Cloud Labor

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"Leveraging of a distributed virtual labor pool, available on-demand to fulfill a range of tasks from simple to complex. Crowdsourcing is used to connect labor demand and supply. Virtual workers perform activities that range from simple to specialized tasks." (


"Extreme expressions of this so-called workshifting revolution are ‘just-in-time’ companies that scale up and down at will, hiring workers on demand and plucking project-specific applications out of the air. Even now GigaOM Pro analyst JP Finnell points to a flurry of “high-impact collaboration tools” that have arisen from the convergence of cloud computing, social software and the ubiquity of mobile technology, as well as a new generation of empowered employees and partners working inside and outside the corporate firewall in “the human cloud”. If all those who could work away from the office spent even half their time doing so, Telework Research Network predicts that businesses would save more than $400bn (€300bn) a year in increased output, lower office costs, reduced absenteeism and lower staff turnover. And that’s just in the US, where an estimated 40% of all jobs today could be done at home.

In fact, companies may have little choice but to embrace the concept of the contingent workplace if they are to attract and retain the best talent. Data released in Cisco’s new Connected World report suggests that fully two-thirds of workers would prefer the option of flexible working to a higher salary. And the more they work at home, with all those consumer-friendly apps, the more they demand the same Ikea-like minimalism in the office. “What’s happening is the next generation of users have grown up on these tools, they’ve grown up in the cloud and they aren’t likely to tolerate a bad experience,” says Bradley Horowitz, vice president of product management at Google.

Add in the environmental benefits of less air travel and a reduced carbon dioxide footprint from relying on lightweight cloud-fed terminals – as opposed to an arsenal of heavy-duty desktops and data-storage servers that are some of the biggest consumers of energy – and the surprise is quite how slowly this human cloud is gathering. For all the long-term returns on investment, productivity remains too nebulous a concept.

Speaking at GigaOM’s seminal Net:Work conference in December, David Coleman, the managing director at Collaborative Strategies, said: “I was talking to a big client recently and what surprised me was not the extent of their external collaborations with customers and suppliers, but how much their internal collaboration process was in disarray. There was no strategy to it, no coordination and in some cases, not very much communication.”

There are 2,000 vendors to choose from when it comes to collaboration tools, and yet small and medium-sized businesses in particular are wary of jumping in without tangible evidence of their usefulness. Cloud-based IT is demonstrably cheaper than relying on packaged bundles of software that come bloated with superfluous features and then require expensive upgrades, not to mention constant in-house maintenance. But only 7% of companies, says IDC, currently entrust their data and software needs to third-party cloud platforms such as those provided by Google or Paranoia over compliance issues and information leaks means such innovations still have all the radioactive appeal of a mushroom cloud.

As the following pages will show, there are several reasons preventing more companies from making cost- efficient use of distributed workforces, collaboration tools and on-demand software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications.

The revolutionary practices starting to percolate among forward-thinking businesses will not gain widespread acceptance until basic managerial issues are addressed. Trust, transparency and talent – rather than technology – are the critical concerns in a cloud-based world." (


Stowe Boyd:

"And the same sort of business thinking that is interested in productivity of telework also starts to extrapolate about the impacts. If 40 percent of workers — in general — are working out of the office, that means 40 percent of office space — and associated expenses, like furniture, energy, and cleaning — might be productively invested elsewhere. In a 2007 Businessweek report, it was estimated that as much as 60 percent of offices space is “a dead zone of darkened doorways and wasting cubes,” and some have estimated that $600B is wasted in direct costs, leaving aside the externalities like impact to the environment, and the costs that employees incur commuting." (

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