As a consumer, we have gotten accustomed to the convenience of file sync and share (FSS) solutions like DropBox, WeTransfer, et al. Gone are the days when we would email files, videos and pictures to our friends and family. Using free consumer services we are now sending our files into ether and those get in the hands of our loved ones. In fact, I have noticed that I am even agnostic about such consumer cloud solutions. So long as those are free and sign up is not a hassle and my size limits are permissible, I just go for it.
In the enterprise world though, it is a bit different. The key differences are:
- File sharing is a means to an end. We don't simply send a file in ether or wait to receive those. The real need is around work collaboration. The idea is to not "send" but "share" files with work colleagues - either within our office, in a different location or sometimes even with a vendor, supplier or external company partner.
- Clearly the cloud solution needs to be scalable to allow for file storage and sharing not just among employees but also be able to accommodate the company's ecosystem.
- Because the goal is collaboration, the work needs to be real time. We would need the ability to be able to chat, converse or discuss as we share these files with others working on the same project or working off the same files. And wouldn't it be nice if it tied to the work productivity tools we have installed or are using like Office 365 and others? Oh, and while we are talking about what would be nice, it would be great if the cloud solution could figure out patterns of collaboration and recommend people to be added to the folder for sharing the documents, or based on usage pattern, discover relevant content.
- Again, because it is a means to an end, file sharing is likely part of a business process. So, it NEEDS to be tied to the business process where sharing is triggered as part of a process, and the end result on the documents further triggers off the next steps.
- While this would be cool to have in the consumer world too, in the enterprise world it is more of a need to be able to see/review/work on documents from within the application it is related to. So, for example, if I am working with my colleagues on a Request for Proposal (RFP) response, I would rather that it be embedded in my CRM as part of the opportunity so that my colleagues supporting me on that opportunity have ready access and automatic access to it and the document is related to other files I have on that account.
- One of the biggest advantages of a FSS solution is the ability to have access to documents we need anytime, anywhere on any device. But when the ecosystem is as big as we have for a company, when the breach/hacking/security risk is as big as it is for a company, the security stakes go way up than a consumer solution or even a feeble enterprise version of it. You need to be able to enforce security for your data sitting in the cloud, during transit and at access points (like mobile devices). Plus, there are obvious compliance requirements to be able to track and audit document access trails. And if your company has global presence then data residency policies come into play as well for compliance.
- And when working in an enterprise, we play different roles. We work at times with sensitive documents, and other times with less rigorous ones. The company itself may need to be able to segregate cloud instances by user or by content and still provide users the flexibility of toggling between multiple accounts keeping it just as easy as a consumer solution to be able to share, send and collaborate on documents.
These are just a few reasons why consumer FSS pedigree solutions would not fit the bill for an enterprise. And because point cloud solutions lead to governance and management challenges, even some enterprise solutions fail the litmus test for most enterprises. Net-net, simple file sharing or sending is not enough for an enterprise. Collaboration in a digital workplace goes way beyond that. Here is an infographic (or simply click on the picture above) that summarizes these challenges. Take a look and let me know what you think?