pull up the relevant data from the website on his tablet and show it to him.
In the pre-cloud era, the same interaction would have proceeded in a different manner:
- Executive takes note of the client’s question and promises to revert with the information upon getting back to his office and pulling up the relevant system data
- Executive gets back to the office and adds this item to his to-do list in the email application
- While composing the post-meeting response and the minutes of the meeting, the executive forgets about the information request from the client
- Once the client receives the post-meeting email, he responds back with a mention about having asked for specific technical details and not received them
Executive responds back with a note of apology, providing the requested details.Quite obviously, the real-time communication enabled by cloud-based solutions makes business communications enormously impactful.
Cloud enables unified messaging capability
Unified communication solutions have been around even before the times of the internet and service desk software have been providing similar advantages for a while now.
Cloud-based corporate messaging solutions provide a single place where all details related to a ticket or request are maintained, helping to avoid inefficiencies due to errors and repeat efforts from correlating varying information from multiple sources, email, phone calls, voice messages and instant messages. How many times have we found ourselves out of sync with our colleagues while discussing a certain issue due to each person referring a different source of communication?
Streamlined maintenance of communication software
One of the areas where cloud computing provides significant improvements is in the functions about maintenance of enterprise software. If you take enterprise communication software such as Exchange, Lotus Notes, Outlook, Visual Source Safe and Sharepoint, maintenance and upgrades of this software is an activity that has to clear a lot of scrutiny before approval, due to downtime requirements and functionality bugs that invade systems. When these solutions are accessed from the provider’s cloud location instead of through an onsite installation, the process of making upgrades becomes more solid.Communication software makes up the nerve centre of an enterprise. Cloud based hosting enables smooth upgrade and maintenance of communication software in some key ways:
- The upgrade process can be safely tested out in an isolation structure first and made bulletproof
- Bug testing and fixing can be a regular activity that can be completed in an isolation section first
- The process of delivering software upgrades, updates and bug-fixes become a seamless and regular activity, minimising systems downtime at the user end and avoiding any extensive disruptions to business activities
- With their elegant software delivery structure, cloud locations also enable remote customization of software to be carried out where needed
- Failsafe structures can be built by which storage limit breaches and memory access violations can be seamlessly handled by automatically provisioning additional hardwareCloud computing has brought forth manifold benefits to businesses including low start-up costs and flexible capacity. One implicit area of massive improvement often missed out is the extent to which it can bring about improvements in business communication.