On Your Organization’s Horizon: Crowds in the Clouds

It is always difficult to shift to a new paradigm. The present culture’s perception tends to hold us back. The concept that a business needs a bricks and mortar location with people working there still dominates despite more people free lancing and working at home. Indeed, certain business endeavors stake their hope for success on location, hence the famous marketing mantra: “location, location, location.”

The automobile is a good example undergoing a paradigm shift.. If you life the hood on today’s automobile, you can find different power configurations. You can find the traditional combustion engine that has been around for a long time. You can find a hybrid power source that combines the combustion engine with an electrical power source. We are just beginning to see the full paradigm shift to the fully electrical automobile engine.

When we lift the hood of today’s organization, we can see a similar migration playing out. The evolution to the new organizational paradigm is playing out on two levels. One is the makeup of the organization itself in how it is structured. The other involves the people who do the work of the organization.

It is fair to say organizational tweaking on both these dimensions has been going on for a long time. The traditional hierarchical structure of the organization still tends to be prevalent today. It has been tweaked to try to improve communication, get teams to work across the various functions on various matters and to try to get more people involved in the quality of output and customer concerns. Nevertheless, the hierarchy, by its nature, has built in barriers.

When people work in the hierarchical organization, their perception tends to be “I do my job and all the rest of it is none of my concern.” This can obviously inhibit progress and strain positive development in a rapidly changing world.

Clearly, the biggest driver that is laying the foundation for organizational paradigm shift is technology, specifically the computer and the Internet. Work tasks can be immensely speeded up by computer numerically machines that add flexibility and increase quality output at the same time. The Internet has opened up the vast potential of the human side providing the portal for social interaction. The way we organize work and do work is undergoing a paradigm shift.

Two key parts of the shift that is occurring have evolved from computing and the Internet. One is the “cloud,” and the other is the “crowd.”

The cloud is a technological platform outside the organization’s location where the nuts and bolts of computing technology can be placed. Placing computer hardware, software, applications and processing ability outside the organization’s location allows for flexibility and accessibility not possible when located inside the organization. It allows organization members to access work information from anywhere, anytime (at the beach, airport or home). The concept of the cloud is a stratification of the largest cloud of all, the Internet.

The crowd pertains to people assembled through the Internet to do work tasks that can range from very simple to very complex. It is like outsourcing on steroids. Crowds are an evolution of outsourcing but because it is done utilizing the technology and accessibility of the Internet, it allows for infinite scaling and incremental use in time.

Crowds are a way of maximizing the value of social networks. The social network is the technological advance of water cooler communication. The water cooler in the organization has been a place for less formal communication. While groups can be established on social networks, crowd groups are more formal. Crowds have purpose, need structure and willingness to contribute. Roles need to be defined and results evaluated.

In combining the cloud and crowd, the organization becomes devoid of boundaries and relevant information and collaborative work can flow back and forth with ease. The work is not controlled by time constraints.

While the technology platform of clouds and the concept of work done by crowds are evolving concepts, the human side of this paradigm shift needs to be considered. Are those inside your organization ready to play in this kind of arena? What will motivate them to make the transition? Perhaps the biggest motivator will be the realization that the organization is providing help for them to learn how work will be performed in the future. Is the organization’s leadership seeing the emerging value of clouds and crowds and is leadership helping the members to see it and embrace it, as well?

Clouds and crowds are pushing the envelope of organizational structure and operation. These realities are bringing us to the brink of a real paradigm shift in concept and action. In looking to the future, the organizational structure on the horizon will include crowds in the clouds.

Dedicated Server, Colocation, Cloud Servers Examined – A Journey Into 2011

2011 is looking like the year of the Cloud; there is more news about it now and the types that you can get than ever before. Although I think it would be pertinent not to forget dedicated server and co-location as well as complex hosting.

Cloud Hosting Research

Forrester (the famous research organization) recently surveyed 53 IT professionals at North American and European enterprises to find out where they run their email, calendar, contact, and task list services (what Forrester refers to as messaging or email services).

They spoke directly with IT professionals at 12 of those firms and with executives at 21 vendors. From that foundation of primary research, they analyzed the costs of moving email to a cloud-based service provider.

Of the 53 firms Forrester surveyed, 36 were considering or have considered a change in their email delivery facility. Cost was the motivation for 15 of these enterprises, and a further 13 were triggered by a transition, a consolidation, vendor switch, or version upgrade.

In the words of some of the IT professionals that were interviewed:

“Three years from now when my license comes due, I’ll strongly evaluate hosted email options. In the meantime, driving down to a consolidated environment is huge. If every group has its own email server, it’s a nightmare.” (Manufacturing company)

“We understand that IT isn’t a core competency for us; it’s a support mechanism. Do we need to spend time and resources to support email? We’re looking at ways to cut costs.Outsourcing email might be something we can do.” (Manufacturing company)

Not just for e-mail

Of course it’s not just for e-mail, people putting their whole system in the cloud, but this research just goes to show how important it’s all becoming. As a potential consumer of Cloud Hosting whether you’re a large blue-chip corporation or a small start-up I think it’s important to you to find out which of these really is what you want. Just because cloud is everywhere in the media as well as the buzzword of every blog, does not mean it is right for you?

Which way should you go?

I think you have to ask yourself some pertinent or probing questions about exactly the type of service you want. If you’re someone like Betfair or bettowin it’s likely that you’ll be under much more sustained pressure from outside influences, hackers and periodical shifts in demand than say someone like Argos (who could maybe have a couple of seasonal demands at Christmas and at new years sale time). Although it should be worth pointing out that both Argos and Paddy Power probably want the highest security possible to protect their customers from any sort of shenanigans.

When the Grand National is on, one would expect Paddy power and all the gambling sites have a much higher demand than just after Christmas…and of course House of Fraser, Argos and the main retailers e-commerce websites will always be under huge pressure before and after Christmas for the January sales

Buying this product is similar I suppose like with every purchase… buying a car is often a trade-off between quality and price and people like Skoda and possibly some of the Japanese and Far East brands sit well in between price and quality and do a very good job of it

The “IBM’ decision

In our industry I suppose there is a lot of what we call the “IBM decision”.

Way back in the last century (seems funny to say that now) in the 1980s and early 90s there was an old saying that “nobody got fired for buying IBM”. Today I think there is a certain amount of hangover from that in the data centre, co-location, dedicated server, cloud server industry.

People want to be safe, nobody wants to get sacked for helping out the little guy. I suppose the choice is to try and purchase from somewhere in the middle. But if you have the money to pay for something which is pretty similar but comes at a much higher price with supposed peace of mind.

As they say the choice is yours.