Posted by Tony Kontzer, Guest Blogger
The range of business cases justifying the cloud expands every day, but one prototype may illustrate the cloud's value more than any other: the young, fast-growing company.
Consider EndoChoice Inc., an Atlanta, Ga.-based maker of medical technology designed to help in the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases. Just six years ago, the company was a tiny startup with a handful of employees and $3.8 million in annual revenue. By the end of 2012, annual revenue had reached $33.1 million and the company's employee headcount had reached 177.
By then, EndoChoice had expanded to three locations in the U.S. supporting three lines of business—devices, diagnostics and infection control.
“We chose NetSuite from day 1 and have since the beginning continued to expand our use of NetSuite,” Bjarke Ormstrup, the company's vice president of IT, told attendees attending a session at SuiteWorld 2014.
Last year brought continued growth when EndoChoice launched the Fuse® Full Spectrum Endoscopy® system and added an imaging line of business. The company opened facilities in Germany and Israel, as well as an additional U.S. location, and its light manufacturing(opens in new tab) operations grew with much more complex processes. Revenue rose to more than $50 million and the staff more than doubled in size, reaching 400 by the end of 2013 as doctors adopted the Fuse system to help them find more pre-cancerous lesions than traditional endocopes.
By standardizing on NetSuite ERP(opens in new tab), not to mention expanding the use of cloud(opens in new tab)-based email and file-sharing, the company was able to support its continued growth with a technology environment that can easily scale with the business. And scale it will. Ormstrup noted that EndoChoice is on pace to reach 500 employees by the end of the year.
"Our strategy is to have everything in the cloud," Ormstrup said. "I don't have to have architects or anyone who needs more memory or disk space. That's been really helpful, and has helped us expand."
But even the cloud alone can't ensure a smooth path for a fast-growing company. Along those lines, Ormstrup told NetSuite attendees that he's come away with five areas companies experiencing rapid growth should pay special attention to:
Access to on-demand local support. "Centralized support over seven time zones does not work. We recognized that early, so we got some good partners," Ormstrup said. "You can never have enough brains.”
Effective communication of plans, expectations and accountability. Ormstrup said it's critical to ensure plans are known, set clear expectations, identify a directly responsible individual for each task, and, perhaps most importantly, be prepared to adjust as conditions change.
Invest in company resources in the markets you enter. That means making life easier for new hires in new markets by ensuring they have the tools and resources they need, that they're trained properly to take advantage of systems and processes and that management gets to know them and makes them feel part of a team.
Consolidate financial systems in one cloud-based environment, and compel its use. According to Ormstrup, accounting activities occurring outside a new cloud-based system only prolong a company’s growing pains.
Invest in bandwidth and networking infrastructure. Even the best cloud-based services are only as good as the connection to them. And, as Ormstrup notes, in some countries, it can take months to acquire additional bandwidth.
None of this is to imply that Ormstrup has all the answers; “We are always trying to improve upon our cloud-based IT strategy, and to make it more efficient and easier for our employees to use every day,” he said.