As the Dust Settles Are You Ready for the Future?

Stephen Mulligan
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On: 1 May 2015
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The collapse of the Celtic Tiger in 2008 has defined the Irish economy for more than seven years now. It forced the closure of hundreds of small-medium businesses. Those that survived did so through savvy business and change in the way they operate.

As the economy strengthens again, the organisations that changed their processes are now perfectly placed to grow their influence on the market. So how are these modern Irish businesses different to their pre-crash counterparts?

Lauren Walker, Big Data/ Analytics Leader at IBM UK & Ireland, puts it like this:

“Besides analysing their own data to learn how they have performed in the past, businesses need to be able to look forward and change before the market does. It’s this data that allows SMEs to provide personalisation and customisation tailored to the specific needs and wants of individual consumers.”

Here are some examples of best practices that modern Irish businesses need to get right to grow and prosper.

Be where your customers are

Social media engagement is no longer an optional extra in business strategy. From the emerging millennial generation of so-called ‘digital natives’ onwards, customers now expect to contact a business in the way that suits them – wherever they are, on whatever device they are using, with whatever medium they have available.

This contact may be via a posted letter (imagine!), a phone call, a tweet, an email, a Facebook post or an instant message. As far as the Customer Service agent who receives the communication is concerned, it is a customer contact. The channel through which it arrived should not be the arbiter of how it is dealt with. The Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system must be integrated to provide the agent with the same detail regardless of the incoming channel, thus ensuring the customer gets excellent service, first time, every time.

Businesses who understand and embrace online communities will succeed and grow. Those who don’t will struggle to compete, as customers seek out and support businesses that understand the social world we are now living in. The power dynamic has shifted massively towards the consumer as recommendations and referrals convey reputation upon a company – positively or negatively.

Use the cloud to your advantage

Do I want my company to use these technologies to work in a better way?

If yes, do I want to take on all the overhead of managing this service myself? Is that core to my business or should I let someone else manage that for me?

Or to put it another way: do I want a glass of milk or do I want run a dairy farm?

Using the cloud to provide some or all of the services you need, allows you to concentrate on solving your business problems with the best available (and always up to date) technology, without having to incur high capital expenditure for IT infrastructure. It also means you don’t need to retain extensive and expensive IT staff to secure, operate, upgrade and maintain the systems. Your cloud partner takes on all of this for you and charges you a simple per-user-per-month fee. If you are an IT leader within your company, this is a model you need to become aware of and embrace. Daryl Plummer from Gartner nails the reason why:

“Line-of-business leaders everywhere are bypassing IT departments to get applications from the cloud (also known as software as a service, or SaaS) and paying for them like they would a magazine subscription. And when the service is no longer required, they can cancel that subscription with no equipment left unused in the corner.”

The benefits of cloud are many and varied – from so called elastic computing, where you can add capacity for busy periods and then reduce it when demand eases, to the cost control and cash-flow predictability of a per-month charging model. Risk management, disaster recovery (DR) and governance are further reasons to move to the cloud. The cloud offers a way to de-risk business, removing critical data and infrastructure off-site and spreading it over multiple high-quality data centres.

For some businesses, the idea of losing any element of control over their systems is unthinkable. This is where hybrid and private cloud models have gained in popularity. Hybrid cloud is an architectural approach that mimics some elements of traditional on-premise computing while delivering the de-risking benefits that your business needs. Perhaps, for example, it’s your server that you purchase but it’s managed and hosted off-site by a third party provider. Or, perhaps, the service is delivered to you from the cloud, but over a private encrypted data-link rather than the open internet. Private cloud by comparison is where you move your resources to data centre space that is dedicated to just your company and you have private data links to your locations. You retain control of the infrastructure and the service (and therefore the costs associated with these) but gain the benefits of the cloud architecture.

There are many models and options that can work in conjunction with your risk, disaster recovery and governance needs and your cloud service provider will be able to assist and guide you in these decisions.

The social and cloud trends are not, it seems, merely going to be passing fads, but are genuine shifts in direction for the industry. As we all now emerge blinking into the sun from the dust of recent years, these technological revolutions that have happened in the meantime represent a major opportunity for businesses large and small to succeed and grow.