Recently the unofficial comedy team of Jimmy Kimmel and Justin Timberlake performed a short skit that illustrated how silly hashtags sound when inserted into normal conversation.
The idea of punctuating a sentence with keywords intended as flags-to-be-found is of course, ludicrous in spoken parlance, but as Shakespeare and Chaucer both wrote, many a truth is spoken in jest. The humor of the Kimmel/Timberlake skit underlies a very real truth that language, just like culture and life itself, is morphing to accommodate a new way of being, and written language is now expected to be seen online, where interaction is expected and where calls-to-action through hashtags and twitter mentions are essential.
These cultural references demonstrate that the age of the cloud is here. Everything exists “out there,” in an instantaneous and globally ubiquitous fashion. Such an observation is not limited to technologies of course. The same customer mindset that expects free wi-fi at every street corner and free apps for its numerous connected devices, is not going to easily file into a boardroom for a staid two-hour meeting whose format has not changed since the 1960’s. Nor will it sit on a website that takes more than a second to process or update. Nor will it stay loyal to anything, when it knows there is something better, cheaper and easier just a hand-swipe away.
These are the concepts that decision-makers should look at when they consider “the cloud” and its potential for the year to come. The cloud is not so much an alternative format for storing and distributing data; it had become instead a metaphor for everything that people do: soft-edged, amorphous and constantly moving.
Cloud mentality could be considered a strategy, a modern descendant of older business terms such as agility and continuous improvement, but now with a more pressing deadline of “now.” Change, customer service, innovation – these things must all happen within minutes or seconds of an online request or a comment on Twitter. Employees, the good ones, the bright ones, know better than to wait for years for the politics of promotion to tap them on the shoulder; there is freelance work to be had. There are start-ups. There is always something new and interesting around the corner that will attract the thinkers, the doers and the innovators.
In 2014 the cloud might truly come of age. More and more organizations are converting their legacy systems to cloud-based ones, whether public, private or hybrid. The personal cloud is also rising fast, with iCloud, Evernote and DropBox demonstrating just how easy and reliable it can be for the average user.
Where will we be a year from now? Will BlackBerry rise from its ashes? Will Android swallow the smartphone market? Will the economy recover enough to hire back all the people who need to work? Where will the work be? None of us has a crystal ball, of course. That would make things very easy indeed. But in the absence of such clairvoyance, we can rely on some truths nonetheless. First, people will continue to seek innovation, ease-of-use and reliability. Companies will seek cost savings and methods to connect with the customer. And things will generally continue to get smaller, faster, cheaper, and possibly more integrated into the human body itself. Google Glass, anyone? That is actually what “cloud” represents.