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Five Ways the Cloud can rev up Operational Excellence for your Startup or Small Business

Five Ways the Cloud can rev up Operational Excellence for your Startup or Small Business

For the past year, I have been experimenting quite successfully in running my business through the cloud. I am no techie and this was not a planned model initially. However, I was clear that I needed to enable a flexible working environment for my team and ensure that my capital expenditure stays as close to zero as possible in the early stages. I had tried out tools like Box, Dropbox, Evernote and Skype for my personal use and loved the flexibility and ease-of-use they provided. So, it was a natural leap for me to integrate them into my business as well. And now that the business is growing, I went to my go-to-person for all things technical for advice on an IT plan and investments needed (I still don’t own a single server and that “felt” kind of uncomfortable when I remembered the huge server rooms at the businesses I have worked in). Turns out that I have actually been doing it right and have been part of a trend that is the new normal 🙂 . After I finished my feel-good pat-my-own-back session, I requested Shashwat, my go-to person, techie geek turned cloud solutions SME to write down what he told me in the form of a blog post so that I can share this with everyone. Here is his take on how cloud computing is not just for the biggies but is also a boon for startups and small businesses.

Cloud Computing for Small Business and StartUps

Software as a service (SaaS) has been around since the 60s, when IBM and other mainframe providers introduced the concept of time-shared computing. ISVs would host their code on remote servers providing functionality to enterprises on a subscription basis. With the advent of the internet and its increased adoption in the 90s, it gave way to a more efficient and ever-present way of computing, popularly known as cloud computing.

With higher internet speeds at reduced costs, cloud computing can be a boon for your start-up. Here’s why –

1)   Productivity on the go – Productivity has been revolutionized with the arrival of personal devices. The information worker has gone desk-less and enterprise IT has been consumerized. With the Bring-your-own-device culture gaining popularity in major conglomerates, it only makes sense for startups enable their workforce with such power. With cloud storage and cloud apps, the information worker can be more agile and help the startup be nimble. There are multiple platforms/vendors to choose from, to suit your organizational needs. From software development to basic word processing, all workloads can be hosted in the cloud. And with unlimited storage options, all you projects/files are omnipresent – all the time.

2)   Reduced capital and operational costs – The world’s best companies started in a garage, and not with a lot of money. Investing in a resilient IT infrastructure might not be an option available to every aspiring startup. The costs of deploying and maintaining an IT backbone, could be an expensive deal even for a small startup. For many, investing the money to the business would make more sense. The cloud helps you run your IT, without having to worry about maintaining or upgrading it – You will always have the latest and greatest. Thick clients are a thing of the past now, thus helping you reduce the need for expensive end user computing. Effectively, all you need is a browser J

3)   À la carte Computing – Efficient use of IT hardware is always a concern for enterprises. You don’t want to under-size the environment to save cost and run into performance issues, OR invest a lot of money to buy real beefy hardware and have them sit underutilized. With fast growing organizations, scalability becomes a constant issue and a drain on your finances. Enter – CLOUD – you use what you pay for, you pay for what you use. The user-feature based licensing model, helps companies to pick and choose what they want to use, without having to worry about hardware costs. Scalability??? Not a problem, you can scale your user base on the fly with a few clicks of the mouse.

 4)   Boosted Collaboration – Audio/video conferencing, file sharing and web apps – 90% of my workday is spent on these workloads. With teams becoming more virtual now, geo locations cannot be a hindrance to productivity. Efficient use of the cloud tools ensures that people collaborate successfully. You never have to email a single project file back and forth. Multiple people can consume and work on the same data from different locations simultaneously. Business intelligence and reporting has been simplified to a few clicks.

 5)   Increased continuity of service – “The cloud is always on” – You can get to it from anywhere, anytime. Businesses spend a lot of money to ensure that their systems are resilient and highly available, increasing the overall complexity of the environment, with constantly increasing operational costs. A subscription based model eliminates the need for a business to plan for unplanned service interruptions. You pay a one-time subscription fee, the vendor takes care of everything else. Many cloud vendors out there also offer financially backed service level agreements for mission critical workloads, so you can concentrate on your business worry free.

So, there you go – Cloud solutions enable you to concentrate on your business and run IT, quite practically with a credit card. 🙂

Cloud Tools/Solutions for your reference:

Cloud storage:

Onedrive for business – https://onedrive.live.com/about/en-us/business/

Box.Net for business – https://www.box.com/business/

Google drive – https://drive.google.com/ob?usp=web_ww_intro

Business email and productivity:

Microsoft Office 365 for small business – http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/business/compare-office-365-for-business-plans-FX102918419.aspx?tab=1

Google apps for business – http://www.google.com/enterprise/apps/business/

Unified collaboration:

Skype for business – http://www.skype.com/en/business/

Microsoft Lync online – http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/lync/meeting-software-compare-lync-plans-FX103842081.aspx

Google hangout – http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/hangouts/

Social for the enterprise:

Yammer – www.yammer.com

Chatter – https://www.salesforce.com/chatter/overview/

Today’s post is by Shashwat Mohapatra. Sash is a Client Success Manager and has about 10 years’ experience working as a trusted advisor with large Fortune 500 enterprise organizations in various business verticals around the globe, focused on helping enterprise customers consistently improve IT health, drive successful projects and migration deployments.

Did you find this post useful? How have you used cloud for your business? We would love to hear back and learn from you.

Five Essentials to Consider before venturing into Entrepreneurship

Five Essentials to Consider before venturing into Entrepreneurship

It has been a year since I went solo. Fifteen years into my career and I would rate this past year as the most satisfying and fulfilling year of my life. Hard work has been a common theme through all the years but nothing beats the satisfaction levels and the thrills of trying out something of your own and nurturing it to growth. However, entrepreneurship is not all fun and joy. There are ups and downs, small victories and big fails and we need a special mind-set and support system to ensure that we are not bouncing like a yo-yo along with our venture. Keeping the balance is absolutely essential.

I have written about the mind-shifts that I had to make within myself a few months after I plunged in an earlier post. For this annual event, I asked a very special woman, an amazing mother and a successful entrepreneur – Devina Mahapatra – who has been there, done that – to share with my readers and me on what helped her survive and thrive on her entrepreneurship journey. What are the essentials to consider before venturing into entrepreneurship, that we need to have in place to succeed? And here is her take:

A few years back, I found myself taking time off from the corporate world to dedicate to raising our kids. My goal: be home till the younger one is two. At this time, I was only expecting my first. While the joys of mommyhood is incomparable to anything else I had experienced, I got restless very quickly because there’s only so much you can fuss over an infant. By the time my first-born was a year old, I had started a business. And before I knew it, my husband had quit his high-profile IT position in a leading upcoming biotechnology firm to join the business. We quickly were living the entrepreneur lifestyle – very different from the regular 9-5 positions we had both held in the past. The accolades as well as the trials were rewarding. After seven years, our first business was sold, and my husband went on to start on his second, thereby entering the coveted group of serial entrepreneurs. Once you have a taste of being a business owner, it’s virtually impossible to turn back. However, I believe that without a few ground rules and work ethics, we would have burnt out before giving success a true chance.

Here’s my list of 5 Essentials to consider before venturing into entrepreneurship:

Essentials #1: Have unconditional support of your significant other –

By support, I mean holistic support – be it mental (challenging business strategy), emotional (provide encouragement when things are slow), physical (waking up to care for the kids at night) or public relations (keeping a calm composure and positive outlook when you just lost your biggest client). Confide in and communicate with your significant other – Err on the side of more than less. No one’s a mind reader. By unconditional, I mean in great times and terrible ones…alike.

Essentials #2: Don’t be a stranger to the facts –

Do research, and then some more. Know your competition. Know your product/service. Know the demand. Interview other business owners. Set a timeline target that’s realistic. Research goes a long way in saving you time and money.

Essentials #3: Know yourself –

Know your personality type. Running a business needs constant self-motivation in good days and bad. It takes an enormous amount of self driven discipline. Ask yourself if the business is enough motivation to get you out of bed every morning – for times to come. If yes, you’re a natural. If not, keep a motivation plan ready. Be accountable to yourself.

Essentials #4: Surround yourself with positive thinkers –

The easiest thing for people to say is no. Surround yourself with positive thinkers who emit positive energy. You will need it. Don’t hesitate to distance yourself from nay-sayers, mindless gossip and anything that doesn’t add value.

Essentials #5: Meditate Daily –

If you don’t meditate already, start anyway. Running a business will just get the universe as close to your soul as you allow. Meditation enables that. Practicing the art of maintaining peace and calm within yourself will pay off big time.

Are you thinking of going solo, starting a company or just taking a break to think about a career change? How are you preparing for this big shift in your life? What are the other essentials to consider before venturing into entrepreneurship ? Devina and I would love to hear back and learn from you.

Guest Post author : Devina Mahapatra

Pic Courtesy : Sukanya Rath

An Idea is not enough for Success… Five more lessons from Steve Jobs

An Idea is not enough for Success… Five more lessons from Steve Jobs

I have never met Steve Jobs, nor worked with him, nor ever interacted with him remotely. But his products touched a chord and I have followed his life journey as closely as the new product launches every year. Maybe more so, simply because almost two decades back I shared the same dream i.e.  Touch lives with Technology and make it so seamless that anyone anywhere can use it. Today a three-year old kid uses the technology intuitively and a 70-year old grandpa no longer fears the machine.

For years, I have lived with my dream. Steve had the passion to follow through.  That is the difference.

I learnt from Steve that dreams simply give you a false sense of illusion – it’s how you translate that dream into a goal that sets you apart.

I learnt that an Idea is not enough – an idea is just the beginning, the real work starts after that. I learnt that it is enough to start with a broad vision, and let the details evolve.  I learnt that the difference lies in how strongly you believe in the idea and (more importantly) what commitment you make to take it forward.

The 5 biggest lessons from Steve Jobs that I learnt and would like to emulate:

Lesson #1:  The Passion to make a Difference – The desire to touch lives and the inspiration to make a lasting impact.

Lesson #2:  The Perseverance and Courage to Pursue – To keep going despite all odds & contradictions. To always look for alternatives even when the full picture is not clear yet.

Lesson #3:  The Self-belief and Conviction to be Different – The foresight to challenge conventional wisdom. The ability to manage inertia and overcome resistance.

Lesson #4:  The Focus on Simplicity – The goal to constantly improve usability and drive the experience. The acceptance of using Technology as a means and not as a goal.

Lesson #5:  The Pursuit of Perfection – The willingness to admit mistakes and change course even late in the game. Striving always for the best possible.

Most importantly I learnt that achievement is not built around creativity or innovation, but realized through painstaking execution.

I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.

Steve Jobs, Interview, 1995

Today’s post is written by Arti Khanna. Arti combines more than 25 years of technology and business experience in communications to look at emerging trends and incubate new initiatives in communications and applied verticals. Connecting the dots between market dynamics and strategy is her specialty.

What other lessons have you taken away from Steve Job’s life? Have you ever moved an idea to execution? Do you plan to? How do you translate your ideas into plans for action? We would love to hear back from you.