Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Guest Post: Capturing Collaboration In The Real World

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 25, 2011

Guest post - Luidia offers eBeam, which transforms any surface into an interactive whiteboard.

By Rafi Holtzman, CEO of Luidia

Collaboration is quite the buzzword these days and is undeniably an integral part of our day-to-day business. We are continually bombarded with collaboration solutions such as online applications, videoconferencing technologies, Unified Communications Suites and interactive devices (think mobile gadgets or interactive whiteboards) that facilitate the exchange of information.

Obviously, there is an advantage in collaborating around content, and big companies like Google and Amazon grasp the importance. Look to VMware's recent acquisition of presentation and content sharing company SlideRocket for further proof.

What many companies don't realize, however, is that there are ways we collaborate every day through which large amounts of information are lost or unsecured. The ultimate potential for greatness lies in capturing and sharing our everyday collaboration, like brainstorming sessions, to drive real productivity.

Un-captured data in a company exists in the form of Skype messages, videochats or live discussions in cubicles, meeting rooms and other common areas.

Imagine this scenario: you stop in your VP of Engineering's office to ask a quick question, and this leads to a brief discussion. You reach for a marker and begin to illustrate your points on the whiteboard.

Are either of you recording this information? And if you do, will you only write down bullet points from your conversation, allowing the complete IP that would generate revenue to vanish?

Even worse, do you write "do not erase" in the corner of the board, hoping that the important details you discussed will still be there the next time you need them?

Eliminating the Idea Black Hole

Despite the emergence of more online collaboration tools, the traditional, tangible tools that have been employed for years are still the most accessible and routinely utilized. Look at any boardroom, office, or cubicle and you'll notice that people continue to rely on notepads, easels, and dry erase whiteboards to capture brainstorming sessions and meeting notes.

The reason the traditional forms of collaboration still occur today is two-fold and tell us a lot about how ideas come to fruition.

First of all, ideation is a process in which colleagues bounce thoughts off each other and go through many iterations to develop results and consensus, such that recording data in real time becomes necessary in order to create solid building blocks for the final outcome.

Secondly, the integration of high-tech digital collaboration tools requires more upfront time and money than the affordable traditional tools that are already present in most offices. In short, the addition of high tech devices can be initially disruptive to the collaboration process, and so, as a matter of habit and ease, traditional modes of collaboration often prevail.

The problem with traditional collaboration comes when we try to save the authenticity of the ideas and concepts created during an organic ideation session. Although a notepad, easel, or dry erase board may be great ways to initiate brainstorm sessions, they are terrible ways to save and share important information after it is produced.

Analyst firm Gartner predicts that in the next ten years work processes will become more informal and non-routine, making it even more important for businesses to capture information created on the fly.

The challenge then lies in transforming this raw data into useful enterprise records and eliminating the loss of valuable knowledge, ideas, and IP.

Bringing Together Analog and Digital Worlds

Companies need tools to help preserve important ideas, from brainstorms to detailed diagrams - solutions that can slowly start to replace or enhance the traditional tools.

Managing intellectual property remains at the top of the list of corporate risks today.

Insufficient data management happens repeatedly every day, allowing valuable IP to literally disappear from the workplace. According to the University of Wisconsin Office of Human Resources, some of the common barriers to meeting effectiveness include indecision, a lack of follow-through on tasks, and the tendency to rehash decisions already made.

To avoid these issues, it is critical that information be created, captured, stored, and shared in the most efficient collaboration process possible.

Some technologies have started to tackle this communication chasm and are working to bridge the analog and digital data divide. Innovations in whiteboard technology let users turn any flat surface, like a dry erase whiteboard, into an interactive surface.

These tools capture information directly from a workspace and translate the data into digital files. This technology provides a digital record of any meeting, allowing companies to track how ideas are built, as well as providing data to work from for post-meeting follow-through.

Conferencing tools and telepresence systems are also bringing high-definition video into the boardroom, adding human interaction to the voices on our speakerphones.

Technology can be a great catalyst, transforming traditional brainstorms into more effective collaboration and digital data that can be analyzed and leveraged to enhance overall business performance.


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