Social, mobile and the cloud are the future of collaboration

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Companies are looking for easier and more cost-effective ways to collaborate within their organisations. The death of Google Wave left room for more innovative ways of collaborating. The future of collaboration seems to lie in the convergence of mobile, social and the cloud.

“By 2014, all smartphones will transparently synchronise local data with at least one cloud service. By 2014, most organisations will deliver mobile applications to workers through private application stores”, says vice president of Gartner Research Monica Basso.

The Gartner Symposium/ITxpo Africa 2011 kicked off in Cape Town on Tuesday 23 August with a heavy focus on cloud computing. Analysts are convinced that “our future lies in the cloud” and that mobile technology seems to be best way to get there.

Basso’s presentation focused on collaboration via mobile devices with cloud capabilities and how they will drive innovation in the workplace. Her argument was heavily leveraged on the convergence of social media and emerging mobile technologies.

Basso sums up mobility’s move to using the cloud for consumer services including social network communities, microblogs, app stores and cloud synchronisation and file sharing.

“By 2014, social networking will replace email as the primary vehicle for interpersonal communications for 20 percent of business users”, she adds.

This takeover of email by social networks is important because, according to Basso, there is a new paradigm of collaboration in business. Social networks which were originally consumer oriented, for instance, are now being adopted by organisations.

This convergence of mobility and cloud in various consumer spaces leads to synchronisation of data:

“Cloud synchronisation enables mobile devices to synchronise local information and applications with a web-based, in-the-cloud service automatically and transparently. Information spans contacts, calendars, email and text messages, as well as pictures, videos, music, documents and other media. Service offerings include data backup, federation of social networking information into a single application, and so forth.”

Basso suggests that organisations integrate mircoblogging platforms such as Twitter, SocialCast and Yammer into corporate collaboration environments such as Microsoft SharePoint. She believes that such integration encourages employees to share ideas with each other as well as source ideas.

This type of mobile collaboration relies heavily on social tools that enables users to create one-to-one or one-to-many associations within or across timelines and is cost-effective.

“Convergence is developing on the device, bringing simplicity of use to people and letting them focus on messaging content only. Different messaging and social capabilities are converging into a single client application — integrating a variety of cloud services from multiple providers”, says Basso.

Basso also warns that organisations are losing control of data with consumer mobile cloud. She stresses the importance for businesses to be alert and provide more secure alternatives. Security is recurring theme in the cloud. Daryl Plummer, another Garnter analyst, says that 70 percent of companies with more than 1 000 employees are yet to start a cloud initiative because of the security risk.

“Cloud computing carries specific risks that are slowing corporate adoption. For example, cloud providers that serve a large number of customers generally cannot tailor contracts to address the individual needs of a given customer. As a result, most public cloud services operate the same way for all customers, with only minor differences”, says Plummer.

Basso suggests that organisations put policies in place for a more secure service. She also emphasises that investing in mobile device management is important to ensuring a secure mobile cloud service.

Plummer predicts, however, that security issues will persist in the cloud through to 2013 but “80 percent of cloud security incidents will be due to administrative error by cloud service providers or user management of cloud services.”

Ultimately it is up to the organisations who rely on the cloud heavily for collaboration to take the necessary steps to secure their servers and carefully choose their providers.

Image: gfktechtalk.com

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