You’d have to have been off-planet not to have heard of the benefits of cloud computing. Putting data, programs and applications into an Internet world and away from a local physical environment such as a PC or server gives huge potential advantages. Typically these include the ability to access data anytime, anywhere, using whatever connected device is at hand. As long as we have Internet connectivity, we can enjoy all the benefits of being in the office, including security, upgrades and scalability, while on the move. 

However, if you’re a small business, the prospect of changing the IT approach of your whole enterprise can be daunting. If only there was a way to enjoy the benefits of the cloud without the overhead of time and effort required to get it set up and running.

In fact there is. Using cloud-based products, even small companies can use cloud technology to reduce administration, streamline business efficiency and improve management decision making. For any company facing the problems of paper based manual systems, cloud-based products can deliver a high rate of return on investment in a short time.

For instance, R&S Building Services employs some 36 staff. Their engineers working away from base found it almost impossible to raise purchase orders (POs) as the existing system was paper based and very laborious to use. After filling in the required documents, these had to be sent to Head Office for approval, and then put into the administrative system to await further action.

The procedure was fraught with issues such as delays in approval, and the lack of overall transparency and control meant that budgets were often exceeded. Introducing a cloud-based product for POs and supplier invoices meant they could replace the paper based system. They introduced a low cost product with entry level access, and the ability to grow the system capability as company needs grow. As a result, they have a system capable of being accessed anywhere via an Internet connection, and on almost any platform including mobile and tablet.

Alex Norton, Director of R&S commented: “Being on screen means we now have full visibility of the status of all orders and supplier invoices, and this has added a new level of control into our business. It also means that communication with our suppliers has improved significantly, as has the delivery of items often required urgently. Overall adoption of the Purchase Order and Supplier Invoice system has saved us time, money and improved the delivery of our services to our clients, something that is core to our business philosophy.”

In another example, Carnoustie Management Committee, who will be hosting the 2018 Open Golf Championship, replaced paper-based systems and streamlined its accounts function using a cloud-based PO system. With three golf courses and four departments spread across its site, previous manual systems were proving impractical. A specification for a new system was created, covering a range of issues from budgetary controls to purchasing and invoice workflow approvals for both orders and supplier invoices – even how to deal with complex fuel purchases.

After implementation, system users now have the ability to upload supporting documents to support the POs such as delivery notes and quotations. The online product also allows approved supplier invoice data to be exported as a CSV file for transfer to the Company’s SAGE accounts system.

Dianne McDonald, Finance Manager and system sponsor, commented: “Our system makes the whole procurement process easier to monitor and control. We took our time in arriving at the final system specification, having consulted with key team members, to ensure that we brought everyone with us in terms of how the system works. Whilst the 2018 Open is a key event for us, the system will ensure that we are more efficient all the time!”

As well as purchasing procedures, other common business procedures can benefit from moving to cloud products, including HR: store and maintain key staff records and update time sheets; holiday requests anyone? Business contracts, expenses and document management are moving this way too. Even the smallest business can focus on what it does best, and enjoy future-proofed modern processes with minimal up-front capital expenditure.