Collaboration is one of the most important words in today’s workplace.
The problem is that there is no set definition of what that word means. If being able to speak with one another and show one another content over long distances is collaboration, then relatively simple video conferencing systems will do the trick. But what about being able to mark that content from either side? What about working on the same document at the same time and having that work show on both sides of the screen in real time? Mirroring, annotation, file storage – these are capabilities that exist today that push past communication. So let’s forget about UCC for the time being and focus on just the latter letter of the acronym.
“Collaboration, as a word, where it’s at to me is the wild west,” says Michael DiBella, Director of Collaborative Solutions at Kramer Electronics. “Everyone uses the word, it’s such a buzz word. But, in reality, when you think about collaboration, the true meaning of it, it’s really defined as the coming together of multiple people or ideas for a common goal. Most solutions out there, currently, are more presentation, one-way direction.”
Collaboration means working together. In the past that meant multiple employees sitting in a room, discussing a certain subject and scribbling thoughts and ideas on the same surface. It has evolved to mean, at present, multiple employees engaging in the same platform (whether a single screen or the same program on multiple screens), discussing a certain subject and marking their thoughts and ideas. Same basic principle, much different application. And what of the future? Where is collaboration heading? How will the workplace function as these systems get more complex, and these capabilities expand?
Where We Are, and Where We’re Going
The implementation of unified communication technologies has allowed for multiple offices to communicate, and placed less of a burden on employees being in office, resulting in part-time or full-time employees working from home. As a result, collaboration has centered around allowing employees to work together across distances.
“The out-of-room experience has been where all the focus has been. I think what happened, and the reason that we and Barco and Crestron have devoted so much time and money to the in-room experience is because that was really lacking,” says Rob Balgley, CEO of Mersive. “I think what you’re going to see next is the in-room experience that we’ve created, that others have created, is going to be married with the out-of-room experience, and that’s going to be the next big thing.”
Employees are still working together in offices, and when they are together their options for collaboration have become limited. Solutions such as interactive whiteboards and displays have helped to ease those limitations. Employees in office can work on the same content on the same screen, and then capture what they have done for limitation. Still, these in-office solutions are lacking, often only offering a few of the many capabilities that a full-force collaboration solution could potentially offer.
“As far as what’s coming, it’s more about how many other existing things we can integrate into a single box, piece of software, or solution so that I don’t have to go out and buy multiple pieces of technology,” says DiBella. “All of these different things which previously you’d have to buy, implement and train individually, now we have the ability to take all these different flavors, so to speak, and bundle them. It’s making very cost-conscious and, more importantly, simpler to implement technologies for meeting spaces.”