According to IDC Futurescape’s Worldwide Cloud 2015 predictions, by 2016, there will be an 11 percent shift of IT budget aware from traditional in-house IT delivery, toward various versions of cloud computing as a new delivery model. At the same time, 81 percent of medium businesses say that IT solutions must be scalable and align with business strategy and processes (Rightscale, 2015 State of the Cloud Report).

“Everyone is talking about a cloud and mobile first approach to business. What few small to medium businesses know, is that many business solutions are already cloud and mobility enabled.

Our most pressing challenge today, is about changing a customer mindset.  A mindset that says Cloud is cheap (and therefore inferior),” says Heath Huxtable, Executive Head of the Microsoft Consulting and Integration division at Vox.

But he is quick to point out, that just because many tools, products and services are cloud and mobility enabled, doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to move your entire business application stack to the cloud – not right now, anyway.  He believes that a hybrid approach to a business solutions strategy will offer organisations of all sizes scalability, flexibility and create a feeling of reduced business risk.

Says Huxtable, “There should be no ‘one size fits all’ approach to business solutions.  There are many combinations for businesses.  For example, you can have email in the cloud, ERP on premise and CRM as a hosted solution.

Understanding what the customer’s needs are, and contextualizing these across the changing industry landscape will become a critical component of the consulting layer for business solutions.”

“Businesses should stop seeing Cloud as the cheaper alternative to an on-premise business solutions strategy.  While it does lower the initial cost barrier to entry for smaller organisations, largely as a result of lower upfront infrastructure investment costs, it delivers the same enterprise grade functionality and comparative services.

The reality is that software vendors are going to start pricing licenses in such a way that it becomes almost prohibitive, to choose an on-premise exclusive model,” adds Huxtable.

Other mindset changes that businesses should be considering are the impact of social networks, not only in terms of their own businesses, but also on the functional enhancements that are already included in business application products and solutions.

ERP and CRM for example, have already adopted social listening tools, with an understanding that, today, most people will buy (or investigate) products based on a recommendation they have read or seen on a social network.  Social listening is changing how leads are generated and/ or followed up – and is delivering a layer of insight to businesses that was previously considered impossible.

“We firmly believe that any organisation that doesn’t tune itself into social listening, and the impact of social media, will lose out in the competitive race for business,” cautions Huxtable.

So how does the small to medium business tackle a fast changing business application landscape and make the right business decision?

Huxtable emphasizes the need to get the most out of cloud.

“Choose the best technology partner – one that not only understands the business challenges that need to be overcome through ERP, CRM, BI and collaboration deployments, but can offer you the best of both subscription based and on-premise solutions, and critically, consulting.

“We’ve established ourselves as one of the largest Microsoft Dynamics partners for the mid-market in southern Africa, and are proud to say that we have some of the most highly qualified, and best equipped consulting and integration specialist teams in the country.

We believe that a more inclusive view of your industry, business challenges and the technology solutions that provide a best fit, rather than a cookie cutter approach will always deliver the best returns on investment for our customers,” concludes Huxtable.