Every Business Needs the Cloud, Period.

Computers are everywhere. Just look around: you’ll see full PCs in everything from info kiosks to the seating system at restaurants, and smaller networked devices in barcode scanners, fuel pumps, and more. Everything’s computerized, networked, which makes our world insanely great, more efficient, and cost effective.

Well, not exactly. The world is computerized, but so many companies aren’t taking advantage of the simplicity and efficiency gains that web apps could bring. They’ve got the equipment to do it, but simply aren’t taking advantage of it.

Why is this a problem? It all starts with a pizza order…

So I call a national hotline…

Calling to order pizza is nothing new. We’ve been doing it long before everyone was expected to have an email address to be considered a person. Now, in the past we might have called our local pizza restaurant directly, but it doesn’t seem surprising at all to call a national call center to order pizza from a shop two blocks away. That’s what the internet has done to us, right?

So I ordered pizza last night from Pizza Company’s national number here in Thailand, telling the local location I wanted to pick up the pizza at. Everything was good, and we’d be ready to eat in a half hour.

And then the phone rung 5 minutes later. Our local pizza shop didn’t have the pizzas we wanted, and needed to change our order. Nothing major, but it took another 5 minutes on the phone before our order was finally finalized.

And this all could have been avoided with the cloud

The thing that struck me about it is that the second call could have been completely avoided. Completely. Think: the national call center and the local shop both have computers and network, which is how the main office placed my order and the local shop even knew about it. With that, the main office should have easily been able to see if the local shop was sold out of the things I was ordering, guiding me to fix my order and get everything straight with the first call.

This is just a tiny example of how powerful basic online software can be for businesses. Technology isn’t just for tech-centric businesses; as Marc Andreessen said, software is eating the world today. Businesses that leverage technology can thrive and grow like never before, while businesses that don’t will stagnate and get left behind.

Think back to the pizza restaurant. What if they kept a basic list of their stock and sells, throughout the day, on an online app (hey, even a spreadsheet in Google Docs would work)? Then, at the call center, staff could easily see what was available and suggest the items that were overstocked to potential customers. They could even, perhaps, run targeted local social network ads in real-time, offering discounts on things they needed to sell before expiration dates. Do this in a more formalized way, and the combination of data could show real-time sales and stock trends throughout the nation. The amazing thing is how simple this could be today, and it likely wouldn’t require anything beyond the standard computers they’ve already got in their stores.

Tools are only what we make of them

Companies so often embrace social networking and the web wrong. They treat their websites as glossy print ads, and social networking as people taking flyers while walking by their stands at the mall. These tools can be much more valuable to businesses than that. They can be used to offer real-time discounts based on what you really need to sell, helping businesses cut waste, increase sales, and make their fans feel like they’re really getting a good deal.

It sounds silly, thinking that much about a slightly messed up pizza order. But when companies need to find better ways to compete, the web has a million ways to make sales, stocking, and more a zillion times more efficient than it could have been in the past.

Don’t let the potential go to waste. Your business can’t afford to let the opportunity of the cloud pass you by.


Add Yours
  • It’s unbelievable to me that we still need to convince people to use the cloud. I can’t even begin to tell you how hard it was to explain to my dad, who is a small business owner, what the cloud was and why he needed to use cloud apps to keep his team connected and cut costs; especially since he is always working on the go.

    • Agreed. We’re making progress; 10 years ago or so, it was tough convincing people why they should use a webmail account like Gmail instead of their ISP’s POP3 account, since even if they wanted to use a native mail app there’s a lot of advantages to being able to check it online. I presume we’ll get there … but it’s sad to see businesses get eaten by larger companies that are using these tools to their advantage when really anyone could use them!

  • I live in Thailand and I order from Pizza Company a lot.
    They actually have a website that I you order from. But if some items were’t available, instead of updating the site, and stop me from ordering it in the first place. They’d just call me 5 minutes later to tell me that it’s not available.

    • Oh neat! Right, I’ve never even given their website a try. I was going to try ordering from their iOS app, but it wasn’t working … always seems to die when they add a new promotion.

      Goes to show why they really need to embrace the cloud. Them, and millions of other businesses around the globe!

  • Yeah the cloud is a great idea, until Homeland Security takes down yours because someone may or may not have posted a song there.

    • There definitely are concerns with the cloud. Though, honestly, you could do the same type of things with your own servers, and if you encrypt your network traffic, you’ll be basically as safe as you would be using any local computer.

      Plus: if they’re already using computers and the internet to send orders or other basic things, then they might as well put it to its fullest use :)

  • To be honest, I never tried cloud and might not try it in future also. I feel there is lot of security loopholes due to which my data over cloud server is not secure. How many of you are really using cloud servers?

  • I know nothing about Thailand pizzas, but how can a pizza place not have a pizza you want? Is it not made fresh every time you order? Are they selling pre-made frozen pizzas? If so, why would you want to order from them?
    In the US you tell them I want a square pizza with pineapple, tomatoes and onions and they make it from scratch (maybe minus hand-making the dough).

    • The pizzas are made fresh, but their dough is apparently premade, because often they won’t have enough if you try to order, say, a half-dozen large pizzas for a party. And, frozen pizzas aren’t something widely sold here anyhow. Trust me, you’d still likely order from them if you lived here … especially as there’s only 2 pizza chains in the country 😉

  • Cost is the major problem.

    Building a dedicated team, centralise stocking software system, additional staff training, and technical support if anything goes wrong with the system. These are the obstacle small and medium company facing and making these work in a long run, are another problem. It get worse if the company owner are older dude where they have the thinking ‘if you can’t control it, you don’t do it’.

    From a consumer level, I would love this idea. =)

    A great example is McDonald. They even have time delivery based on nearest outlet to caller’s address. Crazy system.

  • There is one thing that isn’t being talked about concerning “the” cloud: there is not “The” cloud. And yet another buzz word obscures the true.

    The “cloud” itself doesn’t really exist; and what we are really talking about is online data storage services and corporate specific online data services. Unless a business can afford either of these in an ongoing basis, there’s no point claiming that everyone needs to use it. It is not going to happen except at the top of the corporate food chain.

    And by the way… pick up the damn phone! You’ve probably got one in you pocket with easy access to a local online addressbook… and support for your local business that are the backbone of local economy. And they are the ones who need your support the most.

    Also… I wouldn’t order a food item from any company where they have “stock” items that run out. That’s crap food if I ever heard of it. I can easily get a so-called “gourmet” frozen pizza anywhere. How else do you think something is “in stock” where food is concerned. I expect fresh made. What a lousy example for cloud use.

    • Good point on the stock items. But, when it’s the only pizza place in town, and you live in Asia where there’s not even frozen pizza … well, even not-so-good pizza turns out to be a nice thing every now and then 😉

      And you’re also right that there’s not just one cloud, though Amazon EC2/S3 could almost be called the cloud, since when it goes down, it seems like every major web app out there goes down. We use “the cloud” as shorthand for “hosted apps”, and I guess it would be good if we all standardized on something more specific. Problem is, the industry already standardized on calling hosted apps “the cloud”, so we’re sort of stuck with it.