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This article is part of our Essential Guide: The power of enterprise collaboration software and tools

How cloud services can empower the future of work

The Akumina Employee Experience Platform and Templafy show how cloud services are changing the way employees work, whether the workplace is a ballpark or a traditional office.

The future of work depends on connectivity -- through Cloud services and across the extended enterprise. Employees, business partners and independent contractors expect to easily communicate, coordinate and collaborate with co-workers by sharing the right information at the right time. Workers expect to stay tuned to particular tasks, regardless of where they are and what devices they're using.

Yet, more often than not, businesses are stuck with legacy applications and tools. As a result, employees rely on email and word processing for business communication. They depend on shared network drives and content management systems to store, organize, secure and access files.

Users connect first to one application and then another to schedule appointments, develop plans, allocate resources, track results, make payments, update images and accomplish a whole host of business activities that are integral parts of their everyday jobs. Today's employees work in an application-centric -- not a task-centric -- environment.   

Cloud-powered connectivity promises to transform the future of work. Modest additions to existing personal productivity tools and enterprise applications can go a long way toward modernizing the workplace. Employees and workgroups can focus on their immediate tasks at hand, save time and enhance productivity.

Here are two examples where cloud services helped to modernize the workplace. Consider how each set of cloud services shifts the ways in which employees work and enhances their productivity by creating new experiences from existing tools and applications.

How Akumina delivers an employee experience platform

It's another home game at Fenway Park and more than 1,350 game-day and full-time workers join forces to treat fans to the Red Sox experience. Fenway staffers must contend with a continuous stream of time-sensitive information.

Home Plate, the franchise's newly launched employee hub, streamlines employees' long-standing reliance on email and purpose-built applications for internal communications, collaboration and information sharing. The Akumina Inc. Employee Experience Platform and its Service Hub enable Home Plate to modernize the Fenway workplace by augmenting existing productivity tools and repurposing enterprise applications via cloud services.

Cloud-powered connectivity promises to transform the future of work.

Home Plate provides employees with continuous, real-time updates about events at Fenway, key baseball stats from around the league, game-time photos and a consolidated view into the back-office systems that run the business. Workers no longer need to repeatedly forward emails with attachments, query applications or go to multiple websites. Rather, the Akumina-driven hub easily organizes time-sensitive information into high-value topics and readily displays the content on both mobile devices and PCs.

"Once you have your enterprise data in order, you can easily build your employee-facing portal," said Brian Shield, Red Sox CIO.

Akumina delivers an enterprise software platform that abstracts and decouples digital experiences from the applications required to deliver them. The Akumina Service Hub provides the RESTful APIs to interconnect multiple repositories through cloud connections. Akumina weaves together information from disparate sources into task-oriented presentations and rapidly produces modern workplace experiences.

The Akumina platform features ready-made connections to industry-leading enterprise applications, including Concur, ServiceNow, Workday, PeopleSoft, Salesforce and Kronos. In-house IT staffers can easily develop connections to internal content sources, as well as to standardized internet services -- such as those provided by MLB.com, Major League Baseball's repository for game-time statistics.

Significantly, content continues to reside within existing applications, file shares and proprietary data sources, and it can easily be repurposed for the mobile workplace.

For instance, Fenway employees can use a tried-and-true customer service application and respond to fans' questions by entering answers into a database. Home Plate then accesses this feed and presents the content to staffers via a chatbot on their mobile devices. This way, on-the-go workers have access to the latest information about the game wherever they are -- at the ballpark, in transit, working remotely or at home.

A lot of things happen during and after a ballgame. With Home Plate and Akumina, Fenway employees have connectivity through the cloud to quickly access the information they need and modernize how work gets done.

Templafy distributes smart templates for governance and branding

While Fenway employees profit from cloud connectivity, office workers must produce results for day-to-day office tasks. And, without realizing it, they rely on predefined templates to simplify repetitive activities within personal productivity applications.

An invention of the client/server computing era, templates standardize the formatting, keystrokes and scripted procedures embedded within business documents, email messages, spreadsheets and slide presentations. Microsoft Office apps ship with template sets that nontechnical super users can then modify and redistribute, usually with network file sharing. Managing these modified templates, however, remains a persistent problem for system administrators.

Templafy makes template management a cloud service delivered through Microsoft Azure. The company is seeking to provide enterprise-wide governance and enhanced personal productivity with a two-part approach -- centralized administration and smart services.

First, Templafy administers templates in a shared cloud repository. It supports role-based access controls and provides filters and tags to restrict access to particular templates. Office workers and groups have permissions to access, download and modify particular templates, and employees can quickly find the right templates using Office 365 tools, Salesforce, Bynder or other cloud-based applications.

Second, Templafy supports SaaS-based templates that are no longer limited to standardizing and automating functions within desktop applications themselves. Rather, templates can embed logic provided by third-party microservices that are accessible via cloud connections. For example, business documents can include a smart signature provided by a signature authentication service. Slides can include a template with a business rule where light text can only be displayed against a dark background.

With these types of smart services in place, office workers can become more efficient and effective and can easily conform to corporate guidelines.

Cloud services offer the capabilities to weave together features and functions within existing applications and to deliver entirely new and more productive employee experiences. While there are many opportunities to modernize the workplace, a lot depends on the business context. IT groups should consider exploiting the right cloud services to create competitive advantages for their firms.

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