A startup's short guide to finally using cloud

The 4 ways cloud can help you with your finances, HR, marketing and sales


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Many entrepreneurs will be aware of cloud technology and may have even been sold on what it can do for their business.

There are, however, still entrepreneurs that have been rather slow in adopting and implementing cloud strategies in their businesses.

It's easy to see why, says Masindi Mabogo, director at PBT Group, information management and business insight solution provider.

"In the past, many SMEs had a lack of understanding and so many startups did not place a focus on cloud technologies as they did not see the need for something they did not understand," he says.

For the non-IT executive, cloud technology, along with many other tech trends, can seem somewhat complicated and confusing, but it doesn't have to be. 

At the most basic level, cloud computing gives entrepreneurs an opportunity to use resources outside their firewalls or premises, says Mabogo.

"There are multiple use cases depending on what the organisation's needs are, which usually cut across business tasks or the divisions. Some use cases are as simple as a "secondary set of on-demand" computing requirements," Mabogo adds.

To make it a little easier for those entrepreneurs who have been slow on the uptake of cloud tech in their business, here are 4 practical ways that cloud can directly benefit your business. 

1. Finances

According to financial management company, FinancialForce, cloud-based financial software provides robust capabilities to businesses both small and large.

"You can easily share workflows and approval processes between multiple departments simultaneously, or even reduce billing processes all on one platform. Other benefits include allowing the business to automate their manual business processes, increase data accuracy, control and streamline their approval processes and find greater visibility, flexibility and agility."

"Finance may take a decision to move their email facilities to one of the major email hosting companies, to allow for quick computing power acquisition as the organisation grows," says Mabogo.

Platforms available: ​Fintech has been one of those sectors that has thrived due to cloud technology. South African startup SMEasy is one example. SMEasy is an online business management and accounting system specifically designed for people in small business who don't understand accounting.

Another local example is Cape Town-based Kineto, ​which provides a private cloud-based platform that delivers access to financial services such as e-accounts, e-banking and payment solutions.

On a global level, The Sage Group plc, commonly known as Sage, a British multinational enterprise software company, provides integrated accounting, payroll and payments solutions. Another international example is Adaptive Insights. This US-based startup sells cloud-based services to finance and other management teams to model a company's performance and other business intelligence.

2. Marketing
Data is everything. Cloud capabilities give marketers a vast array of actionable, real-time data at their disposal, according to a blog by cloud, hosting and IT infrastructure solutions and managed service company PointClick.

"The cloud makes it easier to track leads, test new channels, and determine which elements of the marketing strategy worked well (or didn’t). It is also easier to keep track of prospects and customers through widely available and extremely affordable Customer Relationship Management applications."

The tech can be particularly useful when it comes to customer feedback and service by making effective use of the available data.

"[Marketers] may want to host a website for client interactions on cloud services to ensure that they will be able to meet the sessional (what the customer wants at a particular interaction with the company) and elastic (demands that are sensitive to factors such as price and income) online customer demand in response to their companies' product promotions."

Platforms available: A local startup making use of cloud technology is Delvv.IO, a market research and consultancy startup that is looking to build the continent's biggest network of creatives and to tap into this knowledge base on-demand, is a local examples that also leverages on the crowdsourcing trend. 

Delvv.IO allows its users to upload a creative concept or an actual advert. The platform's technology and team will then choose the 30 most relevant professionals in terms of location, industry etc to complete the project. Five days later users get a feedback report detailing the campaign's strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement to gain optimum success.

Describing itself as the most advanced analytics for mobile in the world,​ Mixpanel is a cloud service that tells companies how their customers are using their websites and mobile apps. 

AdvanceForce is a member of the AdvanceNet Group and a Cloud Alliance Partner of Salesforce.com in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. It is a customer relationship management (CRM) solution that builds custom cloud computing applications on the Force.com cloud development platform using agile development principles.

3. Sales
Having an offsite, 100% managed cloud solution, according to sales company, Mansfield's blog post, can reduce both initial cost and time-to-market by eliminating the build-out and testing phases of the infrastructure. Critical staff can get to work on products faster and roll them out sooner meaning that sales and marketing teams have a significant advantage by having something to sell sooner and by having the right tools in place to penetrate the marketplace, the post states. By sharing common business apps, such as CRM, fewer opportunities are lost and sales performance improves.

Mabogo says that sales might want to equip their field agents with faster cloud system to process customer orders on the spot.

Platforms available: Grapevine is an enterprise-grade automated communications and marketing company in South Africa. They create cloud-based cross-channel, automated marketing programs to deliver seamless customer experiences for each stage of the buyer journey.

Market Edge, Nedbank’s new data analytics tool, aims to offer business owners a better understanding of their customers' behaviour. Business owners are able to see their customers' spending patterns, income segmentation, gender and age demographics.

US-based InferA, is cloud tool that helps salespeople predict which prospects are most likely to say yes and sign a contract.

Zuora is a cloud service for invoicing customers that competes with financial apps from SAP and Oracle, but with a twist: It's designed for recurring billing. That makes it a popular tool used by cloud companies.

4. HR

According to an Entrepreneur.com article, adopting cloud-based HR solutions empowers employees, plain and simple, by giving them more flexibility to access information.

"Most importantly, the self-service aspect of cloud-based HR solutions eliminates the stacks of paperwork associated with basic HR processes. Employees instantly and easily request days off, update personal information, and more from their devices. Crazy simple data entry? Yes, please," the article states.

"Most recruitment platforms are hosted on the cloud to handle online job applications." Mabogo says.

Platforms available: Tech startup, Roubler provides cloud based recruitment software that aims to reduce paperwork, time in administration and labour costs. The platform services every aspect of shift workforce management using automated online intelligence.

Another local startup, Smart HR that leverages the power of the cloud offers services that include people analytics, talent management, performance management, time management and payroll management.

Formerly named ZenPayroll, Gusto is a cloud-based payroll app. Gusto automates all the administrative tasks such as payroll and employee benefits.

PaySpace is another cloud-based payroll and HR software system that aims to bring together payroll and HR information into a single, integrated platform while enabling anywhere, anytime and any device access. With a footprint in 37 African countries, it also provides multi-country, multi-currency and multi-language payroll and HR solutions to organisations of all sizes and industry with an unrivalled . 

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