Oracle may have outlined how the inability to break-down information silos was negating many of the positive benefits of the cloud yesterday, but today Forbes highlights yet again the business value of the cloud, particularly in facilitation with effective enterprise collaboration.

Enterprise Collaboration

Forbes Insights report, entitled Collaborating in the Cloud, has found that that cloud-based enterprise collaboration enables enterprises to carry out business activities much faster than would normally be possible. The Insights report, like all the reports in the Forbes series, is based on a survey that was carried out across an extensive business cross section consisting of 532 senior executives from companies with sales ranging from US$ 250 million to over US $20 billion.

It also carries commentaries from 15 executives in the sample study. An interesting addition as it provides insights into how these executives are using collaboration technologies.

Business Value of Cloud Collaboration

However, it is the results of the survey itself that are really interesting. There are 5 main findings:

1. Accelerated Business

Of all those that responded to the survey, 64% said that, generally speaking, cloud-based collaboration tools enable businesses to execute faster than they would without it. In practical terms, this means shortening the time to market and speeding-up upgrade cycles.

That in turn means easier and faster response to market conditions, leading to what we have identified  in the past as agile business. When the results for the C-suite level were considered on their own, this percentage rose to 82%. For vendors of enterprise collaboration tools this must be particularly encouraging as it is this level that also makes IT spending decisions.

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Cloud-based collaboration value


Of all those surveyed, 55% said that cloud solutions enable better communication and work practices across boundaries, whether those boundaries are in the enterprise between departments, or outside the enterprise like time zones. Again, when the results of the C-suite respondents were taken on their own the figure was 87%.

Enhanced capabilities delivered by enterprise collaboration here include enhanced communications, product and service delivery, information sharing and tapping knowledge resources as well as group problem solving. Again, boundary breaking should also be taken on board in light of yesterday’s findings from Oracle.

3. Enhanced business processes

Another major advantage cited is business process improvements. According to the results, 58% of all respondents -- and 90% of those at C-suite level -- cited better process management as an advantage. Among the processes cited were purchasing, manufacturing, marketing sales and technical support. Positive responses here came from companies as diverse as Virgin Media and local government workers in the UK.

4. Cloud collaboration innovation

Innovation is one of the areas that was specifically cited yesterday as something that was being hindered by failure to integrate information silos between the cloud and the enterprise.

The impact of that is clear in this survey which shows that 59% of executives -- 93% of C-suite -- say that cloud-based collaboration stimulates innovation. In fact, many of them went so far as to say that enhanced innovation was unavoidable in well planned cloud deployments. The cloud, they said, has resulted in better ways of sharing information and new service delivery options with more people inside and outside the enterprise.

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Cloud collaboration capabilities

5. Cloud and IT

The last major finding is that the decision on cloud deployments and cloud applications should not just be an IT-based decision. This is a debate that we have seen on many occasions over the past year, with most leading companies coming down in the favor of a joint decision making process between IT and the business side of the business.

In fact, this survey shows that 75% of leading companies say that more non-IT executives are becoming involved in the selection and implementation process. The thinking behind this is that ultimately, it is customer-facing workers that will be using cloud apps and they have to be happy with them if they are going to be successful. In short, cloud collaboration is not an IT discussion but a broader business discussion.

There is a lot more in this report that is worth taking on board for enterprises that are already effectively collaborating in the cloud, and even more so for those that have yet to make the jump. While there may be some debate on the best way to use the cloud, the debate has moved decisively on from “should we use the cloud,” to “how should we use the cloud?” It’s been slow progress, but it’s still progress.