Cloud Computing and Remote Collaboration
Written by Kevin VanderKley, Bursting Silver Inc.
5 MINUTE READ
Cloud computing allows teams to work together in real-time without geographical limitations. It provides an accessible, affordable, and scalable platform that can be leveraged by a variety of toolsets for staff to interact, communicate and collaborate with one another. While cloud computing is not new, the global pandemic underscored the value and flexibility of cloud computing and accelerated adoption. Organizations that were cloud-first were able to transition to remote work swiftly and with less disruption to organizational productivity. Just a few months into the pandemic, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that the company had seen two years of digital transformation in two months as its customers started adopting cloud solutions.
With accelerated adoption of cloud-based operations, union members and staff will increasingly come to expect the same level of accessibility and flexibility within their unions as they do with companies they interact with in other aspects of their daily lives. Unions that do not meet modernization expectations risk losing member and staff confidence.
User Access & Flexibility
Cloud-based applications provide access anytime, anywhere through web browsers or mobile devices. This enables staff to access necessary applications and files wherever they are – at a remote work location or while they are on the road. For example, union organizers spend most of their job on the road. By being able to access member data on-the-go is a strong enabler to their interactions with members. Additionally, when organizers can update member data on-the-go, it ensures member data is kept up-to-date and centrally stored in a streamlined manner.
Improved Team Collaboration
Improved team collaboration is another strong benefit of cloud computing. Continuing with the example above, when organizers spread across geography can update and access member data centrally stored and in a timely manner, organizers and their manager have up-to-date visibility of the aggregated state of members, member details and organizing efforts. Therefore, cloud-base applications enable organizers to better collaborate with one another.
Similarly, when documents are stored centrally in the cloud, they become easier to access. Staff no longer need to constantly email their team members just for an updated version of a file. Moreover, when team members have access to the correct file versions, it makes discussions smoother, ensures everyone is on the same page (quite literally), and remarkably improves team collaboration.
Sharing all the project details and files with the entire team also leads to improved employee engagement since all team members have an equal opportunity to offer their input.
What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing is the on-demand availability of computer system resources over the Internet (“the cloud”) without direct active management by the user. Organizations pay for computer system resources (e.g., data storage, computing power) utilized with the pay-as-you-go model commonly attached to cloud computing services. Cloud computing also allows organizations to scale up and down seamlessly given the infrastructure and flexibility offered by cloud providers. Some of the popular cloud providers include Microsoft AZURE, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform, to name a few.
Cloud providers are experts in hosting cloud applications and offer leading policies, technologies and controls. Their practices strengthen security and help protect client data, applications and infrastructure from potential threats. Cloud providers commonly offer high availability solutions and ensure data is backed up to prevent data loss or provide flexible restore points.
Moreover, cloud computing is broadly recognized for taking away the huge overhead of building, maintaining and upgrading one’s own physical infrastructure. This, in turn, allows organizations to better focus resources on adding value to members and organizing.
Despite the benefits, there are some challenges unions should also be aware of when it comes to cloud-base operations:
Compliance and security: We sometimes hear of security breaches in the news. This naturally makes some stakeholders uncomfortable with the idea of surrendering important applications and sensitive member and financial data onto the cloud.
In its journey, unions need to plan out the approaches to address compliance and security. This should be a collaborative effort across the union IT department, cloud provider and business stakeholders. To help put our minds at ease, it is worth highlighting that according to the Flexera 2022 State of the Cloud Report, more than half of survey respondents said they’ll consider moving at least some of their sensitive consumer data or corporate financial data to the cloud, which reflects increasing confidence in the security tools and processes of cloud providers to implement adequate protection.
Not a One Size Fits All Scenario: While cloud computing has great benefits, it may not be the best choice for all applications and data sets within a union. Unions need to consider a few factors such as the business value of migrating to the cloud, cost of on-premise vs. cloud hosting, security risks, to name a few. Commonly where there is a high value in making an application accessible anytime/anywhere and in enabling collaboration, a cloud-based model is more likely to be the superior choice.
Finding skilled talent: Finally, the skillsets and mindset for managing cloud-based operations are different from an on-premise one. It requires IT departments to be more agile and operate within proactive models. As an example, unions need to proactively define the governance and controls that make sense for the business vs. fully rely on cloud providers’ broad stroke policies and practices.
In summary, cloud computing enables staff to interact, communicate and collaborate seamlessly. For managers, it also provides real-time visibility on the state of operations and the ability to make data-driven decisions in a timely manner.
With accelerated adoption during COVID, the speed, flexibility, and ability to support remote collaboration, cloud computing is the ‘new normal’ for people accessing technologies in their day to day lives. Unions can leverage these technologies to improve their operations and meet the ever-evolving expectations of their members.