By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini
SM: Let’s explore these from an organizational standpoint. In your organization, in the business units or functional units that interface with the IT organization, what is their thinking on these kinds of cloud-related issues? What is the perspective of your CMO or your head of customer support? What is the thought leadership partnership within your organization on these kinds of topics?
JS: Our marketing organization tends to be more forward-leaning, as you might imagine, and is interested in using the cloud to both engage with our customers and share information within the company. Our sales teams are very interested in using it to share information as they work on negotiations and deals with our customers. We have everyone from solutions engineers to pricing experts to technology experts all collaborating on putting a deal together for a customer.
JS: The other interesting use of the video application is in training, and I don’t just mean training videos. What I mean to say here is that the best way for the salespeople to be trained is to practice. So, we have a number of initiatives where they sit in front of their desktop camera and do a five-minute sales pitch, and then we post it to our internal version of YouTube. It is almost like [the TV show] American Idol. Everybody gets to watch the sales pitches and vote on who did the best one. It is a fun way to get the salespeople to practice and to be trained.
In terms of service, we are doing a lot of it in terms of internal and internal subject matter or experts’ forums and chats and so forth. There is a bit more skittishness in terms of opening up the gate to end customers because there is always a concern about who is saying what inside the company and whether you really want all of your customers seeing and hearing it. It is a question of managing communications.
Social collaboration is by its very nature unmanaged. So, there is that aspect to deal with. There is a slightly different, more cautions approach of moving forward. The other use of it that we found internally is in terms of how the IT organization delivers its software to our internal customers. I write an application that supports sales or whatever, and it is for our user community to get on the forum and say, Hey I am having a problem with this feature; how do I use it? Or, This thing is broken. And it completely breaks open, not in a negative way, the model where you have to submit a bug report that has to be prioritized, and you have to figure out what release it is or you don’t get an answer to your question. So, we get direct feedback from our internal users if they are having a problem. The developers themselves are there on the forums and blogs; they see the question and answer it. Then, of course, every other user who had the same question can see the answer. So, we are kicking the tires in a lot of ways.
SM: I think the place where social Web is right now is not really being integrated into enterprise workflow. I think in the next few years all of that is going to happen. There are going to be more systematic, managed, methodical ways of leveraging the social media and social Web and tying those into enterprise processes. It will be an interesting evolution.
JS: I agree completely. So, if you want to get entrepreneurs thinking about how to solve that problem, I think it is a wide open space.
SM: Very good! Do you have any other thoughts on entrepreneurial opportunities?
JS: You mean outside of cloud computing or within cloud computing?
SM: Within cloud computing, I would say.
JS: We talked about businesses, and we also talked about the consumer aspects. In terms of enterprises, we like to say that there is nothing worse than the CIO having to hear from user community, ‘Hey I can do more at home than I can when I come to work!’ But that is the truism, and it is also true for us as everyday consumers. You see that people, in their lives, are doing an increasing number of things that look like work or that require more advanced technology. Consumers today want access to their contact list and want to watch videos from any device, which means they want [the information] stored in the cloud. I think that as consumers become increasingly technology-oriented, there are just as many applications in which a consumer is creating presentations or other common work functions. Call them lightweight, but they are work-type functions that consumers today want to be able to access in their home and for which they don’t want to have tech support.
I think there are huge opportunities out there. I am sure we have all experienced this in our homes; needless to say, I am the tech support guy in my house, and I wonder what goes on in homes where nobody is tech savvy. I don’t know how they deal with such requirements. Do you know what I am saying?
SM: It is becoming a bigger problem. Can you imagine an average home having to configure Netgear extenders? It is a nightmare!
JS: Right! And so I can imagine that the more these applications and technologies and capabilities move into a cloud environment, the more the consumer population is going to say, I am in, but I don’t want to have to deal with it. So, we didn’t talk much about that because I am focused not only on enterprises but on very large enterprises. As an entrepreneur, though, I think there are probably wide open fields in terms of when people would be willing to say, Sure I don’t understand it anyway, so you do it.
SM: Very good! This has been a very interesting conversation, Judy. I’m glad you took the time to speak with us, and I am sure entrepreneurs will greatly appreciate your perspective.
JS: If you have any other follow-ups, you might want to get in touch with me.
SM: We will be in touch with you. Thank you, and good-bye.