The modern office no longer looks like Office Space, with a staff of office drones tied to their cubicle desks, working from an office-provided desktop every day. In a world of iPads, Blackberries, Androids, iPhones and laptops, employees are accessing information from everywhere, giving cloud-based collaboration a clear cue to make its entrance.
While some enterprises say they’re still preparing for the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) era to hit, the truth is it’s already here, whether they’re prepared or not. According to a report by Juniper Research, 150 million people use personal mobile devices for work. That number is set to more than double by 2014.
The rise of the global worker is complemented by a shift toward a services economy, said TJ Keitt, senior analyst at Forrester, a global research and advisory firm based in Cambridge, Mass. Automation that comes from new technologies, such as cloud computing, opens the doors for not only global workers but for the introduction of more creative jobs, such as consulting. And these creative jobs require more communication, collaboration and flexibility in working hours.
“Cloud collaboration is not just about being a different delivery mechanism, it’s about what you’re enabling in your workforce,” said Keitt in a Webinar last week.
A 2012 Forrester survey showed that agility — not cost-savings — was the primary reason companies gave for adopting Software as a Service (SaaS).
TechTarget’s 2012 cloud adoption survey echoed this finding, with 60% of survey respondents using public cloud because it offered increased availability.
Businesses have used collaboration tools primarily for two reasons: reduce overhead costs and improve communication among the workforce. Collaboration software means that there could be fewer in-house employees who are able to communicate without needing to travel, which cuts a company’s overhead costs. Cutting costs plus the ability to more easily dispense and share information make collaboration tools a boon to many businesses.
And companies can better capitalize on these benefits by moving collaboration to the cloud, Keitt argues.
“Cloud is a natural home for collaboration technology because of the confluence of employee mobility, globalization and innovation networks, which are changing the nature of business,” said Keitt.
But will enterprises’ hesitance to adopt cloud undermine the benefits of collaboration software?
Despite lingering concerns about security, compliance and vendor lock-in, TechTarget’s survey show a growing comfort with cloud services. 61% of the 1,500 IT pros surveyed reported they currently use cloud services.
This growing ease with cloud could be good news for enterprises. The rise of the global worker may mean increased access to information for employees, but it could also mean consumers are empowered by information.
In an era when a company’s mistake or a disappointing product could spread through social media like a social disease, the ability to quickly and efficiently communicate with customers could be a solid differentiator. Cloud-based collaboration software could match the changing tides in business, but cloud vendors have to work to overcome persistent qualms about cloud services if they to make major advances in the enterprise.
Caitlin White is associate site editor for SearchCloudComputing.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.