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The CIO’s Next Imperatives: Social, Mobile and Touch

The cloud is a commercial vehicle designed to facilitate customer engagement, sales and therefore profits

The cloud is a commercial vehicle. This undeniable truth must now be accepted as a deeply entrenched truism by CIOs who are looking to manage the forward-looking growth of their technology architectures.

We can actually refine this statement further. The cloud is a commercial vehicle designed to facilitate customer engagement, sales and therefore profits.

These are not inconvenient truths, but it is an undeniable truth if you believe the proclamations being made by some of the new change-makers driving cloud computing from the Platform-as-a-Service level.

This commercialization of the cloud is facilitated by the way users are interacting with cloud services. Although that may sound like stating the obvious, what we mean by this use of the term "interacting" is now increasingly impacted by social applications. Analyst firm McKinsey estimates that there is $1.3 billion dollars waiting to be unlocked in the global economy if we harness enterprise level social technologies effectively.

What "Social Sharing" Means
Firms like Salesforce.com are making some big assertions in this space and now developing products to transform the older more traditional business models that suffer from unconnected data silos and customer portals that fail to "share" in the new sense of "social" as we now come to use the term.

CIOs looking to bring these new social technologies to bear will need to prepare for transformation. At risk of that also sounding too simplistic, what we are talking about here is a transformation impacting every aspect of a firm's internal operational structure.

As Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff would have it, this is a transformation of the way a company must now sell, market to, collaborate with, supply services to and then subsequently work with its customers. Sales is now social, data is now social and the modern enterprise is now social -- and this is the mantra that cloud customers in the Benioff mindset now follow.

Facebook, But for Business
Think of it as Facebook for business if you wish. These are new virtualized applications that are secure, enterprise-grade and intuitive enough for users to be able to operate them with practically zero training in some cases. Salesforce's Benioff has described Facebook as "500 million users without an instruction manual" and this is the model that firms should now look to if they are going to use connected social clouds effectively.

But didn't we just say that CIOs should brace themselves for embracing social technologies? There is the closely connected mobile and touch element to be recognized here too. The application types we have discussed here will come first and foremost from the cloud in every instance; the applications themselves then inherently suited to mobile device delivery over an Internet connection where both data storage and processing power is supported, or at least significantly shared, by the cloud server rather than on the device.

Logically then, as we move from social to mobile, our next technology layer should be touch-based functionality to ensure suitability to tablets and smartphones.

A Changing Fabric for Business
Hewlett Packard is vocal on the subject of social enterprise applications and HP senior vice president Tony Prophet had a brief keynote slot during the Salesforce keynote presentations at this September's Salesforce.com Dreamforce user and customer symposium in San Francisco.

"Our company is reengineering our processes and embedding enterprise social tools deep into the fabric of the way we work and we embrace these new concepts as a business," said HP's Prophet, "This is going to be a core part of the way HP operates as a business in the future."

Also present at this event was motivational speaker Tony Robbins who enthused that change is driving our inevitable move toward these new technology structures. "Change is automatic, progress is not," said Robbins. "Change is inevitable in our work, in our relationships and in our bodies. The future is all about the need to connect or die." Robbins likes to 'showboat' and is a showman at heart, so take those comments with a large pinch of salt.

These are the new imperatives for the modern CIO intending to run modern applications in a modern enterprise, or a modern small to medium sized business too for that matter.

But is this all just a load of hype? Well it is cloud computing driven, so there's part of your answer right there. The fact is, this stuff is true and it's happening right now.

•   •   •

This post was first published on the Enterprise CIO Forum.

More Stories By Adrian Bridgwater

Adrian Bridgwater is a freelance journalist and corporate content creation specialist focusing on cross platform software application development as well as all related aspects software engineering, project management and technology as a whole.

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