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4 Reasons SMEs Should Embrace Cloud Collaboration

Authored by: Gibu Mathew, VP and GM, APAC, Zoho Corp

The evolving digital business landscape in the Asia Pacific region is seeing a trend of operations moving into the cloud. Firms are collecting massive quantities of data that requires analysis, protection, and storage. This data brings significant business opportunities along with it. SMEs, in particular, can utilise this information to achieve a competitive advantage. As suggested by IDC data, smaller enterprises are increasing their investments in IT products and services, indicating that digital transformation spending worldwide will grow steadily throughout the 2019-2023 forecast period, achieving a five-year compound annual growth rate of 17.1%. However, many of these types of businesses still lack the dedicated internal IT support teams required to pursue their business objectives.

Lacking the resources available to large enterprises, smaller companies generally struggle to gain a competitive edge, even as they continue to pursue innovation. However, as researchers note, social media can be a relatively cost-effective way for these companies to create brand awareness and pursue innovation, increasing their website traffic and sales. That depends, of course, on whether these businesses can overcome the potential technological challenges facing IT teams, like providing employees with the mobile devices and cloud applications necessary to facilitate collaboration.
 
Cloud collaboration tools in particular help internal teams become more creative and engaged when developing solutions for increasing revenue. The increased accessibility of data across multiple devices also allows for improved mobility of business processes, since approvals and decisions can be made more quickly.  Because of their direct engagement with customers, sales and customer support staff typically have access to customer information that isn't always available to marketing. On the other hand, marketing may be developing their campaigns without keeping sales teams in the loop. When sales and marketing teams are able to collaborate, they can greatly improve a company’s ability to make informed decisions. The sales team can share live feedback with marketers to improve new content in real time, and other internal teams can quickly access up-to-date lead information remotely. With cloud tools, IT admins gain more control over access rights for legitimate users, which facilitates stronger data security.
 
Among the clear benefits of adopting cloud collaboration solutions, four key reasons stand out for any organisation undergoing transformation projects:
 
1) The Cloud benefits organisations with limited budgets
 
In the past, IT has been a differentiator for large enterprises that could afford to invest in software, hardware, and ongoing maintenance. Over time, IT departments have evolved to embrace cloud software. For SMEs, adopting SaaS solutions helps bridge the gap in IT resources. When seeking to minimise IT costs, businesses have become more resourceful in leveraging cloud platforms, as they avoid the huge upfront cost that comes with on-premises ERP systems.
 
2) Cloud collaboration tools reduce complexities
 
Traditional on-premise office productivity tools are cumbersome to install, maintain, and update—in terms of both licensing and software upgrades. Cloud collaboration tools, on the other hand, make solutions more accessible to employees and require less IT oversight. As the priorities of a business evolve, cloud solutions require less adjustments to meet changing needs. Cloud platforms also offer greater stability over time, since software upgrades are taken care of by the vendor, allowing business owners to focus on higher priority tasks.
 
3) Integrating third-party software is simpler when data is in the cloud
 
When products that you use on a day-to-day basis are integrated, productivity and usability increases, boosting their combined value. In the past, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)—which are critical for integrating tools from different vendors—were hard to acquire or even non-compatible, and integrating different software solutions involved in one business process required highly paid consultants to get working. Today’s cloud collaboration tools are much less complex with much more open architecture that encourages integration between diverse platforms and products.
 
4) The interface will match employees’ experiences with consumer tech
 
Consumer technologies and social media platforms, like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram are part of the lifestyle of Asia's young workforce. So, it is no surprise that at work, employees work better when their business software provides a comparable experience. With the right tools for collaboration, employees will be empowered and motivated to be more productive.
 
For businesses that want to stand out in a highly competitive environment, the cloud is the way forward. The benefits of these tools will be felt long into the future as the business world continues to become more mobile.

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