Optus unearthed what I think is a major stumbling block in the adoption of cloud computing when it recently surveyed 850 small businesses with under 50 employees for its inaugural Digital Ready report.
Although half the respondents felt they knew enough about IT to make informed decisions, two thirds wanted advice from IT experts first before following through. The catch is that their IT experts are probably doing everything they can to convince their customers not to move to the cloud even if it is better for their customers to do so.
Traditional IT services businesses which have made a living updating servers stand to lose a lot from cloud computing. The margins in reselling subscriptions to Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365 or any other software-as-a-service are a fraction of a good hourly rate spent rebuilding an Exchange server. The money earned is just not sustainable.
At the report’s launch this morning I asked Mark Baylis, Optus’ general manager for SMB product, whether IT advisers were helping customers move to the cloud and he said, “That’s one part of the industry that is changing. Whether it’s moving quickly enough is another question.”
Yes, some IT resellers have changed their business model while new ones have sprung up to fill the gap. But the reality is that most IT services businesses are not sure how they fit into the world of cloud computing. The truth is that a lot of them won’t.
An accountant can directly advise a client to use cloud software to reduce the business’ largest expense.
This is a major problem for small businesses because good advice is clearly needed. Optus’ Digital Ready survey found that a staggering 80 percent of SMBs were either not using or considering cloud solutions or are unsure of what cloud is.
The survey found that small businesses were sceptical that cloud computing could help them. Only a third felt that online collaboration was a necessary business tool. If they knew what it was I’d guess they might change their minds.
So who’s going to educate them?
The telcos will play their part as they see cloud computing as a way to expand revenue by adding services and to increase loyalty of customers by binding them closer with subscription services. It’s a lot harder to change phone-call providers when all your email and business documents are stored on their backup servers.
Optus is holding seminars in Sydney and Melbourne in November about its OfficeApps platform, which is a rebadged version of Google Apps. It also will release an online self-assessment survey to help a business understand which parts of its digital strategy (software, marketing and communications) it is behind on compared to its industry and best practice.
Instead it looks like the bulk of the work will fall to the classic business adviser, the accountant. An accountant is able get a much deeper understanding of where the costs are in a business because he or she does the tax and knows the numbers already.
An accountant can directly advise a client to use cloud software to reduce the business’ largest expense. Just pull out the expenses report and start from the top. And the beauty of the cloud is that no-one will need to buy and configure a server to make it happen.
Are accountants ready? A few are, most aren’t. The cluey ones are already adding technology to their portfolio – and introducing their SMB customers to the cloud.