Is True Collaboration a 2 Pizza Team Rule?

Thomas Edison, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerburg have all had a common observation – smaller teams accomplish more. Far more, when it comes to creative or innovative work.

A recent book Midnight Lunch, by Sarah Miller Caldicott, the great-grandniece of Thomas Edison, talks about the approach that made him so successful. The subtitle of the book is “The 4 Phases of Team Collaboration Success from Thomas Edison’s Lab”, in which she details his approach to innovation.

Workspace design and strategy can help increase productivity, but team size can also be a factor in maximizing potential.

Small Teams Were a Central Component of Edison’s Approach

Jeff Bezos,’s founder in a 2004 interview with Fast Company recalled an offsite retreat where people were saying that groups needed to communicate more. Bezos stood up and said, “No, communication is terrible!” shocking everyone in attendance. When it came to innovation, Bezos’ experience was that small groups could innovate and test their ideas without becoming entangled in a centralized corporate approach.

The “Two Pizza Team” Rule

Bezos came up with the “Two Pizza Team” rule.  If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas the team is too large.

Edison had a similar approach at his Menlo Park operation.  The “Midnight Lunch” was the small team coming together for a bite to eat while working together, informally in a collegial atmosphere through the evening.

Mark Zuckerburg also believed that small teams gave him a huge advantage over competitors like Yahoo! But for Facebook it was not just the size of the teams but also the focus of the team that made the difference. Caldicott cites an example from Michael Schrage, from the MIT Sloan School.

“Zuckerberg’s software design teams focused on higher-order functions such as robustness, scalability, ease of use, and maintainability – qualities that drive leading-edge performance in the Innovation Age” compared to Yahoo’s small teams who were focused on more traditional metrics like – lines of code written per day.

Additive Vs. Multiplicative Productivity

The result of this varied focus Schrage points out is “additive” vs “multiplicative” productivity.  Two companies with 3 teams of 5 would have vastly different results.

Productivity of Additive Approach:  5 + 5 + 5 = 15

Productivity of the Multiplicative Approach:  5 x 5 x 5 = 125

That is more than 8 times more productive!  Small teams + high-order focus – a ‘deadly’ one-two punch!

The “2 Pizza Rule” and “Higher-Order Functions Objectives” will accelerate your organization’s collaboration and innovation in today’s Innovation Era.

Technology Driving Small Teams

But what technology tools can turbo charge these small teams and higher-order focus objectives even more?

Technology which:

  1. Is suited to smaller teams
  2. Supports group work dynamics on higher-order productivity objectives
  3. Accelerates creativity and innovation

In one of my recent blogs I talked about the 4 different conferencing technologies that support real time collaboration and how you increase the velocity of collaboration in your meetings (both physical & virtual) by combining the 4 conferencing technologies to provide a collaborative richness, which supports your organizations objectives.

Collaboration Through Interactive Whiteboards

Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs) are one of the 4 conferencing technologies.  And IWBs meet the three requirements listed above, which enable small teams with higher-order focus to increase the velocity of collaboration even more.  This doesn’t mean the other 3 conferencing technologies should be ignored. The more you can effectively combine them, the richer the experience.

But IWBs are the ONLY category of conferencing technology that:

IWBs were once more of a novelty item and had far more traction in the K-12 education sector as they are the evolution of the blackboard.  The IWB technology has had significant further development to serve the needs of businesses, but be careful of the IWB platform you invest in.

As demand goes up, new IWB solutions are popping up all the time.  Don’t be fooled by IWB solutions that are focused primarily on annotating on top of images – most solutions.  These solutions are good for emphasizing a point on a PowerPoint presentation in a WebEx type content sharing tool or making annotation on top of any image shown on the IWB display.  They will not turbo charge your small teams to greater heights of collaboration and innovation.

Invest in an IWB platform that truly facilitates collaboration and innovation.  The technology must be able to:

  1. Accelerate meeting flow
  2. Support remote connectivity to IWB sessions

Accelerating Meeting Flow Using Interactive Whiteboards

How do you tell if the IWB solution will accelerate meeting flow?  Although the hardware component of the IWB is important, the architecture of the IWB software is the most critical factor.

What does a good IWB solution do to provide good meeting flow?

Technology should be an enabler, not a point of focus in and of itself.

An IWB solution that meets these design points will quickly blend into the background and enable greater innovation and collaboration in your organization.

To learn more about interactive whiteboard technology solutions or our new hybrid work experiences, and how they can be combined with other collaborative conferencing technologies to accelerate innovation and collaboration in your organization, contact us.

What Type of Space Do You Need for the Workplace?

Your Connected Path to the Future

We recently completed a consulting engagement to align the UC technology and room systems technology of a large organization. Strategically, we delivered a comprehensive roadmap to align their diverse technologies and move them forward with a cohesive UC&C framework. This in turn would set them up for significant opportunities to capture long term ROI from operational, procedural and strategic sources.

And then, they had a re-organization.

New Challenges Arising From a Re-Org

163984053All of a sudden, the new Executive in charge of IT Infrastructure had a lot on his plate and the execution of the UC&C Roadmap was just a small piece.

The client didn’t have time to:

  1. Absorb the material
  2. Review the recommendations or
  3. Understand the roadmap and the strategic impact it could have on his organization.

Immediate operational decisions were required that impacted the long term UC&C direction. And he didn’t have time to build a relationship of trust with the consultants that had laid out the future roadmap for the organization.

Saving Your Way Into the Future?

Like all of us who are faced with making decisions constrained by limited time and looming deadlines, he had to rely on what he knew.

He started to eliminate strategic elements of the technology for the Room System standards because he didn’t understand why they were required or how they fit in. He thought he knew what was important, because he’s been in IT for 25+ years.

With the challenges in front of him, he planned to “save” his way into the future.

Over the last dozen years, often the business method of coping with change is to cut expenses. This is especially true in large organizations where a change in direction is slow to take effect. Cutting expenses on the other hand is quick to put in place.

But this is a slippery slope that’s hard to get off once you’re on it and it certainly won’t put your organization on the path to innovation and “Blue Oceans”.

Macro Market Trends

There are two current macro trends that I feel historians will look back at and use to define our time in history.

  1. The pace of change has gone exponential. We are at an inflection point in the rate of change and the impact is profound. You have to innovate to keep up with, let alone stay ahead of the inevitable – changeGary Hamel has done some compelling work showing why we can’t do things the way we used to.
  2. The end of the Industrial Age and the beginning of the Connection Economy. Seth Godin writes about this. This shift is having a profound impact on businesses as things change.

ET Group helps organizations become more connected so they can better collaborate and innovate.

To do this effectively requires an understanding of how different disciplines or business offerings interact and come together as the nature of how we work changes.

The Workplace Of The Future

Meeting rooms are where workspace and technology really come together. Room systems must be effective places to meet where both the physical and virtual world intersect seamlessly. They must contain the right mix of conferencing technologies to enable the required level of collaboration and this will naturally lead to innovation.

The figure on the right shows the different disciplines that have always been separate, yet related and are now critically connected.

As the world changes, how is your business space requirements changing? After people costs, space costs are often the second most significant operational cost requirements of a business.

Note: The importance of organizational culture and the need to focus on users and adoption for any significant change you introduce to your organization is not being discounted. This is a fundamental requirement.

Rethink Your Collaboration Workspace

We created this Infographic that highlights some interesting stats about the changing nature of work and how companies are adapting by:

To do this effectively and enable people to remotely collaborate, your room systems technology must align with your workers personal technology or a UC&C strategy. Note that 72% of people STILL come into the office to collaborate.

This is true whether your organization has 3 or 3,000 meeting rooms.

Meeting rooms are a scarce resource. Meeting rooms are an important part of your organization’s collaborative capabilities.

Are your rooms ready to conduct business in the Connection Economy? We can help design the perfect space for hybrid workcontact us.

Increasing the Velocity of Collaboration in Your Organization

138108046Using technology to bring people together over distance has become a commonplace activity but the number of options available to do this is mind-boggling. And most importantly, getting clarity on a solution can be difficult.

Collaboration is a powerful force. Organizations recognize this and use collaboration technologies in strategic ways.

There are strategic goals that can help your organization cut costs and drive revenues.

The Four Goals Are

  1. Enhance communication
  2. Speed problem solving
  3. Accelerate innovation
  4. Transform the way you do business

At a high level, organizations are looking to connect room systems and individuals together over distance with the following possible combinations:

In our last blog, we talked about the 4 different kinds of conferencing technologies:

Creating the Right Balance of Technologies

The idea is to create the right balance of technologies for individuals and for room systems that suit your organization. The capabilities and the costs of these conferencing technologies are different and each of these conferencing technologies brings a different dimension of richness to the collaborative experience. Think about this in terms of creating the right balance of the technologies. I like to use the analogy of a spinning top, which is made up of these four conferencing technologies.  Each of the four technologies has a different cost to implementing it and brings an associated benefit or richness of experience.

The Spinning Top Analogy

1)    You must have audio to effectively have any kind of real time conference. As audio is table stakes, it is the point of the top. Without audio the top will not spin. Without audio other conferencing technologies are simply ineffective.

2)    The portion of the top that each of the 4 modalities makes up relates to the richness of that conferencing modality. How robust does your Top need to be?

3)    There is also a related dollar cost to each of the conferencing modalities and those cost figure into the overall cost-benefit equation.

The Velocity of Collaboration Revisited

In my last blog, I adapted the four conferencing modalities described above from the Frost & Sullivan, Velocity of Collaboration model.  Your organization’s Velocity of Collaboration will be determined by two factors:

1)    The Richness of the conferencing capabilities that are deployed

2)    The Access your employees are given to these technologies (Access = Availability + Usability)

The “Richness”, combined with “Usability” and “Availability” of the technology will determine the Velocity of Collaboration that your organization can attain.

The Velocity of Collaboration Formula

An organization must decide which of the conferencing technologies are required for connecting over distance. With these benefits you can determine the level of collaboration that can be achieved.

This graphic below shows the relative richness of the conferencing modalities.  Richness, together with how you have deployed the technology, your Access (= Availability + Usability), determines how your collaborative capabilities will increase.

Create an Enabler to Greater Collaboration Within the Organization

Once user based collaboration capability requirements are determined, you can select the technologies for meeting rooms and for individuals connecting into conferences. This process is critical and avoids a lot of wasted effort. It also brings a cohesive approach to the technology roadmap your organization requires and helps turn the patchwork of technology found in most organizations into a tapestry.

Going back to the RFI discussion in Part I of this blog, the customer would like Teleconferencing and to layer in Webinars when an Internet connection is available. Teleconferencing, also known as audio conferencing is the most basic form of conferencing technology hence it provides the least “Rich” collaborative experience.  Note the customer’s interest in webinars made possible via web conferencing reflects a desire for a richer collaborative experience.

That is why I asked the questions:

I think the answer to each of these questions is “No”.

The ET Group has helped many organizations through this process. Please contact us if we can be of assistance to your organization.

Why the Old Office Cubicle Just Doesn’t Cut it Anymore

Increasingly, organizations are asking ET Group about the importance of designing office space solutions that incorporates both the workspace and technology connection requirements of workers to accommodate personal and group meeting spaces in a variety of situations. More and more organizations are commenting that the old office cubicle farms just don’t cut it anymore. People need to be freed up to be able to work as easily in the cafeteria, a formal meeting space, their personal work space, or anywhere.

The ET Group and partner Mayhew & Associates, had the opportunity to demonstrate this new reality recently when we participated in Cisco’s annual customer event and showcase at the Toronto Congress Centre on May 16, 2012.  The Toronto event is the largest of the Cisco Plus Canada Roadshow and attracted over 2000 technical and business decision-makers and influencers along with Cisco channel partners.

ET Group and Mayhew featured a booth in the Technology Showcase which combined purpose built, technology-enabled furniture along with video conferencing and white-boarding technology to simulate today’s office collaboration enhancing environments.

Why Cubicles Just Don’t Cut It.

  1. Furniture needs to be practical & functional for formal meetings as well as inviting and comfortable for impromptu gatherings.
  2. Space needs to be technology enabled to integrate naturally and quickly with technology solutions that connect users to their device of choice and then to connect over the internet with other workers wherever they are…seamlessly and quickly as a natural extension of the workers collaboration toolset.
  3. Collaboration technologies integrated into the space design and furniture need to provide an active workspace that immediately enables users to access their information, share it easily and robustly with others, whether they share the physical space or are connected virtually.

The resulting conversations of visitors at the show included concerns about the old style cube farms. People were enlightened to see that there are options out there for organizations who want to use space, furniture and technology to enhance the collaboration and productivity of the workforce.

One CEO at the show concurred with the negative impact of the “cube farm” and noted his particular challenge as a government funded organization, is that he can’t provide financial incentives to his staff, so providing an environment that is unique and the opposite of cubicle drudgery is what will attract and retain employees.

Other attendees noted that when you have the responsibility for representing many offices nationally, the need for creating collaborative environments cannot simply be addressed by adding technology or by re-configuring the office cubicle. Many companies struggle to understand the future of workspace in a holistic way.

Closing Thoughts on Cubicle Farms…

Collaborative_Work_EnvironmentsMany companies think that moving past the cube farm is expensive, time consuming and disruptive to their business but they are not seeing the big picture. Employees are not only asking for integrated design space, furniture and technology, but it is a key driver of change management strategies required to assist people in their transition to working in different, collaborative ways. Companies need to invest beyond the cube farm and provide integrated workspaces that allow all types of workers to connect and enjoy their work environments.

The world is rapidly changing and we have to adapt just as quickly. Our customers are looking for leadership in helping them think about and design the collaboration ecosystems that will take them successfully into the future. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the traditional office cubicle, will likely only be found in a museum, if you have any questions about our mission or our team feel free to contact us.

Video vs. Audio: how the video meeting is changing the game

If you’ve ever been on an audio-only conference call, you’ve probably experienced the following: 

While this old fashioned technology definitely serves its purpose at the right time and place, we can all admit that nowadays there are better conferencing solutions available. 

The rise of the video meeting

Over the past two decades, we have seen more and more video conferencing technologies becoming available. Applications such as Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoTo Meeting, Blue Jeans and Webex (to name a few) have been popping up left and right, offering organizations a clearer and more personal way to communicate. 

Video meetings make it easier to actually see who is present, get a visual on who is speaking and notice when participants join or drop off. 

Most video meeting platforms also offer the ability to screen share, and feature live chat boxes as well where team members can provide input and ask questions without interrupting the speaker(s).

You can access most video calling applications from any device, whether that’s a computer, a phone, a tablet, or other meeting room technology like Microsoft Teams Rooms equipment.

Video calling also provides a meeting experience that feels more secure, as you can see who you are speaking to. This means less chances for someone to join a confidential meeting who should not be there, or to impersonate someone on your team. 

How do audio and video compare?

While audio and video calling have some major differences, there are also a few similarities. 

For example, both are great at helping you connect with remote team members, clients and other offices (if you have them). Both are also great for a spur-of-the-moment conversation, where you don’t have the time or the need to trouble yourself with booking and setting up a conference room or meeting space.

However, whichever option you choose will lead to drastically different meeting experiences. Like mentioned above, an audio only conference call can create a lot of confusion and is best for calls between no more than 2-4 people. The lack of visual aid during an audio-only call means you may only be able to convey simple information that gets followed up with an email, or files may need to be shared with other participants before the call begins. 

With a video meeting, the experience offers much more detail. You can see the people you are speaking to, making it easier to notice who is or isn’t present. You can comfortably have a large number of people on the call without needing to re-introduce yourself every time it’s your turn to speak. 

Most video platforms are quite easy to navigate, allowing you to join a call with the click of a button from within the application (like Webex) or directly from an email or calendar link (this is common with applications such as Zoom or Google Meet). No more manually dialing in! 

Why do people prefer video meetings?

Video meetings also offer a more personal experience, which — today more than ever, with so many businesses offering remote work — is an aspect of the workplace that we need to nurture and encourage. 

With video, you can see peoples’ facial expressions, learn what kind of environment they like to work in and even notice the little things like if they wear glasses or cut their hair recently. 

Audio today isn’t dead, just different

None of this is to say that you can’t still choose to have an audio-only call over a video call. Sometimes it is the better option depending on your circumstances. Luckily today, we have the technology available to make the audio call a better experience.

The great thing about all of these video meeting platforms is that they still offer audio-only capabilities. Though some applications are better at implementing this feature than others, the video function is not required to be used. 

One downfall is that the use of an application is typically required to be able to host/join this type of audio meeting, as opposed to joining an old school conference call where you dial in just using your regular phone. 

These applications also typically require a device with screens, however this can be to your benefit, because with many platforms you will still be able to access functions such as screen sharing or chat. And even when video is turned off, the screen will often still show the names of the participants in the call, and highlight the name of whoever is currently speaking. 

Choosing the right platform

There are a lot of video meeting applications available today, and they all offer such a wide range of features. Depending on the work your organization does, and the unique needs of your team, the platform(s) you choose should be the one that will best accelerate communication among your employees. 

Figuring out what those needs are and how to fulfill them can be overwhelming, but that’s why ET Group is here to help. 

Book a Discovery Call and learn how, together, we can find the right tools to help your team feel more connected than ever. 

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New Collaboration Tools That Fit Your Strategy

Collaboration is a hot word amongst the leading IT companies like CISCO, IBM and SAP.  They are all using ‘collaboration’ as a catch all word to describe the new ways that staff and customers can interact with each other. The word means slightly different things to each of these companies, but they all describe two key components.

Two Main Collaboration Components

  1. The physical aspect of collaboration, meaning the surroundings in which we find ourselves to collaborate.
  2. The Virtual aspect of collaboration, meaning the tools we use to communicate.

These two components are a way for us to talk, share and interact with each other, which makes use of a variety of technologies that need to be tailored to fit your needs.

A more traditional interpretation of collaboration includes web conferencing – screen sharing, audio conferencing and video conferencing and not necessarily Unified Communications.

Roughly 25% of small businesses will have a social media presence in upcoming years. As businesses look for new ways to remain competitive online, a social media strategy will become a more attractive option for businesses of all sizes.

child heads with symbolsA new breed of collaborative tools embraces traditional and new ways to participate in collective thoughts, ideas and project/people development. CISCO and IBM for example both feel that social networking in the business is a significant way to collaborate – think of it as Facebook for your business, a place to share thoughts and ideas, share files (images, videos etc.) to find people in your organization, to save a profile about yourself and others, to message board or chat. CISCO Quad and IBM Connections both offer these sorts of features, as well as others such as SpeechBobble.

The good thing about social media is that it’s possible for businesses of all sizes to do something – even if it’s small.  From company blogs to collaboration in online communities, there are lots of ways for businesses to make this leap.

Project Sharing

  1. Another separate yet relevant web collaboration approach is more directly related to projects and sharing the goals and objectives online in a community, Microsoft Team Foundation Server is an example of this type of tool, with deep integration with IT software project development it caters to a slightly different collaborative mode of working, yet has social network features built in
  2. Basecamp is another example of an ‘online project collaboration tool’, with a very large user community it is focused on the project approach to collaboration.
  3. It also has many of the social networking tool features that are found in the products from IBM, CISCO and others mentioned above, such as message boards, ideas forums, file sharing and more.

So when we talk of collaboration, it is important to distinguish if the tools and technologies are live (or real time) or passive (non-real time). Most of the tools above would be considered as passive tools, and don’t require all parties to be on a call together, communicating with each other at the same time.  ET Group has focused our attention on the active collaboration tools allow conferencing via interactive whiteboards, the web, video and audio.  These are all considered real time collaboration technologies and are part of every company’s collaborative ecosystem.

Most companies have an informal collaborative ecosystem.  But more and more this needs to be formalized and managed to capture the benefits that collaboration has to offer. Contact us if you want to learn more about collaboration technology.

Getting Rid of the Boardroom Bowling Alley

The usability of video conferencing in a typical boardroom was dramatically enhanced in the last year, with Polycom’s announcement of the Eagle Eye Director II, we’ve gotten more options to address many different challenges such as screen real estate.

Most Video Conferencing Deployments in an Existing Boardroom Are Problematic Because:

BoardroomSo what ends up happening is that the camera is pointed at the room from the front and is ‘zoomed out’ to capture the whole table.  And this view never changes.

People on the other end of the video conferencing call therefore see what can be called the ‘Boardroom Bowling Alley’ effect.  They can’t really see anyone well enough to appreciate the full richness of a ‘live’ experience, which a Telepresence room provides.  But, a Telepresence room comes with a big price tag.  And you need a Telepresence room at each location (mirror images of each other) to achieve the Telepresence experience.

Telepresence is a great option but it isn’t widely deployed, not only because of the price, but because people want to use their existing boardrooms for video calls.

The Eagle Eye Director’s Patented Technology Addresses the ‘Boardroom Bowling Alley’ Effect Beautifully!

It uses an array of 7 microphones (mics) in a small stand/shelf with 2 cameras.  As people speak in the room, the mics calculate who is talking and they zoom in on that person.  If two people are discussing something back and forth, the mics pick this up and seamlessly shift the view from one person to the other.    The technology is also sophisticated enough that it compensates for reflections and other distortions of sound waves.  It only focuses on the active speaker.

The participants on the far side of the video conference are now immersed in the conversation as if they were in the room.  No more ‘Boardroom Bowling Alley’ effect.

Video conferencing is a rapidly growing technology and as a result of these kinds of breakthroughs, it is becoming more accessible and is maturing in richness and usability.

Contact us at ET Group if you like to learn more about our strategies to implement technology to increase collaboration.