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Collaboration technology is the driving force for productivity and businesses need to embrace it....Now

(Image credit: Image Credit: Oblong Industrites)

As a passionate advocate for the adoption of disruptive collaboration technologies in the workplace, I can’t help but feel that businesses are missing out on important new opportunities by not embracing technology that will take them out of the ‘traditional conference meeting’ comfort zone. With Generation Z hot on the heels of Millennials in the workplace and a decline in global productivity to overcome, now is the time for enterprises to be brave with boundary-breaking new technologies.  

Productivity levels around the globe have fallen short of forecast; with recent statistics released by OECD1 showing annual growth in output per hour significantly decreased in Canada, France, Germany, USA, Japan and the UK throughout 2014-2016. In 2016 the UK had dropped behind G7 productivity by an astonishing 15.1 per cent. These findings have spurred organizations to look for means to improve productivity in particular, dynamic new technologies which can dramatically increase the hourly output of employees and help deliver positive economic change.    

Recent trends indicate that businesses deploying visual collaboration solutions, for example, are likely to benefit from an increase in employee and client productivity. At Oblong Industries we recently conducted research that further supports the assertion that, to boost productivity, the future of work is indeed collaborative.  

Tools to ‘get work done’  

In the modern workplace, traditional boardrooms are being replaced by more flexible, dynamic workspaces as corporations recognize that the speed and complexity at which business is conducted is increasing. A new generation of employees, working in dispersed locations and already digitally sophisticated, need the right tools in which to engage with essential information, in a newly energised way, to enable them to get work done better and faster.  

In a survey of IT professionals conducted by Oblong Industries, 91% agree or strongly agree that engaging with information or data in a more interactive and immersive way would help complex business problem solving. This is an area where collaboration tools can deliver significant value for businesses. By visibly conveying the key data to every meeting participant via a shared dynamic workspace platform, key stakeholders can make informed and instant decisions from any location, giving enterprises a competitive upper hand to win clients, progress projects and bring products and solutions into the market much faster.

This is certainly true in the case of PwC in Paris, where they have experienced how a collaborative workspace can prove its worth. Last year PwC created an ideation war room called ‘The Delta Room’ at its Paris offices, integrating a large scale immersive visual collaboration solution, to facilitate complex customer meetings and drive quick decision making.    

Within months of its realisation, massive new projects were rewarded on the heels of Delta Room customer engagements—thus delivering on the promise that technology can support an increase in productivity and deliver return on investment.    

There has also been a surge in organisations introducing huddle rooms, with Wainhouse research reporting 45 million small to medium spaces in operation worldwide2. Huddle rooms, equipped with immersive collaborative technology, spur meeting productivity by maintaining the creative momentum of the group and facilitating the equal sharing of essential data at every level, to draw precisely informed conclusions faster. Teamwork within a huddle room environment is only optimised when everyone is fully engaged. This is where collaboration technology delivers huge benefits for huddle-style meetings by empowering all participants—whether in the space or joining remotely—by enabling them to share and interact with multiple streams of visual data simultaneously, from any device. Technologies specifically designed to support these quick, on-the-fly meetings in smaller spaces, are definitely having a moment – for example, at Oblong we launched the Mezzanine 200 Series to meet the exact needs of huddle room teamwork.  

The enterprise-wide benefits of utilising these technologies mean that distributed teams can work better together; they can collaborate flexibly, using multiple devices in one shared workspace. This helps to accelerate decision-making as seen recently at Holder Construction, a leading contractor of large commercial projects, which has deployed a Mezzanine collaboration system to support their multi-location workflow.    

As Chad Douglass, Director of Pre-Construction, describes, “We had a client who was very early in the conceptual phases of putting a project together. Our Virtual Design and Construction department sat in the Mezzanine room with the Revit file up on the screen and started making adjustments on the fly—what if we stretched this building a little bit taller, what if we made it a little bit wider. The ability to use this technology and bring everyone into one place, in real time, meant that it was a five-hour effort as opposed to a five-week effort, because we had the technology to solve the problem quickly.”  

With dynamic collaboration technology, the distributed team is able to share multiple pieces of content at the same time, including drawings, timelines, budgets, and bids, easily from familiar applications. The pixel-rich multi-screen data visualization enables large files to scale and render with fine resolution, so participants can zoom into the details, annotating content and capturing display views - getting work done and progressing major projects in the moment. 

Investing in the Future  

It’s no longer acceptable for forward-thinking companies to rely on traditional meeting room technologies. The constraints of technology must overcome the challenges of today’s global workforce to drive maximum efficiency.  

Recent research carried out by Cascade Insights into how meetings work3, shows that companies are losing up to 15 valuable minutes at the beginning of each meeting trying to get the technology in the room up and running, undermining the effectiveness, and in turn the productivity of meetings. Immersive, visual collaboration solutions are relatively easy to use – there are no wires to connect or settings to change – once set up, they intuitively connect devices to the workspace to ensure time isn’t wasted and the speed of work maintains momentum.    

Teams today are demanding ‘it just works’ technology, which is reliable and instinctive to use without time-consuming training. They also want technology that delivers an exhilarating, ‘wow factor’ experience for users which will offer a competitive edge, both within their own business but also for their customers.

Businesses need to embrace collaboration technology that supports the needs of a modern workforce and helps them to become more productive. IT professionals are pivotal to the implementation of a pixel-rich workplace and to promote the communication tools that facilitate informed and faster decision-making. As an industry we must ensure that IT systems not only enable this accelerated approach to working, but are sufficiently future-proofed so that as technology develops and ways of working continue to evolve, the AV and IT systems are not restricting this development but are instead enhancing it.

Technology to boost the efficiency of production and increase the speed of output will act as a strong driver for global productivity, but the most significant change will come with the empowerment of people within an organisation to work freely, without constraints. For those enterprises embracing the tools for true collaboration, increased productivity is just a meeting away. 

1 The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development  

2 Wainhouse Research Interviews of Enterprise Decision Makers, January 2017  

3 Cascade Insights Study, commissioned by Oblong Industries, 2016     

Mary Ann, VP EMEA at Oblong Industries 

Image Credit: Oblong Industrites

Mary Ann de Lares Norris
Mary Ann is VP EMEA at Oblong Industries. Previously, she served as the company's Chief Operating Officer out of Los Angeles headquarters. Prior roles include Chief Operating Officer of a Parisian interactive television company, Director of Strategic Planning at Mattel, Executive Producer at Sony Electronic Publishing, and Producer at The Voyager Company. Mary Ann holds an MS from the MIT Media Lab and graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude from UC Santa Cruz.