The 2nd Generation of Cloud Apps

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The 2nd Generation of Cloud Apps

What makes a good Cloud App?

It's tempting sometimes to feel like we've reached a higher plain of existence with the rise and prevalence of cloud-based business applications built around the Xero ecosystem. You'll hear it called The New Economy in comparison to the 'old' way we used to do business. In the last 20 years we've experienced three different new economies and they seem to be accelerating. Globally New Zealand businesses are pioneering the use and development of cloud-based business applications. New Zealand is consistently at the top of the global list for ease of starting a business and thanks to products like Xero, Unleashed, WorkflowMax, Vend and GeoOp it's easier than it ever has been to start your business globally with competitive systems, lower overheads and less risk.

With over 380 add-ons the Xero ecosystem is busy with industry-specific niche applications that will do 90% of what you need them to do all for a small monthly fee. In the next five years we'll continue to see the number of applications available increase but some of the slower names disappear. It's important when researching cloud apps for your business that you consider not just what the product can do for you (feature/functional fit) but where the product is going, what are their priorities, what is being worked on and how often is it being released? It's easy to fall into the trap of picking one app over another because one will do 92% of what you need it to when the other only does 91%. It's easy because that's the way we used to select business applications back when the platform choice was for life and the apps were static. In a cloud environment it's not the strong that dominate the weak but the adaptable that will dominate the static.

What makes a next-generation cloud app?

For the first time as users we're able to cheaply and easily retrieve business information from our cloud-based business applications and have the minimum expectation that the information is live, timely, mobile and accurate. That's awesome for a lot of things like planning, forecasting and decision making. These apps are allowing our businesses to act and react quicker than our competitors and quicker than we ever have been able to in the past. That's just the beginning. These are first-generation apps that will quickly become a minimum standard.

We're already starting to see the emergence of the second generation of apps from companies like Unleashed and Vend. In the new new economy (which it will no doubt be named) it won't be enough for an app to simply input, organise and regurgitate/dashboard business information to users. They will need to be smarter because the user expectation will shift from demanding information at our fingertips to demanding only relevant, actionable information about our businesses.

The apps that survive the transition (and have already started) into the 2nd generation aren't the apps that are fighting for the last 10% of function or fit, or the apps that are going beyond and delivering features and functions you didn't know your business needed. They will be the apps that bring you as a user and based on your user role (organisational roles) relevant, actionable information specific to your identity.

Which apps will survive?

Imagine a world where like an individually tailored newspaper bites of relevant, targeted information are headlined, distributed and announced throughout your business. Instead of a retailer asking 'what sales have we done today?', logging into their Vend from Costa Rica and finding out they'll receive a headline like 'You've sold more of product range X in the last week than you have sold to date'. Wow. The difference is subtle but deep. One is starting to tell a story, asking you questions of you and the other is giving you an answer.

We're seeing the start of this transition in products like Vend where instead of saying 'What do I need to order for my store?' you can have one staff member draft a stock order based on your minimum stock order quantities for each product, have a manager edit and approve it and have an email order automagically delivered straight to the relevant supplier. A product like Unleashed lets you achieve a similar result but for a warehouse. 'What do I need to order?' become 'What's in my Low Stock Alerts?'. A product like WorkflowMax turns the question from 'How close am I to budget for this project task?' to 'These are the project tasks approaching budget with X% remaining'.

This subtle change in questioning will define those applications that survive the transition into the 2 nd Generation of cloud based business applications. Think about what 2nd Generation business applications might look like as you think about what apps might suit your business.

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Posted by Link Solutions

At Link Solutions we believe owning a business should be fun, profitable and facilitate a flexible lifestyle with the ability to work from anywhere. We help business owners achieve this through the integration of technology, people and processes; enabling them to work less and do more with their time.

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