Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy. According to the International Trade Administration, small- and mid-sized businesses account for 98 percent of all exports.
Running any business is no "small" task. As Jeff Holmen, vice president of business development at ADP, notes, "Our data shows that small-business owners work on average with 14 different vendors ranging from their lawyer to their landlord, their HR provider and their payroll provider," on a daily basis. This creates complexity. Can cloud-based software for small business simplify the life of SMB owners?
SMBs have heard about the benefits of the cloud. As noted by ITProPortal, adopting a cloud strategy can increase revenue, improve access control and boost flexibility and collaboration. While some of these advantages may sound like vendor-speak that's more hype than helpful, most cloud claims are accurate. For example, replacing the capital expenditure costs of server purchasing and maintenance with the operating expenses of cloud contracts can significantly reduce total overhead, while the always-on, continually backed-up nature of cloud software reduces the chance of data loss or digital service outages.
But that's the cloud view at 30,000 feet. What does it look like from the ground floor? Can cloud-based software handle day-to-day SMB challenges? According to Holmen, it can if your software has six key functions:
- "Hire-to-Retire" Engagement: How you manage employee data is critical to the success of your company. From basic information like name, date of birth and address to scheduling information, overtime and clocking in, you need a cloud solution that ensures that "the same flow of data from when you first met that person can go all the way through to their 401(k)." Cloud-based software for small business lets you create data once and then transfer, modify, store and copy it as needed rather than duplicating work.
- Ease of Movement: SMBs know they have "big data" — it's generated from every POS transaction, every staff paycheck and every performance review. But what can you do with this data? Cloud-based solutions must be "bidirectional" to support the flow of data to and from software as a service (SaaS) solutions and update this data in real time, allowing SMBs to link with both predictive and people analytics solutions.
- Adaptive APIs: Application programming interfaces (APIs) can significantly change the functionality of cloud services. Open APIs let SMBs partner with third-party providers to create cloud services specific to their industry and need rather than simply implementing generic cloud offerings.
- Out-of-the-Box Usability: As noted above, SMBs work with an average of 14 different vendors to run their business. Cloud solutions must integrate out of the box and provide natural interconnectivity among SaaS solutions to minimize touch points.
- Line-of-Business Benefit: IT no longer exists in a vacuum. SMBs need cloud solutions that align with business aims and bolster the bottom line.
- Security Specifics: We all see the headlines when there is a data breach at a company that puts employee and consumer data at risk. But the security of cloud solutions has now evolved to include secure, standards-approved applications, which both protect critical employee data like Social Security numbers and notifies them if data is potentially compromised.
Bottom line? Holmen puts it simply: Cloud solutions "have a direct correlation to business success." By getting under that 30,000-foot view, SMBs can tap specific line-of-business benefits to improve process outcomes and reduce complexity.
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