At the last Cloud Computing WorldForum in London (2012), a lot of Cloud Computing (Clouds) specialists talked about ability of Clouds to provide a great business value of collaboration. A white paper "The Cloud: Reinventing Enterprise Collaboration" used word "collaboration" 29 times and none of them was about collaboration. When two businesses work with each other, do they always collaborate? It is the same as declaring that if we do anything at work we are working in a business process. Well, sometime businesses collaborate; it is well-known to those who really collaborate that it is very expensive and it does not scale on demand because of ... a nature of collaboration.
A collaboration is much more than an interaction between businesses; collaboration assumes that participants make the collaboration goal their own business goal and are ready and often do change their internal business processes for the sake of the collaborative work only. If you have a mono-domain business and want to participate in several different collaborative initiatives at once, you have to be able to change your corporate business in several different directions simultaneously. For example, because of multiple collaborations, you can easily end-up with multiple business processes that provide the same outcome but based on different particular logic demanded by different collaborations. Even if you can do it, do you want such challenge?
In reality, business collaboration is a rare occasion. Instead, businesses cooperate. The fundamental difference from collaboration is in that cooperating organisations do not make the goal of common work their own; they utilise their existing business capabilities "as is" but in certain combinations with the capabilities of other participants of cooperative work. This is how the majority of Cloud Providers works - re-selling their stable services to many consumers when the latter apply their existing internal processes in Business-as-Usual manner.
Cooperation is inexpensive but effective enough to suite solutions of many problems in business and IT. When businesses collaborate, services cooperate. Otherwise, if collaboration is viewed as a regular pattern of solving common problems, e.g. in Clouds, service providers or owners should be ready to change not only service implementations but also service interfaces all the time.While technically it is possible, operationally and commercially it I not feasible.
So, risking to disappoint those CIO who read the aforementioned white paper, I have to conclude that when you exchange files via e-mail and replace it by an exchange via file-folders in Clous, you do not improve collaboration with your partners; you just simplify cooperative interaction with them.