How cloud technology can help SMBs to compete [Q&A]
Smaller businesses have always found it hard to compete against their larger rivals, but that's starting to change as technology allows a leveling of the playing field.
So how can technology, and in particular the cloud, help to give smaller companies an edge? We spoke to John Buni, CEO and co-founder of the CleanCloud SaaS platform and founder of bespoke tailoring company Tailor Made London, to find out.
BN: Isn't it always going to be difficult for smaller businesses to go up against dominant players, especially in the internet age?
JB: Not necessarily. When e-commerce and Amazon in particular started to make its presence known in the retail sector, it was the "stack 'em high, sell 'em cheap" companies -- the ones that offered a homogenized product at low cost --that suffered the most. When it comes to convenience and price, the big digital businesses will always come out on top. But smaller businesses, such as boutique clothing stores, beauticians, barbers and florists, endured the 'retail apocalypse' and have often flourished. They promise something different: a great customer experience, a sense of discovery and real originality. Smaller businesses can thrive so long as they focus on what they do best, and this is what we're seeing the dry cleaning industry.
BN: Can technology help smaller businesses deliver a more personalized experience?
JB: Absolutely, if indirectly. Creating a great customer experience is all about making the individual person feel important, and small-business owners can only do this if they aren't weighed down by menial tasks. Technology such as CleanCloud can take these tasks off their hands, and once business owners are emancipated from the need to do these basic tasks, they can dedicate much more time to providing a very personal experience for the customer.
BN: What's the advantage of adopting a SaaS solution?
JB: There are many. First of all, we live in a dynamic digital world in which technology ages quickly. If you buy a one-off, off-the-shelf solution, it might go out of date within a year or so. You also have to manage and maintain that software to some extent, and make sure you look after any data you might store. A SaaS solution is centrally managed, centrally secured, and kept up to date. To put it slightly differently, our clients don't have to worry about keeping encrypting information or upgrading anything. We do that. And in traditional industries where technological proficiency can be lower than average, having someone else take care of these functions is an added benefit. A SaaS solution is also a 'greener' solution.
BN: Is it easy to migrate data from other platforms?
JB: It depends. If a system can export its data in a standard .CSV file then yes, it is. We've moved data from systems that are more than 20 years old in the past. It's really down to the original host of that data.
BN: How does the technology cope as the business grows?
JB: It's important that any platform is fully scalable. With CleanCloud for example we could accommodate 100,000 users tomorrow if we wanted or needed to do so. Suppliers need to be sure to future-proof the business for exactly this reason, otherwise they risk being limited by scale.