The Appification of Small Business

Small businesses are at the tipping point of broad-based cloud adoption. This from a new research report from Intuit that shows how big an opportunity this is for developers and cloud solution providers.

The Cloud-Powered Small Business

Currently 37% of United States small businesses are adapted to the cloud, but an anticipated 78% will be fully cloud operational by 2020. Given the sheer size of this market, it’s a huge opportunity.

Cloud-Powered SMBs

The center of the small business cloud is financial management

SMB owners spend 4 hours a day online running their business. What are they doing? 65% conduct back-office work like book-keeping and accounting, 65% generate invoices and accept payments, 58% are managing customer relationships and 48% are communicating with employees and partners.

SMB Financial Management

SMBs are enthusiastically embracing mobile

Nearly half (43%) of SMB owners use a smartphone as the primary device to run their business and the vast majority of them use multiple devices.

Mobile enabled SMBs

And, they’re willing to spend

SMBs already spend $630/year on average on software solutions and 85% of SMB executives are willing to invest more in software solutions over the next 5 years with a significant number (27%) looking to simplify day-to-day operations.
SMBs are willing to spend

Automate routine day-to-day approvals and streamline operations

frevvo’s Cloud-based approval workflows are perfectly suited to small businesses. We’re an SMB ourselves and we use our own product to simplify our day-to-day operations in a host of areas like purchase orders, leave approvals and many other form-based workflows. Check out this infographic on 11 Cloud solutions we use everyday and sign up for a free trial on our website.

Check out the Intuit e-Book here (no login/registration required).

Business Transformation is the primary driver of cloud – KPMG

KPMG’s recent 2014 Cloud Survey Report (download here for free, no signup) finds that cloud usage in the enterprise is no longer primarily driven by cost but by business transformation. In 2012, it was all about Cost Efficiencies. Today, other considerations are increasingly at the forefront.

It’s about more than cost – Part I

Driving cost efficiencies (49%) is still the top use of cloud but the gap has narrowed dramatically. Mobile enablement (42%), improved alignment with customers/partners (37%) and better leveraging of data for business insights (35%) are important ways in which business are looking to use cloud computing.

Top Ways Business are Using Cloud

Mobile Enabling Employees

Truly mobile-enabling your company doesn’t just mean buying devices or instituting a BYOD policy. It means applications and services that are mobile-aware and Cloud is an essential enabler. It’s an inevitable nexus of forces: Mobile + Cloud is truly a case of 2+2=5.

Where mobile is driving most value

Cloud implementations are succeeding …

Improving business performance (73%), service automation (72%) and reducing costs (70%) are the top three success areas. Importantly, there’s a lot companies have learned since 2012 and they’re far more successful with cloud.

Successful areas of business improvement

… but there are still challenges

Data loss & privacy (53%), risk of intellectual property theft (50%), and impact on IT (49%) are major concerns. Again though, we’re dealing more with day-to-day concerns than getting-started concerns.

Most challenging areas with cloud

It’s about more than cost – Part II

Security (82%) and data privacy (81%) outpace cost (78%) as factors when selecting a cloud solution and others like functionality (76%) and integration (74%) are not far behind. With all the recent high-profile cyber-attacks, it’s clearly a hot-button issue across the enterprise. Cloud providers get this and have teams dedicated to security. Far beyond the efforts of most organizations.

Important factors in deploying cloud

The cloud’s potential is sky-high and it will inevitably impact more and more areas of every business. The best part is that cloud is reducing costs but it has also become a key enabler driving all kinds of strategic business transformations.

Download the full report here (free and no signup required).

No wonder customers want Hybrid Cloud

Recently, we got an unexpected and unpleasant surprise. We use Salesforce as our CRM. Having gone through a Siebel deployment at a previous job, this was amazing. We signed up, didn’t install anything, setup a few users and BOOM! We were ready to go. Public cloud SaaS just made so much sense for small companies like ours.

Salesforce PricingBut, we’ve seen some cracks in the Salesforce armor lately. First, even for small companies like ours, they expect annual contracts with pre-established user counts. What happened to the “pay-as-you-go” promise of Public Cloud? The Unlimited version costs $250/user/month if billed annually. For 1000 users, that’s $3MM/year. Paid upfront! Preset user counts typically results in over-provisioning and shelfware. Even we (small though we are) have too many users that we pay for and don’t use. Can you say traditional enterprise sale? And, if I were Salesforce, I could quickly get used to that kind of cashflow.

The bigger surprise for us came when we wanted access to OUR DATA. We found that API access to our own Salesforce data is metered and is very limited based on our [relatively small] user counts. To access our own data, we have to buy access. Again:

We have to pay a fee to Salesforce just so we can access OUR data.

Salesforce may have good reasons but, that’s just insane. No wonder customers increasingly deploy Hybrid or Private Cloud solutions where they have control over their own data. Multi-tenancy and IaaS increasingly benefit Salesforce rather than customers.

Overall, there’s no doubt that we benefit greatly from Public Cloud including Salesforce. But, we see our customers seriously thinking about Hybrid Cloud (particularly for database, authentication and authorization and, of course, integration with business systems). With costs like this compounded with the persistent security worries (myths), it’s hardly a surprise!

Cloud + Mobile = Inevitable !!

Mobile devices sold per secondAccording to Gartner, 1.2 billion smart phones and 216 million tablets were sold worldwide in 2014. That’s an astonishing 46 every second. At the same time, according to a recent Silicon Angle report, 82% of companies saved money by moving to the cloud and public cloud workloads are expected to grow by 44%. We live in a Mobile + Cloud world.

This inevitable nexus of forces is forcing companies to change how they do business. Customers expect to make purchases on their smart phones and get notifications instantly. Employees expect to perform day-to-day tasks like signing off on POs or vacation requests on their smart phones. Our devices can monitor our health, tell us when friends are nearby and guide us to our destinations.

Maribel Lopez wrote a great article at Forbes on What Mobile Cloud means for your Business. Truly mobile-enabling your company doesn’t just mean buying devices or instituting a BYOD policy. It means that your applications, workflows and services must be:
Cloud has 1 Exabyte of data

  • Device aware: Does the device support touch, gesture, voice navigation, camera? What is the available screen size?
  • Network aware: Can the application use location services? Will it work with erratic or slow connectivity?
  • Sensor aware: What type of data is available on the device?
  • Identity aware: How can you secure access not just to devices but to these mobile services?

Cloud computing is an essential enabler. Without AWS and its kin, how could small businesses support millions of users? Without incredibly cheap storage solutions from Dropbox, Microsoft and others, how would you access your data from anywhere on any device? Cloud-based meeting software like Go To Meeting allows small companies like ours to have a global presence and customer base. And, of course, without affordable workflows from frevvo and others, how could small businesses automate their workflows and increase the speed with which they do business?

It’s only going to get easier and more interesting as service providers increasingly publish Cloud APIs and Internet of Things (IoT) devices proliferate.

The combination of Mobile & Cloud fundamentally changes the equation for businesses. You don’t want to think of a Mobile Strategy and a Cloud Strategy but a combined strategy for both.

Why is the Confluence plugin price tied to the # of Confluence users?

Customers sometimes ask us why our plugin license is directly tied to the Confluence license.

We have far more users for Confluence than for forms. It would be better to license a [smaller] group of users as having access to the frevvo Plugin.

It’s a reasonable question/complaint. Why should I pay for 500 users when only 20 will be using forms?

By and large, this is about running a viable business for the Confluence plugin. We’re a small company; likely a lot smaller than most of our customers. We constantly face the every-day challenges of running a small company, especially in the current economy.

The reality is that our product is more complex than the vast majority of plugins – workflows & forms in Confluence are just harder than charts & graphics since they often interact with external systems like databases, send out email notifications and, generally speaking, provide very high business value. frevvo is not just a plugin. There’s a server component that you must install and configure and we’ve found that it can get complicated because customers have firewalls and proxy servers and all kinds of setups. That’s why there’s a required $1,000 first year support cost.

We’re very very good at customer support and you’d never get the kind of support and attention you’ll get from frevvo from a larger company.

However, all this requires people and money and we have to be able to afford it. We make most of of our money on the larger licenses. That’s our “bread and butter” and if you could always just buy licenses in much smaller chunks, we would not have a viable and sustainable business model for the Confluence plugin.

We’ve also found that many customers will deploy the plugin and quickly find that all kinds of users want access to it. Once business users discover that they can quickly create their own registration forms/surveys and download submissions to Excel, they want to do it. Once IT realizes that they can simply point business users to a Tutorial for these basic needs, they want nothing else.

At the end of the day, we simply cannot afford to develop, support and sell the plugin any other way. Hopefully, you understand.

10 Things We’ve Learned About Cloud Computing, So Far (Forbes)

Joe McKendrick recently posted an interesting article about Cloud Computing and some key lessons we’ve learned more than a decade in. It’s a good read and an excellent introduction to some of the important things to know about Cloud, especially so for SMBs who may not have significant expertise. We’ve accumulated some expertise ourselves having been in the Cloud for years now. Here are some of his points with added thoughts:

1) It works. A decade on, with organizations of all sizes, from the Forbes 500 to mom-and-pop shops adopting cloud for mission-critical functions,  it can be said that the cloud computing model is working well.

There’s no doubt about it. Check out this Infographic for some of the services we at frevvo rely on every single day to run our business.

2) It simply moves computing to another location, period. … It simply means processing, systems, and often data reside somewhere else on the network, and not downstairs in the server room.

Well, maybe. Obviously, you can move workloads to Cloud-based servers (IaaS). But, usually adopting Cloud applications (SaaS) means accepting things like multi-tenancy where you’re sharing resources with others. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but something to be aware of.

3) It’s relatively safe and secure. This holds many enterprises back from fully embracing cloud — especially public cloud services. But many CIOs admit that cloud providers and their staffs keep up on the latest security measures than CIOs’ own staffs.

One of the most enduring myths about cloud computing. Like other cloud vendors, we go to great lengths (more than most I.T. staffs) to ensure that your data is secure. Ironically, security is probably the #1 reason most organizations should adopt cloud.

4) We’re still figuring out the rules of data ownership. When data is maintained or generated by another entity, it’s not clear who ultimately has the rights to and responsibility for the data.

We haven’t typically seen this as an issue. Certainly, with frevvo, your data is yours. No ambiguity about it.

5) The termination aspects are still messy and murky. The promise of cloud is flexibility; particularly when it comes to swapping vendors’ offerings underneath your infrastructure. However, it’s possible to get deeply rooted and entangled in a cloud vendor’s environment, making termination as painful as tearing out stitches.

6) It renews the vendors lock-in issues that were supposedly resolved ten years ago. The loss of flexibility to swap vendors as needs dictate is a step backwards in many respects.

Valid concerns indeed. While most cloud vendors have straightforward termination (e.g. at frevvo, there is no long-term contract and you can cancel anytime), it’s not necessarily that easy. Sometimes for technical reasons i.e. it’s just too much work to move to some other offering. And, sometimes it is the vendor e.g. we’ve been trying to get rid of a completely unused old salesforce.com account for weeks now without success. Emily, if you’re reading this, could you please call us back? :-) Luckily, you won’t have this issue with frevvo. We’re easy to work with.

7) It requires just as much IT expertise as on-premises systems. Going to a cloud doesn’t mean you don’t have to do programming, integration work, or systems configuration. You still need to be able to do all these things, and ensure the performance and capabilities you need to keep the enterprise running.

Well, you have to do a helluva lot less. The point is that a lot of this work e.g. a software upgrade is amortized over 1000s of customers. When frevvo upgrades our software to a new version, we do it once and all Cloud customers get it immediately. On the On-premise side, customers get the flexibility of upgrading when they want but each customer has to do it themselves.

8) It’s not necessarily cheaper than on-premises systems. The long-term costs of subscribing to capabilities month to month add up quickly. But cost savings is not the best reason to go to cloud.

Very true. Often, the biggest benefit is that it’s easy to try new ways to do things. That’s because you can easily add or reduce temporary resources (costs) without big capital costs and deploy solutions fast. Want to try out a new automated workflow? It takes days to build/deploy and it’s super inexpensive to give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, un-deploy, stop paying and try a different approach.

9) It hasn’t taken away IT jobs. If anything, it has created new opportunities. IT professionals still need to help make the hard decisions about the best technologies to serve their internal and external clients. The help-wanted ads are full of openings for architects, analysts , operations people and developers who can help oversee organizations’ embrace of clouds.

10) It has elevated the role of IT in organizations. Many IT leaders now have a seat at the table. They now serve as consultants and advisors to the highest levels of their businesses, often with a seat at the table.

Technology can be a critical competitive advantage. If your I.T. department is configuring servers and upgrading software, you’re wasting time & money. Your key I.T. people should be figuring out the best responses to the numerous, rapidly-shifting challenges facing businesses today. See #7 above. Cloud can help.

Essentially, the same is true for all your employees. Why waste their time with the drudgery of routine approvals, form-filling and searching through email? Download this new eBook and learn how frevvo’s Cloud can help you securely digitize these routine approvals.

[Infographic] Why Small Business are Flying to the Cloud

SMB CloudCheck out this new Infographic on why Small to Midsize Businesses (SMBs) are rapidly adopting the cloud. Millions of small business are flying to the cloud – some adopting digital technology for the first time.

Why? Because they finally can … for the first time, these tiny shops have access to world-class software for a reasonable monthly fee without having to incur upfront costs for servers, software licenses, I.T. staff etc. They’re ditching paper forms and spreadsheets, registers and paper receipts every day.

Of course, we’re a small business ourselves and we use Cloud-based software everywhere. Check out the Infographic which also shows 11 Cloud Services that we use everyday and find indispensable to our business. From Infrastructure to Email to, of course, Mobile Web Forms and Approval Workflows, we benefit from low-cost, low-maintenance cloud-based software every single day.

Your organization can do it too. For approval workflows, you know where to reach us. But, there are hundreds and hundreds of choices like GoToMeeting for online meetings, Zendesk for Customer Services, Dropbox for File Sharing and Google Analytics for web analytics.

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