By Steven Cohen, Head of Sage One International (Africa, Australia, Middle East, Asia and Brazil)
A common misperception is that SMEs using old software could put their companies at risk and that such solutions are based on databases considered to be “antiquated”. Companies like Sage maintain a range of platforms – cloud, server and desktop - based on technologies ranging from legacy to cutting-edge.
It’s good practice to support customers using your older software as best you can. Even with vendors trying to frighten them into buying new software, many businesses know that these security risks are reasonably small once you quantify them.
Those that are concerned should remember Chief Vitalstatistix in the Asterix comic books who worried the sky may fall on his head. Of course, it never did. As far as we’re concerned when SMEs are ready to upgrade to new technology, they should do so for the right business reasons, and not out of fear.
IT vendors have so often used scare tactics to move users onto new software that customers are disillusioned with the industry as a whole. The Year 2000 panic was one example. We all woke up on 1 January 2000 after the New Year’s celebration, only to find that the sky had not fallen.
A new horizon
The sad thing is that when something comes along that offers true transformation for the industry, many end-users are cynical. The cloud presents such a change, and it has already revolutionised our private lives, through the Apple iCloud, web-based email, Dropbox, and so many other online services we use every day.
Businesses are also using some of these services, but they are a little slower in moving their business processes to the cloud. All the fear they’re being sold by the industry leaves them unmoved; they want to know what the business benefits are. I believe there are three obstacles to them adopting the cloud more aggressively.
The cloud was an opportunity for software vendors to get a fresh start – cut away the bloat and the complexity of today’s desktop software, reduce clutter and improve ease of use. The downside is that cloud software – for example, an accounting and payroll solution - doesn’t contain as many features as their desktop equivalents.
That means some worry that a cloud offering won’t have a feature they have grown to depend on. While cloud software contains most features mainstream users need, it hasn’t had the benefit of maturing over 20 years. We have written documents for our 200,000 desktop users explaining the exact feature differences that exists between our cloud and desktop offerings and they make their decisions accordingly.
Low speed and poor reliability of the South African Internet
This is still a concern for some business owners, but it’s increasingly a perception rooted in the past rather than a reflection of reality. It was unthinkable 2 years ago to stream a high definition movie to your home TV. Today, we have Netflix and we watch YouTube to our heart’s content. Users with a 2.5 Mb or better connection are good to go.
We all leave things to the last minute, whether it’s paying more for air tickets after booking an overseas holiday at the last minute or neglecting to upgrade our business software. Steven Covey talked about the “urgent but not important” quadrant; we spend so much time on “non-important issues” that seem urgent to us that we don’t get the important things done.
We think it’s important for our customers to use the latest technology to save money and be more efficient. However, we also know that with the challenges they fight every day, upgrading to the cloud from an accounting package that is working well is not an urgency for them.
We recommend that our customers ask themselves two questions about their software: does it need to be done and will it become easier to do later? For most SMEs, the answer about upgrading their software and migrating to the cloud will be respectively yes and no.
Cloud applications can help SMEs to modernise their setup and access world-class security without needing to spend a fortune on hardware, consulting and software. I think that getting it done and being ready for the future offers peace of mind that makes it all worthwhile.
In a time of seismic technological change and digital innovation, Sage is using the smartest technology to reinvent and simplify business accounting. For us, today's smartest technology is in the cloud. But we’d rather sell our users on the benefits of the cloud than try to scare them into moving. It’s time for the IT industry to move beyond fear as a sales tool.