Practicing what we preach: Using cloud-based services to deliver cloud-based services
I’ve held technology leadership positions at a variety of Fortune 100 companies—in financial services, medical and pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and nonprofit communities. Each organization has relied on Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) to provide an integrated view of our technologies and business practices to ensure we were on target to succeed.
Successful ERP processes and systems vary just as the goals and objectives of organizations differ. Today, as Global CIO of OCLC, a nonprofit cooperative that provides technologies and services to thousands of libraries worldwide, my team wants to make sure our internal systems are optimized so that we can deliver the data and tools libraries need to successfully serve their users and communities.
We deliver our services to libraries from offices, engineering and data centers around the world. We have moved some of our internally hosted systems to the cloud to make sure we are all on the same page—and the same systems—no matter where we are located. Now we are experiencing some of the same rewards from cloud-based ERP solutions that our library customers are experiencing from the cloud-based services we provide to them.
Delivering cloud-based services
OCLC was founded on basic concepts—if not the precise technologies—we now think of as cloud computing. We built the world’s first online shared library cataloging system in 1971 and, over decades, merged catalogs of thousands of libraries. That database, now known as WorldCat, not only made it possible for libraries to catalog cooperatively, but also to share resources held in other libraries on the network.
We focus on delivering the cloud-based services that help our libraries collaborate and innovate to better serve their users
As technology has progressed, we have used that database and network as the foundation for a set of cloud-based library management services shared by thousands of libraries around the world. These services provide the back-office applications needed to run efficient, modern libraries as well as the user-facing services that help people find and access library materials.
The cloud service modules we created for libraries offer capabilities similar to the cloud-based ERP solutions we use as an organization. For example, our online cataloging service serves as an asset management system; acquisitions serves as a capital management system; circulation is similar to a resource project portfolio; and a license manager for libraries is similar to the software that organizations use to manage license terms, costs, etc., in business.
Benefits of working in the cloud
As an organization, we have always been great believers in the power of cloud-based computing. We created a secure, new platform to promote collaboration for our customers and partners who help us deliver services to users. Many benefits of the cloud-based services we deliver to our users are similar to those cloud-based ERP processes, such as:
• Economies of scale—what we can accomplish through applications in the cloud can reach thousands of organizations with similar interests
• Privacy and security—by working with one organization in the cloud, we avoid exposing sensitive data through a variety of service providers
• Consistency—the level of service is consistent among organizations using the same product
• Reduced maintenance—no need to maintain hardware or software on site
• Shared costs—customers who cannot afford services on their own can share costs in the cloud
• Professional resources—users can benefit from the work of professionals in a variety of disciplines who are in service to thousands of customers simultaneously.
Solving problems at scale
When we get a request from a customer to add a specific feature to a product or service, we often take a step back to determine what particular issue the customer is trying to solve. We check to see if the issue is recurring or common among other customers. Then, perhaps we can work on a solution at a different level or offer a different solution that will not only solve the requesting customer’s problem, but will serve as a solution for many customers who are experiencing similar challenges. We look for our solutions to provide benefit at scale.
Cloud-based ERP solutions offer similar levels of problem-solving at scale. When we moved some of our management systems from hosted to cloud-based, we have been able to benefit from fixes or enhancements across the board. Software services require no maintenance or changes from us; they are updated for all users at the same time. In almost every case, when we coordinate our work around the world, we are now choosing a shared cloud-based solution.
Using the cloud to deliver the cloud
I believe in the power of cloud-computing and the opportunities it offers for collaboration. We have moved many of our products and services to the cloud to better serve our customers.
OCLC is a technology organization founded to serve the needs of libraries and their users. By using cloud-based business process software internally as well, we can work together seamlessly, using the same software from offices around the world. Rather than focusing attention on our internal processes, we can focus on delivering the cloud-based services that help our libraries collaborate and innovate to better serve their users.