Forward-thinking business executives for small- to medium-size organizations (SMBs) are starting to realize that a “Holy Trinity” of technology, collaboration, and integrated business processes can exist together that lead to a next generation front office.
Advances in cloud platforms like Office 365 can provide transformative opportunities for SMBs that have never before been available. This “Holy Trinity” can exponentially improve productivity, competitive influence, and slash traditional IT costs for SMBs.
New IT Cloud Infrastructures are Transforming Operational Models for SMBs
Currently, many SMBs run their organizations on traditional IT infrastructures composed of disparate systems that evolved from an organic IT approach to an automated approach with siloed department functions. As a result, these SMBs face overblown IT budgets that are driven by maintaining multiple systems and platforms, redundant data entry, and superfluous administration.
Additionally, for these SMBs to stay competitive and serve a more distributed workforce, management is under pressure to modernize in order to support mobile devices, eliminate VPNs, and provide a common platform on which to easily do business. The negative impact for SMBs is that these current IT infrastructures could hinder growth and reduce employee productivity.
In the chaos of rapid growth, many organizations added siloed departments, each with its own procedures, policies, and systems. Many of these siloed departments use different hardware and platforms, different security or sign-in schemes, separate maintenance procedures, and separate recurring costs. How many separate systems do your employees have to use? How many different systems does your IT department have to maintain?
An Opportunity to Transform the Business and Slash Costs with a Single Platform
Going to the cloud is no longer about simply moving your organization’s CRM or HR systems to a hosted Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution. That only moves the problem of disparate applications out of the data center and into the cloud.
Enabling real transformation begins with taking a step back, analyzing the organization’s operations, and coming up with a plan to bring all disparate applications together onto a common business platform.
This single business platform should integrate communications, office functions, and business processes. It should eliminate multiple logins, administration, and user interfaces. And, this single unified platform should break down the data walls between functions.
Some call this approach Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), rather than SaaS. Google, Microsoft and, to some extent, Salesforce recognize this need for a common business platform.
The leading business PaaS today is Microsoft Office 365, a natural next generation follow-up to the market dominating Microsoft Office. Replacing just the Exchange Server was an ROI no-brainer for many organizations. It meant no more hardware upgrades, maintenance, or software upgrades.
But using Office 365 just for email is like buying a Ferrari and driving it just in first gear. Take Office 365 out of first gear and explore the capabilities it can provide as your organization’s next generation front office.
The same ROI Office 365 provides for email can extend to every employee-facing business application your organization runs.
The Next Generation Front Office Only on Office 365
Office 365 is the perfect PaaS to create a next generation front office for your organization’s employees. Anchored by an intranet portal as its hub, employees can access news, information, policies and procedures.
With a next generation front office only on Office 365, your organization will take collaboration among employees to new levels, all in a universal way. Employees can easily and quickly submit service requests to internal departments like help desks from any device. Furthermore, employees can submit requests for time off, submit travel requests, or expense reports.
Imagine replacing expensive disparate departmental systems like IT, HR, or Facilities with fully functional counterparts built on this PaaS. What if there were no limits to data sharing and integration between applications? Imagine having total visibility across business applications for reporting. And finally, with this platform, employees have access to this new front office anywhere, anytime, on any device.
All of this is possible today with Office 365. Hundreds of SMBs are already using Office 365 and seeing their ROIs in weeks to months.
Transforming Your Organization – Leadership Comes from the Top
As a business owner or top-tier SMB executive, it is up to you to guide the organization and take advantage of this new opportunity.
Your IT, HR, and other internal department managers are often too intertwined with their own functional systems to realize that there is another way to automate processes and better serve employees.
Often department managers view the organization from the inside out, not realizing that the processes and decisions they put in place impact more than just IT or HR. The same goes for the systems they have chosen.
Given the time and investment to build the old IT infrastructure, how does a business even begin the transformation without upending the organization? The answer is to transition to the new infrastructure over time, in phases, instead of all at once. And this is easily accomplished with Office 365.
First, as the leader for your organization, educate senior management about the possibilities of doing business on a PaaS in the cloud. Calculate initial ROI (see ROI worksheet) to show the potential return of this new infrastructure.
Then, implement a phased approach that starts with basic office automation and communications, like email, then adds more business processes over time. Deploy a base intranet structure and build on that.
Here at SP Marketplace, we and our partners have worked with more than 700 SMBs to deploy a Next Generation Front Office on Office 365, and our experience has found that it is best implemented in phases over time. We suggest the following phased approach:
Migrate your email, office tools, and document storage to Office 365. This will help your organization become familiar with working in the cloud.
Set up the basic organizational hub structure with an intranet portal, employee self-service, and department portals with help desks.
Migrate functional applications to the PaaS infrastructure where it makes sense. This might include HR functions, IT, and Finance. The transition might require a hybrid approach where the back office applications remain but are linked into the department portal.
Continue migrating more operational functions like project management, facilities management, or other specific functional systems.
The total project could range from six months for organizations that still have mostly existing manual business processes to two years for more mature organizations that need to transform a full legacy infrastructure.
The Result – An IT Infrastructure that grows with your organization and substantially reduces future IT costs
The result of this transformation is an IT infrastructure that changes automatically with technology advancements. No more old system issues. IT staff that once were focused on administrative tasks like backups, upgrades, or hardware support, now spend time focused on improving the business using the new technologies available on the PaaS.
Employees spend more time focused on their jobs and less time hunting down internal processes and resources. The organization overall is more effective because knowledge is easily shared, the latest industry news and information is readily available, and online dashboards provide management visibility across functions.
Company culture and morale increases because even remote employees feel part of the team. Finally, internal service department costs go down, and each staff member can more effectively support a larger number of employees, automate new hiring processes, and manage employee changes.
All this can be achieved because an executive woke up a couple years ago to the opportunity of leveraging the “Holy Trinity” of technology with Office 365 and a PaaS in the Cloud.
To begin your organizational transformation today, visit SP Marketplace online and register for our webinars or schedule a free live demonstration.