Startup advice: How to avoid cloud application overload

Startup advice: How to avoid cloud application overload
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Rayhan Aleem is the founder of Alpha Pro Partners, a UAE-based accounting firm focused on the tech sector.

Cloud-based solutions are one of the most important innovations for modern businesses. Their usage has increased significantly thanks to a range of benefits that include improved efficiency and increased revenue, not to mention their role in allowing companies to operate effectively during periods of remote working. That said, having too many tech-based productivity tools can create the opposite effect, costing you money and overcomplicating systems and processes.

If you or your staff are wasting time constantly switching between tools, here are three steps to streamline your cloud infrastructure and avoid app fatigue.

Step 1: Take time to choose the right software

It pays to invest in the right apps for your business from the start, rather than trying to fix a problem by adding a different solution later on. Free trial periods are available with most software and it does not take too long to see if it has the capabilities you need, so test before you buy. Alos, try to think ahead, as you are likely to stay with the product for at least a few years. While it is easy to trust the more established players, big is not always best. Many software unicorns only started a few years ago and quickly became best in class. One of those is the sales CRM Pipedrive, which was founded in 2010 and reached unicorn status a decade later. When researching a new software, assess the  customer service, user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). If they excel in these areas and are easy to navigate, chances are that they are a good option. You can also use third-party review sites for cloud apps, such as Capterra.com to find independent reviews; the higher the rating and number of reviews, the more likely the chance of success.

Step 2: Strategise and understand the capabilities

Cloud computing resources should be based on an IT roadmap that everyone in the business follows. Ask staff for their feedback about any issues or frustrations they face and decide who is responsible for research and purchasing decisions, plus who will monitor and evaluate their efficiency. The majority of companies do not use or even know the full extent of what their software can do, meaning you are likely to have more than one that does the same thing. Start with an audit of what apps are currently being used and check for overlap then take steps to rationalise them. For instance, you might have a job management system that is also a customer relationship management (CRM) tool. It is ideal to have an internal ‘cloud champion’ as the main point of contact who understands the process and can pick up cloud apps quite quickly. If that is not possible, it is worth finding the right external cloud partners who can support you to maximise the value of your tools.

Step 3: Opt for open APIs

Most modern cloud apps now have open application programming interfaces (APIs) to hundreds of other software, allowing you to integrate them and connect different platforms together without having to move between them manually. For example, the small business accounting software Xero has over 800 different types of software that plug into it and expand its enterprise resource planning capabilities without being an actual enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. As such, it is a much more cost-effective alternative. If you do have software that cannot communicate directly, you can also use cloud connectors such as Zapier to connect the processes. If you want to add a new enquiry from your website to your CRM, a connector such as Zapier can achieve this.

Step 4: Reassess your app stack

Businesses change over time and what was suitable two years ago may need a refresh. With new technology companies springing up every day, there could be a cheaper solution or an app which can do the task of two existing ones. Changing cloud systems can be a daunting task, but if it improves productivity and top line revenue in the long-run, it is worth making that investment. Also keep in mind that the process of data migration from one system to another is starting to become easier with the help of APIs. The right migration partner can help you with this headache and the change may not be as painful as you think.

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