Moving the needle on collaboration in your organization

How to move from the 72% to the 28%

People understand from experience that when they collaborate, they can accomplish more.  And the numbers underscore that companies who collaborate better outperform their peers by 2 to 6 times.

Yet most companies or departments are in the 72% of organizations whose collaboration maturity is either, “Unsupported” or “Non-integrated”.

Whether I talk to a small businesses or a department in a large corporation, one thing is common, they all want to collaborate better.  They want to be able to do more from both an effective communication and collaboration point-of-view.  Even though they are doing some collaborative things, they know they can do more. But they aren’t sure what they should be doing next to collaborate better.  Even when we start talking about some of the things that they could be doing, they have a hard time imagining themselves using the new collaborative tools within their businesses or they can’t imagine spending any money on the tools they want to get better at collaboration.

There are many different things that you can do to build your organization’s collaborative muscle and accelerate your collaborative performance.  Here is a chart from SMART Technologies “Inspired Collaboration” initiative, which shows many of the levers which can be adjusted within your organization.

These levers are really good for a “top down” approach to collaboration within your organization, but they don’t help much when your company doesn’t have the resources to conduct a “top down” analysis.

Most organizations take a Crawl, Walk, Run (C-W-R) approach, which is a sound strategy, however, many never make it past the Crawl stage – the 72%

So how can you take the C-W-R approach and make sure you progress?

Step 1: The most important meeting

No matter how big or small your company is, let’s take the discussion down to a departmental level, to make this applicable to every businessperson,  Ask yourself – What is the most important meeting you attend that recurs at least once a month?

Chances are that whatever meeting you picked, it is some kind of an update or status meeting.  A meeting whose objective is to synchronize the activities of a team updating each other on what has happened since the last time you met.  This could be a weekly Sales meeting, Operations meeting, a Project meeting, etc. – you get the idea.

In the meeting, it is likely that the team is making adjustments to some kind of scorecard or project plan trying to monitor their progress since the last meeting and deciding where their attention needs to be directed too. Once you have identified that meeting, you should now answer these questions from a collaboration point-of-view:

Are the participants all local or are some remote?  If there are remote participants, are they all individuals or is there another meeting room somewhere that has a number of people that are joining the meeting (or both)?

What technologies are you using? How are you using them?

What is missing? How do you want everyone more engaged, more involved?

Depending on the answers to these questions you can start to incrementally make your “Most Important Meeting” better.  The first incremental improvements often don’t cost anything at all.  Why?  Because most people don’t know how to get the most out of the technology they are already using.  I sometimes sit through a customer’s “Most Important Meeting” and after the meeting is over, I point out 2 or 3 things that they can do to make the experience better for everyone just by making a few adjustments.

The next part of the crawl is to add a couple of pieces of technology that will further enhance the meeting.  These can be anywhere from a couple $100 to say $2,000.  Adding these pieces builds the quality of the meeting experience, e.g. making it easier to hear and be heard.

The next step is where we start to progress from the crawl to the walk.  Here is where we lay out how we can make the meeting better with technology, which makes collaboration easier for in-room participants, and for remote participants, makes them feel like they are in the room with the rest of the people.

This is where you have to spend more money on technology IF you want to get to this point.  The types of technology you would add:

Depending on the size of the room these technologies can add up.  Each one of them on their own can start at several thousand dollars and if you go big, 10s of thousands.  But if you have budget constraints, you can prioritize and implement them one at a time until you get to the collaborative experience that is optimal for your “Most Important Meeting”.

The “Most Important Meeting” tends to drive the priority of having room technology to accelerate collaboration and enhance communication, but from my experience it plays a secondary, but important role in an organization’s collaborative development.  You will get a much bigger payback if you can accelerate the collaboration of all the activities that take place between the “Most Important Meetings”.  If you can inject greater collaboration into the activities between the team members as they do their day-to-day jobs, you will go to a full collaborative Walk.

But how do you do that?

Step 2: team activities between the most important meetings

Stay tuned to this blog for Steps 2 to 4 on moving collaboration forward in your business or department.  But remember you can increase your collaborative muscle by:

  1. Taking small steps – some incremental things are foolproof and cost nothing
  2. Not being afraid of bigger steps
  3. Planning to learn from every step you take

And remember the goal, you can make your organization 2 to 6 times better by increasing your velocity of collaboration.

Accelerating your real-time collaboration capabilities

I was in Las Vegas for the InfoComm 2014 trade show in late June.  InfoComm is traditionally an AV industry trade show, but just like all things technology, it has been changing to reflect the current tech trends.  One of the biggest changes at InfoComm in the last couple of years has been to embrace and advance real-time collaboration.  Their focus is primarily on the room systems that are a part of the overall collaborative ecosystem.  They are starting to understand that room systems play an integral part in the UC collaborative technology ecosystem.

One of the under-current themes that came through for me at InfoComm, was the new technologies that could advance an organization’s collaborative capabilities.  These are technologies for organizations that are already using room systems as part of their real-time collaboration ecosystem, but want to advance the experience.

Why would they want to do that?  It’s because they see the payoff that they are getting from collaboration already and they want to continue cashing in.

How can they do that?

  1. By advancing the collaborative experience to make it more “like being there”
  2. By making it easier to collaborate
  3. By making the experience richer (sometimes better than being there)

These technologies are for the 28% of companies that are beyond the first 2 stages of real-time collaborative evolution.  Reminder – most companies (72%) have a collaborative environment that is either ‘Unsupported’ or ‘Not Integrated’.

To continue your journey to becoming a more advanced collaborative organization, you need to move your real-time collaboration from being a 4-6, out of 10, to say a 7-8, out of 10.  Here are a couple of technologies that can help you do that.

Array Telepresence:

High End Telepresence rooms can cost in the range of $300K to $750K.  Telepresence is the name used for the most life-like video conferencing implementations; the implementations that are closest to “being there” – see this blog for more info.

Array gives you a similar Telepresence experience for about $15K per room (to take full advantage of this technology it is ideal to have this system installed at both ends of the call).

One of the biggest problems with video conferencing implementations in typical corporate meeting rooms is what I call the “Boardroom Bowling Alley” effect.  I wrote one of my first blogs on this topic, featuring a dual camera solution from Polycom that helped eliminate this effect.  I think Array’s solution is more effective because it turns the “Boardroom Bowling Alley” into a Telepresence room vs the Polycom Eagle-Eye dual camera solution or Cisco’s Speaker track solution. With Array’s solution you get to see everyone in the room at anytime, close up – just like a Telepresence experience, while the Polycom or Cisco camera experience focuses the camera on the active speaker.  By doing that it makes the active speaker a large image on your screen on the far end, but you can’t see the rest of the people and what they are doing or how they are reacting.

Ironically, 1) they are all camera solutions to the same Boardroom Bowling Alley problem, with different approaches, and; 2) the Array solution was developed by the same guys that built Polycom’s RealPresence, high-end Telepresence systems.

The same guys who built the $750K high-end experience, just shrunk their solution to $15K per room That is cool!

Here is an image from the Array website that shows how their camera technology can transform an ordinary boardroom.

The two key components of the solution are the camera and the Array Equal-i 2S Image Improvement Processor.  You can see from the second image above that everyone in the room looks like they are sitting around a Telepresence table – but they are not, it is the same table from the first photo.

One of the big improvements in the two images is that the video is now displayed on both screens making everyone bigger.  This uses one of my 5 Technology Deployment Principles (upcoming blog) – maximize screen real estate to make things bigger.  In order to free up the second screen to be used as a part of the video image, Array has taken the content sharing feature and put it onto the boardroom tabletop, which is a principle used in high Telepresence rooms.  There would be an extra cost (in addition to the $15K) to put a few small monitors on the table to see the content. With an Array Telepresence system installed in two separate rooms on a call, the experience would be that of a full immersive system where both rooms would be able to see a dual screen improved view of the far end. There is no additional codec purchase required for this system, it will work with existing Cisco, Polycom or Lifesize codec equipment. The Array box encodes and decodes the expanded view at either end of the call.

To summarize what Array’s technology does:

  1. Brings farthest participants up close and personal
  2. Improves eye line and meeting format
  3. Powers dual displays using a single video codec
  4. Conceals camera(s) and brings wide format display

Early indications are that the highest interest for this technology is coming from companies that have already deployed and are using video conferencing for day-to-day business.  Companies who are making a marginal, additional investment in technology to upgrade the collaborative experience for their users go from say a 4 out of 10, to a 7 or 8, out of 10.

For those companies who have already made an investment in room systems throughout their organization and are making good use of these systems, an extra $15K per room is not a very big additional investment to amp up the experience by 30-100%.  Considering all the investments in equipment, network and user adoption, another $15K to significantly enhance the experience will breath a longer life into many of these rooms versus doing a total technology refresh of some kind.

Note: “Companies that have already deployed and are using video conferencing.” This is a critical phrase.  I would not recommend this technology for deployments that would ‘hope’ to drive adoption, simply by upgrading the technology.

We at ET Group are getting on board to offer and support this technology in the Canadian marketplace.  If you are interested in exploring the possible deployment in your video conferencing room systems, send an email to us through our contact page and we will get back to you.

More from InfoComm on advancing collaboration in your organization in Part 2 of this blog.  Stay tuned!

Securekey’s Collaborative Entrepreneur

Collaboration Changes Everything Including Entrepreneurial Business Models

Model for Success

Have you noticed that when you are contemplating buying a new car and you have a particular brand and model in mind, you start seeing that specific car more frequently on the road?

This is really an awareness change.  Your mind has a sharpened awareness for something and that something manifests itself more visibly to your consciousness.

My awareness for collaboration and the importance that the collaborative model is having on business today has increased.  Because I focus on Collaborative Solutions, I see more evidence every day that to thrive in today’s world, there is an ever-greater need to work with others in a collaborative ecosystem like a hybrid workplace.

The Evolution of a Serial Entrepreneur

Recently, I attended a luncheon where the main speaker was Greg Wolfond.  Greg may not be a household name, but if you have been in technology as long as I have, you’ll recognize his name in connection with two very successful technology start-ups; Footprint Software and 724 Solutions.

Footprint was Greg’s first venture during the period of 1983 to 1995.  Footprint developed software to fill a need for a retail-banking branch and their market success ultimately resulted in a sale of the company to IBM.

Greg’s second company was 724 Solutions from 1997 to 2002, during the dot com boom and bust period.  724 Solutions was at the forefront of mobile banking solutions and was a darling stock during the heady days from 1997 to 2000.

In 2007, Greg founded his third start-up, SecureKey Technologies which enables plastic cards to be virtualized into mobile phones and PCs without sacrificing security.

Secrets of a Collaborative Entrepreneur

First and foremost, Greg stated that each time he starts a new company, considerable time was spent determining what problem they are trying to solve.  If they don’t get this right then the chances for success go way down.

Another important key ingredient is the core team and having the right people in the right roles.  Greg used himself as one of the prime examples.  He is good at getting things going from nothing but as the organization starts to spread its wings in the market, Greg does not think his strength is being the CEO and he hires the right people and elects the right board members to enable the organization to take the product to market.

Greg had described some of the common factors between his three entrepreneurial ventures.  But one of the questions from the floor during the luncheon was, “This is your third technology start-up, what is different this time?”

What is Different with SecureKey?


Greg was building more than a product.  He was building a market offering that was enhanced and enabled by the partners that became integral pieces of the solution.

He was solving problems in collaboration with other parties for the overall good of the customer, his partners and SecureKey. He was creating an “everybody wins” outcome by building a solution that involved stakeholders as collaborators in achieving common goals.

This is different and will likely play a large part in how successful SecureKey will be.

Partners in the SecureKey Collaborative Ecosystem

Greg started SecureKey with the goal of simplifying passwords for users and making sure that people’s use of the internet was really secure.  So he started to build some software.  Even though SecureKey’s software was going to be new and different, internet security, and most importantly, transaction security, was part of an ecosystem that involved users, vendors, financial organizations and governments to name some of the more obvious parties.

Greg started to work with these other parties as partners.  He met with them to understand what their goals were, and what they offered as part of the overall solution.  Although this made the work more complex, in the end it really simplified the solution. Most importantly, the results of collaborating have greatly increased SecureKey’s chances for success.

How does SecureKey collaborate with their partners?

SecureKey was not going to grow by doing all the components involved in authorizing transactions as the banks were already highly efficient and cost effective.  Not only did SecureKey leverage the banks for this, but they have also extended the authorization model to include government transactions.  This is good for the banks as they make a cut on each transaction. By using the bank’s systems, it is good for the government because they do not need to build or operate a separate system.  It is good for users because it simplifies things by having less accounts and using an authorization process they are familiar with.  And SecureKey is the glue that makes all the systems work together.

Complexity is increasing.  Change is accelerating.  Increased collaboration is essential and technology is an important component to increase collaboration.

Our organization can help yours to understand and orchestrate an effective technology platform for Unified Communications & Collaboration and for a Digital Media Communication architecture.

For assistance in using technology collaborative solutions to make you more effective, contact us.

The Link Between Corporate Sustainability and Collaboration Technologies (CT’s)

In this post, I will discuss sustainability as a key business imperative and explain how companies can use CT’s to transform their business and reduce their overall environmental footprint.

Sustainability Is a Necessity That Is Good for Business

When you look at key environmental and social data, it becomes apparent that business as usual in no longer a viable option going forward. Over the past 40 years, the human population has more than doubled from 3 billion in 1960 to more than 7 billion in early 2012. This explosive growth, combined with a net gain for overall human wealth and well-being has put an unsustainable amount of pressure on our planet. Currently, we need more than 1.5 planets to sustain our current population and consumption patterns. This unprecedented growth and the incredible rate of change we are experiencing are quickly driving leading companies around the world to recognize sustainability as a key business imperative. Sustainability is not just a necessity; it is also proven to drive positive business results. Recent academic studies, as well as stock market data indicate sustainability leaders across different sectors are consistently outperforming their competition. However, integrating sustainability into a company’s overall strategy and operations is not an easy task. In most cases, “going green” requires a true business transformation, which affects every area of the business and requires an immense amount of collaboration and innovation between internal and external teams. Here is where the right mix of CT’s can drive tangible reductions in CO2 emissions while enabling unparalleled collaboration and innovation.

CT’s Fuel Innovation and Reduce Your Environmental Footprint

Collaboration technologies, such as Audio, Video, Web and Interactive Whiteboard Conferencing, can all contribute to CO2 emissions reductions and attractive operational efficiencies even if they are deployed in isolation. However, significantly higher returns can be achieved when these technologies are effectively integrated throughout the entire organization and used by different user groups. In sustainability terms, the key benefits of collaboration technologies can be allocated to each of the widely accepted sustainability criteria:

Corporate SustainabilityFrom a People perspective, collaboration technologies allow employees to integrate work into their lifestyles, thus, allowing them to work effectively from anywhere they choose. This flexibility and perceived freedom have proven to increase retention rates, employee morale, loyalty and overall productivity by more than 20%. Also, collaboration technologies allow companies to create stronger relationships with their customers, to differentiate themselves from the competition and to enable them to focus on becoming their customer’s trusted advisor.

On the Profit side, collaboration technologies allow companies to make almost every process more effective and efficient, resulting in dramatic productivity savings and capacity increases. Clear examples of attractive operational savings include reductions in travel, transportation and real estate costs. Furthermore, the effective deployment of collaboration technologies allows employees, suppliers and clients to collaborate and innovate faster than even before, therefore, creating new business opportunities. Companies that experience the highest returns do so by encouraging and integrating the use of collaboration technologies in their policies and processes.

Lastly, and increasingly more importantly, collaboration technologies can help reduce the environmental impact of most companies by reducing direct and indirect CO2 emissions, thus, lessening the strain on our Planet. Examples of large CO2 savings opportunities include emission reductions through less travel and commuting, reduced real estate requirements, and the capability of influencing employees’ mindset to further reduce emission by effectively measuring and communicating key environmental data through digital signage technologies.

As you can see, collaboration technologies contain all of the values of corporate sustainability, therefore, careful planning, attention and ongoing management of these vital tools will yield results that will positively impact People, Profit and our Planet.

About ET Group

Collaboration and sustainability are key business imperatives required to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world. ET Group designs and builds interactive collaboration ecosystems that help companies connect, innovate and execute faster while reducing their overall environmental footprint.

i– United Nations. (2011, May). World Population to reach 10 billion by 2100 if Fertility in all Countries Converges to Replacement Level– [Press Release].
ii Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. (2005). Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis.