A lot of business owners put off making big decisions – like transitioning their company to running on the cloud – because they fear change. They’re reluctant to undertake a major overhaul because they know that difficulties will arise, and there will be a learning curve for their staff.
For the most part, they’re right. Change is a struggle. But it’s a struggle worth taking on. My advice to entrepreneurs considering making the switch to a cloud-based office is to take a deep breath, get a few things in place ahead of time, and dive right in! If you follow these steps, your transition will be smooth and will put you on the road to flexibility you’ve only dreamed of.
The key to a seamless transition to the cloud is doing your homework and making a workable plan.
First, you want to pick your date. There actually is a very best day for major business transitions – January 1st. While everyone else in the world is sleeping off a hangover, you have a full day to make you changes and start working out the bugs before the world returns to work. A new fiscal year makes record keeping easier, and since you’re likely to do little actual business, you’ll be able to focus on your transition. Working out the kinks on a slow day lets you troubleshoot without the stress of impatient customers.
Next, you’ll want to make a list of all the applications and programs you use and sort them into three categories: apps you use daily, ones you use monthly, and ones that you use occasionally or only for special purposes. How frequently you use an app will determine exactly how you transition it.
For apps you use daily – word processing, phone service, accounting – you’ll ideally want to port all of your information directly – say, from QuickBooks to QuickBoooks Online. If that’s not an option, you’ll need to find a full replacement. Keep in mind that any replacement will have differences, and you’ll want to familiarize yourself with those differences ahead of time. Apps you use monthly can be replaced by cloud-based alternatives, and apps that you use infrequently may not need to be cloud-based at all. It doesn’t make sense to spend the time and money looking for alternatives for programs that you seldom use.
Once you have your cloud-based applications selected, you should select your test users, and I strongly recommend that you don’t rely on your IT people for this task. You want to get a feel for how the folks who will actually be in the trenches – the ones who will have to use the new tech to do their jobs – will interact with the new programs. Once your test users are comfortable, you’re ready to roll the cloud out to the rest of the company, using your new experts as support staff.
If it’s possible, you should plan to run parallel for a few weeks. Now I know that running parallel is double the work, but if you have a problem, you’ll be glad you did it. Keeping the old system up for a brief period ensures that your customers don’t experience any troubles getting the same great service they’re used to.
Finally, since your business is now cloud-based, you need to develop an emergency plan – figure out what you’ll do if something goes wrong. Think I’m overreacting? When Superstorm Sandy swept through my neck of the woods, I managed to keep my business running from an emergency shelter. How? I’d already planned and tested how my office would handle needing to work in less-than-ideal circumstances. Knowing that if the power goes out you can still do business is key.
Is it a lot of work to get your business up and running on the cloud? You bet! Is it worth it to get flexibility and increased productivity? Absolutely. While making the transition in a day may not be ideal, it is possible, which demonstrates that you shouldn’t be afraid to make the leap.