7 transformative cloud computing tools

Neto is a comprehensive cloud platform for retailers or wholesalers seeking to transform their business.

Digital transformations can be difficult. These seven cloud computing tools help to eliminate many headaches.

Ask three business leaders what digital transformation is and you’re likely to get three different answers. 

According to an Ovum survey of Australian enterprises, 45 per cent say it’s a broad term to describe new technologies such as cloud and artificial intelligence, 37 per cent think it’s a fundamentally different way of delivering services by focusing on the customer, and 15 per cent say it’s about replacing legacy IT systems.

The truth is that digital transformation is all those things and more, because it refers to any use of digital technologies to make significant changes to a business. In that sense, digital transformation is certainly not new. Businesses have been adopting enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems or “vertical” applications for their specific sector to digitise various functions and processes for years.

The difference now is that there’s far greater choice, with many cloud applications offering a wide range of functions, affordable pay-as-use pricing and the ability to integrate with other apps, including cloud accounting platforms.

They won’t make a digital transformation easy – changing entrenched attitudes and practices is still a challenge – but choosing the right cloud applications may help alleviate some of the technical and financial impediments to change. Here are just a few of the options. 

Transforming service businesses 

ServiceM8 is popular for managing service and trade-related businesses.

ServiceM8 is a cloud platform that promises to transform how service businesses, such as tradespeople manage their work. It’s primarily a job management application, but also offers tools for managing staff schedules and real-time communication between staff. 

Field workers can issue on-the-spot quotes and invoices via an iOS app, and accept credit card payments. ServiceM8 also allows businesses to accept online bookings and integrates with a wide variety of other cloud apps, ranging from Xero to the Stripe payment system. 

Pricing starts at A$29 per month for up to 50 jobs per month. 

Transforming retailers and wholesalers 

Neto is a comprehensive cloud platform for retailers or wholesalers seeking to transform their business. 

For the front end, it includes an e-commerce platform for creating an online retail store or B2B portal for wholesalers, point-of-sale software and hardware, integration with Amazon Australia and eBay, and other features such as the ability to create a rewards program. At the back end, Neta includes systems for managing inventory, customers and orders. 

It can automate packaging and labelling, and integrates with Australia Post, Sendle and other delivery services. It supports BPay, PayPal and other payment services, offers analytics and reporting features, and integrates with MYOB and other accounting apps. 

Prices start at A$79 per month for up to 1000 products. 

Professional Development: Cloud computing and forensic investigations: learn about the different kinds of cloud-based storage and data location, the difficulties encountered by a forensic investigator when trying to capture cloud-stored evidence, and the legal response to the growing problem.

Transforming logistics 

For many retail and wholesale businesses – particularly those looking to expand – it’s often the back end that is the hardest to fix. One option is to outsource warehousing and logistics to the likes of Fulfilio, a new service that is backed by Australia Post. 

Fulfilio offers warehouse space around Australia, along with packing, fulfilment and delivery services. It integrates with Shopify, WooCommerce and other e-commerce platforms, and includes analytics and reporting features to help you better understand customers. 

Pricing depends on stock and delivery volumes, and other requirements.   

Transforming specific functions 

While the likes of Neto and ServiceM8 offer the convenience of a comprehensive solution, there is an alternative: you can mix and match different apps for various functions, thanks to the widespread integration between cloud platforms. 

The trick is to do your homework to ensure your preferred apps integrate the way you want them to. With that caveat in mind, here are few options for transforming specific functions. 

Improving customer support 

For teams that are overwhelmed with pre- or after-sales requests, a support platform like Zendesk can be a godsend. This suite includes an online ticketing system for organising and tracking requests, online chat and call centre software, a tool for creating a self-service knowledgebase and integration with social media. Priced from US$89 per user per month. 

Zendesk can help track and manage pre- and post-sales service.

Managing human resources 

Deputy is a cloud application that helps businesses with rostering and other HR tasks. It offers timesheets, attendance and performance management tools. It can automatically create schedules, cost those schedules, and ensure the business remains compliant with Australian workplace awards. 

Priced from A$2 per user per month (ex-GST). 

Empowering the sales team 

A customer relationship management (CRM) application can give sales teams the information they need to gain a competitive edge and increase sales. Insightly is one of the better-value cloud CRMs available that integrates with a wide variety of apps, ranging from MailChimp (for email newsletters) to cloud accounting platforms. Insightly makes short work of capturing leads from Outlook, Gmail and other sources. It tracks communications history with each client, helps manage projects and more. 

Priced from US$29 per user per month. 

Processing receipts 

Cloud services such as webexpenses, Receipt Bank and AutoEntry make it easy to digitise this time-consuming process. They help automate data entry by allowing you to forward emails, upload files or scan paper invoices and receipts via a mobile app. Data is then extracted and posted to their built-in expenses management tool, as well as cloud accounting platforms. 

Priced from A$9 per month (webexpenses), A$17 per month (AutoEntry) or A$19.95 per month (Receipt Bank).

Read next: The ERP buyer's shortlist: which software is right for you?

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