Changing Face of Collaboration

Douglas Olsen, CIO/CTO, Scouting Report Consulting
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Douglas Olsen, CIO/CTO, Scouting Report Consulting

Benefits of Cloud Computing

Most CIOs that are in a position that they have to depreciate a relatively new data center are embracing cloud computing. For companies to embrace cloud computing it usually begins with a conversation with the CFO to explain the benefits of cloud computing because CFO’s usually prefer CAPEX over OPEX and cloud computing is all OPEX. When working with CFO’s it is important to ensure a clear understanding of the benefits of cloud computing. I use a list of topics to discuss this with them:

• Access to the latest technology: The cloud service provider is typically responsible for hardware updates, virtualized and portable.
• Costs become more predictable: Since most cloud expense is either annual or monthly subscription you budget will smooth out with regular payments instead of the large oscillation of CAPEX.
• Capital costs are significantly reduced: The need to invest in servers is significantly reduced. Gone are the days of 3 to 5 year hardware refreshes for the cloud services.
• Consumption based pay: Spikes in demand can be more easily absorbed due to the flexibility of cloud computing. The need to purchase additional servers for a spike only to be idled after the spike can be eliminated.
• Maintenance costs will be reduced: Since cloud services come with maintenance included, there won’t be unpredictability in budgets, especially when these cost are missed in the annual planning cycle. This can also reduce the workload on internal IT staff.
• An opportunity to downsize or eliminate a data center: Let’s face it, data centers are complex and expense. Not to mention data centers sometimes occupy coveted office space.
• Resilience and security: Cloud providers specialize in provider secure and resilient services better than anyone else. They’re experts in this rapidly changing space. Most companies can’t keep up with the rapid changes so it is best to leave this to the experts.
• Mobile workforce and staffing flexibility: By making the services readily available over the internet, performance improves. As a result it becomes easier for employees and remote offices to function at the same level as in the office.

‚Äč  Through cloud based collaboration suites, companies are able to reduce telecom and video conference expense but also reduce travel in many cases 

Cloud computing for collaboration has been a tremendous leap forward for companies because it allows employees to be connected even while traveling or working remotely. The single suite offerings that contain, instant messaging, voice calls, video calls, conference calls, screen sharing and file transfer have been a game changer.

Big data Analytics in Collaboration

There are many challenges in bringing big data analytics into their collaboration space. Most challenges reside in a couple of areas:

Big data analytics is not mature in most companies. Many companies are still trying to figure out what big data analytics mean to their particular industry and company. Even though companies are quickly getting into this space, it hasn’t proliferated that ways of working within an organization. As a result the use of big data analytics in collaboration is limited.

Big data analytics usually interrogate transactional systems. Since big data works with data from an ERP system or data warehouse, this data is usually on premise along with the application. This can make it challenging to leverage this data, from an access and performance perspective outside of the company’s network. The tipping point will be when companies fully embrace ERP and analytics in the cloud.

Big data should reach beyond internal data. The final challenge in many industries for really making a big move in big data analytics is to include data that is outside of the enterprise like social media data (with natural language processing and image recognition), syndicated and public data. While many data service providers are beginning to offer cloud product for these types of data, many companies have yet to co-mingle the data in order to gain profound insights.

Fostering collaboration needs two critical elements, culture and technology. Culture is 51 percent  of the collaboration formula. A company needs to embrace an open environment of sharing information and coming together to solve challenges. Collaboration needs to come from the top; the leaders of the company need to be the first to embrace this and set the tone for collaboration. How many times do companies’ leaders make a big deal about being collaborative and open only to never be seen online in the collaboration toolset or never posting content. The remaining part and often the easier part is the technology. There are many comprehensive and similar toolsets for making this happen.

Companies often focus first on the headquarters staff and sometimes neglect the field based team. The teams in the field often deal with a lot of friction in accomplishing their daily tasks as a result of being remote. The headquarter team needs to take care in ensuring that the field based team has the appropriate tools for being as efficient as possible. Many field based teams struggle with the basics of being able to quickly look at real time inventory availability, placing orders, assigning tasks to service accounts, enter reports for field activities, finding and accessing the right information to service and account and in some cases something as basic as submitting an expense report. There are a tremendous amount of efficiencies to be gained in this area and there are plenty of technologies to make it happen. Companies should focus on technology for their front line, the teams in the field that are representing the brand.

A few of the lessons learned over the years that I have learned is that you are never too high in any organization to walk in the shoes of any employee. By spending time with my sales team, account service teams and working in a retail store, I was able to see tremendous opportunities for improvement that led to new technology solutions that not only saved time, money and made their jobs easier and even increased revenue, but it also changed the way the brand showed up in the market. The new technology also provided a new level of analytics and insights.

The role of the CIO has changed over the years for those who seized the opportunities. CIO’s need to focus more on driving and improving the business through new and innovative technology, whether taking a lead in digital programs or big data or IoT. CIO’s who are making this shift are seeing Chief Digital Officers and Chief Data Officers show up to their left and right making the CIO’s brief smaller and less impactful.

Through cloud based collaboration suites, companies are able to reduce telecom and video conference expense but also reduce travel in many cases. For some collaboration means face to face meetings, which it true. However, with more and more globally dispersed teams and an increasing mobile work force, companies need to shift the culture towards digital collaboration.

Internet of Things for Collaboration

The internet of things is similar to big data. Everyone knows that they should be doing it but some are not sure what it means to their brand. For some companies, it is obvious that their products are and should be connected. For me, IoT means building a closer relationship with your consumers and learning as much as reasonably possible in order to provide the best experience possible that evolves over time.

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