Switching over to a cloud computing platform can take your business to the next level. Cloud Computing have the power to make sales departments more responsive, more flexible and more pro-active. The result will be better client service and better client relations, leading to more loyal customers and more successful new business development.
However, like with any other new system, there are some challenges regarding its implementation and optimization that need to be considered before embarking on this exciting phase of business. All of these challenges are not insurmountable and can be solved with proper planning and commitment from all involved.
Access: The biggest issue with cloud computing is the security/privacy challenge. The issue of access is most often why IT departments and operational departments are at loggerheads. Operational departments (e.g. sales departments) want as much access as possible for as many people as possible in order to maximise the cloud’s ability to assist with operational requirements. IT Departments know that from a security point of view, with so many (often mobile) devices connecting into the cloud it is easier for viruses to penetrate the entire system. Fortunately, there are many ways to ensure system security as well as an easy flow of information, but unfortunately this requires very tight controls.
Compatibility with other internal systems (infrastructure and software): This is another technical challenge that Sales Managers must be aware of. Many companies have multiple software programs to support their various departments. They would have a financial software programme, different warehousing software, different HR software and different sales software, and so on. When there was no fundamental need to share information all of these systems could functioned separately (other than the weekly or monthly exporting/importing of certain reports). With the need to provide real-time information to various users across the company, it has become critical for the various software programmes to ‘talk’ to one another. It sounds simple, but this is a massive undertaking – it is complex, time consuming and often very costly. System integration is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to maximising the benefits of cloud computing. Therefore, be realistic about what the cloud can do for you if you have a limited budget. If you company does have the money, make sure you budget sufficiently for system integration or to purchase a software package that can manage all of your various departments.
Quality of info: This is a user challenge. No matter how good your system is developed, it is still utilized by human beings. Some people do not have the skills to use the system optimally. Others may have the skills but lack the will. The result of these challenges are often ‘garbage in, garbage out’, meaning that the quality of data in the system is poor because of users not inputting the correct data, correctly. Ensure you have a change management plan to get buy-in from everyone as well as proper skills training courses in place.
Reporting: Any system can provide reports – this is a given. However, providing reliable reports is an entire different story. Reports are dependent on the data entered into the system. Firstly, the data needs to be of a high quality. Solving the ‘garbage in, garbage out’ challenge will take care of this. Secondly, the executive management team has to decide what kind of reports they find critical for decision making in order to identify what data needs to be collected. One cannot draw reports from data that does not exist. Once again, it sounds simple but I have experienced countless times in my career how an executive wanted information that simply did not exist and middle management had to spend days to try and collect some useful information (and this is time lost by not focusing on their actual day-to-day responsibilities). On the other hand, one cannot simply capture everything from the start, just in case someone needs a report of something someday. This will overburden your operational staff (e.g. sales representatives) with so much administrative work that they do not have enough time to grow the business. Therefore, executive management has to prioritise data early and decide what type of information they would need in their reports.