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Well, day one of the InfoComm 2015 exhibition is in the books. This is my third year at the show, but the first time I felt my industry knowledge had grown such that I wondered if three days would be enough to take it all in as I walked the expansive, seemingly endless exhibit floor.
The north end of the hall is dominated by visual marvels in the form of huge video walls; below them, companies are eager to demonstrate all manner of collaboration solutions. I “oohed” and “aahed” at the sight of holographic objects floating in space, at a robotic base of the type used in motion rides, and at a magician who somehow made a guest’s wrist band appear within the innermost of a series of nested locked boxes. The attempt to tie in the sleight of hand with the sponsor’s products was forced and none too convincing, but at least it was entertaining and didn’t have the desperation of those who hired booth babes whose sole purpose, it seemed, was merely to scan badges.
Nothing stimulated me as much as the discussions held on the third level of the Orange County Convention Center in room 315A. There, in consecutive sessions, panels of industry experts gave their thoughts on “Workspaces for Tomorrow” and “UC as a Service.” Both of these were reflective and inward looking while also giving attendees a sense of where collaborative technologies are moving and how they are likely to affect the organizations that use them.
Workspaces for Tomorrow
David Danto, director of emerging technologies for the IMCCA (Interactive Multimedia and Collaborative Communications Alliance), which sponsored the session, set the context by comparing the way we worked in 1985 to today. That comparison led to his observation that remote working is now the norm, and that collaborative technology affords us the ability to have the same experience of camaraderie as we do in the home office. From there, his astute panelists (including AVI-SPL‘s Danny Rogers, VP of global channels) offered their considered thoughts on the politics of onsite vs. offsite work, the need for simplicity, and how to improve work culture with collaboration tools. Below, I’ve summarized some of the salient points of the discussion:
- Remote working is the norm, but we still require onsite workspaces that are easy to use, that value simplicity (because the technology supports real needs) and tie together meeting rooms, desktops, and our mobile devices
- Some of the workspaces that we work in today and tomorrow include intelligent open spaces, quiet booths, and huddle rooms. That’s because we’re trending with simplicity, which supports flexible workflows. Think of it this way: the easier the technology is to use, the more likely we are to use systems on an as-needed basis to work through tasks.
- Companies need to get past the mindset that if you’re not working in the office, you’re not working. As David (and others have said before), work is not where we are, but what we do. For David, that consists of being able to get out of bed and simply walking down to his basement office. Danny gave an example of his day — waking up at 5am, working for a couple of hours, getting in a workout, then spending the balance of his day on business and the occasional personal errand. This, he asserted, frees him to work much later in the day than he would if his day were dictated entirely by a 9-to-5 office schedule.
- Technology advances have freed us up to work together on an ad hoc basis, and are supporting our need to create ideas together.
- One attendee noted the idea that being able to leave the office to work can replace a sense of team with the concept of employees as commodities. But as the panelist from Acano noted, “culture trumps technology.” And while changing a company culture can take time, if the culture embraces collaborative technology, people can feel they are indeed part of a team.
- Danny, who works primarily from the U.K., noted how close he felt to someone from Florida with whom he had only ever communicated with over video for two years.
- Working remotely emphasizes the need to deliver results. Once management understands that its people aren’t working eight hours straight, they can focus on what’s important — results.
- Collaborative technology does not replace, but rather augments the in-person meeting. It fills in the gaps to keep people and groups connected so that items can be addressed before the next meeting at a common, physical location.
- When it comes to working in the office, we want to bring our preferred devices to collaborate. That’s because, as Danny noted, the consumer and consumer technology are driving business change.
- Understand where you want to improve work operations and don’t be afraid to make mistakes with technology. Be an advocate of change, and find the tools that overcome hurdles.
- Recommendation for companies: Simplify what you already have — bring together audio, video and the web. Experiences need to be easy to use and applicable to every environment.
That concept of “unification” of technology is a satisfactory segue into the session that followed on unified communications. Please check in with this AVI-SPL blog on June 18, when I will review the takeaways from that talk, which featured experts from Polycom, Cisco, and AVI-SPL, among others.