For small businesses that have moved to the cloud, managing multiple cloud-based applications (or cloud apps) is emerging as a new headache and productivity drain. The good news is that the cloud has been a brilliant watershed, offering its fair share of affordable, easy-to-use and manage solutions that has put small businesses on a technical level playing field with the enterprise.
The bad news is that too much of a good thing can be perilous to productivity. Aberdeen Research shows 79 percent of small businesses are using software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, with the majority using up to 6 SaaS apps.
The biggest technical challenge facing business
According to the small business thinktank the SMB Group, the inability of cloud apps to connect and talk to each other has already become the principle pain point for midsize companies and this is trickling down to smaller businesses as they grow and compete.
Laurie McCabe, a Partner in the SMB Group says that cloud apps integration is now the “biggest technical challenge” facing growing businesses that are taking advantage of the large array of new applications in the cloud. “Integration need is aligned with growth”, McCabe says. “It’s going to get more challenging. We are all dealing with more information and the more you have to patch data from one application to another, the more it costs for multiple data entry and to fix mistakes and omissions.”
McCabe says that new integration products need to be pragmatic and that a “complex, generic integration approach won’t cut it for the small to mid-sized business.”
Growth in search for cloud apps integrations
A quick glance at Google search trends reveals the growing need for app integrations, with searches exponentially increasing in the past five years. As a result, a host of new integration services such as CloudWork and others are becoming necessary to help companies manage data – without a lot of administrative work behind it. These cloud services take very little budget and resources to deploy and can connect data from previously siloed cloud apps.
Take GoCar – a tour operator offering GPS-guided tours in iconic, go-kart-like vehicles that whiz around a city’s most popular landmarks. Patricia Vargas, Marketing Director at GoCar, manages travel bookings for business groups taking a break from their conference attendance to see the city in a fun and unique way. She regularly uses up to seven business apps across her operational tasks including CRM, accounting apps, cloud-based email and online marketing tools.
“It is very difficult to move data, and very easy to lose it,” Vargas says. “I spend at least an hour each month maintaining the data between just two of the cloud apps I use.”
GoCar uses cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) software to manage relationships with travel agencies. These are important customers for Vargas’ business, which often arranges large bookings for visiting groups that come to a city for a conference or that are being offered tours as part of the agent’s incentive for business travellers.
“We send quotes out through our CRM but then receive individual emails back with specific requests. It takes extra time for me to stay on top of all the queries and I spend far too much time searching my emails to make sure I have responded to all requests.”
Related: How Sales Teams Can Embrace CRM For Better Results
How businesses are winning back the cloud Advantage
Being able to connect data between her CRM and email software helps Vargas maintain productivity and get full use of the GoCar fleet. “I use app integrations to funnel all my email through my CRM, so I can keep better track of each request, it increases the quality of our customer service. But an additional benefit is that, by using app integration services, I maximize the availability of our fleet and can better up- and cross-sell based on the one-off requests I receive,” Vargas shares.
McCabe expects the GoCar example to become the norm as businesses avoid becoming more cumbersome as they grow. App integration “…isn’t as sexy as social or mobile”, she says. But it is sure to become a technology that businesses will be increasingly interested in as they strive to achieve productivity, time savings , error reduction and decision-making benefits.
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Images: “render of a tablet, apps and a cloud / Shutterstock.com“