I’m constantly amazed by the speed with which new technology and new devices are reaching the marketplace. It was only a few years ago that the iPad debuted, but tablet sales have grown so fast that now more than one-third of adults in the U.S. own one. Laptops continue to become lighter, hybrid tablet/laptops are available, and smart phones are becoming the norm. Not too long ago, Google released its Chrome Book—a laptop that runs everything in the cloud and doesn’t require any software downloads. Instead, users access their documents, spreadsheets, and other files in the cloud. As a developer of cloud-based software, I couldn’t help but try one out. In doing so, I came to several conclusions about how the cloud is shaping the behaviors of both software users and developers.
Moving to the Cloud is Easy
One of the benefits of a laptop is that you can take all of your documents, spreadsheets, presentations, pictures, and more with you anywhere and have access to them because they live on your hard drive. Without downloadable software, the Chrome Book requires you to keep everything in the cloud and use Google applications. So, I was a little worried about being able to do work easily, especially since I’m not used to these applications.
What I found is really not that surprising—I could still do the same kind of work, with only a slight learning curve. It didn’t matter if I was working on a business document or spreadsheet, everything was easily accessible. And while I wasn’t used to the Google applications, many of the features and functionality mirrored the applications I normally use, making the transition easier.
Cloud Software is Intuitive
When it comes to transitioning software to the cloud, there’s no point reinventing the wheel. Just like the basic applications that Google offers, cloud-based software developers are using features and functionality we’re already used to when they design applications. The difference is that rather than dumping existing client-server-based software into the cloud, developers are using the intuitive designs of web sites to guide the redesign of the user interface of their software, creating the navigation structures simpler and more intuitive. Just as we’ve grown accustomed to being able to navigate around anywhere in a website with one click, software applications are offering the same type of navigation or even dynamic navigation that responds to your location in the software.
It’s Only Getting Better
While some of the more basic applications, such as word processor and spreadsheet applications, don’t have all of the features that I’m used to with my regular software, I know that developers continue to make improvements. Eventually, the functionality we expect from client-server software will be available in these cloud applications. As for enterprise software, the functionality is generally the same—that is you can still perform the same work, it just might be better organized or the way you perform it might have changed slightly. The improvements, though, lie in the way updates are made. Rather than downloading updates or having to purchase entirely new software whenever an upgrade comes out, cloud software developers can push these out almost seamlessly.
The Future is in the Cloud
With better Internet connectivity has come the expectation that information will be available anywhere, anytime, no matter what device you’re using. The result of this expectation is the demand for cloud based applications, driving developers to quickly meet these needs. As for construction software, the folks I talk to who are looking for software are making access in the cloud a requirement. Whether they need to access their construction accounting or project management data, having applications that don’t require any additional hardware or software is important to making sure their teams stay connected.
While not all of the cloud applications available today offer the same functionality as their client-based counterparts, this is changing and changing fast. I recall the days when DOS-based software developers argued that the new “windows-based” software was all show and was light on functionality. “Real” applications for serious work meant typing “C:\\...” We all know how that played out. I hear the same arguments today about software you have to load and maintain on hardware you have to purchase and upgrade. More folks are realizing that they simply do not have to do all of that in order to run applications—even “real” business applications like construction management software. And more applications are being made available in the cloud every day. The future of software is in the cloud. As a company, we’ve moved all of our applications there, and we expect that others in the construction industry will be following.
What are your plans to move toward cloud-based software?