The End of Files.

Originally posted on LinkedIn.

When was the last time you downloaded an MP3? Or emailed someone an Excel spreadsheet with CRM data? Just a few years ago, having access to a song or a data-set meant having access to a digital file that you downloaded and saved somewhere on your computer. But in the last few years that’s fundamentally changed: you stream music from Spotify or Apple; you share CRM data in Salesforce or Base; you collaborate on documents and spreadsheets in Google Apps, and expense reports are no longer excel-based

The Cloud has brought about the End of Files.

In just a few short years, the idea of “owning” an MP3 has almost completely disappeared. The thought of sending an Excel file back and forth to track sales and customer data seems ridiculous compared to how CRM systems organize and update data in real-time. Websites are no longer static files just sitting on  a server somewhere. Even the DVD or digital movie file has been eradicated by Netflix and Amazon Prime.

So what’s the deal with PowerPoint files?  Of all the file types floating around inside and between companies, the only one that hasn’t been completely replaced by a connected and collaborative experience is PowerPoint. Why can’t the Cloud solve this problem? Why are PowerPoint presentations different than these other file types?

Presentation files are different from other file types for two reasons: they’re primarily visual and they’re usually thought of as a one-way communication between company and client. The first problem is a challenge to apps and platform built around data, since managing visual collaboration is far more challenging than managing data-based collaboration (think about the difference between typing text into forms like in Salesforce versus building slides and animations in PowerPoint or Keynote).  However, lots of platforms, including CustomShow, have solved this interface problem and provide reliable ways of collaborating on visual documents.

It’s the second problem that seems to have really held back the development of a truly collaborative and Cloud-based replacement to the PowerPoint file—the mistaken assumption that presentations are only one-way communications between company and client. While the final product may indeed be a one-way communication in the form of a presentation to the client, the process of getting to that final product needs to be as collaborative and connected as any other Cloud-based experience. Where companies miss the mark is thinking that, just because salesperson and customer don’t often collaborate, presentations don’t need to be collaborative.

An effective sales presentation needs to be a collaboration between sales and marketing, and the closer those two teams can work together, along with design, brand, research and any other groups that are involved in defining and delivering the value proposition of the company, the better the presentation will be. Just as Salesforce revolutionized the collaboration and communication between sales and marketing with shared CRM data, the Cloud needs to do the same thing for PowerPoint presentations.

And the idea that the presentation is a one-way communication is also a mistake that needs to be corrected. While the client may not actively collaborate on the presentation the way a designer or marketing team might, there’s still plenty of information that the client can send back to the company just by viewing the presentation. What slides does the client see? What slides does the client skip? Do he watch the entire video? Does she forward the presentation on to colleagues to build consensus? Just as we track user interaction on our websites today, the information from usage and interaction makes presentations a two-way communication platform. And that’s what the Cloud is for.

So the next time you open up a PowerPoint file to start building a presentation, or receive one as an attachment or in a link to download, stop and think about why this is still happening. In this Cloud-based world where files are disappearing left and right, and being replaced by collaborative experiences, why are we still sharing PowerPoint files?

Paul Shapiro is the CEO of CustomShow, the leader in real Cloud-based presentations. Paul’s background includes over 20 years of building and giving presentations.

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