Beth Schultz
Beth Schultz is editor of No Jitter and program co-chair for Enterprise Connect. Beth has more than two decades of...
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Beth Schultz | September 15, 2016 |


Get Visual, Get Immersive, Get Collaborative

Get Visual, Get Immersive, Get Collaborative Immersive collaboration spaces don't just facilitate engagement, they deepen it -- and lead to deeper insights, too.

Immersive collaboration spaces don't just facilitate engagement, they deepen it -- and lead to deeper insights, too.

Team meetings can be as much of a bane as they can be the lifeblood of a company's decision-making processes -- and technology can make all the difference. Nemertes Research analyst and regular No Jitter blogger Irwin Lazar reminded us of this in last week's No Jitter post, "The White Board: Last Relic of Bad Meetings."

As he wrote, even a state-of-the-art conferencing room that fails to support full interactivity among all participants -- in-room or otherwise -- can lead to disengagement. Given the speed at which today's businesses need to operate, most companies should have little to no tolerance for perpetually mediocre meeting experiences -- there's a technology for that!

Actually, there are many technologies aimed at ending the bad meetings problem, the latest in the form of what Nemertes has labeled "immersive group collaboration" products and services. You may know of this product category as visual collaboration, or infopresence. Regardless of name, however, Nemertes' characterization of these products applies: These solutions typically integrate with existing meeting applications to enable one-click launch; display and manipulation of content, including documents and presentations; sharing of Web objects or rich-media content like streaming video; and storage of created content in the collaborative workspaces, as Lazar shared.

Slinging Pixels
Flat words on a page can't really do this technology and its game-changing capabilities justice. This I know from participating in an infopresence meeting with the folks at Oblong Industries, which offers the Mezzanine immersive collaboration platform. Oblong likes to say its technology slings pixels (perhaps you saw a demo at Oblong's Enterprise Connect booth back in March?), which is a way to describe the Wii-like snatch-and-move capability it has built for moving content around the screens (including white boards) that might comprise a physical Mezzanine room.

By immersive collaboration standards, I suspect that room used for the demo at the Oblong offices here in Chicago was rather on the small side. It certainly was miniscule compared to the Mezzanine wall we saw at a visit to Mercy Virtual, a telehealth organization that uses a massive array of screens plus floor-to-ceiling sliding white boards to allow simultaneous display of images, video conferencing, screen sharing, and notes projected from those oversized white boards. It's an impressive collaborative space, to say the least and, as Maryann Copenhaver, executive director, Business Partnerships, at Mercy Technology Services, told us on our visit, quite a "nice way to really have people engaged" (see the article, "Mercy Virtual: No Beds, Lots of Video").

Beyond Beyond
But immersive collaboration spaces don't just facilitate engagement, they deepen engagement. And that can be transformative, as I learned in speaking with Robert Ramirez, EVP of strategic development for Schlesinger Associates, a global market research company that currently has immersive collaboration spaces at three of its 26 locations with plans to add more. Schlesinger uses the Prysm Visual Workplace solution from Prysm, and at five feet by 15 feet, the largest Prysm wall is at the company's New York office, he said.

The ability to deliver a larger-than-life experience for focus group participants has "really transformed what we do with market research, ... providing a different way to display research stimuli ... and creating the ability for clients to develop more unique methodologies for what they're able to do with the display stimuli," he said. "And the feedback we get is that respondents are providing much richer, deeper insights because of the engagement with the Prysm wall."

A Prysm wall

Another use case -- more purely in the line of a business meeting -- has Schlesinger clients using the Prysm wall for internal immersive collaboration meetings, Ramirez said. Some of these meetings last a full day, for example, a monthly status session on all of their market research projects -- and are a far cry from the old, "which PowerPoint is next" meeting style.

Schlesinger would actually love to see more of the research groups it works with build their own Prysm walls. Global pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly has its own wall, for example, so Schlesinger can host some company researchers at its facilities and stream the meeting content to the collaborative workplace Lilly has set up at its headquarters in Indianapolis, he described. "They're not only just not incurring the travel costs, but utilizing the ability to have wall-to-wall, interconnected interactions."

No doubt, immersive collaboration has been a differentiator for Schlesinger. "It's a competitive advantage for us, and we now have a much, much better product offering." If anything, Schlesinger may have too much interest -- it gets constant push from clients to add Prysm walls to its remaining 23 offices, Ramirez said. "They love the technology that much."

Of course, as Lazar pointed out in his No Jitter post, immersive group collaboration of this caliber doesn't come cheap. But, investing in staying ahead of competitors often doesn't.

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