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.