Over at the Harvard Business Review, a fascinating article which points out (in an almost Nietzschean fashion with the two-way street of the abyss) that the impact of technology in the workplace doesn’t just change the way people get things done, it also influences the way in which businesses are managed and governed.
Once said, the claim makes perfect sense, in the way that pointing out the obvious makes for a ‘duh, why didn’t I think of that’. It also immediately begs the question of how the cloud is changing management in today’s businesses. And, of course the writer Quentin Hardy goes on to point out just exactly that (I’ll get to that in a minute).
What all know is that the cloud is pervasive today. Regardless of business type or size, the cloud plays anything from a small role to an all-encompassing one. For most companies, there’s also a simple rule: the more cloud, the better. After all, flexibility, capital cost reduction, the availability of ‘high technology’ at low prices are all features and benefits with universal appeal.
Hardy posits that the main way information technology changes management is through changes in how information is gathered. The cloud, therefore, has a massive influence on this process as information is effectively enabled to travel freely throughout the organisation.
He zooms in on flexibility: ease of information creation and exchange makes for more flexible work structures (you see this every day: people can work from anywhere, without expensive or particularly special tools).
Which is a ‘macro’ effect. There are important micro effects contained within that simple precept, adds Hardy, who writes that moving to the cloud can change how products are designed, influence interdepartmental collaboration (another potential ‘duh’ there), and improve customer interaction. And it ‘speeds up’ the organisation, too, bringing to mind Jason Jennings’ fabulously titled ‘It's not the big that eat the small-- it's the fast that eat the slow’.
With the evidence of how cloud computing is changing business all around us today, probably the biggest question goes to how soon it will cause formal changes in how ‘traditional’ companies are managed, as opposed to those which were ‘born in the cloud’ and which we today know as ‘disruptors’ – and with which you are likely to be exhaustedly familiar (Uber, Facebook, AirBNB, yada yada).
Hardy tackles just this; he points to a paper which shows that major technology improvements may lag productivity gains for years, even decades, because an ecosystem of other changes has to arise, along with new thinking about how the technology should be used, in order for it to have full impact.
Sounds depressingly out of reach. But not when it’s cloud we’re talking about: cloud bucks the trend mainly because of the lower costs which allows rapid adoption of technology delivered on this model. Hark back to the old days; remember when a Xerox was first introduced? It cost US$27,500.
I’d encourage you to read the full article (which does go into some fairly detailed examples of newer cloud technologies and how these are being adopted by very large American corporations). The real point of it, I think, is that it talks to the opportunity which exists with cloud computing. Not only can you do things differently and better on an individual level, but the cloud enables positive change to the entire way in which businesses are run. And that can deliver real and sustained competitive advantage.