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The social cloud

A look at how on-demand IT helps workers collaborate - and benefits the business.

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The cloud is often described as a standalone concept, yet it is more helpfully viewed in relation to other systems and services. Take collaboration, for example, where the combination of social and cloud technologies can transform how workers connect and co-operate.

Smart IT leaders recognise that the digitisation of business has already moved from the fringes of strategy to centre stage. Analyst Gartner explains this trend as a nexus of four forces - cloud, mobile, social, and information - that it says are now at the core of CIO spending strategies.

A combined investment in cloud and associated digital technologies means businesses can keep their mobile workforce up-to-date and connected, regardless of location. It is this ability to foster stronger collaboration in a mobile age that is helping push an enterprise investment in the social cloud.

Research from analyst IDG suggests a third (33 per cent) of IT leaders plan to increase their investment in unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) technology during the next 12 months by an average of 9 per cent. The research suggests the standardenterprise currently spends $8.1m a year on UC&C.

Most interestingly, perhaps, IT leaders say the cloud has influenced their spending plans for collaborative technology, with almost three quarters (71 per cent) pointing to the power of on-demand IT. It is a key point, because the creation of the right collaboration platform means flexible workers can use a range of social tools to hook back into the enterprise network.

This can significantly boost productivity. Armed with mobile devices and cloud-based access to enterprise software, workers in the field can respond to key correspondence, update spreadsheets, and access presentations for contacts.

On-demand IT also improves person-to-person communication. Instant messaging, video calls, and video conferencing allow workers to take part in key business discussions from any location. Businesses can also use specialist platforms, like Lync, to collaborate, chat, and check availability via presence.

Cloud-based information, in short, keeps the business moving. If organisations provide secure mobile access to specialist enterprise tools - such as business intelligence and CRM - workers from C-suite executives to sales account managers will be able to check performance indicators on the go.

Cloud in combination with collaboration is removing the physical boundaries of the officeand ushering in a new era, where workers can use on-demand technologies to stay social and boost productivity from anywhere they choose.