The Cloud Office of Today

Okay, confession time:  this blog is late.  I usually publish my blogs on Friday’s and an endless number of things have gotten in my way.  However, the biggest thing that has gotten in my way is simply this:  Writer’s Block!  Oh yeah, good old Writer’s Block!  But then, recent events have brought me to thinking about the Cloud Office of today. 

To quantify this, I am speaking of the physical office and how it can be fully deployed in the Cloud.  Is it reasonable to expect a Cloud solution to be fully deployable at your office?  My recent conclusions are:  yes. 

It is recent that I have had the need to investigate some of the critical elements of a Cloud office that until now have been undefined.  The critical element missing has been an online phone system such as Lync Online.  So we begin there:

In my quest for the Cloud Office, my first line of thinking is to look at the first line of communication many companies receive:  the telephone.  Most phone systems of the past were very costly.  They were also very specialized and very maintenance intensive.  Sound familiar?  This is like many of the servers your company has and shares the same fate as many servers.  For many years we have had VOIP phones with providers such as Packet8, Cisco and Altavox.  However, integrations to the Microsoft Office productivity system (Office 365) have been lacking. 

Recently, my partner and I have researched the possibility of using a Lync Communications Server to accomplish the same functionality as Cisco, Packet8 or Altavox.  However, Microsoft’s recommended configuration of Lync requires many servers, software and services itself.  Not being discouraged, we have done further research into this and have found several providers of Lync VOIP services as a service.  This provides you with an integrated environment between Lync LiveMeeting, VOIP calls from your desktop, screen sharing and real-time presence information. 

Office Communications is necessary in order for your team to collaborate.  To bring the whole Cloud Office together, Office 365 with Word, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint and many other applications provides you with the functionality to create the office documents you need.  However, using Office Communicator will further enhance your communication with an instant message environment where office persons can ask quick questions securely and quickly.  Further, to enhance the experience, the integration with the phone system as available with Office 365 Levels E3 and E4 will give you a more integrated environment. 

How we track our external communications such as Leads, Customers, Opportunities and other CRM functions is fully available with NjevityToGo CRM.  When looking for a CRM system, it is important to ensure that you have the proper phone integration to “pop” the contact information when a call comes in.  This functionality means that you will know who is on the phone and have an idea as to the reason they are calling.

To bill your customers, the use of NjevityToGo Dynamics GP (Great Plains) or SL (Solomon) will accomplish this nicely.  The difference between the two applications will depend upon your business needs.  Dynamics GP will give you robust financial, distribution and manufacturing functions.  Dynamics SL is ideally suited for distribution and project or professional services companies.  Having an integration between your ERP and CRM System is a must and the NjevityToGo Integration will provide you with robust, deep and complex functionality not normally seen in a Cloud Office environment. 

To collaborate and share documents, SharePoint Online (part of Office 365) provides you with the ability to collaborate with your colleagues, customers, vendors and others.  Couple this with Business Intelligence available through Business Analytics and you will be able to provide your team with the latest information available on the health of your company and where your business stands.  Further, combine this with Mobility and you now have anywhere, anytime, any device access to the information necessary for your business.

On a final note, there are hybrid environments that exist that can help you get to a Cloud Office with many features listed above.  It’s important to meet with a trusted advisor to get a vision of your Office in the Cloud!