Whether it’s for administrative, production, or marketing initiatives, migrating to the cloud brings significant benefits to businesses of all sizes. One of those benefits, and one that is the easiest to implement, is collaboration. Let’s take a closer look at this low-hanging fruit from the cloud.
When more than two people are collaborating on a project, even something as simple as a document, the number of files in existence can grow exponentially. Even the most simple projects can easily spiral out of control. In addition to real-time confusion, there is the possibility that, at some point, it can become virtually impossible to ensure which is the correct file. It can also be embarrassing to send documents to third parties that still have unaccepted tracked changes in them.
Working in this way means that only one person can work on the document at a time. Otherwise, revisions and additions can get lost without a coordinated handoff at each stage.
The reverse is also true. In a typical print environment, FTP folders are used for large files. However, FTP folders are unforgiving in terms of version control. If a file is uploaded with the same name as an existing file in the folder, the newer file overwrites the older one permanently, erasing what could have been a potentially better file.
Switching to G Suite by Google Cloud or Office 365 can solve these problems. One document is posted online, and all changes are made in that document. There is only on version, eliminating confusion. More than one person can be operating in the document at the same time. Once users become proficient with Google’s version of a spreadsheet, there are a multitude of functions you now have that you wouldn’t have in the desktop version, such as importing real-time data into an Excel cell (stock ticker value, currency exchange rate, search volume for any keyword, among others).
Here’s a real-life example: Every Friday, one company would send an Excel spreadsheet to 25 employees and ask them to fill in their salient data—sales calls, information updates, and other items. The owner would receive 25 spreadsheets back, and he would combine them all into a single master. That was a massive time sink! After switching to G Suite by Google Cloud, however, the client now puts one spreadsheet online, emails a link to the 25 employees, and has them enter their individual data. There is one file to work with, and everyone has better visibility into the project. The client receives notifications when changes occur, and his time is reclaimed to spend on more productive tasks.
Collaboration is perhaps the most common reason for adopting cloud production. There are other kinds of collaboration beyond working on an individual file, and there are cloud-based solutions for all of them.
Project management is another form of collaboration. Cloud software identifies who is working on what file, what each person is responsible for, what the due dates are, and whether specific tasks have been completed. Software like Slack or Basecamp let everyone involved interact in more or less real time. Projects can have embedded videos, live links, and dropped-in content from other cloud services that keeps information current.
Another collaborative solution is scheduling. Do you hold RSVP-based open house events for your customers? Do you handle more than one delivery service? Do you schedule agency-style meeting with clients? All of these things can be monitored, shared, and tracked utilizing the cloud.
There are also important benefits for CRM. This software is used by print businesses to track the points of contact between print salespeople and specific clients or prospects. Where was x client last contacted and by whom? When did they last produce a job with us? Were there any problems with that job? What’s the status of ongoing projects? Cloud solutions provide visibility and real-time updates to management, as well as anyone else in the team whom management approves.
Moving collaboration to the cloud can be one of the best business decisions a company can make, as it vastly improves communication, clarity, and accuracy. When time is money, that’s worth a lot of Benjamins.
Source: Adapted from Cloud Production: A New Path to Profitability (How to Benefit from Cloud Automation), by Slava Apel and Joseph W. Webb, Ph.D., 2017.