Today’s post is the second in a series entitled Cloud in Action in which I hope to provide real life examples of how the Cloud can improve the way we all do business. Cloud is not about technology, it is about business and how we are are able to grow our companies faster.

Last Friday I went to London to meet with a potential client. We had a great meeting, and as it drew to a close my potential client used the phrase that is often used at the end of a meeting (especially on a Friday), “So what are you doing now, have you got to go back to work?”

In my previous employment the answer would have been a wholehearted ”Yes” because I couldn’t function out of the office.

I had a Blackberry – but responding to emails on one is not very professional – even with the best will in the world you know it has come from a Blackberry. I had a laptop, which had VPN software on it, but I couldn’t access key systems like the CRM system, or the Finance system over the VPN. I couldn’t access our intranet over the VPN either so it was difficult to find phone numbers of colleagues.

Last Friday was different.

Because my business runs on the Cloud, every business application I use, from Email, to Documents, Spreadsheets, Shared Calendars, Intranets, Accounts, Cash-flow, P&L, Balance Sheets, Marketing Campaigns, Sales Processes, Dashboards, Reports and Service Tickets is all accessed through the web browser. I didn’t have to go back to work. I was at work.

First off I went back to Paddington and dropped into Starbucks whilst I waited for my train. I plugged in my Vodafone 3G dongle into the Macbook and was online. I was able to update my CRM system with the notes of the meeting, and change the opportunity value, immediately updating the Dashboards and reports for the rest of the company to see on their iPhones.

I was able to log in to our Accounts system and reconcile some bank activity that had automatically fed through from HSBC to Xero (our Accounting system) – some Salesforce training I had paid for, a new flip chart, and even the train ticket for this trip that I had bought earlier in the week.

My train was ready and I jumped on, and through the next hour I was able to work on the emails that had come in during the morning. One of these was for a new Top 10 Guide for my company’s website. Because the marketing agency use Google Apps as well they was able to share the document with me, and we could collaborate on the document together in real-time with me making changes to the active document as I hurtle along the Thames Valley. No attachments to be sent around or multiple versions to analyse.

I did make it back in to the office for 4.30pm and I had no backlog of activity. I was up to date. In fact, with running my Accounts reconciliation back in London I was ahead of schedule and was able to spend a decent amount of time on a follow-up email to the prospect I had met in the morning.

I hope you have found this post helpful. Do you use Google Apps to work outside of the office? Would you feel comfortable using a Cloud based Accounting system?