To Cloud or not. I recall attempting to persuade businesses that remotely hosted business applications might make good sense – back in 2001, but at that point in time my views were largely laughed at and thought of as complete heresy. Why would anyone or any organisation ever consider moving their valuable data off-site when they could do a much better job of handling performance, security and backup themselves?
It is now 2013, verging on 2014 and there is virtually little talk of anything but moving that “valuable data” offsite and into the Cloud, of which we have absolutely no idea of where the data will actually reside. The nature of the Cloud means that our valuable data is spread over server farms that may be located virtually anywhere in the world.
So with regard to your social initiatives will you Cloud or not? Questions that arise naturally involve the above mentioned points about performance and security but more than that they involve the extent to which you are going immerse your organisation into a social culture. By that I mean does social just mean letting employees engage in digital conversations with each other or does it extend to linking those conversations to other externally based stakeholders and business context applications, for example CRM, HR, Customer Service, Projects, etc.
When it comes to linking social activities to business applications the issue of integration positions itself front and centre. Traditionally and typically these applications reside “on-premise”, i.e, within the server farm owned and controlled by the organisation itself and this means that (if you’ve decided that you can live with your social data living in the Cloud) you will need to provide handshaking capabilities with the Cloud, which means accessing your internally controlled data from outside of your firewall.
This then presents a very interesting evolution of IT as it relates to business software and for the purposes of this article social business software. The overwhelming majority of social business software vendors (Jive Software, IBM, Yammer, Socialtext, Tibbr, MangoApps, etc) are making it very clear that their preferred medium for providing their software service is via the Cloud. They offer generous subscription plans, streamlined and more regular software updates and promises to manage performance on your behalf. More and more businesses are choosing to take up the Cloud option.
Why? Because it makes good business sense. We live in a connected world and the degree of connectedness is growing exponentially. Social business is evolving because people are wanting to engage digitally on a broader scale. Communities are forming that include traditional employee to employee relationships, but now also need to include customers and other stakeholders. To quote Christopher Morace Chief Strategy Officer at Jive Software, from his book “Transform” – “Now that users are connected to one another all the time, we are more dependent on each other. We work in teams and across geographies. This radically increases the need for group productivity and social software”.
So back to the original question. To Cloud or not? The issue of connectedness stands out as a very compelling reason to go “the Cloud” path. We all know that it is far far easier to hook people in from multiple locations, multiple organisations and multiple disciplines using the Cloud. The traditional extranet approach is heavily dependent on IT working some magic to hook the multiple streams of stakeholders together.
Bottom line is that if your organisation is considering how to approach the implementation of social business software to support your initiative they must give careful consideration to a Cloud solution.