I am currently in the process of wrapping up a report on implementing cloud collaboration solutions in Asia Pacific. For this report, I interacted with technology vendors, collaboration service providers, and customer organizations to understand the current state of cloud collaboration adoption in Asia Pacific and the drivers and key criteria that organizations need to consider when evaluating a solution and service provider. Three distinct business scenarios emerged as the most appropriate for cloud collaboration services deployment:
To reduce the total cost of ownership. Compared with an on-premises infrastructure, public cloud deployments offer a lower total cost of ownership to individual companies, as multiple customers share the service provider’s infrastructure and associated costs such as hardware, software upgrades, and IT maintenance. While it’s beneficial for organizations across all segments, it’s especially advantageous for small and medium-size businesses with limited IT budgets and small IT teams.
Implementation in greenfield projects. Existing legacy communications infrastructure investments discourage customers from adopting cloud solutions. But this works well for newly established companies, as it offers better flexibility and efficiency at a lower operating cost — a critical business requirement, especially during the first few years of operation. Furthermore, lower upfront expenses help customers boost business agility and utilize funds for functions that are critical to operations and help them gain a strategic advantage in the marketplace.
I spent the past three months talking to Google and Microsoft professional services partners, as well as Google Apps and Office 365 clients, to better understand how cloud collaboration and productivity suites are implemented and the value clients get once they move into these environments. One word that came up quite a bit during these conversations was "simple." As in "We think moving to [Google Apps or Office 365] will simplify our [costs, IT management, user experience, etc.]." This got me thinking: Should CIOs think moving collaboration workloads to the cloud actually simplifies their job? Well...yes, but there's a but. Simplicity in these environments comes with costs. Business and IT leaders must be sure they're willing to pay them as a condition of getting the benefits of the cloud. So what does this mean?
These platforms simplify contracting if you can live with the standard service agreement. One Google client told us one of the reasons they rejected the incumbent players was because they felt the licensing agreements were "convoluted." Yes, cloud collaboration and productivity suite providers have straightforward per user pricing for clearly defined feature/function tiers. But the devil's in the details. These players are able to deliver highly efficient, low-cost services because they do not permit a lot of deviation from the standard service agreement. So, healthcare clients looking for business associates' agreements will not find a willing partner in Google.* And smaller enterprises that require a dedicated collaboration environment will find that Microsoft enforces a minimum seat count on Office 365's dedicated SKU.
My colleague Manish Bahl is wrapping up a report on midmarket IT budgets and spending trends in India for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, which runs from April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014. I analyzed the survey data for collaboration-related trends and noticed something interesting: 68% of the Indian midmarket firms (those with 400 to 2,500 employees) surveyed have already adopted or are planning to adopt software-as-a-service (SaaS) for collaboration in the next one to two years (see Figure 1). In fact, collaboration-as-a-service (CaaS) tops all categories by a considerable margin.
This data reinforces the key findings from my recently published blog post highlighting the growing importance of cloud collaboration services in Asia Pacific. While the popularity of CaaS is growing across all industries, it’s interesting to note that traditionally cloud-wary verticals, such as financial services and insurance and the public sector (including education and healthcare), are starting to warm up to cloud-based collaboration services: 80% and 67%, respectively, of the surveyed midmarket organizations in those verticals are either already using or planning to adopt CaaS over the next one to two years.
According to Forrester’s Forrsights Combined Budgets and Business Decision-Makers Survey, Q4 2012, 61% of Asia Pacific (AP) organizations are currently using or actively planning to implement software-as-a-service (SaaS) for collaboration, which puts AP adoption ahead of both North America and Europe (see the figure below). I believe that the increased rate of adoption of cloud-based collaboration services is mainly due to three key factors:
The consumerization of IT, changing social behaviors, and AP end user communication preferences are compelling organizations to consider deploying enterprise collaboration solutions. To this end, cloud collaboration services are gaining traction among organizations seeking to extend collaboration capabilities to their employees, while also minimizing the costs associated with both hardware and operational expenditures.
The easy provisioning and simplified maintenance of cloud-based collaboration services allows organizations to quickly operationalize new sites and individual accounts with minimal IT effort.
The strong focus from service providers like Orange Business Services and Verizon Business in building and strengthening their regional capabilities in cloud collaboration services is leading to an abundance of service options for customers that are competitively priced and packaged to align with their requirements.