Spurring growth through the cloud
Rushika Bhatia

Spurring growth through the cloud

Philippe Fanjere, VP Europe, Middle East and Africa, Maestrano, presents effective strategies to implement cloud technology within your manufacturing SME.

A lot has been said about cloud technology and its benefits; over the last couple of years it has evolved to play a major role in the growth and expansion of businesses. For instance, manufacturing companies that are looking to set up new plants in emerging countries can now fully streamline processes using a cloud-based system. This enables them to access data remotely, as and when required. It also means that the new plant is fully connected with the home base almost instantly without having to go through software implementation from scratch. We reached out to Philippe Fanjere, VP Europe, Middle East and Africa, Maestrano, to provide practical guidance on the way moving forward

Blueprint for growth

As the GCC countries accelerate their economic diversification plans, the non-oil sector is taking up a growing share of economic activity. In the UAE, the private sector now accounts for 77 per cent of GDP, up from 66 per cent ten years ago. The role that SMEs are playing in this transition is significant. According to the UAE SME council, SMEs generate around 60 per cent of the country’s non-oil GDP and account for around 95 per cent of all registered companies.

Despite the crucial role they play in overall economic wellbeing, the challenges facing the regions SMEs are many, and range from unsupportive banks to difficulties getting bills paid. One challenge that receives less attention, but is equally pressing, is the state of their ICT (Information and Communications Technology) systems. As SMEs become stable and start to grow, they quickly run into the limitation of ICT systems that were put in place in a hurry when the company was starting out and had little money.

A growing business needs robust sales, service and administration processes, with the ability to analyse and make sense of all the data the company is generating from its customers, suppliers and employees.

The solution is to use modern business management software with built-in business intelligence and reporting tools. Until recently, however, SMEs wanting such systems have had only one option: to undertake complex and costly on-premise deployments of business software. Most of us are now familiar with the challenges associated with these projects, including the need to buy and maintain expensive computer hardware, buy and install the software, hire personnel and partners to get it working, and, finally, keep it all running.

Thanks to advances in cloud technology, such problems can now become a thing of the past. With cloud solutions, businesses can now subscribe to software, just as they do any other digital service.

Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars, and waiting months, to get the software up and running on premise, you invest in a robust internet connection and are then ready to go. The software is already set up in highly-secure data centres and once connected, SMEs pay affordable monthly subscription fees based on the software selected and the number of users. SMEs can add users and functionality as the demands of the business dictate.

The sophistication of today’s cloud-based software as a service solutions should not be underestimated. Feature-rich applications are available that cover every aspect of the business, including finance, sales, service, HR and marketing.

The right solution will allow you to be up and running almost immediately, without extensive customisation of the software. SMEs should look for solutions that allow them to add fields and customise specific processes quickly and easily, without needing a consultant to move into your office. Terms & conditions should also be clear and easy to understand, with subscriptions provided on per month, per user basis and without long periods of lock in.

Some cloud providers will only offer you solutions from a single vendor, while others will allow you to choose specialised solutions for the different parts of the business (the mix & match approach).

Whichever approach you do adopt, data entered in one application (such as HR) should be instantly replicated in others (such as payroll). Sophisticated business intelligence tools should be able to pull data out of the different applications and generate reports in an easy-to-understand dashboard format.

Maestranos globally patented technology Connec! was developed with this type of cross-application integration in mind. It allows more than 70 applications that make up the Maestrano cloud solution to work as one, by automatically updating each with the most recent data entered in any of them. Designed for SMEs that may want to mix & match applications, it is complemented by a reporting dashboard that provides SMEs with easy to understand intelligence on the state of their business.

Tackling hurdles

Historically, there have been strong arguments against the cloud model. Regionally, one of the strongest arguments – that data may be sitting offshore, has now been overcome. Most regional telecomms operators, and a number of independent providers, have now constructed data centres within their countries, ensuring that government and semi-government entities can rest assured that their data has not seen been sent offshore. With data centres being built in country, customers also have the peace of mind of knowing that their service provider is based locally, rather than sitting overseas in another time zone.

The problem of data centre location may have been overcome, but questions continue to be asked about the security of third-party data centres. Corporations the world over are hacked every day and no single system can claim to be 100 per cent secure. Cloud providers today are well aware of the threats they face, however, and have made significant investments in specialist solutions to protect their systems from attacks. Your data is probably safer in their data centre than it would be on your own premises.

Thanks to rapid advances in technology, the regions SMEs no longer need to grapple with the headache of costly, complex on-premise software installations. A feature-rich, affordable alternative is now available in the form of cloud-based, software as a service solutions. There has never been a better time to move your business operations to the cloud!