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How to Effectively Combine Communication with Real-Time Collaboration

By Brady O. Bruce, CMO, InFocus

Brady O. Bruce, CMO, InFocus

Using technology to help employees communicate with one another and collaborate on projects is the norm of the modern workplace. With employees working remotely and customers, suppliers, and partners residing across the globe, staying connected is even more critical for business operations. While businesses often use video conferencing, real-time digital collaboration, and sharing technologies, they’re often only using one at a time. What many companies fail to realize, is that it is possible—and, in fact, more efficient—to combine communication and real-time collaboration.

Quality, dependable communication is vital. Whether conferencing with a remote employee, giving a presentation to a client in another continent, or working with colleagues across the country, offices need communication capabilities that can perform reliably every time and offer an interaction quality that is as productive as a face-to-face meeting. The best solutions enable clear communications and provide the tools necessary to work together to get real work done at a distance:

•High resolution video conferencing: Video conferencing helps increase participation and information retention and creates improved interpersonal connections among co-workers. Video includes critical cues given by body language and non-verbal communication. In turn, these strengthened employee relationships allow for better ideation, planning, and execution.

•Crystal clear audio conferencing: When considering a collaboration solution, buyers should pay close attention to audio quality. The best video quality can be undermined by an audio system that has participants straining to hear what remote participants are saying. An excellent system permits overlapping conversation and picks up speakers’ voices without requiring them to hover directly over a microphone. At the same time, the best systems employ beam—forming mic arrays that help the system focus on the person speaking and filtering out ambient background noises.

"Quality dependable communication is vital as it not only enables the organization to move faster but also ensures fewer errors"

•Ideation and annotation: It is vital that employees be able to deliver presentations, share and co-create documents in real-time, and collaborate via a shared whiteboard for drawing, annotation and brainstorming. In the interest of bringing the most relevant information into a collaboration session, systems should be able to access content on attached drives, network drives, and cloud storage. A shared web browser allows remote participants to add and share information from authoritative third-party websites. This type of true collaboration enables the development of a common operating picture and actionable plans.

•Support for Industry Standards: Users are best served by systems that support standards for interoperability. A well-featured system is diminished if it cannot connect with whatever system a remote colleague or partner has available.

According to a survey from Fierce, Inc., 86 percent of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures. If the goal is to improve results and increase productivity for teams with geographically dispersed members, it is imperative to choose tools that make remote interaction as powerful and productive as a face-to-face meeting with someone in a conference room with a whiteboard and a PC. It is absolutely necessary that they can hear and see each other clearly and interact naturally. Meetings with remote colleagues are significantly more productive if they can also sketch ideas for each other, annotate documents to point things out that are important, and co-create or edit documents together in real-time. Employees need to be able to grab relevant and supportive documents and data from the network drive, from their own device or even from the web. People do all of those things in meetings when they’re together in the same room—they need and deserve to have those same features and benefits when they’re meeting at a distance. That’s how work gets done.

The technology in the Meadows Office Interiors meeting spaces is designed for this method of combined communication and collaboration. The Meadows team uses the devices for sessions where they video conference from the Mondopad and simultaneously annotate design plans, select products, and view jobs sites with their clients and with external design firms, architects, and customers. The ability to video conference and, at the same, mark-up shared documents, images, or web pages, empowers employees to obtain decisions and act on them in real-time, instead of enacting decisions later where details could be lost in translation. This setup enables the team to move projects forward faster with fewer errors.

The benefits of these practices are compounded when communication and collaboration are effectively combined. By enabling employees to talk to their co-workers via video conference while concurrently viewing, manipulating, sharing, and saving documents, higher quality work is achieved because they can fully share their ideas and truly work in unison. Businesses of all sizes should take advantage of new technologies that enable these working methods to support productive and creative working.

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