The cloud has created a paradigm shift that’s every bit as important as the industrial revolution for businesses and consumers, says Gary Turner, Managing Director, Xero UK. For firms that haven’t already made the most of it, the opportunity to re-imagine services and create innovate new ways to add real value for clients is beckoning.
Where can digital take you?
2014 has heralded a real turning point in the maturity of digital. The cloud as a mechanism is no longer the primary focus. Rather, what’s important is the benefit that digital can bring. In this respect, it’s not about the engine, it’s about all the new places that engine can take you.
The emergence of cloud-hosted digital innovation is a shift that’s every bit as important as the industrial revolution two centuries beforehand – it’s honestly that mould-breaking. The invention of steam power radically rewrote the entire fabric of production, economics and employment. In the longer term, it even ended up rewriting the fabric of Western society.
The steam locomotive meant people were no longer held back by the restrictions and limited scope of horse-drawn transport. Towns and cities that were once distant and out of reach were now accessible to all. That brought new ways to trade, transport goods and geographical and social mobility that had been unheard of until that moment in history.
So how does this link to the modern day – and the implications of cloud society-wide?
The additional benefits of the cloud
What was important about industrialisation wasn’t that it was a steam engine rather than a horse supplying the transportation. What made a steam engine better than a horse were the extra, brand-new benefits that a steam train offered.
They ran on tracks on a growing rail infrastructure. They were quicker, more powerful and had far more capacity than a horse and carriage. And they created new opportunities that simply couldn’t have existed without the invention of steam power. This new-found power was only important because it brought these additional benefits and changed the existing status quo.
At this crucial point in the 21st century, the digital revolution is not about apps being hosted in the cloud. That’s the mechanism, but it’s not the revolutionary aspect. What creates this new shift in models is the additional benefit that the cloud engine offers. You can be quicker, more powerful, have more capacity and be more efficient – in exactly the same way that steam did. And, here’s the revolutionary part: cloud creates benefits and opportunities that simply weren’t possible before now. And in doing so, it changes everything.
For example, if you think you’re ‘doing cloud accounting’ by sharing some Excel spreadsheets with your accountant via Dropbox then you’re really missing the point. You’ve not completed a shift in your methodology. All you’ve done is swapped the engine that drives the process. You’ve created your own steam-powered horse carriage.
Revolutionising how you do business
Thinking of cloud as the ability to use browser-based software, but then not changing your processes, products and service offerings is short-sighted. You recognise the role that tech has to play in supporting your customers but application of tech isn’t enough. You need to consider how your business processes can support your customers and revisit your entire business strategy.
You need to step outside your business and think about the new opportunities that are available to a cloud-enabled business. For a start, you can be completely mobile and work from anywhere. That creates many new ways of working with your customers, flexing your work/life balance and working across territories.
You can work with a customer based in Scotland, even if you’re based in London. And the team that services that client doesn’t have to be in Scotland either. Or in London. You can all access the same data and software applications on a mobile device anywhere in the world – the barriers and restrictions of geography are completely removed. How this happens (i.e. through the cloud) is almost irrelevant. What’s important is the completely new capabilities this brings.
Now’s the time to innovate
The new capabilities you have – plus the benefits they can bring for your clients – are limited only by your strategic imagination, your ability to innovate and your capability to fund new growth and resources.
So, let’s start really being innovative and make more of the vast potential the cloud offers up. Let’s throw away the old rule book and start writing the next chapter in the digital revolution. And let’s see what brand new ideas we can come up with that really revolutionise the services on offer to clients. The world is your oyster.