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The Collaboration Tipping Point
Sudha Valluru
Monday, February 1, 2010
Today’s business environment is becoming increasingly complex and virtual, making the days of holding office meetings with everyone in attendance, sitting around the conference room table a thing of the past. Remote employees are working out of their home offices around the country, or even around the globe. Attendees are calling into meetings over Skype or using their smartphones while juggling multiple tasks. Coffee houses and their promise of free Wi-Fi are filled with people logging into work networks. The employee turnover is much higher than it used to be and contractors are plentiful. With that said, it is no surprise that current economic news have become the topic of discussion among us all. As recently as in December 2009, the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics noted the unemployment rate edging down to 10 percent, with the previous three months averaging 135,000 payroll job losses per month. With layoffs, salary freezes, and diminished budgets, it’s necessary to look for increased cost efficiency across-the-board – without sacrificing quality.

Vendors are plentiful, offering ‘the next best thing’. Businesses are looking at the best places to cut dollars with the least impact on productivity. And, users are more conscious of performing with their due diligence and ensuring they are getting the best value for their dollars. Emerging technology solutions – in the realm of communication and collaboration – are stepping in to help.

Communication, collaboration, and cooperation have become everyday terms in technology and have led to the development and use of a broad range of tools – including social networking sites like Facebook, instant messaging applications like Twitter, online spaces, Web sharing capabilities, audio and video conferencing, telephony, and smartphones with access to email and news on-the-go (the list goes on) – all with the mission of enabling groups of people more easily communicate and work together in ‘realtime’. Most recently, some of the bigger players have jumped onboard with the introduction of Google Wave (an online tool for realtime communication and collaboration) and Salesforce Chatter (a collaboration application for the enterprise to connect and share information securely with people at work in realtime). Frankly, the expression ‘realtime’ has been overused during the past few years and it means different things to different people. Vendors have wanted to present themselves as having realtime solutions so as not to fall behind their competitors. However, this coinage seems to be taking on an elevated level of importance of late. Web 2.0 platforms have now made ‘realtime’ to essentially mean instant. We expect live interaction and feedback. We can now find out what friends and colleagues are up to in a single moment in time, as our work and personal lives intertwine. Because today’s users are clearly living in a non-stop, instant-access world, they need the opportunity to organize both planned and last minute interactions on the fly. Otherwise, they will not be able to keep up.

However, in order to collaborate with your peers and stay ahead of your competitors, it’s necessary to know exactly what tools are available and what advantages they can offer for your particular needs.

Easy to use, scalable, and affordable collaboration solutions are becoming a necessity in this fast paced world of virtual offices and remote users. As such, many large organizations are taking it upon themselves to cultivate enterprise collaboration strategies and standardize on collaboration platforms to allow their employees, customers, and partners intelligently connect and interact in secure, efficient manners with one another.

Besides, when evaluating solutions, the time has come to figure out how to bring back the personal touch that used to be the norm before a more virtual workforce bred the decreased human interaction we experience so much today. We are so consumed with finding and using the latest technology that we often find ourselves interacting with technology far more than with people. And, it’s easy to become humanly disconnected while remaining technologically connected. Think about people you’ve met face-to-face. The natural human tendency is to associate the person’s name with the face and become somewhat committed on a new level. People feel more of a sense of knowing, once they have seen you and heard your voice. Now, think of all the faceless interactions during your online sales presentations and product demonstrations. And then, think of turning these into interpersonal meetings where participants interact face-to-face, albeit in a technological manner. It is time to bridge the relationship gap.

If we look at history, face-to-face meetings were largely replaced by telephonic conferences about two decades ago. And now, the trend seems to be moving away from phone conferences to online video meetings, which increase productivity and allow attendees to have that more personal touch – including live demonstrations and interactive visuals, rather than just visualizing on their own or reading off of a static slide share. Online video events offer more flexibility as you can now consider providing live, interactive training for employees, partners, and customers. You can host large online events and get your message out faster through webinars. These emerging platforms allow you to interact in innovative ways with large groups at a fraction of the cost of physical conferences or face-to-face meetings.

Applications that offer a ‘better than being there’ solution for event organizers to create, publish, and manage video-driven interactions as effortlessly as they would do with audio conference calls today – all with the manageability and high-quality expected in an enterprise – would dominate in 2010 and beyond. Why does this matter, you ask? Because these types of interactive video collaboration services, available around the globe, save money and time for remote participants without compromising the comfort of presence for a truly participatory experience. Think of how else you would need to structure your meetings – for example, a quarterly sales meeting without needing to fly your entire sales force into one office. The trend now will be to see and hear each other on a virtual platform without the additional overhead.

When looking for a solution such as this, I urge you to hone in on one that offers a purely Web browser-based software solution for conducting meetings and webinars. There should be no need to buy expensive equipment and or download and install complicated Internet meeting software. The platform should provide a single solution that is ideal for both large event broadcasts and conferencing. It should fit both one-to-many and one-to-one requirements – and, it should provide the opportunity for all participants to interact with both the presenter and the other attendees. Lastly, it should be cross-platform to provide easy access to all.

Imagine scheduling and inviting customers and associates to your corporate webinars being as easy as making an appointment. Imagine having a record and playback feature for those unable to attend the first time around but that provides an experience just as if they were there from the start. Couple that with analytics that help you assess the success of your event and better understand the session attendees and we’re at a major tipping point in terms of being able to offer and experience a truly participative online event. We look forward to helping bring this reality to life.

The Author is CEO of ViVu

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