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Toy Manufacturer Puts 'Spin' on Out-of-the-Box Collaboration

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People collaborating in a meeting room
Image: Day Of Victory Stu. - stock.adobe.com
When an enterprise is looking to grow, investing in communications and collaboration tools to empower employees is just as important as bulking up the workforce itself. With this in mind, toymaker Spin Master turned to video collaboration partners Neat and Zoom, as Tyler Pollard, global manager of audio video for Spin Master, explained during a No Jitter interview.
 
With that goal of finding the right technology to support Spin Master’s growth, Pollard set out on a number of IT projects for 2019 and 2020, one of which was to find a better in-room video system. But by the time Pollard was able to tackle the project of refreshing Spin Master's in-room systems, the pandemic hit, and many vendors were experiencing COVID-related delays in shipping. This prompted Pollard to rethink his strategy.
 
Remembering the introduction of the Neat bars at Zoomtopia 2019, Pollard placed an order and the next day received several devices to test out. “It was like Amazon-style ordering of VC products, which in our industry doesn't really happen.”
 
Designed for small/medium-sized spaces in mind, the Neat Bar is a plug-and-play video bar device, which can be remotely managed via Zoom. The device’s ease of setup and use solidified his decision on Neat, Pollard said. Since Spin Master didn’t have an IT professional at each of its sites, Pollard hired someone to be his “smart hands on site,” who then went around and outfitted the company’s small- and medium-sized meeting rooms with Neat bars. Spin Master started out with just a couple of rooms, but then some general managers came back into the office last summer and started asking for the devices by name, he added.
 
While small- and medium-sized meeting rooms are good to go, Pollard said he’s still strategizing how best to equip the larger meeting spaces, which are more complicated for several reasons. For one, the legacy AV systems are built with traditional codecs, and moving to a soft codec platform has been challenging, he said. Spin Master’s large rooms typically include two or three monitors and two or three separate cameras, all controlled by a custom Crestron system. And in-room meeting hosts are limited in how they can control the meetings via Zoom, which Spin Master migrated to just ahead of the pandemic, Pollard said. However, Pollard noted he is exploring ways to use the Zoom API to provide a deeper Zoom integration with room systems.
 
Spin Master became a “full-on Zoom customer” on Feb. 1, 2020, roughly a month before the enterprise started sending employees home to work, Pollard noted. Training employees on Zoom didn't prove to be a major obstacle; as Pollard commented, “you can't get any easier than” the Zoom desktop app. And the ease of use was also beneficial when it came time to onboarding new employees, he added. “We've hired hundreds of people in the last year, and they haven't had any formal Zoom training … and we’ve had no issues.”
 
However, as more people trickle into the office — approximately 10% of Spin Master’s employees are working in the office now — some users might require training on Neat, Pollard said.
 
Moving forward, Pollard is working on finding the right technologies “to effectively bridge the hybrid gap,” bringing in things like digital whiteboards for collaboration. But he also acknowledged that the lessons learned through COVID will be instrumental for the future. "We collaborate digitally better now than we ever did … [and] I think that is going to be forever.”

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