The cloud is the biggest revolution in working practices in a generation. The communications technology specialist 8×8 here explains why too many businesses are holding themselves back from the future
The cloud is just storage, right – somewhere to save your documents, pictures and other useful personal info? While that’s all true, it’s also a fact that the cloud can transform the way you work, without you having to do the work. It can help you to create a flexible workforce and, in some cases, can have a major impact upon your bottom line, allowing your business to grow.
To make sense of all these possibilities, 8×8, the world’s first communications cloud, recently held a summit at the IoD. It gave business leaders a chance to really understand how the cloud works, what it could do for them and why the cloud is so much more than somewhere just to keep your holiday snaps.
Meeting the needs of the new workforce
Dr Lucy Green, managing director at business development experts, Larato, shared with the audience some startling insights about the emerging workforce. “Twenty-seven per cent of the UK workforce would choose the ability to work from anywhere over a pay rise, and among millennials that figure is as high as a third,” she said.
In other words, for many, work is something you do, not somewhere you go. “Gen Z (those born after 1999) have watched baby boomers, Gen X and, to some extent, Gen Y work their socks off in high-pressure jobs with long hours and potentially long commutes and have decided they don’t want that. Gen Z have decided ‘thanks but no thanks.’ But most of the UK companies adopting mobile working are not succeeding. If it’s not clear who can and can’t work in a mobile way then you’re setting yourself up for trouble.”
Flexible working fails if you can’t provide your team with all the tools necessary to do the job as effectively as they would in an office. “If you take one thing away from this event it is that the IT advice you get is vital,” said Green. “And getting good advice is getting harder. Talk to people like 8×8. The more you learn before you start the better off you’ll be.”
Multiplying the possibilities
For many, perhaps the most pertinent presentation came from Simon Dear, CEO of Tangent International, a tech recruitment firm that works with companies like Eriksson and IBM and has been the fastest-growing business in its sector. He talked about the savings his business made by moving parts of its operation into the cloud.
Dear said: “Our first foray into cloud services was to move over to voiceover IP system (which allows you to make free or very low-cost calls over the internet) and the decision was purely a financial one. We make thousands of calls around the world. 8×8 were able to show us that simply by moving over to the cloud we could save 40 per cent on calls in the first year.”
He added: “We have sales people in the UK selling into the US or France and anyone selling into those markets will tell you, the moment anyone sees an international number the phone doesn’t get picked up. What 8×8 can provide is a whole bank of numbers from Paris or Dallas or Miami. So from the UK we can make calls into these countries which look like they’ve originated in Dallas or Paris. That has had a huge effect on sales.
“Then we started looking at other things we could move to the cloud and one thing is the ease with which you can buy additional storage. On a traditional IT model you have to buy storage server by server. But in the cloud you buy storage by the unit and you shift your expenditure model from capex to opex and that makes budgeting for growth a lot easier.”
Barnaby Voss, Google Cloud’s head of marketing, made a simple argument for switching: “You should focus on what’s best for your business. And for most businesses their strength isn’t tech infrastructure or IT. They may be wonderful at sales, retail or understanding their customer – you should focus on your core strength. When it isn’t your core strength you should find somebody whose core strength it is.”
Suffering a data breach is a major concern for UK business leaders but SMEs simply don’t have the resources to invest in round-the-clock security. Voss explained, “We have 800 full-time security engineers. You may have one person who looks after IT but how many of those look after security full time?
“Businesses and business leaders are understandably reticent when it comes to changing infrastructure. You may be happy with how things are working but all this work can be done in the background without having to worry about it. Pick a partner like 8×8 because they will have experienced every problem you’ve encountered before and will understand what you need.”
What’s holding you back?
Change is happening and it’s happening at frightening speed. While we as consumers have embraced change, the opposite is true for many UK businesses. Half of small businesses in the UK don’t even have a website.
Change cannot come from the IT department, it must come from the boardroom. As director of enterprise, Paul Holden, said: “8×8 is an enabler. How do you give people the tools and the access to allow them to work from any location? Culture is the key. You’ve got to have the appetite from the top down to empower your people to transform your business.”
As Voss said, quoting Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
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