By Gibu Mathew, VP & GM, APAC, Zoho Corp.
The rise of cloud technology continues to change the way we interact with the world. From how we pay our bills to how we communicate, to how we navigate the city streets, the cloud’s arrival has proven disruptive to the old ways of doing things.
This is perhaps no more true than in the realm of business software, an industry that has seen seismic shifts in the last two decades and is now witnessing rapid adoption due to the global crisis since last year. Expensive, exceedingly complicated software that once was the purview of the few is now available to the masses, courtesy of the cloud and attendant improvements in technology. These strides have resulted in the democratization of business software, the changing of a once-scarce resource into something everyone can access and use.
The shift to a more democratic, user-friendly, and affordable breed of business software has come about for a lot of reasons. Here are a few of the biggest ones:
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The consumerization of IT
As software has become more and more important to our day-to-day lives, it has also become friendlier for the end-user. Actions that used to require reams of code and loads of technical know-how can now be completed with just a drag and a drop. Business software has followed suit, and increasingly looks, feels, and acts like consumer software. And with intuitive interfaces and familiar features, no specialized skills or training are required to get things up and keep them running.
Maintaining productivity on-the-go
The smartphone has put powerful computing technology in the palm of your hand and lets your business go everywhere you go. Sophisticated yet easy-to-use software is available ubiquitously, meaning that employees are no longer chained to desktop systems. In fact, driving and maintaining information while you are on the go becomes a more seamless process. Software vendors who are more customer-centric are providing mobile versions as another means of access on top of their services that run on browsers. Through real-time function, employees remain connected, and ground observations made during fieldwork are readily updated through the cloud.
The technology buffet
Part and parcel of the democratization of software is the rise in consumer choice. Every day, new solutions are added to app galleries and marketplaces around the web, giving people multiple ways to tackle any business process. These app stores also give businesses the opportunity to see what other companies are doing to tackle similar problems.
There used to be a handful of software vendors that a business could choose from; now there are hundreds. Because there are so many options, customers can choose how they want to manage their processes without having to learn new skills.
The great equalizer
Business software used to require massive capital expenditure. As a consequence, only large companies with deep pockets could afford the features and capabilities software systems provided. However, the rise of the cloud and mobile technology has put an end to the need for installed, on-premise systems, and the costs (and time) associated with them. You no longer need a room full of servers or high CAPEX to run your business; a smartphone will do just fine. The result? Small businesses finally have access to the tools the “big boys” have had for years, and can now provide the same world-class experience to their customers.
Software that you can provision
As software has gotten easier to use, more people are using software. Decisions about what systems a business would run were left to people with diplomas in computer engineering. But no more. Today’s business software is more user-friendly than ever, meaning that even non-specialists can be as empowered as the pros to make decisions about the systems they’ll employ.
What’s more, advances in HYPERLINK data virtualization enables people to access the information they need without requiring special tools or knowledge. Data can now be retrieved and analyzed by non-technical individuals without having to know its structure, location, or format; this means a lot more people can have access to the details they need, without needing a bunch of training to get there. You can finally get rid of the IT gatekeepers and take charge of your business.
We believe that software is making the world better, but you still need the right suite. You need software that is easy enough for a tech novice to use, powerful enough for the expert, and priced reasonably enough so as not to impact anyone’s bottomline. Find a business solutions suite that’s “all-in” on cloud computing, includes a large selection of apps that are designed to handle every business process and run on every device. On top of that, it has to be affordable and, in the current times, prioritize data privacy and security. Most importantly, be confident that the provider you choose has business goals aligned to yours and is happy and willing to help you every step of the way.