Connecting the Dots: The Social Web, Cloud Computing and Your Business
These days it seems nearly impossible to talk about your business without mentioning the words “social” or “cloud.” At first glance, social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and cloud computing services like BuildTools.com appear to be separate and distinct technologies from a business as well as technical standpoint. One thing that both technologies have in common is that their growing popularity is putting pressure on businesses to jump on the bandwagon and adopt them.
On the social side of things, sites like Facebook and LinkedIn allow companies to communicate marketing messages to customers through direct channels. BuildTools, a construction management platform, is limited to users within a business organization and thus not available to the public. With BuildTools, employees can post updates about projects they are working on, ask questions, and share links, making it easy to connect and collaborate with co-workers and contractors in real-time.
Cloud computing vendors like BuildTools provide everything from CRM and ERP applications to platforms for deploying applications and infrastructure and storage. Because these services are delivered over the web, companies don’t need to buy, install, or manage any software or hardware, but can take advantage of the elasticity and scalability of the cloud.
With so much buzz around the social web and the cloud, it’s hard not to get caught up in these latest tech trends and be swayed by promises of increased productivity and reduced costs. As standalone technologies, social networking sites and cloud computing services do have potential benefits for the enterprise. But adopting and implementing them without careful planning or a well-defined strategy only adds architectural complexity to the business and creates confusion.
A crucial factor that is often overlooked when deploying a social or cloud strategy is integration. In order to take full advantage of the social web and cloud resources, companies need to integrate across the social web, and cloud.
A sales team might be able to collaborate using social networking technologies, but they also need access to enterprise data residing in on-premise legacy systems and increasingly, the cloud. The key is to connect data and logic from different sources with social tools to facilitate, rather than impede, the collaborative productivity of users and the flow of business processes.
The changing nature of enterprise architectures, however, demands a sophisticated platform that can go beyond point-to-point integrations and connect the enterprise with the cloud and social tools in complex patterns. We like to think of cloud computing as the commercialization of computing resources like CPU cycles, storage, memory etc, just like public utilities like electricity, water or natural gas. At the end of the day, social software and cloud services might be attracting a great deal of attention, but enterprises need to get their heads out of the cloud and focus on integration.
Richard Gould – Design Administration
Gould Design, Inc.