The term Cloud Integration is relatively new and has been used extensively during the past decade.
You may be wondering as a business owner, why is this important to you?
Well, if business efficiency, profit margin, streamlined supply chain and scaling your business are important to you, being familiar with Cloud Integration is essential and it has the opportunity to achieve all these things and more.
2013 is where Xero started to emerge, the accounting package, and we started to understand the relationship between the accounting package and the point of sale and how this could make businesses more efficient.
It was a meeting with the managing director of Xero in 2013 where he listened to what we were doing for businesses and he coined the term, he said 'you guys are cloud integrators.' It was at the meeting in 2013 where a cloud integrator was actually born.
What does cloud integration mean for you as a business?
As more and more businesses look to adopt new technologies, mostly these are cloud-based apps. A cloud-based application is simply an application that is accessed via the internet and all of the main processing and storage is carried out in the ‘cloud’ not on premise.
For most businesses, a simple example of this is Xero Accounting Software. Instead of having the software installed on a computer or server, the cloud-based Xero is hosted on computer servers in Australia or anywhere in the world. They provide a promise of 99.9% uptime, which means there is a very small chance of failure.
Cloud integration would assist your business if you were using Xero to have this software ‘linked’ to another software to provide a different solution. For example, if you operated a retail shop, you would have your cloud-based Point of Sale (POS) system ‘integrated’ to your accounting software. At the end of the day, your daily sales takings from your POS would-be ‘automatically’ sent over to the accounting software. That night, your bank account would ‘automatically’ send the daily transactions into the accounting software too.
Before cloud integration, this process would be completed at the end of the week or month by your ‘partner’, bookkeeper or accountant. All of this would take time and could end up with more errors, these errors would take more time to find and fix...costing you more money!
This very simple example of cloud integration just goes to show the advantages of cloud-based software for your business, be it a sole trader, small, medium or enterprise.
How does cloud integration differ from a ‘cloud app connector’?
What I expected to read about and what I actually read, were two different things. I actually read the article a lot more intently than expected as I tried to figure out what they really meant. Like any new terms recently coined, they can be open to interpretation. What I concluded was, they are calling Automation Tools, Cloud Based Connectors or Cloud Integration Tools.
Why Automation Tools Are Not Cloud Integrators
Automation Tools like Zapier, Automate.io or Tray.io which are all similar in how they work. You connect one software and it looks for ‘triggers’ and then does something in one or more other software. We use this extensively in our business for non-essential systems or one way inject of data.
For example, we recently ran some courses and had an event registered with Eventbrite which sold the tickets. The Eventbrite sale would trigger Zapier, from here Zapier added the sale details to a Google Sheet, triggered a Slack message for the team and added the details into PipeDrive. Great, just what we needed!!!
However, if we needed to change the registered participants’ details, we would need to ‘manually’ edit them in Eventbrite, manually update the Google Sheet plus PipeDrive.
This cloud app connector is good for a one-way integration of specific tasks only.
Yes, this saved us time for those ticket sales that didn’t need to be edited. The problems and headaches come if you need to edit the automated task. Understanding what a cloud app connector can do and more important “can not do” is critical.
Many businesses that are new to cloud-based apps, often talk about cloud app connectors thinking they will solve all of their integration problems, especially if there is no native connection. This is a concern as it can often cause more problems than they solve and leave the business in a worse state.
Cloud app connectors are not intuitive. They don't have the ability to understand your business processes like a Cloud Integrator does.
The best cloud integration for applications utilises the native connection of one software to another. Sometimes, this is a one-way integration between two cloud-based apps and it is the business owner, software provider or cloud integrator to know the best solution. This cloud integrator isn’t a piece of software, it is a business that specialises in knowing how cloud integration works between different cloud-based applications.
As a leading cloud integrator, SMB Consultants does NOT recommend the use of Zapier for a business to connect critical software for their business unless they have a staff member internally that is capable of supporting it. Inherently, these connections can break and are not supported by the software companies so they are not good solutions for updating critical data. We strongly recommend the use of native integrations which are built by the software vendor you are trying to connect/integrate. They are well supported and are already being used by thousands of end users.
What is a Cloud Integrator?
Like a car mechanic is an expert or specialist in a certain brand of car, a cloud integrator is a specialist in certain brands of software. In most cases, cloud integrators specialise in specific fields and often don’t cross over. A great example of this is:
These businesses have expertise in specific areas and if your business doesn’t fit into their area of knowledge, they will introduce you to another cloud integrator who can help. As experts, you know that you will be in capable hands to guide you through the plethora of choices around cloud-based apps.
A perfect example of this is when a business owner attempts to find a solution that they believe would be a good fit. They sign up for a 14-day trial thinking it will be a piece of cake and they will quickly understand how the new platform works. During this 14-day trial, they start using the system with their existing workflows thinking this is how you would use it, however, quickly realise that new systems sometimes require a new workflow. This could be something as simple as new terminology like a Collection or Family instead of Category, they might send an invoice before shipping goods but the system isn’t set up this way.
Quickly they get frustrated that this new fancy cloud-based app is nowhere near as good as pen and paper or Excel. This struggle blocks the business owners mind to new software that can and will change his business and make the entire team more efficient.
How many times have you started a 14-day trial of some software and it became too hard and never went back?
Why use Cloud Integrator?
A Cloud Integrator will discuss your business with you first, then provide a recommendation of the right software to fulfil your requirements...not the other way around.
Going straight to a vendor can sometimes feel like ‘a square peg into a round hole’ experience, where they sell you on their solution. Utilising a cloud integrator will provide you with more of an insight into the full stack of solutions for your business from an agnostic point of view..
Let’s take a wholesale business that sells online plus allows walk-in sales at their warehouse, they might require 4 or 5 key software to cover their requirements, such as:
Inventory management software
eCommerce shopping cart
Point of Sale
Shipping and fulfilment
Accounting including Debtor management
Payments (online, point of sale and wholesale via invoice)
Loyalty across online and POS
This is 10x applications
How do they all talk and integrate?
Which one do you connect to what?
How do your workflows fit this new type of software?
This is where a Cloud Integrator becomes invaluable by being intuitive, understanding your business processes, making the right recommendations for cloud based apps for your business then supporting you to enable a smooth transition for your business to be cloud based.
Cloud integration can provide a wealth of efficiencies for businesses and allow them to be more productive. On the other hand, if not set up correctly in the beginning can cause countless problems and potentially have counter productive results.
Just remember, like any other business decision if a Cloud Integrator recommends a product and/or solution you should carry out due diligence yourself before accepting the recommendation.
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