Recently I left my job at Microsoft Trinidad and Tobago to re-emerge to the life of entrepreneurship. Needless to say the invaluable knowledge gained has given me the confidence to make better decisions in all aspects of my new ventures. I have always been a fan of Microsoft tools, Excel and I go way back, we’re currently inseparable, so bias is a definite factor after being allowed in the tech industry. Due to the relatively small size of our region, my job role touched four aspects of the business and I had to rely on multiple strengths to survive. Regardless of my focus on any given day, the Cloud played an integral role to my productivity. I intend to adopt similar tools and processes for my business which has lead me down the path of Office 365. From the surface (pun may have been intentional), O365 allows you to communicate via email and Skype for Business seamlessly because your device doesn’t determine the way you reach your clients, internet does. As a small business owner with limiting funding, one laptop and a mobile phone are the essentials needed, especially when it’s a service focused company. Although your productivity levels may decrease in the event of a laptop malfunction, the Cloud allows a seamless transition to whatever solution your business may need to find for your hardware. When you delve (gosh this keeps happening!) into the add-ons such as Sharepoint, OneDrive and Office Online tools, you discover the true potential of an Online Office. Once you have the capacity or the resource to assist with the setup, it’s actually a life saver. Depending on your business, your needs may go beyond timely emails and accessible information. Every business needs an accounting system, back in the day it was a well-designed Excel spreadsheet, now we have programs such as Peachtree and Quickbooks. I have worked with Quickbooks in the past and I decided to revisit their site to download it to my desktop but lo and behold the Cloud options are being shoved down my figurative throat. The desktop option is offered but you have to scroll to the bottom and even then the cloud options are right next to it. Really Intuit, really?
Let’s go back to O365, as I have two businesses and wanted them both on this platform. My entertainment company, Collision Entertainment, has over five emails and in my ignorance was under the impression that I could assign just one to the Cloud. Well lookie here…..I was wrong! I also learnt shifting your email system should not be executed at your peak time. #SchoolGirlError Through self-learning and a customer service representative with an Asian accent, I managed to redirect the DNS and set up three of the emails, which is 6USD per month for each email. Admittedly setting up the full suite of O365 is not an easy task and most of Microsoft partners will not see value in assisting small businesses as the revenue will be minimal. It’s clear that we’re no longer heading to the Cloud, we all live there. Facebook, Gmail, Dropbox and so many more online tools that we use operate on a Cloud and the idea of paying for something we live on for free for so long takes a while to digest. It also has to be included in your variable expenses, because 6USD over a 5 year period is 360USD or 2,304TTD has to be accounted for and with more than one user it definitely adds up to a sizable chunk for more any small business. For my service focused business, the Cloud for my accounting program makes little sense for me and I had to do some research to make that decision. I also have a minor issue with companies trying to give me an ultimatum without identifying the needs of my business. Granted all business owners should know what they require to increase productivity, not everyone is sophisticated enough to translate it to the right tools. The Cloud providers should also take into consideration their customers’ environment, because most of us in the Caribbean do not have access to reliable high speed internet. Instead of showing us all the pricing tiers for your Cloud services, give us an option to take a short survey to identify the business needs and the environment we operate in, which will generate what will work best. Not only will you have a less confused customer, but they will feel a bit more valued. Ultimately, I would not advised any business in the Caribbean to operate on a Cloud-only approach but do your research and then do some more research. Google (or Bing) are your friends, invite them to your homes, daily. #GooglePHD