Cloud fosters collaborative decision making

Ever had trouble making a decision and didn’t know what to do?

Well, cloud computing is fostering a new way of thinking called collaborate decision making.

Decision Lens is one company that’s doing this in the area — and with the federal government.

Today, Fed Cloud Blog talks with John Saaty, the company’s CEO, who explains how they bring companies and agencies together to facilitate decision making.

JS: We have a web-based, software-as-a-service product and there are certain federal agencies [where] the hosting of data is fairly sensitive to them — who’s hosting it and how it’s being accessed and things like that.

So, I would say, where cloud computing is right now — it’s really a hybrid, depending on the level of importance of the data. Sometimes we host it at our data centers . . . which are out in Ashburn, Virginia, [and] other times we actually deploy the entire web application right inside their network and they’re managing their own cloud.

It’s really kind of in between right now.

We are seeing some common hosting centers that are approved by the government that are starting to host all these different applications for different agencies. So, they’re starting to kind of corral around that kind of a concept — with an approved hosting center.

FCB: One of the biggest issues with cloud computing — and why some agencies are apprehensive about doing it — is because of security issues. If your data is not in your office or on your PC, who knows what’s going on with it? Talk a little about some of the broader implications of cloud computing and security. Have you some people changing their minds about cloud computing?

JS: I think you have to always weigh the costs versus the benefits, and the potential risks versus the upside and the opportunity of using cloud computing.

Cloud computing platforms are much easier to manage, much easier to deploy. The data is all residing in one area that is in the cloud that you can actually control a lot more effectively than if you are trying to manage desktops or laptops all over the organization.

So, I think that the biggest risk is between the person’s computer and the actual center and what happens to that data over those lines, but there are new types of encryption technologies that are making the transport of data very robust, very effective.

We actually use those at Decision Lens. I think, over time, as people start to experience it more and more that those type of concerns are outweighed by the benefits of hosting everything in the cloud.

FCB: What do you think is happening in terms of the onus of owning up to a [security breech]? Do you see it as more of the federal agency or the organization having to do their research, or do you see it as the onus lying completely on the person who’s hosting the data?

JS: That’s a good question. I think the onus is absolutely on the organization hosting the data, but something that happens — so, for example, we go through data audits all the time by our customers. Fortune 500 companies will do a complete end-to-end audit of how our data is handled — everything from the hosting center to our office locations to how we secure things, the different password types that we use.

I think it’s a little bit of both.

On the end of the company’s providing the service that it really benefits to have already thought through all of that information and provide it right up front in the buying process. We do that. We have something called a Technical Services and Security Handbook, and that goes to any client who’s going to be accessing our software to explain to them all the different processes, procedures, systems, security that we use — it’s been audited, here’s the results of the audit — so that they can be comfortable with how we’re handling the information.

FCB: Let’s talk a little bit about the work you do with the federal government. I understand you do work with DoD’s Operationally Responsive Space. First, explain what that is and then how you’re working with them.

JS: It’s a very interesting office.

A couple of years ago, when space became open season for conflict between countries, what we realized was — the Chinese actually ran a test on blowing up a satellite — that if our satellites are taken out, typically the cycle time to get a new satellite in space is anywhere from three to five years.

So, if all of a sudden a variety of our satellites were taken out by an enemy of some sort, we’re going to be blind in the skies for a long period of time. So, the ORS — the Operationally Responsive Space organization was created to innovate how satellites and space assets are deployed — try to bring it from three to five years to roughly two weeks. They want to get new assets in place up in space in two weeks.

It requires a completely new way of thinking, where you’re using technologies that are known and maybe are assembling them in new and innovative ways to really move that cycle time up.

So, we actually work with them — without going into too much detail — they use Decision Lens to collaboratively decide on vendors that can provide them systems for satellite deployment. So — who are the most advanced companies in the space that can help provide either new technologies or delivery vehicles for them to get these things into space much more quickly than its ever been done before.

FCB: Without, again, going into too much detail . . . is this a process where you sit in an office with someone, or do you telecommute?

JS: Collaborate decision making — there’s two ways that it happens: either in meeting rooms where people have keypads and we’re actually facilitating a session where we’re talking about what the important criteria are for the judgement.

So, for example, if you were going to be selecting a car for yourself, criteria would be things like performance, style, safety, mileage — and then you would go and evaluate the alternatives — how do these different cars perform against the criteria that I’ve selected

So, we do that in a collaborative way in meetings, or we also . . . run collaborative decision sessions [on] the web where everyone’s participating live at the same time.

Next week — more with Decision Lens!

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