Almost every business has now adopted some form of cloud. In 2020 the shift has accelerated as many businesses scrambled to adapt to remote working, changing workplace environments, and plans to permanently change the way they work forever.
For small to medium businesses (SMB), the majority of this change takes the form of migrating their data and identity services to Microsoft 365. The ongoing maturation of the Microsoft 365 ecosystem combined with it's various collaboration and productivity tools represents enormous opportunity for SMB's to better leverage technology.
But how high is the ceiling?
The concept of never having to replace on premise servers and infrastructure ever again is attractive to SMB's. Whilst this commonly represents a clear saving and advantage, it is merely the tip of the iceberg.
"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses"
- Henry Ford
Whilst the authenticity of the quote is questionable, the underlying message is profound. It's easy to limit the potential of major technological advances with our old ways and assumptions. Major evolutions of technology require new thinking; thinking that ignores the limitations of what we've previously thought possible.
As pie in the sky as this might sound, it's already visible in the real world. Examples of some very real and relatable considerations include:
- How We Work: The ability to access company data from any device, anywhere puts traditional workplaces at severe risk of irrelevancy in the future.
- Storing Information: There will always be a place for traditional files and folders. There is however many things that are better stored via other means.
- Sharing Information: There was a time when almost every shared document was done via an email. New practices allow for more versatility, better version tracking and security of data.
- Collaboration: There are so many new ways in which we can collaborate and work on documents, so much so that it raises the question - do we need documents at all?
Rethinking the way in which you and your people create, store, share and consume information takes time. Firstly, it is a process of some trial and error. Whilst there is no 'text-book' for modern workplace adoption as such, there are a variety of learnings that can guide you. You should talk to your IT provider about some of these common practices. They should also be able to assist with putting together a roadmap for further adoption and uptake of technology.
Focus, Strategy, & Commitment.
Like all major advancements, there is a cost to making it successful. Most businesses fail to reap all of the benefits from moving to cloud as they lack one or more of the following attributes:
- Focus: Someone must be accountable for delivering pre-defined businesses objectives. These objectives should be commercial in nature, focussing on the impact of the change, not the change itself.
- Strategy: There must be a roadmap and strategy for a multiphase adoption of cloud technologies. Anything less than a 12 month timeline is undoubtedly leaving productivity gains on the table.
- Commitment: Like a new years resolution, there has to be a firm commitment and buy in from all stakeholders to reach the destination. Real results take time, and require you to overcome challenges along the way.
For the most part, SMBs are good at these things in relation to their core business. They fail however when it relates to IT as they generally lack the knowledge, expertise and focus required to drive these outcomes. This is the role your IT provider needs to play in your business. That is, the role of a personal trainer or coach, pushing you to achieve your potential.
Having this relationship with your IT provider is a foundational requirement. It is the difference between a 'successful migration' (ie. data is now in the cloud) and transformational change.
Practical Considerations for moving to Cloud
Moving to cloud has a number of considerations. Conversations need to take place early and often in order to achieve the most success. Largely these considerations centre around productivity, security, and physical workplace.
Conversations need to be had around operational processes and workflows to determine the best way to support them in the future. This is a lengthy process and should be done piece by piece over a long period of time.
Starting with the most impactful items first, old ways should be challenged with new ideas. Perhaps there is a process for setting appointments with clients; but what if, clients had the ability to access your calendars directly and book their own appointments? (see Microsoft Bookings). Having trouble coordinating team projects without the traditional face to face meetings and whiteboards? check out Microsoft Planner.
The solutions are endless and no one business adopts everything. You should however be having the conversations and challenging the status quo. Cloud applications eliminate many common problems and time wasting activities. Solving each challenge one at a time delivers continual improvement. This practice also improves the company culture and ability to innovate.
The ability to access data anywhere, from any device, at any time is a game changer for many businesses. It does however open a can of worms in regards to security risks. Whilst these risks can be mitigated with relative ease they cannot be understated.
A traditional approach of maintaining AV, spam filtering and security patches isn't up to the task of dealing with modern threats. As a result, these common practices must be overlaid with a security practice and strategy. Security measures must evolve and adapt as quickly as the technology.
If your support arrangement with your IT provider does not include a robust process to keep up with these threats, you should start the conversation immediately.
For maximum effectiveness, cloud technologies require the support of changes to the physical office. Despite the obvious need for more video conferencing equipment, there are other items to think about.
As people adopt new digital collaboration techniques, does the whiteboard become a relic? Whilst a great tool for brainstorming, the inability to capture information means that ideas, tasks and checklists need to be manually transposed into the digital workspaces, creating inefficiency. Face to face meetings require new tools in the modern workplace.
Additionally, desk setups and the equipment on them must be able to support the flexible working arrangements of their users. For the most part, there is no single solution. Businesses should be cautious not to over capitalise on equipment that mandates a particular style of working.
The scope of a cloud migration should not end with the confirmation that users can now access their files on the cloud. On the contrary, SMB's should consider this the beginning of a journey. One that has the ability to transform their business for the better.
Great outcomes don't require technological genius. Great outcomes are achieved through vision, commitment and partnering with the right people. People that help to realise their potential.
We would encourage every business who is either thinking of starting this journey, or perhaps already has started down the path to begin having these deeper conversations with your IT provider.
If you would like to talk about what outcomes may be possible we would be happy to have a conversation. Simply call us or make a booking via our website (which just so happens to use Microsoft Bookings) 🙂