It wasn’t that long ago that the phrase “everyone is connected” was relegated to science fiction or New Age spiritualists. Today, the phrase denotes much more than ethereal connections between distant bodies and minds — it reflects the reality of modern life. In fact, we are all connected, whether through our social graph or everyday devices such as our cars’ GPS, cell phones, televisions and books. What connects us all — through the various accoutrements of our lives — is the cloud.
We’re constantly relying on the cloud for many purposes: for directions, information and entertainment. But more than that, the cloud has become a way for us to connect with each other. We use it to connect with our friends and family via Facebook and Skype, update our personal blogs, store and share photos online and even express our rage and emotions on Twitter.
The cloud has become part of our daily business lives as well: the “human cloud” is enabling companies to use dispersed teams to get the best talent available regardless of location (or price) and many are using crowdsourcing and other innovative means to achieve their goals. The cloud sells for us (though your corporate website/storefront), it holds our customer data (Salesforce.com), it files our documents (Dropbox), it signs our contracts (EchoSign), it manages our people and business (Central Desktop) and it invoices our customers (FreshBooks).
We are all connected in business, too. It’s through the cloud that we connect with our colleagues, employees and customers around the globe, no matter their time zone. We collaborate and strengthen our relationships with our suppliers, vendors and partners through the cloud every time we host a web meeting, post a status update or comment on an activity stream.
Whether it’s cost-cutting, downsizing, rightsizing or globalizing, utilizing the human cloud is critical to your business. Here are some tips and strategies getting the most out of the cloud:
- Escape the email black hole. Business applications are ripe with messaging systems for commenting, updating, discussing and sharing. Use these tools to communicate “in-line” and to provide appropriate context to the conversation, instead of starting an often cryptic conversation via email.
- Use wikis and social intranets to build knowledge. The read-write web has made the “dumb” intranet a relic. “Modern intranets” leverage wiki technology that empower employees of entire companies to contribute and maintain knowledge bases, user manuals, employee hand books, company calendars and announcements – all easily retrievable in an instant via search.
- Embrace tools that encourage access from anywhere. Traditional and on-premise software make it difficult for remote workers and external collaborators to access files, projects and data. Cloud applications make it easy to invite external users into a secure environment to access and share information from anywhere. Embrace tools and common practices that encourage employees to store data in the cloud for others to access when on the road, working from home or on their mobile devices.
- Be everywhere your customers are. Traditional marketing is dead. Traditional advertising mediums such as TV, radio and even print are primarily measured by their ability to drive traffic to websites. Social media has created new channels for businesses to connect with their customers. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on advertising to reach your customers anymore; but you do have to be everywhere your customers might be — including Twitter, Facebook and blogs — and you need to be able to engage them in a meaningful dialogue.
- Evolve before competitors catch up. Today, CRM is social; the supply chain is collaborative; marketing is crowdsourced; customer support is transparent; even finance has moved to the cloud. The excuse that “your business is different” and that you can’t leverage the cloud no longer applies. Entire industries are changing as a result of the cloud, including stalwarts such as advertising, print, TV, music, film and logistics. Even truck drivers remain constantly connected to the Internet while driving to communicate with their operators, vendors, suppliers and customers. Look for ways that the cloud can transform your business before your competitors do.
When you examine your business and look at the technology landscape, embrace the cloud for its abilities to strengthen your business relationships, to optimize your supply chain and to gain deeper trust and loyalty with your customers.
The cloud is already part of your personal life. Now make it a part of your business, and everything will truly be connected.
Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub. req.):