For consumers, collaborating in an online world has become the norm. Organising an event on Facebook, sharing opinion and news via Twitter or taking part in a crowdsourcing project, are all examples of how cloud computing – the delivery of services and software over the internet – allows a group or community to develop creative ideas, influence others and reach a common goal. Web-based technology is it!
For many of us though, the idea of interacting and collaborating this smoothly in our professional lives is an alien one. Although cloud-based communication tools such as webmail and instant messaging have been available to businesses for years, they haven’t, for the majority of us, become an integral part of the way we interact with our colleagues. But all this has changed.
Online collaboration is no longer the latest buzz word, it’s a reality. Applications such as word processing and spreadsheets can now be accessed through the web too, and people can work on them together, in real-time. A younger, web-savvy generation is entering the workplace, expecting to interact and communicate as easily as they can in their personal lives.
Companies are discovering that they have to adapt to these new ways of working, and are recognising that the benefits of cloud computing go far beyond cost savings. Having information stored online and accessible from wherever you have an internet connection, with the ability to collaborate with colleagues on documents and through real-time communication tools, will turn corporate culture on its head – driving innovation and creativity and increasing productivity and efficiency.
So, how is collaborative technology changing the ways that companies work right now? The increased level of communication between employees inspired by more collaborative working practices, the use of communication technologies such as instant messaging (IM) also offers major advantages.
For example, Google Docs gives one the ability to see if someone else is working in a document stored in the cloud and hold IM conversations with them within the document means you can ask and answer questions on specific problems or issues in real-time, rather than waiting for a response to an email.
By making interaction more stimulating and convenient for staff, the use of these new methods of communication can help develop stronger teams and more efficient working practices, even within apparently disjointed or complex organisations.
In an increasingly globalised world, the benefits of cloud-based working are clear. Companies in Nigeria with offices in other part of the regions can take advantage of Google’s email translation service, which translates into Hausa, Yoruba, French, Portuguese and many other languages with one click of a mouse.
The fact that cloud services are accessed through the Internet also brings greater freedom to staff about when and where they carry out their work, which in turn drives increased productivity. For companies with staff permanently based in the field, they can collaborate more effectively with office based colleagues and each other following their move to cloud computing, as staff can access Google Apps from anywhere, on any device, which is invaluable when you are in a remote or isolated environment.
With more of us seeking greater flexibility in our professional lives, being able to work productively both in and out of the office, without losing the ability to collaborate with others, will be a priceless asset for forward-thinking companies.