Matt Fates: With Business Logistics Ripe For Disruption, Invest In Cloud Or Risk Extinction

The cloud is transforming so many aspects of our day-to-day lives, from the software we “purchase,” to the way we communicate with friends, to the way we store and access music, videos and photos.

It is no surprise, then, that the cloud will transform legacy industries and change the way business services are delivered. With cloud’s dramatic gains in efficiency and cost savings, it’s a question of “when” rather than “if” we’ll see wholesale changes in business process logistics.

Already this change has started. We’re beginning to see it across business supply chains, vendor and provider relationships, and customer relationships. One place to look is the personal banking industry. Unless you need hard cash, almost every other transaction can be processed electronically. As a result, traditional bank branches are seeing reduced traffic and will eventually become extinct. Many other retail and business services will follow.

It’s important, therefore, that traditional providers and businesses invest in cloud-based solutions to improve the quality and deliverability of products to customers. This move to treat business processes as a service (BPaaS) is the next phase of cloud maturation. Otherwise, these companies, like their current business models, will struggle.

Many industries are perfectly suited to achieve the full advantage of the cloud to streamline supply chains and business processes. Take the printing industry, for example. Printed materials are still needed in hardcopy, but design, calibration, storage, shipping and logistics can be fully automated up to the last mile. Here the cloud holds distinct advantages over traditional printers.

Digital printers now match the quality of the traditional offset presses, and can be connected to the web, offering dramatic price and turnaround advantages. Instead of having to print out thousands of copies, store them in warehouses, and then ship them to distributed sales offices or events, often losing boxes or seeing them get caught up in customs, companies can now leverage the cloud. All documents can be controlled for branding and be kept up to date. They can be stored in the cloud, shipped digitally to connected printers around the world, and then printed locally and delivered as soon as same day. The savings in time, waste, and overall cost are enormous, and the quality and consistency are higher.

Loyalty and rewards programs also rely on delivering hard products, but their entire management and logistics can be handled in the cloud up to final delivery. Companies can use the cloud to automate any number of processes, from ordering, shipment tracking, payment, importing to invoicing.

Automation not only quickens the completion of tasks, but increases quality by eliminating the data keying errors that can arise from paper-based solutions. The decline of bricks (traditional retail stores) and the move to clicks (e-commerce) has expanded to sales incentives, corporate gifts, and other recognition programs, and this trend will continue as more brands realize the benefits and business necessity of cloud-based transactions.

The business shift to the cloud isn’t limited to goods and services. One company I work with, StrikeIron, provides cloud-based infrastructure for delivering live business data to any application, from e-commerce and communications to customer relationship management. Organizations of all sizes, including Fortune 100 companies, can subscribe to these services and pull data into real-time business systems to help complete mission-critical business transactions. These live data sources can improve lead quality, ensure accuracy and allow businesses to reach their customers through any communications channel.

Clearly, the cloud is driving dramatic change across all aspects of the technology ecosystem. But we are just on the brink of some really progressive breakthroughs in business process logistics. Any aspect of a business service that can be delivered digitally via the cloud likely will be. It is a matter of time.

(Matt Fates (pictured) is a partner at Ascent Venture Partners.)

Photo courtesy of Ascent Venture Partners.