The COVID-19 crisis clearly demonstrated how important cloud-based technology has become when it comes to conducting business. Remote work has flourished and online and over-the-phone customer interactions have provided an easy alternative to traditional transactions. This has helped many businesses keep their doors open — metaphorically speaking — in spite of physical distancing.
The urgency of the current remote-focused situation has posed an interesting question: what other functions should be moved onto the cloud?
Now that things are somewhat stable again, what else can you proactively work on to pandemic-proof your business for the future? Here is a checklist of a few basic business functions that you should absolutely move to the cloud before the next catastrophe strikes.
1. Customer Service
Customer relationship management is the lifeblood of many businesses. It can be intimidating to shift such a critical aspect of your operations onto the cloud. However, keeping your CRM in-house can be detrimental to your activities, especially if your staff can’t easily access it during a work-from-home (WFM) situation.
Instead, shift your focus toward a cloud-based solution that can help your team work efficiently, no matter where they’re located. For instance, you can use a number of different SaaS providers to set up a cloud-based contact team. This unifies your various customer service channels into one single online contact center experience. It enables you to maintain consistent, quality communication with customers regardless of the circumstances. A cloud-based solution like this helps a customer service rep give responsive, timely feedback through any communication channel while still allowing for a human touch in each interaction.
2. Internal Communication
When disaster-proofing a business, it’s easy to overlook interdepartmental communication and information shared between coworkers. After all, when you’re all working in close proximity, there’s always one way or another to stay in touch.
When your workforce is at home or working remotely, though, it can quickly muddle your communication channels and leave your employees in the lurch. A lack of quality communication can lead to confusion, an inability to collaborate, and vast quantities of wasted time and resources.
Rather than waiting until a crisis like the coronavirus pandemic puts a strain on your internal communication, set up proper, remote-work-proof channels now. This doesn’t simply consist of telling employees to send emails or leave an electronic paper trail. It should also include clear communication best practices for your company — and at times even each department or team. Define what hardware and software should uniformly be used between coworkers. Also create communication norms, such as how quickly responses should be sent or what tone is appropriate, in order to maintain quality, cloud-based communication.
3. Document Sharing and Cloud Storage
In addition to communication, proper collaboration requires cloud-based document sharing and storage. This enables teams to work together regardless of their proximity to one another.
Rather than purchasing on-site software that is tethered to a computer or a physical office, look for cloud-based solutions, such as Google Suite or Microsoft Office. The goal should be to find applications that are simple to use and lend themselves to easy document sharing. For instance, a Google Doc or Google Sheet can easily be shared with coworkers via a link. In addition, multiple people can view and edit the document at the same time, even if they’re half a world away from one another. This capability can keep your team up and running, no matter where they’re working.
4. Conferencing Software
It’s tempting to keep your conferencing software in an easy-to-access, on-site location. However, due to its very nature, this kind of software should be moved to the cloud as soon as possible.
Before 2020, most conferencing software was meant for occasional collaboration with one-off remote employees, third-party affiliates, and other unique situations. Now, it’s become the mainstay of both internal and external company activity.
You can attend an annual industry convention with conference software. At the same time, you can have a weekly team briefing using the same software. Regardless of the specific use, you want a system that can weather any dramatic shifts in operational procedures. Hence, the need to shift to the cloud. A cloud-based conferencing solution, such as Zoom or GoToMeeting, will consistently remain available, no matter where your team is operating. In addition, the cloud-based nature of these SaaS solutions means IT assistance will rarely be needed to keep them functioning and up to date. The avoidance of professional assistance — not to mention product replacements and updates — can help to offset the yearly fee of utilizing the cloud-based service itself.
5. Payroll and Accounting
Finally, there’s payroll. If you haven’t moved your accounting activities onto the cloud yet, it should be a priority in making your business pandemic-proof. A properly functioning business is only possible if it can process invoices, address billing, and pay its employees. Not only that but if a crisis is unfolding, the ability to quickly process payroll and directly deposit funds into a bank account is immensely preferred over old-fashioned paper checks.
There are many cloud-based solutions for payroll, such as BambooHR or Paychex, that can easily streamline your payroll activities and make them immune to the effects of an office-closing pandemic.
There are countless business activities that can and should be shifted to the cloud. However, these are amongst the most important items worth addressing as soon as possible. Some, such as payroll, are logistically focused, ensuring that your business can continue functioning in a crisis. Others, such as customer service, are outward-focused, helping your company maintain a show of consistency and dependability in the midst of a chaotic situation.
By and large, though, most of these solutions are aimed at the simple-yet-critical activity of keeping your team functioning at all times. Conferencing software, internal communication, and document sharing all revolve around keeping your team talking and collaborating. It doesn’t matter if they’re in adjoining cubicles or home offices, everyone can stay on the same page.
Before 2020, all of this felt superfluous. It was difficult to justify investing in a cloud-based infrastructure for little beyond outsourcing certain functions or providing remote-work-focused employee perks. In the wake of COVID-19, moving functions to the cloud can be the difference between success and failure. So take a hard look at the list above, consider what items haven’t yet been addressed, and start shifting functions over to the cloud as soon as possible.