A major benefit of cloud computing: cooperation and collaboration

by Alexander Weiß

Cloud computing is one of the most discussed topics at the moment. The discussion is dominated by the themes efficiency gains and cost savings. In my opinion, the benefits of cloud computing are lying beyond these two topics. The technique of cloud computing has the potential to change the ways of cooperation and collaboration. Therefore in the future cloud computing won’t be a matter of the IT departments anymore but an important topic for the business.

Change in IT seems to be driven by technology. The role which the business plays in these changes is often neglected. But it plays a major part in the decision process. Architecture changes in IT are not only a result of the availability of new technologies but a result of the wishes of the management. And management wishes themselves are just a result of the demands of the business or the clients.

If we take a look at the areas where cloud computing is omnipresent today, we will stumble about a curiosity: All of the successful IT companies in the customer area are based on cloud computing: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Twitter etc. All of these companies use cloud computing extensively. Neither of them does speak about cloud computing openly, though.

A major benefit of cloud computing: cooperation and collaboration

A major benefit of cloud computing: cooperation and collaboration

These companies have something else in common: They offer ways to cooperate and collaborate and their services are not restrained by space or time. To be able to use services always and everywhere isn’t something that customers only demand, it is something they are already used to and something they unconsciously expect from the service provider.

The consequences for IT

But what does this mean for the business and especially for IT? To survive they have to adapt to the customers’ expectations. The times when the customer had to decide when, where and to what extend she wants to use a service are over, because there is nothing to decide: The service provider has made the decisions already. When? Always. Where? Everywhere. To what extend? It doesn’t matter if one person uses the service or ten thousand.

On the IT side that means that the IT resources have to be without limit, because extreme scalability is part of the offering. It is what customers expect. For a company which core business doesn’t lie in the area of collaboration and cooperation it is not possible to provide a limitless IT infrastructure. Therefore more and more service provider offer cloud based cooperation & collaboration related services for business customers.

For the business it is easier to rent the services than to build up their own. Another benefit of a rented service is the flexibility. The complete overhead of planning, implementing and running the service, is outsourced to the service provider. However, not only the business does profit from outsourcing: The CIO also benefits, because cloud computing is an easy way to allocate additional resources.

The consequences for the business

But both arguments miss the biggest benefit of cloud computing: The first time in history of IT it is possible to focus on the user because providing the service doesn’t need much attention anymore. The decrease of attention applies not only to the business side, because the only thing users have to do is use the service. They don’t have to worry about the where, when and how anymore. The creative and productive potential of the users is than fully released. If we look at the amount of content that is generated every day in the social networks and how productive some open source projects are, it is very easy to see, how successful  cooperation and collaboration can be if the where, when and how is not limiting the producers.

The essential question the business has to ask itself now is: How can I use this potential? The benefits for the business lie on two different levels. First, cloud computing enables the business to reduce the complexity of tasks and undertakings. Splitting complex undertakings into smaller parts makes the undertaking less complex and hence easier to fulfill. Second, the business can improve the cooperation and collaboration within itself.

The potential here is huge: Despite the improvements in the availability of information, the lack of information is still one of the major factor why a business is not as flexible and agile as it needs to be. By tearing down the barriers of space and time planning and decision making can be done in real time. With the availability of mobile devices the workers don’t have to actively gather information or compile results, because they are already available.

If everything is that easy you might wonder why cloud computing is still just seen as a way to lower costs and raise efficiency. There is just one major obstacle: Standards. You can read in the following post why standards are a problem for implementing the suggestions made in this article.

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