How cloud-based IT solutions can help firms manage change


The hallmark of today's society are constant change, unpredictability and digital disruption. Companies must be nimble to manage this unpredictability because satisfying ever-changing needs more efficiently, swiftly and cost-effectively is what defines success.

Gaining a competitive advantage is the goal of agility. According to Deloitte, it's about improving a company's ability to "react to and capitalise on its changing operational environment." Being agile, according to McKinsey, involves a paradigm shift in which business and technology are no longer separated: it's all about digital change.

Cloud technology has played the most important role in assisting businesses in digitally transforming in order to stay competitive. Indeed, during the pandemic-induced lockdowns, which saw firms scrambling to facilitate remote working, cloud use skyrocketed.

Embracing the cloud allows for far more, yet it should be highlighted that the future of work will demand organisations to be flexible in where they operate, with hybrid work setups remaining viable options.

Cloud adoption, when done strategically, lays the groundwork for enterprise agility and helps it grow. It's the starting point for digital transformation, which can result in a 30 per cent increase in productivity, operational performance, staff engagement, and, as a result, customer satisfaction for flexible firms.

In the early days of cloud adoption, a Harvard Business Review survey identified cloud's ability to increase competitive advantage, which 74 per cent of business respondents have experienced.

With advancements in this enabling technology over time, the case for cloud's utility for businesses is only going to get stronger. Business management, which is at the heart of any company's decision-making process, is one area where it's most transformational.

A unified perspective of business activities is required for quick decision-making. This is possible with a cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. It links previously segregated areas of an organisation's operations (from accounting to warehouse management and more) in a safe, unified manner to give a company end-to-end, company-wide information. This is the way operations will be in the future.

Businesses of any size would profit from centralising business management systems on the cloud, which has both cost-cutting and growth-supporting benefits. The benefits of cloud-based ERP adoption are particularly significant for many small and medium-sized firms (SMEs) operating on tighter budgets, with less capital, in an increasingly competitive environment. The cost and time involved in manually updating the system to ensure data is kept up to date and security is maintained; the cost implications of scaling up, if necessary, should the organisation grow; and the staffing requirements and costs associated with overseeing and providing support for the system are just a few of the challenges that SMEs face with on-site ERPs.

When an ERP is relocated to the cloud and managed by a single, reputable service provider who can guarantee 24-hour assistance, these restrictions are removed.

A global research done by Forrester last year bears witness to this. It looked at the financial implications of switching to platforms such as Microsoft's cloud-based Dynamics 365 Business Central, a comprehensive business management system. The requirement for new hires was decreased by 10 per cent, while operational flow increased by eight per cent, according to the findings.

Many factors contributed to the savings, including fewer support people, lower license fees and infrastructure, and the ability to replace third-party reports with more granular internally derived reports.

Benefits not quantified in the study but still significant included a further streamlining of operations due to easy integration with other Microsoft solutions, as well as real-time visibility of key business data and metrics.

These enables proactive, efficient decision-making by making timely decisions using comprehensive, real-time reporting, embedded analytics, and AI-driven insights.

Being able to use the same ERP capabilities as larger organisations without having to invest a large sum of money in on-site infrastructure and specialised IT teams is a huge plus for SMEs, especially in this economic climate.

An SME can swiftly scale up or down based on operational or budgetary needs using a cloud-based ERP. In other words, this solution can expand or decrease in response to the needs of the company, which is critical in times of upheaval when flexibility is required.

Maher Al-Khaiyat, is regional business applications director for Microsoft MEA