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11/19/2010
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Torelli's 'Uncloudy' Cloud Moment

There is an old folk song that talks about the promise of "an uncloudy day," a time and place where everything is clear, serene and peaceful. Sounds pretty tempting - especially if you operate a typical small to midsize business (SMB), where clarity and serenity are seldom the order of the day.

There is an old folk song that talks about the promise of "an uncloudy day," a time and place where everything is clear, serene and peaceful. Sounds pretty tempting - especially if you operate a typical small to midsize business (SMB), where clarity and serenity are seldom the order of the day.I had a glimpse of an uncloudy day recently during an outing with Todd Linscott, owner and CEO of Torelli Bicycle Company in North Hollywood, Calif. If you've been following this series, you know that Torelli is the subject of an ambitious technology makeover project, in which his four-person importing company received a transformative enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, courtesy of SAP and its implementation partner, Navigator Business Solutions.

The moment of clarity came, ironically, not in spite of clouds, but actually because of the cloud. The cloud I'm referring to is the Internet cloud, where the Torelli's integrated ERP application resides. I accompanied Todd on an outing to visit one of his favorite customers, Topanga Creek Bicycles in the Santa Monica Mountains. The rustic bike shop is located on a picturesque bend in the road that winds through Topanga Canyon, a circuitous stretch of two-lane highway that connects Southern California's San Fernando Valley with the storied beaches of Malibu.

While I hunted for a stray cellular signal to make a tenuous connection back to the outside world, Todd quietly tapped into his cloud-based ERP system using the store's Wi-Fi connection. He had instant access to real-time inventory and sales information, getting a quick update on store owner Chris Kelly's recent purchases. He then entered some new purchase orders, negotiated a few minutes earlier over cups of fresh-brewed coffee served around Kelly's cozy wood-burning stove.

For Linscott and Torelli, it was another small milestone in the larger process of reinventing their 30-year-old company. At the same time, it was a rare opportunity to see how deploying the latest ERP tools and solutions can part the clouds that obscure access to real-time data for most SMBs. While the "uncloudy day" referred to in the song is a paradise beyond this world, this was an example of how new, cloud-based software can help SMBs begin reach that place "where no storm clouds fly," where business can be conducted seamlessly, and customers can be left with a smile, regardless of location or time of day.

Chris Kelly of Topanga Creek Bicycles captured the moment for posterity as the InformationWeek SMB video crew descended on his small shop to document Torelli's "uncloudy" cloud experience. Stay tuned for the complete video documentary. In he meantime, please tell us how your company plans to dispel the gathering storm clouds and gain actionable, real-time insight into your business processes.

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