Is it time to jump into the cloud?
This week the big news in my world is, of course, the launch of the Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based Office applications. The battle is now on between Google Apps and Microsoft.
So, does this mean it’s time to stop what we’re doing and jump into the cloud? Probably not…
The world is now going to start assessing the functionality of the tools we’ve been given. There’s no doubt that our industry has just changed for the better, as we’ve just gained access to a tool that extends Office from the desktop and into the cloud, in a way that empowers us to work in a collaborative way. This is definitely not the end of the desktop though - it’s just a step in a new direction. I’m pretty sure that those who use it will discover new ways to do old tasks and new ways to do new things. Those that don’t try it will wonder how their competitors passed them by.
Office 365 is not here to stop us working via Office on the desktop. It’s more of a set of tools that can extend the tools that we’re already using. No doubt, it will take the IT community a while to come to terms with this and really get the most out of these tools. If you have teams of people working on documents in Word, Excel or PowerPoint, now there’s a way for your whole team to work on the same document, at the same time - and for everyone to see what they’re all contributing.
This needs new thinking. I don’t expect we’ll all use it, all of the time, but there are many ways that we can begin to use it effectively.
We just ran a business planning session, with our business plan in a spreadsheet. Six of us gathered in a room with our laptops and simultaneously added components for our business unit to the plan. Rather than discussing our ideas and updating the plan later, as we spoke we created together. If we put something in the spreadsheet that the group disagreed with, we could fix it on the spot. We found ourselves clarifying intentions as they were captured. The number of times we said, “That isn’t quite what I meant when I said that...” was interesting and the rapid capturing of clarified intent was very powerful.
In this instance, we collaborated around a table but we could just have easily have done it around the world with a phone hook-up.
How else will the collaborative technology improve the way we work, to have us do more in less time, with better outputs? Of course, we now have the opportunity to consider on-line exchange, with better access for Mac users and more features with its upgrade to Exchange 2010 - but that’s more of a technical pitch than a strategic one.
There’s also SharePoint and Lync to consider, which again, will give us new opportunities to re-invent work processes.
If you have some great ideas on how to use the tools we’ve been given, please add comments below.
It’s time for all of us old dogs to learn new tricks and start teaching the people around us to embrace these latest opportunities. There will no doubt be fierce debate about how good or bad it is, but I am only interested in what this gives us that we didn’t have before. We can discuss risks and security later – certainly don’t throw out your servers and load all your mission critical data onto it just yet!
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David Markus is the founder of Combo - the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.