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Over the past 3 weeks, I have gone through a radical personal “conversion”.  My work life is now 100% cloud based. Out are laptop oriented tools like Outlook and OneNote.  In their place are Gmail, Evernote, Google Tasks, and Dropbox. 

Here are just a few examples of how my work-life has changed for the better:

Speed

Being a “digital packrat” I have all of my emails dating back to 2004 and files dating back to 2001.  Searching that entire knowledge base would take me 30 seconds per query in Windows Desktop/Outlook.  In Gmail, the results are instant.  It’s also a lot faster to type and read emails on GMail than on Office. 

Auto Save

I’m typing this blog on Evernote currently.  It saves my work every 10 seconds.  The days of me losing work due to forgetting to save are drawing to a close.

Constant Innovation

All of the the tools I mentioned are chock-full of great intuitive features, and new features are constantly added.  I’m no longer tied to Microsoft’s biannual upgrades. 

Collaboration

Google Documents allow for dead-simple simultaneous document editing.  Dropbox allows me to share folders full of documents with whomever I’m collaborating with at the moment,.

What About Everyone Else?

Because I am an independent contractor, I have the flexibility to choose the tools I use for work.  However, in most corporate environments the typical worker cannot walk into her friendly-neighborhood IT department and say “gee, I really would like to migrate my corporate email off of Exchange and on to Gmail.  I’ll work better that way.” 

It makes me think that we’re missing the mark when we talk about BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).  More and more, our smartphones are becoming commoditized platforms.  The real innovation is not on-device, it’s in the cloud.  Whether I use iOS or Android matters less and less.  BYOD is a response to  an issue for the last 5 years.  Handling employee interaction with the cloud is a question for the next 5.  The question that IT departments need to be asking is not “do we let you use your iPhone?” It’s “Do we let you bring your own cloud” (BYOC)? 

My belief is that the smart nimble organizations will do precisely this.  HR has a big role to play in this arena in its role as advocate for employee productivity.   HR should be pushing the rest of the business to  embrace these tools internally and develop policies that allow their knowledge workers to use them as well. 

Like it or not, the cloud is here.  Smart organizations will embrace it and benefit from it.  Other organizations with put up walls to prevent “bad behavior”.  Either way,developing a deliberate strategy for companies will allow knowledge workers will interact with their personal clouds needs to be a top priority and soon..

Brandon is a SAP HCM Consultant.  You can follow him on twitter @brandontombs

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9 Comments

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  1. Steve Rumsby

    I’m like you – I use gmail, Evernote, Google Docs/Drive and find these tools much more productive than the standard equivalents provided by my organisation. More and more employees are going to be turning up with all of these services in place for them personally. The big problem with an organisation enabling employees to use them “officially” is going to be data governance, surely? If I use my personal email address for official correspondance how does my organisation get access to it? There are situations where they are legally required to do so – will I want to give them access to my gmail account? What if the documents I am working on contain confidential information and I store it in my gdrive? What happens when an employee leaves? How does the organisation ensure that the employee doesn’t leave with unfortunate information stored in Evernote?

    I can’t see HR, at least in any sizeable organisation, being very enthusiastic about encouraging BYOC until the governance issues are solved, and that’s firmly a technical issue isn’t it?

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    1. Brandon Toombs Post author

      Steve-

      Great comments!  You’re spot-on that the default approach for a lot of organizations is going to be to say ‘no’.  However, I am wondering if the whole BYOD revolution is going to make organizations more open to these concepts.

      On the gmail front, yes, there are limitations owing to the inability to send off “official” emails from a personal account.  I have actually moved my “corporate” account to the gmail platform. Regardless, employees can use gmail as the repository for archived email by migrating the PST folders there.

      With respect to the other tools, this is where things are going to get very interesting.  I believe that a lot of organizations are going to reflexively try to limit access to tools such as Evernote.  There are 3 problems with this approach:

      1) The best workers want the best tools.  If you have a rock star worker that feels that part of the key to success is the cloud tools that manage her life and she’s deciding between 2 companies: 1 with access to the tools and 1 without, which do you think she’ll choose? This is especially true of millenials who are being weaned on the cloud.

      2) It’s almost impossible to prevent use of cloud tools anyway. Most knowledge workers as they spend a good bit of time “off network” at home,etc.  As people begin to manage the rest of their lives on these tools, their work will naturally follow.

      3) My completely-unscientific belief is that the tools make workers more productive.  Preventing their use is a lost opportunity to increase performance.

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      1. Steve Rumsby

        I agree with you al all counts. However, organisations have legal responsibilities related to data. How, in the UK, can an organisation comply with the Data Protection Act (taking appropriate care of personal data) if such data is stored in a lot of individuals’ google accounts. We have a Freedom of Information Act where anyone can ask (with limitations) an organisation to supply all information they hold on a particular subject. How can they comply with such requests when they don’t have access to all the data because it is in individual employees’ cloud accounts?

        I’m sure there are solutions to these things – in Evernote you could hold work-related notes in notebooks shared (read-only, perhaps) with your organisation, for example. Or maybe your organisation creates the notebooks and shares them with you, so that they control access. I don’t see similar facilities in gmail, yet.

        Of course, as you say we’re already facing these issues because some employees (you and I, for example) are using our personal clouds anyway. My only point it that until there are technical solutions that enable organisations to comply with all data-related legal requirements, personal clouds aren’t going to be officially supported. I don’t see how they can be, no matter how beneficial they may be. Organisations may well not care too much right now, but I expect that will change with the first big lawsuit. Unfortunately…

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        1. Brandon Toombs Post author

          Good points.  As they say the discussion’s just beginning.  I would state for the record that knowledge workers need to be very diligent about keeping personal employee data out of their local folder structures.  I make it a point to purge any employee data as soon as I’m done working with it.  That issue is not any different regardless of whether we’re talking about storing on the cloud or a laptop (which can get lost or stolen).

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  2. RĂ©mi Corriveau

    We will move to Google Aps in less than a month, and after reading your post, I’m eager for the change.  The only problem we’ve been told is that the IT team has not found a way to retrieve our archived e-mails from Groupwise (currently used) so that they could be read by G-Mail.  These archived e-mails are more than 3 years old (the oldest dating back to 2000) but some are valuable documents detailing specifications, authorisations, change requests, etc., so I hope that a solution is found before we migrate to G-Mail.

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    1. Brandon Toombs Post author

      Remi-

      Sorry to hear about the migration issues.  I can only tell you that migrating from Exchange was a breeze. Hope they figure out GW migration for you.

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  3. Luke Marson

    Hey Brandon,

    Great blog and it’s great to see you make the link with how individuals and organizations can (and will?) use Cloud services to increase productivity. I benefit from many of the tools you do, although my organization doesn’t use many of them, but I like to integrate them into my work life where appropriate.

    Steve Rumsby makes some very valid points about governance, which is also a problem for BYOD in a similar context. Managing all of this within an organization will be a challenge and I think it’s also up to the providers to ensure that their services can be integrated within a professional context while providing the control – and freedom – for employees to make the best use of them.

    Best regards,

    Luke

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    1. Brandon Toombs Post author

      Thanks for the reply Luke.  Like it or not, these tools exist and are here to stay. I believe the best organizations will develop a strategy and realistic guidelines for their use.

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