Collaborating in the Cloud

Via customized permissions, collaborative software systems allow employees to coordinate on real-time conversations, upload files and comment on and edit resources stored in the cloud, as well as manage projects within a single software tool, regardless of location or department. The systems can be tailored for a variety of needs, including project management and communication—such as real-time, threaded conversations—as well as document management, customer communication, human capital management and project life-cycle management.

Cloud 2
“If I’m talking about a certain project or, more specifically, a certain franchisee, I can go into that project and see everything happening with that franchisee and all the info is accessible to all my employees.”
—Lorne Cassoff, president, 
Ben & Florentine

CAPITALIZING ON THE CLOUD
“Cloud collaboration providers are now replacing a complicated mix of email clients, FTP clients and instant messengers,” reports Abdul Salam, a co-author of “Deploying and Managing the Cloud Infrastructure.”

Putting tools into one software system reduces complexity for users and helps support task management through solutions like enabling employees to see who is viewing a document and integrating email alerts into collaborative tools.

Enterprise cloud applications bring a variety of collaborative tools—all from the same vendor—and tie them together across a common platform. This approach appeals to companies seeking a streamlined way to meet all of their collaboration needs across the enterprise rather than relying on multiple solutions.

Companies that choose enterprise applications do so as a business strategy, says Gretchen Alarcon, Oracle group vice president, product strategy. The choice also depends on the culture of an organization and how many departments it seeks to tie together. “You have to look at where you want the collaboration to happen, within what areas, and what you’re trying to accomplish within these systems,” she says. “If collaboration is tied to a business process, then collaboration within the enterprise system makes more sense than using ad hoc systems.”

While many companies opt for cloud-based subscription models that take security and update management off their hands, there are pros and cons to that approach, notes Laurence Goasduff, an analyst at Gartner, and author of the research report “The Financial Case for Moving the Cloud.”

For example, choosing a cloudbased model saves companies on both upfront investment in pricey IT infrastructure and ongoing updates. That cash can then be freed up to fund other business needs. However, an expanding company will invariably need to purchase more licenses as it grows, which can become less cost-efficient than developing or purchasing a system outright. Subscription fees also go on forever and may increase over time. Plus, it can be both difficult and expensive to part ways with a provider, given the cost of extricating data collected in the cloud.

Choosing wisely can help guard against these pitfalls and, fortunately, there are plenty of tools from which to choose. A large number of vendors have entered the market in the past seven years, offering a range of solutions tailored toward different company size ranges and industries. Autodesk Fusion Lifecycle, for example, allows engineers and industrial designers to manage their design projects across teams on the cloud, while Basecamp is widely used by website designers and media companies.

To find the right tools and to enable smooth implementation, Gartner recommends that companies “document the internal processes that will be affected by the identified cloud services and map applications and workloads to the associated cloud services. The document and the map should be targeted to achieve business outcomes—for example, cost-efficiencies, operational efficiencies and agility.”