Collaboration is all the rage. Everything from major projects to document creation is now subject to multiple reviews and team involvement. Not that this is a bad thing; collaboration is a natural consequence of our increasingly connected world.
Software developers have responded to this urge to working together, by building features that facilitate distributed collaboration. Each new release of software, whether Acrobat from Adobe or Word and SharePoint from Microsoft—to name but a few—has been developed so that multiple participants can work simultaneously on the same content.
More recently, document collaboration tools have been developed that promise these networking capabilities without the nuisance of having dedicated IT resources to manage them on-premise. Once again, the Net is the thing that makes all things possible. These “cloud” computing models are becoming better-established, offering legitimate alternatives to traditional software distribution models.
Should organizations move everything to the cloud? I have known a few CFOs in the past that would rather be caught dead than let financial data leave the firewall. Finance and ERP may not be the right places to start. Instead of taking a holistic approach to the cloud, perhaps consider moving some applications to the cloud. I’m thinking content management. Instead of a full-blown migration to the cloud, you can take small, measured steps. Let’s just say this is a partly cloudy approach.
A great solution to consider for content management in the cloud is Google Apps. If you are not familiar with this service, Google Apps includes document creation and collaboration (as well as email, calendaring, video chat and more) for a flat $50 a year charge per user. You’d be amazed to see the huge number of businesses, governments and educational institutions that have moved to Google Apps. The District of Columbia, City of Los Angeles, the New York and Oregon state school systems and Konica Minolta US are among many organizations that have made this move. The value proposition of consolidating email, calendaring, chat and document collaboration under one service for just $50.00 per user per year is an easy way to save some IT expense.
With Google Apps, you can certainly author and collaborate on new documents in the cloud. But you can also use the Google Docs application as a great content management system. Remember, these are the folks that bring us a great search engine, right? Well, within Google Docs, you can not only author but store and retrieve your business documents too. What about existing paper documents, which may have relevance to an ongoing collaborative project? No problem.
Fortunately new capabilities, which allow paper documents to be scanned directly into Google Apps, are being added by savvy content management developers. NSi AutoStore, for example, can securely deliver scanned documents directly into a Google Docs account from a broad range of capture devices (desktop scanners, MFPs and more). Once in the Google Docs repository, documents can be stored in a folder, shared with colleagues or—thanks to AutoStore’s full-text OCR engine—become fully searchable simply by using the Google search capability within a Docs account.
Leaving the proper definition of clouds to those more meteorologically inclined; perhaps we can coin the term “Collaborus Nimbus.” In any case, it’s fair to say that the document management skies are getting clearer thanks to a new breed of tools designed for collaboration.
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