Time is money, as the old saying goes, but new technologies like cloud computing are helping businesses to save both. In this second of our multi-part feature, we look at how the cloud can benefit any-sized organisation within the professional services sector, and why now is the time for you to adopt cloud technology in your business.
Read about the benefits that cloud computing has to offer the manufacturing industry in the first part of our feature here.
When you face customer, competitive and operational challenges – as many businesses within the professional services sector frequently do – then it’s crucial to have a robust IT infrastructure that’s cost-effective and enterprise applications that give you a strategic footing in most everyday business processes.
It should come as no surprise then, to hear that nearly 90% of UK businesses now use cloud computing in one form or another – according to technology marketing research business Vanson Bourne – especially when you consider the importance that’s placed on 24/7 connectivity and seamless communication in the business world of today. Having the right technology to meet these needs can mean the difference between success and a costly mistake.
Time is money – Areas in the professional services sector where cloud technology is making a difference
Professional service providers – such as accountancy practices, IT support, financial advisers and law firms – are known for having a good overview of other people’s organisations, typically when they are offering some form of business support. But in order to maximise the success of their own business also, many professional service providers are now using cloud-based applications including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) to improve efficiencies and strengthen customer relationships.
Streamlined invoicing process
Invoicing is a regular chore for any company that charges for its services on a cost-per-time basis. In particular, many accountancy firms often have the added task of sending out and paying invoices on behalf of their own clients as well. There is a lot of individual invoice data that needs to be taken into consideration, such as differing hourly rates when it comes to charging for individual staff members’ time, material costs, expenses and any other information pertaining to the linked account.
Cloud computing makes invoicing more efficient and accurate by removing the need for paper-based documents almost entirely. Companies that are manually calculating invoices and dealing with multiple sources of paper-based data will be spending a lot of unnecessary time and resources gathering the information they need for invoicing; they will likely be finding it difficult to keep track; and they may be experiencing the loss of important information, which can either be misplaced or incorrectly transferred over to an electronic system.
Things are made even trickier if employees are working away from the office and taking a long time to submit their time sheets and expenses.
The cloud simultaneously streamlines the tasks of collating, reviewing and processing invoices. Employees can enter time and expenses online from wherever they are working that day, for that day, which makes for more efficient and accurate processing and issuing of invoices back at the office.
Secure client data
As well as the aforementioned financial information, professional service providers typically work with other forms of important and sensitive client information on a daily basis. Law firms, for example, have an obligation to keep legal and confidential materials safe, whilst IT support companies have a similar duty pertaining to the security of their client’s IT information, such as user passwords, IP addresses and website and email access.
If this kind of data was ever lost, or inaccessible because of a software or hardware malfunction, then the outcome would be detrimental, not just from the client’s standpoint but for the service provider also; possibly even leading to legal ramifications.
Because data is safely stored and backed up in the cloud, client information remains safe and accessible in the event of a system failure that may occur on-premise. The same thing can be said for the event of hardware theft. Cloud security is consistently getting better as the technology advances and further emphasis is placed on the EU Data Protection Regulation, which aims to unify data protection laws to meet the challenges of the digital age and, in particular, strengthen the protection of data in the cloud.
Reputable cloud service providers can dedicate the time and resources to maintaining the best (enterprise-grade) defenses in the industry, which can’t often be said for businesses managing their own IT infrastructure on-site.
Tip: Make sure you choose a cloud solution designed for business use, not personal use, and always check the security credentials of your prospective cloud providers.
For further information about security, take a look at our related article “Is cloud computing secure?”
Wider scope for collaboration
Whether you’re collaborating with an internal team or working alongside clients, the ability to share data, regardless of where users are located at the time, and keep up-to-date with the latest project developments is essential.
Cloud computing enables those who require it access to specific information, both onsite and remotely. Everyone can work from exactly the same version of a file or document as opposed to having to have multiple versions in existence with people working on them from different locations. Not only does this cut down on the time and costs involved, it also removes barriers between the professional service providers and their customers, fostering trust and longevity in their working relationship.
Can you think of any other ways that the cloud is helping today’s professional service companies? Let us know in the comments below.
Read about NetSuite for professional services companies here.