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Challenges with the Cloud

In the recent few months, I have encountered situations that required multi-location teams to collaborate and customers requiring almost real-time status update. I have tried to encourage usage of the “cloud” for the team spread across locations working on the same documents/spreadsheets. We have SharePoint Server as an option but that’s mostly used as file storage, if at all. I have explored Google Docs and Zoho. However for some reason working on the cloud just hasn’t take off. Here are the challenges I face with cloud computing:
  1. INERTIA: We just aren’t really used to working on the cloud. Change is always hard and we just fall back on ways of working that we are comfortable with. It is always easier to simply email the document. It is easier to work just double click the document and start editing it rather than log on to the separate system in the browser and then navigate to the folder to edit the document.
  2. NO INTEGRATION WITH EXISTING SYSTEMS: Using Google Docs or Zoho was hard because of lack of integration with existing systems. For example, we don’t always have a list of Gmail IDs for everyone in the team. This means an additional step to make the collaboration document accessible to all. Each cloud service requires a different login ID and password than the regular network sign-on on the machine.
  3. ACCESSIBILITY AND SPEED: Many of our team members are traveling and are on the road so to speak. They don’t always have access to the Internet. So having documents on the cloud severely handicaps their ability to access the documents when there is no Internet connectivity. And working off the Net is slower than working off the local machine.
  4. SECURITY FEARS: While we explored Google Docs and Zoho, there were fears whether we should actually store our company and client data on the cloud. While I am personally very confident that Google and Zoho will safeguard data stored on their server, there is still an inherent fear of putting up company and client data on their servers.  Perhaps this fear is to do with the added responsibility that the individuals don’t own the data. There is no problem in having personal emails and chat on these servers, but putting company data on the cloud is just too much added responsibility.
  5. LACK OF OFFICIAL ITS EVANGELISM: While we have SharePoint Server available to us, it is primarily used as file storage (if at all) rather than a real-time collaborative tool. Even with our SharePoint Server installation, there’s very little official ITS support available. There’s no one really evangelizing cloud collaboration as the new way of working. I would look for the ITS team providing awareness about official tools available and training on how to use them. This has to be driven by having cloud collaboration as part of the ITS strategy. I think this is the biggest hurdle to cross if cloud computing is to be embraced.


Lakshmi said...

Something that has worked for us is the calendar we have on Google Docs for all the associates/consultants - many other things that we have tried have not worked for similar reasons that you have listed. The calendar shows our booking/free days. When I thought about why it works, this is what I came up with:

1) It is really dynamic - clients ask for changes in dates and new things keep coming up and also dropping off - there is no other sane way to manage this

2) It "needs" collaboration - multiple people need to access and edit it constantly - basically because decision making is centralized and decentralized at the same time

3) The security piece does not bother us in this case because it is only a calendar

4) I take care of my need to see it whenever I want by downloading a copy on my HD but I know that at best it will be current for a day

5) The lack of accessibility is not a big challenge for us - but even when it is we can always call up someone and ask them to give us info

Bottomline - it seems like it can be made to work for schedules/plans etc - work docs/deliverables is a different ballgame.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions. Content published here is not read or approved in advance by my employers and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of my employers.

Creative Commons License This work by Manish Mohan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 India License.