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“One of the trends we’re seeing is that companies are using cloud-based collaboration software not just for their internal employees, but to engage and share information with partners and vendors,” says Aaron Nettles, co-founder and CEO of Vorsite, a Microsoft Tier 3 Cloud Champion Member based in Seattle, Wash. “So it’s really not just about maintaining technology but also about leveraging it to drive revenue for the business.”
The idea of putting your biggest marketing investment in the cloud might be a little scary. But that’s why you’re reading this post — you’re smart and know when to take a well-calculated risk.
The cloud is built for those with a built-in taste for success – who want to provide their customers with an updated website that’s optimized for search and ready to handle the campaigns generated from your marketing and sales departments.
THIS IS WHERE THE CLOUD COMES IN.
For those who like official definitions, Gartner came up with a good one: “The cloud is a style of computing in which scalable and elastic IT-related capabilities are provided “as a service” to customers using Internet technologies.” Gartner crammed all the important key words in there: scalable, elastic, service, Internet and IT. It makes it a good definition, but what does that mean for your public-facing website?
WHAT ARE THE BEST BETS IN THE CLOUD?
If the cloud is a scalable and elastic IT service, everything should be a good fit for the cloud, right? While that might be eventually true, for now here are the top uses for the cloud.
Public Websites with fluctuating traffic levels often require a big investment in an infrastructure (hardware, power and IT staff) that can accommodate short-term spikes. If your web analytics resembles a roller coaster, it might be a good idea to consider a cloud solution.
B2B / Partner / Client Portals are becoming extremely popular. With the right security features in place, the cloud is the perfect place to host a partner portal as it can experience fluctuations in traffic with every new product rollout or change.
Applications that can be pushed to the cloud are those that are a collection of services, like security services, mobile access, workflow integration, email, spam filtering, archiving, etc. Forrester recommends if you have an OLTP (online transaction processing) application – avoid the cloud for now.
3rd Party Integrations Integrating 3rd party applications with your website becomes a no-brainer because the cloud acts as shield against your internal systems while providing the necessary scalability and cost savings.
BENEFITS OF USING OFFICE 365 FOR A PUBLIC WEBSITE
A content management system (CMS) makes the web more usable. It’s more important than ever these days to have your website be easy to manage, handle traffic fluctuations and be scalable with your business. Having a CMS solves many issues we face in business today.
Easy to update – Most websites grow organically over time and we find much of the content is out-of-date. If pages were manually updated using tools like Dreamweaver, its likely there are lost pages and things have gotten out of control. The benefit of a CMS is that anyone can learn to update the website.
Remote management – If the majority of your web production team (including content contributors) is off-site, a cloud CMS is a good fit for your business. Using Internet services allows individuals to easily access the information and data they need to effectively manage content and workflows all from within a single tool.
Saves time – Instead of struggling to publish content through your overloaded development team, a CMS gives non-technical staff the ability to publish directly with a push of a button. All with the added ability to revert back to an older version of the content should someone have hit publish too early.
Consistent user experience – The more your website can scale, the more you can take advantage of the cloud. Using templates gives your website consistency and pushes best practices out to your rogue teams.
The cloud has been around long before we gave it a name and marketers are poised to lead. The cloud is a no-brainer for marketers. The majority of content is designed to be public facing, so security is not a hot button and cloud technologies provide an entire department with built-in processes that require fewer resources to manage with a more predictable budget. But the most important reason is that marketers need to drive the adoption of cloud technologies in order to stay competitive in the marketplace.
Are you preparing your marketing department to support the coming changes?
We have been going to the office from 8am to 6pm for decades. So, what changed? Given the competitive nature of business and the draw to stay
The mobile workstyle is a new generation of employees who expect a flexible work schedule and willingly submit contextual information that can be harnessed by marketers to inform their customer creation and retention strategies.
Mobile is giving marketers deep insight into a user’s context, making timely and relevant marketing the golden key to success. As the adoption rate for cloud technologies and smartphones increase, marketers who are not using contextual-marketing tactics will be left behind.
A customer mobile context consists of:
Having this deep insight into consumer behavior will change the way we market. It will require small and mid-sized businesses to adopt marketing automation software and cloud technologies in order to compete. Marketers will be creating hyper-targeted messages based on the customer’s situation, preferences and attitudes. This requires understanding your customer on a whole new level and will require multiple tests before you get your message and target right.
Getting into contextual marketing will be important in the next five years in order to stay competitive but the first thing organizations need to do is implement the systems that shifts time away from maintaining databases and manual inputs and moving to a streamlined approach. Implementing an integrated sales and marketing system empowers your teams to work together and build a long-term marketing strategy that uses the technology that will enable innovation and advancement in the coming areas of marketing.
Cloud Technologies Marketing and Sales Teams Use Today
Download PDF of mobile marketing terms – http://www.mmaglobal.com/glossary.pdf
Ask, J. A., Gownder, J., Riley, E., Brown, E. G., Parrish, M., Schadler, T., et al. (n.d.). Digital Marketing: The Future Of Mobile Is Context.
Ried, S., Kisker, H., Matzke, P., Bartels, A., & Lisserman, M. (2011, 04 21). Sizing The Cloud.
On September 30, 2011 Forrester published statistics from a SharePoint 2010 Adoption survey with 510 IT Professionals. In this case SharePoint 2010 covers both the on-premise as well as the online version.
A couple things not in the infographic that surprised me was 29% of companies with SharePoint are currently enjoying its social features. Evidence that social networking is dripping into the workforce.
Forrester: SharePoint Adoption: Content And Collaboration Is Just The Start
Like a new tree in the forest, every business has the capacity for growth – the trick is to find a break in the canopy. One of the ways to set your business up for a successful surge of growth is to create an information management strategy that makes it easier for people to sort through the forest of documents and find the content they need.
Right now you might be thinking how easy it is to convey information to your key five people and keep everyone aligned with the business. But this kind of harmony doesn’t last forever. If you’ve been in the business as long as I have, you remember the days when we hosted websites off of an old laptop in the corner of our office. Believe it or not, this is what is happening now with documents. Your salient content is kept isolated from the rest of the company and sometimes information is being updated to some random shared location – but no one can find it. Oh, and did I mention there’s a duplicate somewhere else and your new employee is using it to Tweet about your new product?
Are you moderately alarmed yet?
For those who like official definitions, Gartner came up with a good one: “The cloud is a style of computing in which scalable and elastic IT-related capabilities are provided “as a service” to customers using Internet technologies.”
Gartner crammed all the important key words in there: scalable, elastic, service, Internet and IT. It makes it a good definition, but often we’re asked: what does that mean? What the cloud really refers to is the data in your server room down the hall (or maybe that laptop under your desk) has simply changed location. You choose which data moves to a secure facility and will be managed by IT experts. The whole premise behind the cloud is to provide permission-based access to content, freeing up people to access content anywhere, on any device – which is especially appealing to those of us who into gadgets and like to take advantage of email and presentations on the go.
Yes, the cloud is well suited for portals, collaboration and collaboration (aka: document management technologies). First and foremost any content distribution technology has capabilities that need to be widely deployed. For example email is not reserved for just a select few in the organization, it needs to be widely distributed to be useful. The same thing happens with other types of content and it is important that all employees use the same technologies to access the content, so it’s easily discovered, managed and updated by everyone.
Gartner is also recognizing an underlying trend of requests to share content with people outside the firewall. This means there is a need for an easy way to share workflows and content with partners, vendors, contractors, remote staff and all the other unique structural combinations that make up your organization today.
Overall, your outlook is good if you choose to go with a cloud solution for managing information across your company.
|Get The Cloud If You…||Don’t Get The Cloud If You…|
|Need to widely deploy services (i.e. email)||Don’t trust the 3rd party provider|
|Need to share content outside the firewall||Need to accommodate many complex customizations & applications with no intention of updating them.|
|Want to give people access to your content|
|Need flexibility and on demand capabilities|
|Need to clearly communicate value to non-technical business users*|
|Want to reduce costs|
*It’s much easier to ask for an email account than to request a series of server room hardware and software upgrades from your non-technical counterparts.
Knowing what content you have is the first step towards creating an information management strategy. This will inform storage needs as well as create a good conversation for the next step.
Are you employees accessing information remotely? Does content go through an approval process? Do multiple people contribute to a document?
Understand how people will access content will establish a baseline for what you’re looking for. Do you simply need some kind of file dumping ground – or do you want to add keywords, create team sites for group sharing and have it integrated with other systems?
This defines the proper places for content, which will turn the conversation towards permissions, privacy and the resulting delivery methods.
Once you’ve established what you have, who needs it, how they its accessed and the content segments, you’re ready to decide what technology works best for you.
Our clients typically choose Office 365 for managing all kinds of content – but there are other alternatives. Office 365 just gave our clients what they needed most: a secure email, web conferencing and a content management system that works together.
Call Aaron Nettles at (206) 781-1797 if you want to have a conversation about the cloud or join us at one of our cloud meetups.
Alan Weintraub, S. P. (2011, 09 15). Content Mapping: The Secret To ECM Technology Selection Success. Retrieved 09 16, 2011, from Forrester.
Mann, J. (2011, 09 14). Cloud Strategies for Portals, Content, & Collaboration Projects. Retrieved 09 16, 2011, from Gartner.
Rob Karel, J. G. (2009, 08 11). Refresh Your Information Management Strategy To Deliver Business Results. Retrieved 09 16, 2011, from Forrester.
When making decisions about replacing or upgrading business technologies in today’s competitive environment, it is crucial to consider your business strategy and how these technologies will help you adapt to changing market conditions. If the past decade is any indicator of changing marketing conditions, the best way to adapt is to build in flexibility and create your contingency plans through the scalability of IT and adding or adjusting business processes.
Getting ahead of your IT is tough as the rate of technological change is fast. However, these strategic choices will be a key differentiator between you and your competitors in your ability to adapt your rhythm of business with the market demand. For most companies, the rapid change of technology sometimes means that technology drives business decisions, but to make the right decisions it is better for the CIO’s and CTO’s to work together to build a business strategy that uses technology to solve their business problems.
Forrester is seeing a trend that business technologies are being increasingly managed outside of IT’s direct control. The best way to plan for the future and mitigate the risks inherent in being in the technology field is to allow IT to fully respond to the business strategy and implement flexible and adaptable business technologies.
The important thing to realize in the best-case scenario is you’re likely not going to use all of your options. Options are built-in contingency plans designed to adapt to unanticipated changes and act as a form of insurance. The main idea is to be able to act quickly and adjust your business to meet the need of the most important aspect – your customers.
Most technology companies are moving their products to the cloud in order to meet the consumer demand for flexibility in IT. This is due to recent hardware innovations, business need for ubiquitous access across all devices and the extreme cost associated with building and maintaining your own unique environment.
Vorsite responded to these needs by adopting Microsoft solutions that deal with the development and proliferation of the concept of the cloud. Windows Azure and Office 365 are the two primary solutions that allow the business strategy to lead the technological decisions and offer the flexibility IT needs to adjust to changing market demands.
Windows Azure works on a pay-per-use basis, allowing businesses to only pay for the services they use when inventing applications. For cost-focused businesses, it gives us all the opportunity to access enterprise-level services but without worrying about reinventing the wheel. Microsoft also took this approach to their business productivity solutions in Office 365, offering businesses the ability to add or remove licenses as needed.
This flexibility also extends into the concept that the cloud, for Microsoft, is not an all or nothing concept. The point of the cloud is to offer businesses flexibility where they need it as it pertains to their business strategy. The cloud is the future, but each business will determine which solutions make the most sense for the overall strategy.
With the future of computing unknown, it’s best to place your bets on what you know to be the right solution that will meet your needs now and in the future. And for CIOs struggling to make a decision with all the hoopla in the news, it’s best to start actively managing the technology that will best serve your business by educating all stakeholders, assigning resources to research the technology and communicate the potential savings and value achieved from its use.
Gliedman, C. (2011, 08 25). CIOs Need To Act As Investment Managers To Best Manage Their Options.Higginbotham, S. (2011, 01 21). Is This the Stealthy Return of Hardware Innovation?Microsoft. (n.d.). Make the cloud yours. Mold it to fit your specific needs. Microsoft. (n.d.). Windows Azure.MSDN. (n.d.). Exercise 3: Creating a Reusable and Extensible Caching Layer.
Corporations spend thousands of dollars and hours on building, securing, nurturing and organizing their IT. Then, the future comes along and asks us to evolve our thinking. It’s almost unbearable, until our eyes flip open. We can see the dramatic shape the future holds for corporations and our venture into the freedom of mobility.
As usage of mobile devices becomes more prevalent in our daily lives, it will become increasingly important to move your IT to the cloud. Cloud technologies are the primary shift that will support the future of business communication and team outputs.
The world is full of mobile opportunities and it only shows signs of future growth. According to the International Telecommunications Union in 2009, 90% of the world’s population was covered by a mobile cellular signal as compared to only 61% in 2003. The ability to reach multiple people has increased and we will soon be fully connected through wireless signals.
It might be a little obvious to suggest that mobile cellular subscriptions have a direct impact on the global footprint of wireless signals, but looking at the growth of mobile subscriptions, the future suggests we will each have a personalized mobile service customized to our specifications.
The U.S. is leading the pack with 55% of people purchasing Smartphones over feature phones (Nielsen Wire, June 2011). This increase in Smartphone purchase will open the doors to an increased adoption rate and eventual cost reductions in data plans. With the current penetration rate of 38% (Nielsen Wire, June 2011), companies like Nokia are abandoning features phones and focusing their attention in the smartphone market (MediaPost – Nokia Won’t Sell Phones In U.S., Canada, 2011).
What’s incredible about this market is that despite the high cost early data shows that people are four times more likely to access their emails with a smartphone over a feature phone and typically have between 35 – 48 applications installed (Nielsen Wire – Smartphone Penetration, 2011).
It’s not just cell phones that are getting attention. The sales of tablets have been surpassing expectations and sliding their way into the business landscape (WSJ, 2010) empowering the end user to choose from multiple devices, leaving IT executives to work out the difference between the end user needs, business decision makers and the typical standardized approach to IT.
Unfortunately for most IT executives, the cloud evolution has already hit its first stage – the availability of an application store with multiple business-focused productivity applications.
As applications grow and become more popular on a variety of devices, the second stage is an increased interest in mobile security and storage cloud services. Security services include locking, back up and restore, and data-wiping devices and storage services enable end users to share, synchronize, encrypt, and store files that are accessible from any web-based mobile device or laptop (Forrester, 2011). This will be demonstrated by an end user’s increased ability and comfort to engage in financial transactions over mobile devices.
In the third stage of mobile cloud evolution, companies will move beyond mobile cloud services and deploy mobile cloud solutions, which include collaboration capabilities and infrastructure-as-a-service (Forrester, 2011).
Corporate app stores become the intranet of the future (Forrester, 2011). As the app-centric view of Internet matures, apps will take on the roles we typically associate with CMS platforms. Obtaining corporate apps will be the way that companies ensures employees have access to the most current versions of key policies and management practices.
We can already see this coming with current acquisitions, like the Microsoft’s purchase of Skype and its plans to integrate this popular communication medium into their office productivity line of business (10). Wearable technologies, like Microsoft’s Twitter Dress and advanced input methods will depend on cloud computing in order to support the lack of physical storage and mobility demands.
With the rise in mobile devices, it becomes important to make sure your business is preparing for an app-centric view and mobility demands of the evolving concept of the Internet. Moving your IT to the cloud will help ease your business into the new world of business communications and ensure your seat at the table during the next wave of technological advancements. Sure, your employees are downloading apps and look like they’re playing on their phones in the office, but one of those birds they fling might land in the hands of your next big client.
New collaboration strategies are needed in order to match the rise in need for a mobile workforce. According to Insight Research, 67% of all workers used mobile and wireless computing. Forrester verifies the claim with a slightly smaller number, coming in at 62% of the information workforce working in multiple locations during a typical workweek.
A mobile workforce has many benefits for business. It’s not only a way to maintain production levels during inclement weather and increased performance during the family flu season, but it also means employees who are on the road or on an important project can access and provide feedback on pertinent and timely information and data.
Many new collaboration technologies are just surfacing; so many of us do not have plans in place to accommodate the growing mobile workforce needs. We can often be overwhelmed in considering the right solution to address the needs of our employees.
The first step in building a mobile collaboration strategy is to identify areas of need for your employees.
We recognize every business has different needs, so we encourage everyone to perform their own assessment of their workforce against their business needs. However, Forrester Research determined there were five important groups to focus on when building your collaboration strategy.
The second step is identifying the primary needs. What typically occurs with remote workers is a mental disconnection from what is going on at headquarters and adjusting to changes as they happen. This can be circumvented with current technologies that enhance teamwork. Sharing is an integral part of teamwork and the more connected the experience, the more opportunities you give your employees to move as a cohesive unit and build shared meanings, making the work environment more efficient and effective. You may come up with more primary needs, but we find this is typically the first thing most businesses want to address.
After determining the type of employees and the business needs that are enhanced by better collaboration strategies, the final step is deciding on the technology. We know that smartphones are on the rise and the mainstreaming of tablets in business is just around the corner. By the by, according to Nielsen, 77% of tablets users report using their tablet for actions they would have used a laptop or desktop. It appears inevitable that delivering a plan with a solid mobile collaboration strategy will not only help the business move forward and assist employees who may need more access to their teams, but also distribute needed information in a more dynamic and on-demand manner.
Collaboration Technology Map
|Business Need||Solution||Microsoft Technology|
|Internal communication||Email, Telephone||Exchange, Lync|
|Team meetings||Audio & Video conferencing||Lync|
|Project sharing||Intranet site||SharePoint|
|Company-wide information||Intranet site, Email||SharePoint, Exchange|
|Relationship building||Instant messenger||Lync|
|External Collaboration||Client communication||Extranet, Email, Instant Messenger, Conferencing||SharePoint, Exchange, Lync|
|Customer service||Intranet, Email, Telephone||SharePoint, Exchange, Lync|
Table A – Collaboration map
Collaborating with a team on a document can be challenging. You are either sending e-mail, tracking them down in person, instant messaging, placing multiple phone calls or all of the above. The bigger the team, the more data you need to manage and the more overwhelming it can be.
The cloud gives you an opportunity to unlock yourself from the office and still create workflows that help manage the project process.
Let’s take something simple, like a new client proposal and you need to work with experts and sales to make sure the proposal is complete. You can’t let the competition know you’re bidding on a project, so you need to keep the data safe. But you might need to remain flexible, since the team is already busy on other projects.
If you’re new to the proposal process, take a minute to consider the following:
Microsoft Project is great for robust tracking – but is typically only used by project management. You could simply drop the files in a shared folder in the cloud, but you might not be able to easily scale the process if you win the bid.
A simple way to approach any new project is to use SharePoint. The features in SharePoint are built for team collaboration and tracking progress.
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Call Aaron Nettles at (206) 781-1797 to get more information about Office 365.