IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: The Benefits of Cloud-based Collaboration with Ed Brill, IBMDecember 21, 2012 No Comments
There is no doubt that 2012 has been a breakthrough year for cloud computing. We have witnessed a continuous growth curve in terms of adoption that has allowed for the emergence of new and innovative cloud services. Social and cloud collaboration, for example, have paved the way for new applications that support and enrich the corporate chain of relationships, and therefor increase overall productivity.
In the below interview, Ed Brill from IBM Social Business emphasizes the benefits of cloud collaboration and outlines ways in which businesses can overcome security and integration challenges associated with the cloud.
- Q. In what ways do you see cloud computing and social collaboration working together to increase efficiency and productivity for enterprises today?
A. At IBM, our solutions have always focused on productivity. Among those tools, we provided desktop-oriented products with a design centered on the individual. The major shift now in the way people do businesses is from the individual to a more collaborative work experience. This change has not only increased productivity, but also allowed for more innovation. Organizations discovered that they were not as effective working in silos or hierarchies.
Workplace tools are reflecting this change. The cloud is a great way to deliver productivity tools that lend to collaboration; it works for small businesses with little or no IT staff and few resources, and it works for large businesses that want to pay on a utility basis for capabilities, instead of deploying their own people. Public cloud solutions also have the advantage of incorporating the entire value chain including customers, partners, and suppliers.
The result is a smarter workforce – using social technologies to ensure that employees collaborate smoothly, effectively, and efficiently to drive tangible business results, working with the marketplace at large. This concept of a social business really comes down to staying competitive in today’s marketplace.
- Q. How can businesses begin to overcome security and integration challenges associated with cloud-based collaboration?
A. Businesses need to make a decision on cloud based on their available resources, existing infrastructure and internal culture. We’re seeing a lot of success with the public cloud in manufacturing, retail, telecommunications, media and travel/transportation. We’re seeing less adoption of the public cloud from regulated industries like healthcare/pharmaceuticals and insurance/banking, though they are certainly joining others in leveraging emeetings and other cloud services. We offer ways to deliver cloud capabilities in a regulated environment, but they’re still cautious.
What we need to remember is that the cloud isn’t the only option; it’s just one of the options. Software is another delivery option. Appliances are a delivery option. We believe that the right architecture for our customers to deploy is the one that best suits their needs and meets their requirements. Some organizations aren’t ready to have an outside organization operate core infrastructure. Some workloads will evolve more over time, or adopt hybrid approaches of premises and cloud. We’ve been very focused on enabling flexible adoption at IBM.
- Q. How do tools such as IBM SmartCloud Engage and IBM SmartCloud Docs work to fulfill collaboration and messaging infrastructure needs for enterprises today?
A. SmartCloud Docs provides word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation tools within the context of a browser. It allows teams to receive notifications about the progress of a document within their activity streams and edit it together in real-time, so employees are sharing and editing documents within the context of the larger project, activity, community or meeting. Organizations can connect people with people, rather than the activity being centered around the document itself. It’s a contextual and social angle that differentiates this product.
SmartCloud Engage combines an organization’s social network with web conferencing and collaboration capabilities. Employees can host online meetings, manage contacts, store and share files, instant message and manage projects all from one dashboard. This holistic view creates a workflow that not only helps productivity, but also speeds up real innovation.
- Q. What role do you see cloud-based collaboration playing within the rapid evolution of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)?
A. The mobile workforce will no longer be able to survive on just remote email or document access. It’s not about living in your inbox anymore. The center of work is the dashboard, activities and communities. That’s what drives engagement with colleagues, customers and partners. So the growing expectation is that employees will demand and require access to their full suite of collaboration and productivity tools, not a “mobile” version lacking capability. The cloud makes the connectivity to BYOD environments easy for IT and line-of-business to adopt.
- Q. What solutions will IBM SmartCloud be offering in 2013 to accommodate the ever growing needs surrounding mobile business today?
A. At IBM’s Connect conference in January 2013, thousands of clients and partners will gather to learn about IBM’s product roadmap and hear from leading companies around the globe who are accelerating their social business transformation with IBM software and services.
We will be describing how the productivity and editing capabilities of SmartCloud Docs will expand to private cloud deployments and fully integrate with IBM’s social platform, Connections. We’ll also look to bring more mobile devices into the equation and create seamless mobile device experiences. We’ll want to provide further integration with third party tools and applications already running in the customer’s environment.
We also want to make sure that companies can integrate into the public cloud just as easily as they can with software, and enable employees to quickly familiarize themselves with the capabilities. It’s important to make it a part of the culture and business processes. That’s how organizations are going to benefit and make most of the investment.
Ed Brill (@edbrill) is Director, Product Management for IBM Social Business. He is passionate about extending and growing the success of social business solutions, understanding the global marketplace, and helping contribute to the collaboration software community. He is also the author of an upcoming book, “Opting In: Lessons in Social Business from a Fortune 500 Product Manager”.
CLOUD DATA, Fresh Ink, Inside the Briefcase, SOCIAL BUSINESS