I keep an eye on cloud computing (that’s where all your business systems run on the internet, not your company servers) cos it’s, y’know, interesting. But I love it when Enterprise based social networks – or shall we call them staff communities ? – come into play:

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Ding! Dong! Avon Calling!

A big step at Avon 

Avon is embarking on a massive, multiyear overhaul of the way it manages its nearly 6 million sales representatives around the world. In the past, “sales leaders”, who help manage reps but are not employees of the company, mainly checked in with the salespeople through face-to-face meetings and phone conversations. But next month, Avon will begin to equip 150,000 sales leaders with a cloud-based computing system accessible via smartphones and PCs.

The technology will keep them much more up-to-date on the sales of each rep, and it will alert them when reps haven’t placed orders recently or when they have payments overdue to the company. The idea is to increase the sales and efficiency of Avon’s distribution system.

Avon’s strategy shows how the relationship between individuals and their computers is undergoing a radical change. Up till now, people have used a variety of computing devices in their professional lives, including desktops, laptops, handhelds, and smartphones. Each device was essentially an island of capabilities—applications, communications, and content.

Cloud computing means that information is not stranded on individual machines; it is combined into one digital “cloud” available at the touch of a finger from many different devices.

“We’re shifting to more of a people–and information-centric world,” said Paul Maritz, CEO of software maker VMware VMW.

Particularly noteworthy is that they use a form of virtual workforce that is particularly suited to the ‘net… 

But… Ewww…  don’t take it too far though 

Serena Software has switched almost entirely to cloud services, even using Facebook as its main source of internal communications. 

Given that Facebook has the suckiest inbox (try putting stuff into folders to find later) and group software, this is hilarious. For example managing active forums is a nightmare. Luckily most are inactive. 

I got caned for saying this at the Social Network and Online Collaboration conference in December: test social media/network tools internally first, if you can’t make it work with people who have a stake in making it work, then it won’t work with uncaring customers. 

After IBM tests new consumer-like cloud computing capabilities internally, it launches them as services for customers. 

… see? At least IBM agrees with me! 

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Quotes from Steve Hamm’s article in Businessweek How Cloud Computing Will Change Business. Odd that Businessweek don’t make the most of standard social media strategies including making their videos embeddable (with logos slapped all over ’em). That’s leaving marketing dollars on the table…