The Cloud – Not Something That Can Be Ignored.
Organisations such as Mircrosoft are pushing people in the direction of the Cloud – if these guys are doing it then it’s a pretty sure thing that most of us are going to be using their cloud based software in the not too distant future.
At B&C we get very excited about the Cloud. This is because we have tried it, tested it and use it 100% of the time. The only wiring we have in our office is for power cables. B&C chose Office 365 and as the person responsible for the IT in the office, Bronwen absolutely loves it. From an IT Governance/technical aspect it is amazing.
Using the Cloud means Bronwen doesn’t have to worry about:-
- Taking back-ups
- Storing those back-ups off site and/or in a fireproof safe
- We didn’t have to purchase a fireproof safe(!)
- No requirement for disaster recovery
- No need to install bug fixes
- Software helpdesk for any IT issues or questions (even Bronwen has to ask at times!)
- Spam and malware protection
- 99.9% uptime
- Web apps available for smart phone, ipad etc.
- 1 diary, 1 mailbox, 1 set of contacts available anytime, anywhere
We went from being 1 person to 3 people in quick succession. This had a big impact as we went from one person working alone to three people needing to collaborate on documents, e-mail, calendars etc. Our entire collaborative infrastructure was up and running in 1 day. This included the migration of mailboxes over to Microsoft Exchange e-mail, SharePoint (document management system) and all Office applications installed. This means, that as a small business you can have your entire infrastructure, back-ups, disaster recovery document management etc up and running in the time it takes to download and configure the software.
The real life scenario in more detail….
To start trading, John had been using a laptop and storing files on the hard disc of the laptop. He backed these files up every day to USB a hard disc.
He scanned and printed to a printer that was connected via USB to his laptop.
He managed his diary via his laptop Microsoft Outlook and had to copy all appointments into his desk dairy. He took the desk diary to meetings with him.
He carried the laptop home every night in case he needed to work late or early in the morning.
He worried about the USB hard disc not being in a fireproof safe and was frustrated with the diary situation, not to mention having to carry the laptop about everywhere he went.
He worried about the USB hard drive being the back up and disaster recovery for all of the electronic files.
The Solution = Cloud; Microsoft Office 365
- Document management system enabling full document collaboration and version control
- E-mail account on a reliable, flexible system (Exchange back end and Microsoft Outlook front end).
- Ability to share mailbox and calendar with members of staff
- Full suite of Office applications always up to date with bug fixes etc.
- Fully backed up system
- Disaster recovery was no longer a concern. The building could for example be damaged by a flood and this would not delay business as usual by so much as a minute. We would just log on from home, another office, airport, literally anywhere that there is connectivity to the internet.
- Ability to work anytime, anywhere – shortly after the implementation we went away on holiday and John was able to work as if from the office. Clients were assisted from a holiday cabin in deepest darkest Vermont USA!
IT should be an enabler – not a disabler – It should work for you, not against you.
No matter who you are and what you do, we highly recommend that you have some kind of IT strategy. This may be as simple as everyone has an iPad and you use Windows 7 and Microsoft Office to something much more thought out and in line with your business strategy. This strategy must ensure that the investment in technology gives you a fair return. Don’t be enticed by that sales person offering you wonderful magical solutions to your headaches if it does now match your business strategy.
To give a real life example – us! The IT strategy for Books and Company is completely Cloud based. All of our documents, client data etc is in the cloud. We went through some hours of analysis to identify what went where, how and when before we implemented the IT solutions that we currently have.
The beauty of requirements analysis means that you can often be lead down a path that you did not expect. That path may even cost less than you had thought. You may not even need to purchase software – there is a huge amount of free and low cost software in the cloud (known as Web Apps).
No matter what you are implementing, take some time out to ensure that you have properly considered and documented your requirements. It is very easy to be charmed by beautiful shiny new technology – does it do what it says on the tin and does the tin match what you need? Remember, there is a difference between want and need and this is important when cash flow is tight!
This is the bit that is hardest to invest in as it is always difficult to quantify the worth. However, these facts speak for themselves (courtesy of Tech Republic):-
Companies with poor business analysis capability will have three times as many project failures as successes.
68% of companies are more likely to have a marginal project or outright failure than a success due to the way they approach business analysis. In fact, 50% of this group’s projects were “runaways” which had any 2 of taking over 180% of target time to deliver; consuming in excess of 160% of estimated budget; or delivering under 70% of the target required functionality.
Companies pay a premium of as much as 60% on time and budget when they use poor requirements practices on their projects.
Over 41% of the IT development budget for software, staff and external professional services will be consumed by poor requirements at the average company using average analysts versus the optimal organization.
The vast majority of projects surveyed did not utilize sufficient business analysis skill to consistently bring projects in on time and budget. The level of competency required is higher than that employed within projects for 70% of the companies surveyed.