Whenever we talk about ‘the cloud’, we think technology and business services. We imagine this utopian place where useful stuff floats around in the ether – and we simply turn ‘it’ on and off, up and down, whenever we want.
In reality, the cloud is somewhere we actually already live, and where tech enables the simplest forms of convenience – from on-demand TV, movies and music, right through to enterprise grade business services, financial transactions and the supply of goods.
Our whole world is one massive ever-growing digital ‘cloud’. First on the scene was IT and Business Process Outsourcing, before Software and Platforms as a Service (SaaS and PaaS) came along. These two clouds created a new ecosystem where services became globally accessible without the traditional boundaries, both technically and commercially.
Today, businesses of all sizes are adopting cloud-based technologies, and in turn these technologies are giving their workforces better tools and flexibility, and changing where, when and how they can work. And it’s not just about tools like Skype, Jive and Yammer, it’s about how working in new and different ways changes our lives, for the better.
The entire nature of what we call work is evolving and blurring online. The biggest change, for both workers and companies, is a move towards the ‘Human Cloud’. In the same way that high-speed on-demand computing created a cloud of web-enabled infrastructure and services, the Human Cloud has and is disrupting the way we work.
Through cloud technologies, the workforce no longer needs to be tied to a device, desk or fixed location. We no longer need to wake up to the daily depression of commuting and trudging to the office along with the herd. The workplace is not a physical office, the workplace is people – people are the workforce. Therefore, wherever you choose to work is the workplace, and the workforce is your business.
In this new world, the workforce will work from any location, on any device, and move effortlessly between applications, tools and documents within their own ‘cloud’.
In the near future, we won’t be talking about cloud-based businesses any more, but cloud-based workforces – the ‘Human Cloud’, or if you want to be bold, HaaS: Humans as a Service.
It’s not like we don’t have the infrastructure, or ‘cloud’, in place. With a mind-boggling array of tools at our disposal to be ‘cloud workers’, collaborating, sharing and accessing on demand are all normal. We take work everywhere and access anywhere.
The physical office space already has a completely new meaning; work is a digital cloud space where we collaborate, meet and discuss, where and when, on demand.
The Human Cloud is not a new idea. Crowdsourcing and alternative sourcing have been leading a new wave of on-demand ways to source and engage virtual workers. What’s more, the Human Cloud already exists in several forms – from social and business networks and job boards, to talent marketplaces and other online communities.
Emerging Human Cloud models offer innovative solutions that unlock its true potential, through new breeds of ATS and CRM systems, talent outsourcing solutions and new direct sourcing models. Businesses of all scales are already adopting the Human Cloud as labour market demands shift from local to global.
People we know and talk with already exist in the Human Cloud. These people have contracts with a handful of clients, outsource themselves and their skills through a third-party service like Upwork and Freelancer, and collaborate with co-workers all over the world, in different time zones and on multiple projects.
The companies that use the Human Cloud probably don’t know what their cloud workers look like, or where they live.
Employers now have more options and better opportunities to tap into this virtual cloud of on-demand workers. But the organisational challenges of this emerging model require new methods of adoption, management and measurement. Harnessing the power of the Human Cloud requires new best practices and working structures from both the suppliers and the buyers so as not to create supply chain mayhem.
Tests lie ahead – managing and regulating quality, risk and compliance are challenges that early adopters of forms of the Human Cloud will face. After all, it takes trust.
The Human Cloud is already challenging traditional sourcing models with new economic models, with a greater and more visible assurance of supply. The human outsourcing landscape is changing, as much as cloud computing changed the way we use software and infrastructure, with alternative sourcing models and hybrid workforces.
Technology is becoming the primary go-to point of contact for buyers, and the market is rapidly growing. It’s only a matter of time before the Human Cloud becomes the norm. It’s already here, we’re all part of it.
Article by Mark Kirkbride