There's so much going on in the cloud world you need air traffic control to figure out what solutions to your problems are safe to bring to earth and put to work.
The instant gratification world of cloud - select solution> apply credit card to seat licenses> presto! up and running in no time - has a whiff of jiffy lube 5 minute oil change and fast food at times.
Clearly this is fundamentally caused by changes wrought by broadband internet: the closed internal universes of extranets and vpn connectivity with attendant fixed costs have an increasingly hard time justifying their existence in these hard economic times.
The ironic coder and designer line in meetings - "Good, fast or cheap. Choose any two" can be tough to justify against the economic promise of many cloud offerings. In a bean counter economy good fast and cheap looks really good.
For business disciplines which have historically been highly cost conscious, such as customer relationship management, getting maximum bang for your buck (think offshore telephone call centers historically) is key to maximizing profits.
10 year old Salesforce are fundamentally a CRM company (Sales, Service & Support, Partner Relations Management, Marketing, Analytics) who branched out into platform as a service relatively recently.
The Salesforce success story rolls on in providing terrific bang for the buck and has been seismic in their disruption of the enterprise software marketplace. For framework driven processes that are effective and drive down costs this approach can be terrific.
Like life however, people can sometimes get in the way. Dialog, as opposed to managing, can get messy. Inside companies, fine grained collaboration permissions models that define who sees what and why are an important part of protecting intellectual property, security and ensuring quality content are often very high on the requirements list.
Mindtouch, who create open source collaboration software which can be installed inside intranets, extranets or deployed in the cloud, have recently focused a release around user documentation, the 'knowledge base' that companies use to inform their employees and partners.
One of the top 20 open source projects in the World (according to SourceForge.net) Mindtouch have over 16 million users, more than 500,000 active installations and over 1,000 paying customers.
The MindTouch Collaborative Knowledge Base (CKB) allows companies to crowdsource documentation in order to lower costs, improve quality and to create an engaged community of partners, customers and end users.
Where ad hoc wiki usage can result in organizational and content issues as content builds up, the Mindtouch solution aims to provide a secure and scalable knowledge base environment.
Features such as an an editors dashboard for quickly scanning individual user contributions, moderation controls for accepting and rejecting individual contributions, sophisticated anti-spam controls, multilingual polyglot support and localization in 20 languages and banned words lists enable rapid 'crowd sourcing' of important content to ensure quality controlled, up to date documentation.
While the rapid deployment world the cloud is synonymous with the ability to quickly get up and running with browser based technology, the hard part - creating useful and findable content - has of course just begun.
The 'instruction manual' contents many people feel they don't need to read until they have a problem or need to know something needs to be constructed in a way that enables both usage and contribution, and this 'Knowledge Base' approach facilitates this.
As a media property extension of this 'moderated wiki' thinking, the Washington Post 'Who Runs Gov' I wrote about in January is now live: an editable knowledge sharing site on the US government.
Real-time data is constantly being pulled into the site on a contextually relevant basis from a variety of external news sources and blogs, and the content is augmented by situational applications which provide valuable views into the key associates of governmental figures and other pertinent information.
This form of collaboratively sourced, moderated content has important implications on many levels, particularly around scaling to potentially millions of users.