GUEST BLOG: Robert Rutherford on running his whole business from a cloud platform

We have engineered our business systems to take much of the day to day thought out of running the business. As our value to our customers comes through our knowledge and information, it's critical that we capture all of it

On a day-to-day basis the whole company operates from our cloud platform.

All of our IT services and applications are delivered out of our data centres. These are then accessed over secure internet connections from our offices and on-the-road. We haven't had servers in the offices for over 5 years.

We generally run all of our business on Microsoft technologies. This is predominately due to the fact that Microsoft has the right solutions to fit our business operations.

At the moment (soon to change) a large chunk of our business operations are anchored in Microsoft CRM. Our service, sales and back-office functions all link into the customer information and records held in CRM.

A major benefit of using Microsoft CRM is that it sits on standard technologies; technologies that are made to easily integrate with other systems and services.

In fact our CRM servers are heavily customised so that they fit our operations, particularly to hook-in our financial applications, to automate processes and to provide a clear management/KPI dashboard for our service delivery. You typically only gain a significant advantage through customisation and integration.

We are also heavy users of SharePoint. As we conform to ISO 270001 (IT security) and ISO 20000 (IT service delivery) standards, everything has to be documented, controlled and auditable.

We find that SharePoint's document control and workflow management suits our requirements.  Actually we store very little in the standard Windows file and folder structures these days - more or less everything goes into our SharePoint platform.

Generally our communications come in the form of Microsoft Exchange for email - just because it's so powerful and integrates well with other systems.

We obviously pick up our email up in the offices, at home and on our phones; which are Blackberry devices - chosen for their reliability, business integration and unrivalled security.

The office phone system is an Avaya solution, chosen for its interoperability with other systems and the fact that we can use traditional phone lines and SIP (VOIP) lines.

We certainly need the traditional lines as we do find SIP to be unreliable at times. Our engineers and consultants do also connect into the phone system from soft-phones, basically along the same lines as Skype.

I should note that we are continually changing and developing our IT systems as we can now accurately measure and report on the different functions within our business, i.e. profitability per service, per customer, employee utilisation, margin, etc.

You have to continually measure and improve when working to the ISO 20000 and 270001 standards, and they are a big driving force for our continual change.

In fact we are in the process of designing a whole new system to further slicken our operations and to provide greater insight into the business.

This won't be a Microsoft product but it will be built on a Microsoft platform, i.e. using Microsoft's SQL database server. This gives us flexibility going forward and opens up our data for integration with other systems."

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