Innovation pressures are leaving many SMEs stretching for the cloud

This week my article comes to you live from the Microsoft Australian Partner Conference in Cairns. I have been attending these conferences for the past few years and watching Microsoft steer its community of partners in the direction of the cloud.

The message a couple of years ago was “Microsoft is all in” (the cloud). Then it was all about Office 365 and all the integrated applications that were about to be released across its range of business applications.

This year the theme is “Connect”. Microsoft wants us to be connected to the web, connected to our Microsoft Cloud platforms and connected to each other. They also want us to be using their latest products that are all connected to each other.

Microsoft is boasting about the technology refresh across their huge range of products. From Exchange 2012 to Lync 2013 all the way to Xbox, which integrates with the new Windows 8. It has also released cloud solutions from Office 365 to Dynamics online.

Microsoft has claimed Office365 is officially the fastest growth product by revenue in Microsoft history, hitting $1 billion in sales faster than any previous product released. So it is pretty sure it is on a winner with that as a focus for the future.

So are we getting more connected and should we be adopting this new era of cloud computing?

Well it has to come down to what is in it for me. We do not want to give our hard-earned dollars away to Microsoft just because they tell us to get connected. So we need a return on investment.

Microsoft is sure it is creating value for us and of course has great stories about how its technology is being used to work smarter and get better results. It is not just about expanding from $8 billion dollar product lines in 2010 to 16 product lines in 2013 bringing in over $1 billion each. It is about you, your clients and your success and enjoyment.

The good news is that if you are keen to make use of Microsoft’s new cloud solutions, you are not alone, estimates are that 45% of IT budgets are to adopt cloud technology at the moment, which is putting pressure on IT service providers to update their capabilities and be ready to move in that direction.

The clear message from Microsoft to the partner community this year is that the partner community needs to learn faster to keep up with the rate of product releases coming out of Microsoft to help their clients get the most out of the capabilities of the new tools. Innovation is happening so fast that the IT service providers are struggling to keep up and Microsoft wants to help us learn more.

When you as the consumer of technology stop and think about that for a moment, you will realise that it means many of your service providers are not keeping up, and are not necessarily offering you the best advice on current technology for lack of recent training.

The pressure on the IT community to learn and assist clients right now is greater than it has ever been. This also means there are more opportunities to develop new business aspects than ever before. There are also new ways to improve your business that will take an innovative IT company to help you discover.

If you have internal IT staff, what training do you have planned for them to ensure they have this year’s up-to-date knowledge? Are they innovating in your business or are they part of the legacy system that is holding you back?

Now of course not all businesses have anything to gain from innovation in the technology space. Many of you will resent the concept of change for the sake of change; many of you know there is a better system out there, but won’t invest in the process of change. Who is out there that can see a better way to do business that will eclipse the competition? For you, there are answers out there, just send in your questions.

I just grabbed Pip Marlow, the CEO of Microsoft Australia, at the evening’s cocktail party and asked her for a quote. Her comment was, “If you are an SME business not in the business of IT you need to find a good Microsoft Partner who is up to date to help you innovate. Your clients are becoming tech-savvy and will engage with business differently, through technology, and so the marketplace is shifting and being technology-driven. If you do not innovate to be meeting your clients where they are, others will.”

Next week, I will be at the Xero partner conference looking at how Xero is changing the accountant’s landscape with their “Modern Office” concept. I know they saw a better way!

David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.


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