An enterprise balancing act in the cloud

Video of Dr Sukh Grewal talking about GE's 'Support Central' environment at last week's Office 2.0 Conference.
Written by Oliver Marks, Contributor

Video of Dr Sukh Grewal talking about GE's 'Support Central' environment at last week's Office 2.0 Conference.

Zoho There's a solid article in the current Economist magazine about Zoho, which I consider a far more credible enterprise 'software as a service' office suite than Google Docs. I invited GE's Dr Sukh Grewal to speak about their 'Support Central' collaboration environment at last week's Office 2.0 conference. (I've written previously about this vast IT backbone here and follow this large enterprise level implementation closely).

During Dr Grewal's keynote he mentions that they are implementing Zoho inside their GE global cloud environment; the savings on Microsoft Office licenses are colossal, but more importantly Zoho will enable tighter collaboration than other options.

As the Economist points out, Zoho is a rounding error on the "$3.4 trillion ocean that Gartner, a consultancy, thinks companies will spend on IT this year." (Zoho has revenues of $60m a year and about 900 employees in silicon valley and India). Nevertheless, “In the world of corporate IT.....the low-cost revolution is very much unfinished business.” according to Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu.

Google docs isn't formally credible for most organizations: storing corporate intellectual property on Google servers is completely unacceptable in the vast majority of IT legal compliance mandates. Nevertheless, there is an intriguing balance slowly playing out - if the utility of cloud applications becomes sufficiently viable at a large scale (and GE, having planned in advance, are proving that in their case this is right now), there are both huge benefits and cost savings in adopting this approach.

Google is essentially an advertising company (all the more reason for corporate attorneys to mistrust their motives with valuable company data...), where Zoho are a business focused exclusively on this space. On their otherwise marketing free website, they demonstrate the level of respect their products garner from industry analysts.

For enterprises with an intention to pursue strategy and tactics around a cloud approach Zoho has reached a level of maturity to be taken very seriously. At this point many of their individual users are students, and it is important to note that this next generation are growing up in the cloud.

As an example Daniel Brusilovsky, a 15 year old student in the San Mateo school district, spoke on a panel at Office 2.0 entitled "Entering & Leaving the Workforce". Daniel is used to doing his school work in Google docs and other cloud applications - this wave of future employees will find it hard to learn how to use prevailing workflow corporate methods and may well consider it regression.

Clearly many legacy IT encumbered and committed organizations are ill equipped to adopt the agile methodologies of a GE (who debut a new build of 'support central' every two weeks) but the time to start strategizing effective ways of taking advantage of the more robust Enterprise 2.0 applications is nevertheless now.

Entrenched vendors will undoubtedly embrace successful aspects of the cloud revolution and incorporate them into their products (and buy successful competitors in this space). Driving this development from existing suppliers and partners is as important as considering current tool adoption for those planning transition to proven newer work methodologies even as they are squeezed by budget constraints.

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