Adopting a cloud-based business solution is a bit like renting an apartment that comes pre-furnished to your taste. More than half (51 percent) of Americans under the age of 30 live in rental housing units, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council. Young people frequently have neither the resources for a down payment nor the interest in maintaining a house and appreciate the simplicity of this model. While the older demographic of 45- to 60-year-olds is much more likely to own their residence, they too are now bucking the homeowner trend in increasing numbers. It’s a logical solution, as renting is almost always more flexible and cheaper than owning.
There are similar benefits to a move to the cloud, an increasingly popular choice for organizations that want to avoid a major upfront investment or just appreciate the flexibility of the cloud-based model. Like renting, it’s a phenomenon that is spreading quickly: The worldwide cloud computing market grew by 21 percent in 2015 and shows no sign of slowing. While the cloud offers benefits for many organizations, it is particularly well-suited for small to mid-sized contact centers.
Save money with flexibility and scale
Setting up on-premise storage requires substantial investments upfront. Hardware, network architecture and software licenses can be costly, and these costs recur every few years. Until the growth of the cloud, they were often cost-prohibitive for small and even mid-sized contact centers – thus, the popularity of spreadsheet-based workforce management tools, for example. Now cloud-based solutions operate on a “pay-as-you-go” structure that offers more flexibility and opens up new technology and workforce management solutions to smaller organizations.
The cloud is also highly scalable, which means it can expand and shrink with your organization. This is particularly helpful in industries like customer relations and contact centers, which often see dramatic periodic surges in activity during events like holidays and tax seasons. Just as you forecast and adjust your staffing in response to these changes, scaling your tech usage can be easy and automatic.
Large corporations often have entire departments for IT services, with additional teams to maintain specialized workforce management tools or CRMs. Moving to the cloud lets smaller organizations opt out of that infrastructure, because platform-as-a-service (PaaS) solutions are regularly updated and maintained by the provider – which brings with it the added perk of minimal or no downtime for upgrades and changes.
The cloud also allows teams to operate at peak speed regardless of location, so contact centers can cut infrastructure and operating costs by hiring entire teams of remote employees. All these agents need are a connected computer to access workforce management tools and customer information, the capability to interact with their team and a device to manage calls.
The tough questions about the cloud
The cloud isn’t perfect though. Just as with renting, it comes with some caveats. One of the most frequent questions is about security. “Is my data safe? Will my customers’ information be secure?” Many organizations feel more comfortable with their information stored safely on premise, especially in light of several well-publicized hacking scandals. Overall, however, the cloud is extremely reliable and improving by the day. While on-site IT teams may bear multiple responsibilities, cloud facilities are monitored 24/7 by IT security specialists in compliance with the tightest customer protection regulations.
Some users do remain skeptical of safety, while others prefer the control they have over licensed platforms and are willing to absorb the added cost. Still others adopt hybrid or private cloud solutions as a middle ground.
Before making the transition, evaluate both your current business model and your expectations for the future. You’ll likely find that, like nearly every business, you’re already relying on the cloud in some ways. It has a lot to offer in large-scale implementations, particularly for the small or mid-sized contact center. While the big contact center operators often lead trends in the industry, this time small organizations are in the vanguard in leading adoption of cloud-based solutions.
Paul Chance is a senior product marketing manager for NICE EVOLVE WFM, the leading software solution used by small and mid-sized contact centers to plan and manage the workforce anywhere from the cloud. For more information, visit www.nice.com/websites/evolvewfm.