Cloud and Mobile Synergy: The Impact on Automation

By Matt Fates

Since its birth in 2000, cloud computing has evolved rapidly. Organizations of all sizes and industries are shifting their infrastructure and data into the cloud. Even companies in traditionally change-resistant sectors are waking up to the fact that cloud solutions cut costs and risks and drive greater productivity.

While security remains a concern for cloud computing, a study from the Cloud Security Alliance found that 65 percent of security officers and IT managers think the cloud is at least as secure as on-premise software. Getting beyond the security concern represents an important tipping point, but the cloud is really about scalable and flexible back-end processes. It’s about the ability to harness massive IT resources on demand.

But how do organizations deliver the benefits of cloud to non-IT staff and stretch the boundaries of the major benefits beyond the office?

The answer is mobile. Cloud plus mobile is responsible for delivering next-generation cloud-based solutions for business-to-business applications—and far beyond.

Another major wave of new combined solutions—with cloud as the backbone and mobile as the delivery vehicle or interface—is evolving to bring more automation. This is resulting in immense efficiency increases that are far deeper than what organizations experience today. This will enable companies to further streamline, automate, and measure tasks and workflows to increase productivity, resulting in faster revenue growth.

It’s no secret that practically unlimited computing power is now available via flexible cloud infrastructure, which is becoming ubiquitous in the business community. That alone is transformative. But when combined with the ever-present smartphone and our expectation as users that “there’s an app for that,” the possibilities are boundless.

Cases for which software has been widely adopted will be refreshed wholesale. Think ERP, CRM, human resources management (HRM) and areas of business that have traditionally been resistant to automation and change. They are now fair game for new approaches. 

For those who don’t see the significance of this combination—individuals who believe traditional B2B software will now merely be hosted in the cloud and accessible via smart phone—let’s probe deeper.

Combining Cloud With Mobile for B2B Automation

Software companies relentlessly seek ways to identify opportunity and automate business processes, driving out costs and increasing speed and efficiency. This has become standard in the physical office environment.

The game changer is when employees are not tethered to their desks and the promise of software automation takes on additional complexity. Almost every industry strives to be mobile, but the only way to effectively move in this direction is to combine cloud with mobile for B2B automation.

According to research firm comScore, almost every adult in the United States has a smartphone with a direct connection to flexible cloud-based applications. And training is unnecessary, as most of us are well-versed in how to use our devices.

So asking mobile workers to use many of the same tools for work that they use for their personal lives (smartphones, cameras, social platforms) is no big deal. However, it can dramatically improve communication, collaboration and productivity while on the go.

The potential overall impact is endless. Salespeople in the field can place orders directly into ERP systems, eliminating pen-and-paper and re-entry errors. They can access order history and run analytics on trends for specific accounts—all while sitting in their car. The added preparedness and efficiency proves invaluable.

Human resources is another industry that is hugely affected by the marriage of cloud and mobile. Using cloud analytics, HR can drive greater employee engagement by leveraging a modern mobile user interface.

Historically, HR “engagement” software adoption has been very low, and the ROI has been weak. Now, with nearly all employees having a smartphone—and a growing science about what truly motivates people—the combination of cloud and mobile has the potential to finally make these offerings take hold.

Even pesky tasks such as populating timesheets are easier and less annoying for employees who are mobile during the day. With access to apps in real time, such items can be received and processed by employers via the cloud.

The possibilities are infinite. Physicians can access and update medical records from anywhere in the hospital. Customers have the ability to bank from anywhere at all. Customer service has evolved past the call center to online video chat and other cloud-based platforms. Employees in chain stores and restaurants can toss the logbooks and go through digital checklists that are all tracked centrally in real time. And the list goes on.

Some argue that these offerings have been available for a while. That’s true, but adoption was paltry because the infrastructure was too clunky and inconsistent, and the mobile interface was hard to use—subtracting from productivity instead of adding to it.

The combination of cloud and mobile-first development has changed the game for B2B automation, and the next wave of tech-driven productivity gains is upon us.

Matt Fates is general partner of Ascent Venture Partners and has worked with emerging technology companies since 1996.