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Summary:

The convergence of cloud computing, more empowered employees and on-demand infrastructure is driving adoption of technologies — from workspaces like Box.net, Huddle and Cetnral Desktop to customer-powered support communities like Get Satisfaction — that foster high-impact collaboration and with that, innovation.

collaboration

A whole new world of collaboration tools now exists, from workspaces like Box.net, Huddle and Central Desktop to customer-powered support communities like Get Satisfaction. In the enterprise, the convergence of cloud computing, more empowered employees and on-demand infrastructure is driving adoption of these technologies. Let’s look at how each is shaping the future of high-impact collaboration in the enterprise, and with it, new innovations.

The Human Cloud

As Mathew recently said, the human cloud is the capability of a company to get the best talent available regardless of location. With the advent of mobile technology, “flashmobs” and bee “swarms” to accomplish a problem will be more commonplace. An example of this would be responding to a PR crisis: Instead of taking the time to convert a conference room to a “physical war room,” a marketing executive can connect with the resources inside and outside the company (executive team, bloggers, call center, media consultants) to create a “swarm” to extinguish a PR spark before it becomes a media firestorm.

The human cloud is also a catalyst for companies to generate maximum value from existing resources. The Deloitte Center for the Edge recently published the 2010 Shift Index, which rigorously documents a long-term performance deterioration of 75 percent in return-on-assets (ROA) across 15 industries in the U.S. since 1970, despite productivity gains. According to the Shift Index, “the solution lies in empowering passionate employees, those who feel truly engaged with their work and constantly push the performance envelope, by accelerating institutional innovation and driving corporate growth.”

Empowered Employees

Collaborative cultures are now embracing the passion of the whole employee, creating work environments for them to use their devices, home office and professional networks to support the context for creating competitive advantage for the company.

Empowering workers in the human cloud, giving them a choice of devices and leveraging social networks for collaboration is necessary, but not sufficient enough to create truly high-impact collaboration. Different levels of “generational trust” between seniors, boomers, Gen Y and the Millennial Generation create a “digital divide” that can pose a significant barrier to collaboration. Research conducted by David Coleman, Managing Director of Collaborative Strategies, finds the biggest barriers to collaboration are not technology problems but are related to people and process. He has created a framework that illustrates different levels of competence, trust, age and web:

Source: Collaborative Strategies

Companies can act on these findings and create initiatives and social metrics designed to accelerate the progression of digital exiles, digital immigrants and digital natives to digital workers.

On-Demand Infrastructure and Applications

Businesses can now leverage on-demand infrastructure and applications to support nearly every aspect of their operations. Service providers can securely host multiple tenants of one application on one server, which boosts their server utilization rates, cuts administrative costs and lowers server cost per tenant. The resulting efficiencies and cost savings can be passed through to customers using a mesh business model.

At the same time, corporate IT departments are freed from the hassles of traditional deployments, software maintenance and upgrades, and concerns about scalability and reliability. IT can help business units source innovative applications when they need them and avoid getting bogged down with day-to-day maintenance and support. This frees IT up to focus on more value-added activities while being more responsive to changing business needs.

In many cases, these on-demand solutions can be integrated with existing enterprise IT investments. For example, social-media oriented, on-demand collaboration tools can be integrated with Microsoft SharePoint (which offers less-than-optimal collaboration functionality) for an improved user experience that makes employees and external partners more productive, effective and inspired to innovate to establish competitive advantage.

One example of a company turning these ideas into applicable business solutions is Intuit, who developed an innovation management tool called Brainstorm. To read a case study of this process, check out the full report.

Image source: flickr user ChrisL_AK

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By J.P. Finnell

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  1. Cloud is changing the way we collaborate. The framework(pic) shown here in this post truly captures how different people respond to the new tech. I especially like the term ‘digital exile’. I must say it must be very difficult for the Gen X to always ‘play the catch-up’ game with new tech. Hope it doesn’t affect their productivity in a -ve way :)

  2. Quickthink » Blog Archive » Looking for Unconscious Competence. But First … Thursday, December 9, 2010

    [...] about this today over at Giga, making the point that digital tools to promote this are on the way. Here is the link.  And an example of tools that do not promote this? How about email. Fred Wilson once again moans [...]

  3. Nice writeup JP. I’m amazed by how quickly the nature of enterprise IT has changed, both for big corporations and small businesses. This new generation of technology means the price of collaboration tools and backend software can plummet while the human cloud allows any business owner to hire talented marketers, designers, developers, or support personnel from around the world.

  4. Great write up JP! And thanks for mentioning us (Intuit Brainstorm) in your research. It really is a new world for enterprise collaboration and we’re happy to explore what this new world has to offer.

    If any of your readers would like to learn more about Brainstorm tell them to swing on over to http://www.intuitbrainstorm.com.

  5. Also like the term.
    I am the co-founder of on-demand SaaS platform GroupCamp: http://www.groupcamp.com and addressing ‘Digital Exiles’ (great term) with an on-demand model can be challenging. We need different sales and support channel for us to extend our proposition to that segment.

  6. While I can’t totally groove with the IT tech-speak (Baby Boomer here), I can not pass up this news because of its value for identifying “collaborative cultures now embracing the passion of the whole employee, creating work environments for them to use their devices, home office and professional networks to support the context for creating competitive advantage for the company” and targeting companies who do not see solutions pointed in that direction. I am LingOL because of a story recently told to me by an obviously frustrated older manager (friend) whose young employee was leaving the job. “She is unreliable”, she related, “I had to tell her to leave her cell phone at home.” See the problem as it relates to this report? The generational divide can be huge in the workplace yet, no larger than the lack of potential for the company to thrive.

  7. Why is E20 incompetent and unconscious?

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