Cloud

Four ways to deal with the dark side of the cloud

The cloud has a dark side

Above: The cloud has a dark side

The average knowledge worker uses at least four different cloud applications on a daily basis. Salesforce, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, you-name-it. Long gone are the days when professionals in each functional area used one piece of specialized enterprise software.

Navigating various cloud apps is the new reality.

The modern enterprise employee collaborates on Sharepoint, handles tickets in ZenDesk, and takes notes in Evernote. Data is accumulating at a faster rate every day, and it’s stored in more places than ever before. Finding a document, email, or contact within all your apps is hard, if not downright impossible.

And if you’re in a role such as a customer support rep, which requires access to information across an entire organization, you’re likely using a lot more than just four apps.

Picture the following: you’re on the line with a customer who has a critical issue that you’re unfamiliar with until now. You need troubleshooting details, product documentation, email records, etc., and you need it all yesterday. You know the information is somewhere, but finding it within the myriad of cloud apps you use everyday is proving to be difficult. Clock’s ticking… The customer is growing impatient and the last thing you want to do is interrupt your manager or a colleague to ask for help. We’ve all been here, on one side of the line or the other.

Welcome to the dark side of the cloud. Its business impact is nontrivial:

Decreased productivity. Time spent searching is time wasted. On average, 42 percent of information workers spend more than an hour a day just searching for information. That’s more than 1.5 working months per employee every year gone to waste. Ouch.

Lost opportunities. Following up on a lead within five minutes is 7.8 times more likely to yield a qualification than following up within 30 minutes. By the time you locate accurate lead history or product details, the opportunity has already slipped away.

Interruption impact. 60 percent of us instant message or email a colleague when we need to find information. Now you and the employee you’ve roped in are both wasting time. And worse, it takes 25 minutes on average for colleagues you interrupt to return to a prior task.

So how do we deal with the dark side?

1. System integrations

The most head-on approach is to essentially make your apps talk to each other. With companies like Cazoomi, Boomi, Ink, Mulesoft, and Snaplogic working to connect your disparate apps, the cloud integration space is really its own cottage industry at this point.

The thing to keep in mind when moving and duplicating data is that a lot of us are continually adopting new cloud apps so the integration costs — money and time — can quickly accrue. It’s important to evaluate if this solution is scalable.

2. App ecosystems

It seems like every cloud service has an app platform these days. One fantastic example is Zendesk’s JIRA integration. This is a good solution if you are heavily using only a few cloud apps. The good news for developers is that there are now services like Ink File Picker, which can help speed up the development process for building app integrations.

3. Enterprise social networks and collaboration tools

A more indirect (or creative) solution is to change how information and data is shared within your company. Some companies have seen communication improve through the use of enterprise social networks like Tibbr, Yammer, or Jive. Or perhaps centralizing information and projects using collaboration tools like Confluence, Asana, or Trello will help you out.

4. Search

If it’s just data access that you need, search could be the answer. Found (acquired by YouSendIt) sits on your desktop and allows you to search your local files. CloudMagic is another excellent option for searching your personal data, including within your cloud apps. My company, Synata, is doing this on the enterprise level, but adding graph search to the equation so you can search your data contextually.

Let’s return to the customer service rep situation. Certain pieces of data — customers, emails, documents — are more easily recalled than others. You may not remember the name of the document you’re looking for, or exactly where it’s stored, but you know which coworker sent it to you a few months back. A quick search for your co-worker could return a list of the recent emails you’ve exchanged. By expanding those results, you find the elusive attachment and are able to send it to the customer.

The data silo problems brought on by the expanding cloud ecosystem are making the IT department feel less in control than ever. But let’s remember why we were so excited about the cloud in the first place: It gives us the freedom to choose the services that exactly fit our companies’ needs. Once we implement a strategy to manage our clouds, the dark side won’t seem so dark after all.

Patrick White is CEO and cofonder of Synata. Prior to that, he founded Ally Software, where he served as CEO. And before that, he was group product manager at Fortify Software and architect evangelist at Microsoft.

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