No doubt you’ve taken a look at the benefits of moving your engineering firm to cloud computing solutions, and you’re starting to like what you see. And while each cloud service provider will right now be trying to woo you with brightly-lit benefits and fandangled features, you need to ensure your firm’s operational needs are going to be met before you jump in feet first.
Here are a couple of checkpoints to consider before you make the shift to the cloud:
✓ Start small but think big. It may be wise to take your move to the cloud in steps, so as not to overwhelm new users and complicate your usual business operations. However, when considering which applications will work for your firm, ensure that the service can be scaled to meet your needs as you grow. Which leads us to the next point...
✓ Understand your business goals. Do you intend to grow your engineering operations, extend your services or expand globally? What software is going to help you achieve your goals for growth and continue to support your business at different stages? Ensure that the software you choose is a cost-effective option that fits with your pre-world-domination budget, but that it can be scaled to fully support your operations when things start to go gangbusters.
✓ Understand your workflow. Take some time to read WorkflowMax Implementation 101: Scope your Business, which highlights some important questions you may need to ask yourself before you select cloud software for your business. Set up your own checklist of must-have features and check them off when you are reviewing software - for example:
- Do you need multiple access levels (e.g. do you want your clients to be able to log in and view but not make edits)?
- Do you need it to integrate with other existing software you use?
- Do you need to set up multiple charge-out rates for staff or various clients?
Digital Reality is a US-based IT company that had a clear idea about what requirements they needed in their cloud software - no double-entry of data, speedy quoting, time tracking against estimates and easy invoicing throughout the duration of projects. By creating a list of must-have features they were able to easily determine what software would work for them.
✓ Talk to your team. Perhaps you’re the decision-maker who holds the fort back at HQ, so you’re keen to see software with time tracking, invoicing and reporting - but what about your team out in the field or on the shop floor? Their expectations on functionality might be quite different to yours. It’s important to gain a thorough understanding of their requirements before you make a call on what software will work alongside their existing systems. This includes talking to your accountant or business advisor who likely understands how your business works and how software can work with your operations.
✓ Try before you buy. Take a look at more than one software solution before deciding. Most good service providers will offer you a trial period so you can see exactly how the software can integrate with your operations and benefit your business. Does it achieve what you need it to? Does the user interface have you seeing dollar signs or have you going cross-eyed? Use your trial period to try a project right from start to finish so you can get a complete understanding of whether it works for you.
✓ Investigate pricing plans. Most service providers will offer a plan that is scaled to suit your business needs, which you can upgrade and downgrade as needed. Be sure to understand the features provided in the pricing plans, alongside benefits and helpful extras such as technical support and additional resources.
✓ Consider add-ons, integration & customisation. One of the biggest benefits of implementing cloud software in your engineering business is the seamless flow of data that is possible between various applications. When considering your software options, think about what other applications will integrate and work happily alongside other software and how it can be customised to give you the reporting you require.
✓ Find a 'Technology Champion' in your business and get your team on-board. There is likely to be one person in your team who is particularly adept at technology or immediately understands the benefits that new software will bring. Let them be the person who takes charge of championing the implementation of new software. There will always be some resistance to change, but if you educate your team so they understand exactly how new software is going to make a difference in their roles they'll no doubt embrace the new technology with open arms.
✓ Approach with caution but don’t be scared! Change can always feel a little overwhelming; it can be hard to move away from systems that you know - even inefficient ones. However if you want to ensure that your engineering firm is not getting left behind, then cloud software solutions offer a user-friendly, cost-effective way of keeping up in a highly competitive industry.
Have you already implemented some cloud software into your engineering firm’s operations? What other challenges did you have to overcome or did you experience any teething problems? Share your tips!