Welcome!

Containers Expo Blog Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Zakia Bouachraoui

Related Topics: @CloudExpo

@CloudExpo: Article

Cloud Computing Turns Virtual Teams Into a Competitive Advantage

Collaboration in the cloud will fundamentally change the business ecosystem

The rise of modern information systems represented a major change to the business environment and increased the importance of collaboration. Companies as diverse as Toyota, Wal-Mart, and Dell Computer demonstrated the power of collaboration to improve the efficiency of the supply chain, at least at a massive scale. By electronically linking their factories, stores, and suppliers, these manufacturers used collaboration to achieve cost and service advantages over their competitors with just-in-time manufacturing and a build-to-order business model. Their collaboration took the form of ERP, EDI, and supply-chain management, and largely consisted of teaching computers to talk with one another.

Yet while collaboration during this time period proved a critical, sometimes determining, factor in business success, collaboration remained a large-scale process. Just-in-time manufacturing and cross-docking made sense for giants like Toyota and Wal-Mart, but it was hard to see their relevance for small businesses.

Paradoxically, it took the Internet Age - founded on teaching computers to talk with one another - to make collaboration personal again. The Internet places communications and coordination within the affordable reach of every business. No longer do you need a complex (and expensive) network of leased lines and dedicated hardware to integrate with your supplier. Instead, anyone with a computer can connect and communicate with anyone else. With the rise of cloud computing, you can even rent that computing power from the likes of Amazon.

Before the Internet age, stitching together a multinational operation required millions of dollars in capital equipment, thousands a month in telecom expenditures, and a massive IT staff to oversee that infrastructure. Today, you can hire developers in Bangalore (oDesk.com), a call center in Manila (LiveOps.com), and a warehouse in Memphis (Shipwire.com) with a few clicks of the mouse without ever leaving your office or even picking up the phone.

But while making it dramatically easier to bring people together around a common task, the Internet magnifies the challenge of coordinating and managing those people and organizations.

The first attempts to build virtual corporations back in the 1990s failed, largely because of this very challenge. People in organizations don't just conduct simple transactions. They collaborate to solve problems, to meet customer demands, to respond to competitors, to design new products. The hundreds of decisions that they make every day - even in a small business - impact other people and organizations, often in unanticipated ways. A successful virtual corporation must not only reduce the cost of virtual interaction, it must address the unstructured, dynamic, and creative aspects of much real-world business interactions and the management of those interactions.

Today, for the first time ever, Web 2.0 and cloud computing make it possible to solve the final challenge of coordination and management.

If Web 1.0 was about making the Web "World Wide," Web 2.0 has been about making the Web "personal," and cloud computing is about making the Web "ubiquitous."

The two keys to solving the coordination challenge are semi-structured data and ubiquitous access in the cloud.

Semi-structured data provides an online replacement for the tacit knowledge and implicit agreements that are so essential in a traditional business. Think about how much of what every business does is based on the unwritten rules and institutional knowledge that live in the heads of individual professionals. This operational know-how, often varying based on circumstances, and transmitted in the hallways and conference rooms as well as around the lunch table, was missing from the last generation of virtual corporations.

Web 2.0 services like blogs and wikis provide an online outlet for this kind of semi-structured information. Blogs and blog comments are a substitute for traditional informal interaction, while wikis can record the operational knowhow that used to be passed on during informal face-to-face meetings and working together.

At the same time, the ubiquity of the cloud helps overcome the previous need to house all the members of the team under one roof (or within one firewall). Virtual private networks impose too much friction on those attempting to connect from the outside, and generate far too many security concerns. Cloud solutions can place every member of the team on an equal footing and allow members to collaborate across geographic and organizational boundaries.

Yet while Web 2.0 and cloud computing have made virtual corporation possible, they are technologies, not applications. Businesses and teams need to learn how best to apply these technologies to generate real business gains, especially in the current economic environment.

How Does Collaboration Help Me Do More With Less?
While collaboration in the cloud has many soft benefits like allowing greater geographic diversity and encouraging a participatory culture, during these tough times, the hard benefits of collaboration take center stage. The bottom line is that collaboration helps you do more with less, and by definition, virtual companies and teams are all about less. Less time. Less money. Less inefficiency. Less employees.

Here are four practical ways that collaboration in the cloud enables businesses (virtual and otherwise) to do more with less:

  1. Ditch your servers
  2. Cut down on travel
  3. Enable outsourcing and offshoring
  4. Improve knowledge worker productivity

1. Ditch Your Servers
RMC Vanguard Mortgage is an established company in a traditional industry that's turned to collaboration and virtual company tactics to survive and thrive during turbulent times.

Few industries have been hit harder by the credit crunch than the mortgage industry. Yet through it all, RMC Vanguard (an independent mortgage company based in Houston that serves customers in over 25 states) has continued to grow. Its network of loan officers, most of whom work from their homes, acts like virtual company. It's critical that RMC's underwriters be able to serve the needs of those loan officers while still keeping up to speed on the rapidly changing rules and regulations of the mortgage industry.

RMC CTO Teo Mayes had been using a shared server to store and distribute this constantly changing information, but found that (1) it was hard to give access to geographically dispersed loan officers who sat outside the corporate infrastructure and had to log into a terminal access port to reach the server; (2) frustrated loan officers would simply call the underwriters instead of keeping up to speed, bogging down those valuable employees; and (3) the technical team was spending time and money maintaining the hardware and network.

More Stories By Chris Yeh

Chris Yeh is Vice President of Enterprise Marketing, PBwiki.

Comments (2) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
shirley 12/12/08 01:05:06 AM EST

We can assist here as we specialize in developing and implementing SharePoint 2007 – that’s all we do.

There is more information on this at http://www.nsynergy.com/Services/Pages/default.aspx or mail to [email protected].

FastRoundTrip 12/11/08 01:30:37 PM EST

Well put. Collaboration is definitly the future of surviving and thriving business. And not just for asynchronous collab, on the real-time side, there's a lot of excitement too. For example, http://see.nefsis.com uses true cloud computing to reduce latency in desktop sharing and live multiparty video. Cloud computing makes a fundamental improvement in roundtrip latency here, unobtainable by single-server and centralized technologies.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
The deluge of IoT sensor data collected from connected devices and the powerful AI required to make that data actionable are giving rise to a hybrid ecosystem in which cloud, on-prem and edge processes become interweaved. Attendees will learn how emerging composable infrastructure solutions deliver the adaptive architecture needed to manage this new data reality. Machine learning algorithms can better anticipate data storms and automate resources to support surges, including fully scalable GPU-c...
Machine learning has taken residence at our cities' cores and now we can finally have "smart cities." Cities are a collection of buildings made to provide the structure and safety necessary for people to function, create and survive. Buildings are a pool of ever-changing performance data from large automated systems such as heating and cooling to the people that live and work within them. Through machine learning, buildings can optimize performance, reduce costs, and improve occupant comfort by ...
The explosion of new web/cloud/IoT-based applications and the data they generate are transforming our world right before our eyes. In this rush to adopt these new technologies, organizations are often ignoring fundamental questions concerning who owns the data and failing to ask for permission to conduct invasive surveillance of their customers. Organizations that are not transparent about how their systems gather data telemetry without offering shared data ownership risk product rejection, regu...
René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a m...
Poor data quality and analytics drive down business value. In fact, Gartner estimated that the average financial impact of poor data quality on organizations is $9.7 million per year. But bad data is much more than a cost center. By eroding trust in information, analytics and the business decisions based on these, it is a serious impediment to digital transformation.
Digital Transformation: Preparing Cloud & IoT Security for the Age of Artificial Intelligence. As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) power solution development and delivery, many businesses need to build backend cloud capabilities. Well-poised organizations, marketing smart devices with AI and BlockChain capabilities prepare to refine compliance and regulatory capabilities in 2018. Volumes of health, financial, technical and privacy data, along with tightening compliance requirements by...
Predicting the future has never been more challenging - not because of the lack of data but because of the flood of ungoverned and risk laden information. Microsoft states that 2.5 exabytes of data are created every day. Expectations and reliance on data are being pushed to the limits, as demands around hybrid options continue to grow.
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities - ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups.
As IoT continues to increase momentum, so does the associated risk. Secure Device Lifecycle Management (DLM) is ranked as one of the most important technology areas of IoT. Driving this trend is the realization that secure support for IoT devices provides companies the ability to deliver high-quality, reliable, secure offerings faster, create new revenue streams, and reduce support costs, all while building a competitive advantage in their markets. In this session, we will use customer use cases...