Update 7/2: Esri requested I not use an acronym for ArcGIS Online for Organizations, so I've replaced the one I used with its full name.
Here are just some of the ways Esri describes ArcGIS Online for Organizations, all quoted from Esri provided content.
(1) ArcGIS Online gives you an easy-to-use and intuitive workspace for collaborating with others in your organization.
(2) With a subscription to ArcGIS Online, you can quickly create interactive maps and custom apps, then publish and share them in Esri's secure cloud.
(3) ArcGIS Online for organizations now available—Organizations can manage all of their geographic content in Esri's secure, cloud-based environment. Organizations can publish their hosted services to ArcGIS Online, manage maps, apps, and data, and customize their ArcGIS Online homepage.
(4) Now, with Esri's new ArcGIS Online subscription, organizations will have the ability to store, manage and host their mapping services in Esri's cloud and easily publish their geographic content using cloud services.
(5) Esri, the global leader in geographic information systems (GIS), today officially released ArcGIS Online for organizations, a groundbreaking service that offers expanded collaboration tools for cataloging, visualizing, and sharing geospatial information.
"ArcGIS Online is a new cloud-based mapping system for organizations that is essentially changing how GIS managers, as well as IT managers, think about mapping and GIS," said Jack Dangermond, president, Esri. "ArcGIS Online works with all types of data and is built on a powerful enterprise mapping platform that lets users simply manage their geospatial content, such as data, maps, images, applications, and other geographic information."
It’s no wonder there’s some confusion about whether it’s a service or a platform or a content management system or a collaboration tool or a combination of these things! After spending some weeks pondering how to think about ArcGIS Online for Organizations I found a model that works for me.
Adena’s Answer: ArcGIS Online for Organizations is Your Company’s Intranet for GIS Professionals
Back in the mid 1990s I attended A/E/C Systems, the big CAD trade show. It was the year of the Internet for that industry and Keith Bentley of Bentley Systems gave some specific advice about how CAD-using companies should jump right in. The first thing companies should do, he suggested, is put the employee handbook online. He was thinking of the value of a company intranet.
That’s what ArcGIS Online for Organizations is really about! It’s a cloud hosted platform for a GIS intranet for an organization. While some employees need access to the entire company intranet, others do not. My sense is that the ArcGIS Online for Organizations part would be accessible to just the GIS professionals in an organization.
What would they do there? GIS work: uploading data, making maps, making apps, publishing and consuming services... Some would tap into the internal portal to tap services hosted their via ArcGIS Desktop or other Esri clients. In short, they’d do things that require a solid familiarity with both GIS and the organization.
So ArcGIS Online for Organizations is not for the C-level executives or the citizens of a county? No, not directly. Still, end-users of maps and apps will benefit from the organization’s implementation. Here’s how: Some proportion (or maybe all) of the people who have a login to ArcGIS Online for Organizations would develop the maps, apps and other tools the CIO or citizen might need. Those maps, apps and tools would appear not just on the password protected ArcGIS Online for Organizations, but also be embedded in websites (internal or external) to serve the more “viewer-y” type of GIS consumer. (I’m thinking of that old “do-er, user, viewer” pyramid of GIS users.)
Thought of another way, ArcGIS Online for Organizations is the new modern version of the organization’s "GIS backroom" where all the technical people did their work between the 1990s and 2011s. Back then they were hidden away in a basement or off a long corridor. Today, the much larger group is hidden away (and protected by) a log in and password to ArcGIS Online for Organizations.
ArcGIS Online for Organizations Links