Working as a collaboration consultant, I find that many organizations currently working with on-premises versions of collaboration software are investigating what it would mean for them to move to cloud based services. At the same time, their users are already using the cloud, and their IT and governing bodies have no idea where all the information is.
Working with cloud based services offers a clear advantage for end-users: they can bypass IT. IT departments are governed by budgets and accountability (they’re the ones that get the blame when there’s a security leak or a bad service performance), and they have limited resources and are focused on maintenance, not innovation.
At the same time, users can use all kinds of tools and services when they are not in the office. They can download apps freely, send files without limits, and switch browser or even device whenever they feel like it. There is a big gap between private and business experience for our users. When users experience too much hindrance they start looking for other ways to do their work. Without involving IT, they start experimenting with Dropbox, collaborating on Trello, and communicating on the free version of Yammer. They have no idea (and are not really interested in) where the data is stored or who can access it; they’re just happy everything works. From an IT standpoint it’s a security nightmare, but it’s almost impossible to stop users from choosing their own collaboration and communication platforms short of revoking all internet access.
To reduce these risks, IT wants to regulate and control. You can only use one specific type of browser, you cannot use audio and video, there is no access to Skype, your mail storage is limited, you cannot send large files, etc. This strict governance helps ensure uptime, reduces costs, and saves IT staff from having to answer questions on tools and applications they are not familiar with, but it also means we are not delivering what our users need. Instead of stopping our users from using the tools they want and need, we should be looking for ways to help them dotheir day-to-day work in an effective way.
Or as one of my clients recently told me: “I wish IT would stop telling me I cannot use the type of tools I want to use, and instead help me to find the best tools and to understand how to use them safely”.
For IT departments currently offering on-premises collaboration services, cloud based services are the logical alternative. It offers users the capabilities they need to do their work efficiently, while offering IT departments the tools to manage and secure the information, making both IT and users happy.