A new mindset drives a new way forward

We need to rethink collaboration solutions.

collaboration brainstorming mobile [RawPixel.com - CC0 via Unsplash]
RawPixel.com (CC0)

The business world is evolving at a rapid pace. As we move toward increasingly varied, sophisticated, and challenging collaboration scenarios, solution providers are having a hard time keeping up with the changing workforce’s needs. With this evolution, we are seeing three conflicting pressures in the market when it comes to conferencing: increasing numbers of collaboration scenarios to support, a need for simplification, and a demand for better audio and video quality.

In the past, solution providers focused mainly on supporting the increasing number of scenarios. Providers are quickly patching together video conferencing and screen-sharing technologies to try to keep up with these new scenarios. With this urgency to patch technology together, they often increase complexity while lowering experiential quality for the user. So while more scenarios are now being supported, users are forced to bridge the significant gap between what technology offers and what we actually need in the real world.

Look at the huddle-room space, for example. Here providers have rushed to provide solutions for this new use case. The result is generally one of two things: either extremely expensive to purchase and install, and then hard to manage and use, or inexpensive but difficult for IT to set up, hard for participants to use, and with poor experiential quality.

Why should IT have to struggle deploying cobbled-together kits, and trying to overcome difficult lighting or acoustic challenges? And why should participants have to spend 10 minutes trying to launch a meeting? Or suffer through inaudible sound, shouting into phones, camera angles that are too tight or too wide for the room, etc.?

So yes, more scenarios are being supported, but the result is greater complexity to achieve a mediocre (or worse) experience — and this frustrates people, hampers productivity, and slows adoption. To make matters worse, those solutions can come at an unnecessarily high cost to buy and manage.

In order to make real strides in collaboration today and into the future, you have to simultaneously address all three competing pressures. Solutions have to be able to support more scenarios — including scenarios we haven’t yet imagined — in simpler ways, while delivering a better experience. And the result has to be more affordable than today’s solutions. The question many providers have been faced with is, “How can we accomplish all of these goals?”

The only way to achieve all three goals at once is to take the burden off of people, because as long as we burden people with overcoming the faults of technology, people will get greater complexity and a poorer experience.

The answer to making all three goals achievable is to shift the burden from people to technology that can do more work for us. By making the technology more intelligent, using what we call the “intelligence to flex,” you enable the hardware and software themselves to flex to different scenarios, environments, people, lighting, acoustics, etc., and give everyone a great experience in a way that is simple to use and manage.

In the huddle-room scenario described above, imagine a solution with minimal components that were designed to work together and be installed in as little as 15 minutes. Participants can join by clicking a single button because the system is aware of a prescheduled meeting in that space. Audio adapts to acoustics, quiet talkers, and background noise to enable everyone to be heard. A camera automatically adjusts the view — without focusing too closely on a single participant — so everyone can be seen, while also responding to overly bright or dim spaces. Whether it is a huddle space, a larger room, a mobile scenario, or any collaboration challenge supported by technology, the intelligence to flex can deliver great value.

For it to work well, this needs to be accomplished from a new perspective on systems — a perspective that sees value in breaking down the silos of hardware, software, and services to provide a better solution. This requires expertise in various areas, combined with a new yet pragmatic perspective on the market that is less concerned with entrenched positions and more focused on solving real-world problems.

As I see it, the expertise required to accomplish this goal incorporates:

  • Human intelligence: a deeper look at the science and anthropology of collaboration, and deep engagement in fields like psychophysics which seeks to understand physical stimuli and the sensations and perceptions they produce.
  • Engineering intelligence: cutting-edge engineering built to support today’s work styles and environments
  • Machine intelligence: the ability to discern which inputs are important and which are not, adapt to different settings and people, etc.
  • Design intelligence: intuitive UI design, fewer devices, and more flexibility to handle different scenarios

By coming to the market with a new perspective and weaving into collaboration solutions the intelligence to flex to scenarios, people, and places, we can make our collaboration technology do more for us. By doing so, we can support everyone in today’s scenarios and tomorrow’s scenarios with a huge leap forward in the experience that is yet significantly simpler to manage and use.

It is time for people to expect more out of collaboration solutions. They should not have to choose between an expensive, complicated, and mediocre experience and an inexpensive, complicated, and poor experience. Instead, with the intelligence to flex, they can have affordable, simple and amazing.

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