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Stop Taking Turns and Start Taking Action: True Collaboration Occurs Within a Shared Workspace

By David Kung, VP Product Strategy, Oblong Industries

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David Kung, VP Product Strategy, Oblong Industries

Video conferencing has enabled new and powerful means of communication. The ability to see and hear remote colleagues and partners has resulted in significant travel savings and has mitigated the challenges of working across distance.

Cloud-based service offerings now make it possible to communicate without investing in additional hardware. Tablets and smartphones enable work to be done from almost anywhere, and wireless technology is allowing cords to disappear.

But despite all of these advances, have meetings really improved? Doesn’t it sometimes seem like we’ve just extended meeting tedium beyond the workplace?

While seeing and hearing each other is critical to productive meetings, being able to share each other’s content and truly work together is even more powerful. We need to move away from a one-to-many model of sharing a single documentat a time to a more interactive and engaging many-to-many model of simultaneous screen sharing and concurrent collaboration. With that in mind, here are four ways companies can encourage greater collaboration and productivity in the conference room.

1) Provide More Space for Visual Collaboration

Storage and bandwidth bottlenecks impede the flow of data across an enterprise. Performance declines, information is lost, and business suffers. There is another bottleneck lurking in the workplace. It is just as damaging to business and it is hiding in plain sight. It is a pixel bottleneck.

The majority of meeting rooms have a single screen to share content. Some rooms may feature a video projector or even a large 4K display but these rooms only magnify the problem – the inability to present and address multiple streams of work simultaneously. In today’s digital world, display screens are key enablers of collaboration and engagement. Visuals help promote meeting efficiency, give messages context, keep participants captivated, and drive the conversation forward.

“Moving beyond the traditional meeting model of serial presentations to a more interactive, engaging,and democratic model of concurrent collaboration”

Outfitting meeting spaces with more screens, even whole walls of screens, gives teams more space to spread out their work and review multiple sets of data or visuals at a time. For example, your team can review spreadsheets side-by-side on one or two screens while creating a project outline on another and perhaps a real-time data stream on another. Sharing live content and interacting with applications and team members simultaneously – as opposed to preparing and presenting static presentation decks – meansteams can work more efficiently, productively, and can make informed decisions more quickly and with more confidence.

2) Create a Shared Workspace

Nearly every meeting today requires documents, data, or video to be shared, often by multiple people. However, even with all of today’s sophisticated technology, there’s seems to be no simple way for team members, especially remote participants, to simultaneously share and work on the same content. Sure, web-based solutions let us view, and maybe collaboratively edit a document at the same the time, but that’s still only a single document. What about all the other content and information we need to solve a problem, make a decision, or finalize a project? That is a lot of view switches, and may even require a lot of plugging and unplugging between displayed machines.

When teams can view multiple devices and locations in a shared digital workspace, work processes improve. A shared workspace allows team members, both locally and remotely, to connect their tools and content so that everyone can simultaneously view and edit the same document or spreadsheetright then and there. When everyone in the meeting can share their screens and content, the meeting can follow the fluidity of the conversation and not the rigidity of who currently has control of the projector or single display.

3) True Remote Participation

In today’s global and mobile workforce, it is imperative that employees around the world can connect and work together. The term “remote participation,” however, is somewhat of an oxymoron, if traveling colleagues and remote business partners cannot equally contribute, access, or control the content being shared.

While traditional video con­ferencing and telepres­ence solutions enable communication and help give the feeling of “face-to-face” interaction, remote participants should be able to engage in “side by side” collaboration. All participants, whether local in the office or halfway around the world, must be able to easily share documents, data, and visuals with the other team members. By allowing remote participants to connect into the virtual workspace, everyone is a contributor and a player at the table. Meetings are truly democratic.

4)  Offer Greater Accommodation for “Bring Your Own Device”

Employees increasingly want to use the applications and devices they’re comfortable with, which includes their personal laptops, smartphones, and tablets. According to Gartner, 40 percent of U.S. employees of large enterprises use personally owned devices for work. This means ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) is no longer just a trendy business catch-phrase but a reality for many companies. To accommodate this phenomenon, companies must make their meeting spaces BYOD friendly.

By enabling multiple devices to share content simultaneously, meetings become more productive, dynamic, and interactive. These benefits are even greater when any meeting participants, not just the original owner of the content, can edit shared documents, data or visuals.

When the norm in many meetings is getting everyone to see the same document, we must ask ourselves how far we’ve really advanced from the days of Don Draper waxing poetic over a slide carousel. Meetings are most effective when all members have the ability to contribute equally to the discussion. Providing an environment that facilitates concurrent collaboration across the enterprise will drive business performance, bring differentiation from competitors, and create an engaging workplace more likely to attract and retain employees. 

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