Cloud technology does so much more than make it easier to manage your finances, workflow, timesheets or compliance. For regional and rural businesses it can open up a whole new world of efficiency and opportunity. The efficiency comes from streamlining processes to work smarter, not harder—a benefit for any business, regardless of location. But as someone who is regionally based myself, I witness first-hand the benefits that cloud technology brings to local businesses, and the broader effects it has for communities. When regional businesses embrace cloud solutions to increase competitiveness and attract a wider client base, they thrive. The benefits are considerable for any business, especially service based businesses such as accountants, designers, marketers, surveyors, consultants or lawyers. And thriving local businesses means jobs, investment and economic stability for rural and regional communities.
Benefits of cloud technology for rural and regional businesses
With cloud-based technology becoming more accessible, rural businesses can attract non-local clients, creating new revenue streams for their business. In the past, a regional business could only be strong as its local economy. Serving clients outside this community was a rare occurrence without incurring significant travel time and costs, but this is no longer the case. Business Continuum itself is a great example of this. Whilst we are not regionally based ourselves, we have clients across Australia, in locations such as Port Hedland, Bunbury, Launceston, Port Augusta, Mildura, Wagga Wagga, Mullumbimby, Dubbo, Newcastle and many others. We have seen these regional businesses use cloud solutions to save time, reduce manual labour, increase flexibility for their workforces, improve reporting and compliance, drive down costs and enjoy many other benefits.
Another benefit of cloud technology for rural and regional small businesses is being able to access interstate or international workers. This gives regional businesses access to a wider pool of talent, if they are willing to forgo the traditional nine to five ‘everyone at the office’ mode of operation. These benefits bring greater resources to regional and rural businesses, making them more competitive.
Broader community benefits
Of course, having a hub of thriving locally-based businesses is great for regional economies. Businesses with solid profits invest back into local resources such as real estate, hospitality, design and professional services. Cloud technology also gives regional business a better chance of competing with inner-city based service providers who may have higher overheads. And if your regional businesses has lower operating costs, you might choose to pass on savings to your customers.
Businesses that reduce costs via cloud technology can also invest the savings in employing the local workforce. With a thriving local economy, younger workers are far less likely to have to move to the city to get professional jobs. For example, a skilled graphic designer living in Lorne could be working for an agency in Toowoomba, using cloud-based project management to get the job done without ever setting foot in the office. Time saved on the commute can be spent surfing at the beach instead.
Barriers to entry
It's reasonable to question the wisdom of migrating your entire business online when your local broadband service is sketchy. Fortunately, regional internet access is considerably improving with the rollout of the National Broadband Network.
The bigger barrier to cloud migration for businesses in regional areas is their own fear and reluctance. Embracing change is never easy, and this was demonstrated to me recently when I met a local plumber and his son. Nev, aged 55, established the business and is in the process of handing the reins to his son, Jack, 28. Nev wants to cruise through the next ten years to retirement. He doesn’t have the energy to try new solutions. He tells me ‘it all works fine the way it is’. His son Jack disagrees. Jack knows that the future is in the cloud, and he wants to get the business ahead of the competition as quickly as possible. I see many people like Nev, and they aren’t necessarily aged in their 50s—and this isn’t a problem exclusive to regional areas. Change is difficult, but worthwhile when the rewards are so considerable.
Case Study – Wangaratta Surveying Firm
At Business Continuum we worked with a Wangaratta-based surveying firm who have 35 staff working across three offices. We helped the firm migrate to WorkflowMax to manage applications at a far lower cost of deployment and management than its old client server architecture. By using cloud-based software and tweaking it to the company’s needs, they’re now able to do business with clients all over Victoria and interstate, offering a range of land surveying and development services. Staff are now able to log timesheets from mobile phones, giving the staff flexibility but allowing management to retaining operational visibility and control.
Case Study – Shepparton Accounting Firm
An accounting practice in Shepparton with 40 staff approached us to help them transition to the cloud, and subsequently we migrated them to Xero and Xero Practice Manager. Xero now has more than 600 add-on applications (software that integrates to provide additional services and support), so a core part of our service was utilising the right combination of add-ons for this business. This approach enabled the firm to streamline its processes and save hours of manual processing. An added bonus is that the firm has engaged remote workers, who bring additional skills to the business without being based locally. By using mobile based invoicing systems, they are now getting paid faster too!
It’s rewarding to help many regional and remote businesses embrace the benefits of cloud-based software solutions—it can really open up a new world of opportunity for them. By basing the technology around the process (and not basing their processes on the technology) they are well equipped to continue serving their clients for the next five, ten and twenty years. Good cloud-based businesses of the future will have the capability to understand data and apply it to deliver client value. Some will get left behind—don’t let that be your business!
Whether you’re an established business or just starting out, we can help you select the best cloud software for your needs. Contact us today to talk about what cloud solutions can do for your business.