Cloud-based collaboration IT solutions are a hot topic among my peers – with questions such as how do you make the transition to cloud, what solutions do you host in the cloud, how do you address security, and how do you manage legacy systems on premises in tandem with cloud solutions?

These are just a few of the discussion points that I addressed today in a media and analyst event with my Cisco colleague Eric Schoch, VP and GM, Cisco Cloud Collaboration, and two of our Cisco customers – the City of Charlotte, North Carolina and D+M Group.

Here are Eric’s cloud predictions and my tips for IT leaders:

 1.      Prediction:  In 2013, we’ll see the cloud conversation shift to flexibility and agility as primary drivers of adoption.

Tip #1

The perfect trifecta is collaboration in the cloud as it delivers big benefits, large reach and low risk. 

Or to state it another way:  mobile and social meet cloud.  Think about how collaboration is delivered – the consumption model is different.

Tip #2

Think cloud data center: this is another area of significant cost savings while offering flexible workloads – improving delivering of infrastructure services from weeks to minutes.

Flexibility and agility are very significant to IT professionals. IT will always be held to the total cost of ownership and reducing cost wherever it makes sense.  And, we also have to deliver solutions and services faster.  Cloud is the delivery mechanism to do this over time.

2.      Prediction:  As cloud collaboration moves beyond early adopters in 2013, hybrid models will proliferate and customers will increasingly demand a seamless, uncompromised user experience between the cloud and the customer premises.

Tip #3

In an ever-changing dynamic industry, IT’s responsibility is still to deliver an end-to-end, simple intuitive user experience. As you move more of your capabilities to the cloud, don’t build silos. Ensure your user experience and your workflows are consistent across legacy applications and cloud services.

Your employees or users probably won’t care where the solution is sourced – but they will demand a great user experience.

Tip #4

Ultimately, it’s all about the data. It’s critical that the threading and protection of data between all services is top of mind for all IT professionals. Not only must you ensure the accuracy, privacy and compliance of the data but there must also be simple access to the data via web-based API’s.

Build this into the architecture – think through what is confidential and what isn’t.

Tip #5

IT must deliver single sign-on across services – it is absolutely critical and more complicated when those services are delivered on premises and in the cloud.  

Sure, this is tactical, but it is also very important – without the ease of a single sign-on you’ve got a broken experience.  With single sign-on, you allow easy access regardless of where your services are sourced.

Our two customers – who represent two very different perspectives coming from government and private industry – both agreed with our positioning. Bellverie Ross, senior program manager for the City of Charlotte, in particular, supported the point about data threading and security needing to be embedded into the architecture.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on bringing cloud-based IT solutions into your organization – look for more on this topic here in future blogs.