Business Tech

Video conferencing tools are changing business

Photograph of a person seated at a table in a large conference room taking part in a video conference with participants displayed on large wall-mounted monitors

If you’ve worked for a typical corporate enterprise at any time in the last ten years you’ve probably experienced group collaboration for some project.

  • It may have started with a discussion
  • Those thoughts may have been transcribed into bullets for an agenda or action items
  • Those bullets may have been developed into a PowerPoint presentation – and reviewed and edited by many in the group
  • That PowerPoint may have been presented to a larger group or company leadership
  • Then finally those ideas may have been converted to a project that was planned, implemented and tracked

Personally, I’ve been through that kind of process more times than I can remember.  Recently however, the process has changed in some significant ways.

  • Instead of that discussion happening in an office conference room, my colleagues and I now use team chat, video conferencing and online meetings to prepare.
  • Instead of passing the bullets around in an email attachment to receive edits and revisions, we now collaborate on a platform that allows simultaneous, real-time changes to the list.
  • Instead of sharing the PowerPoint file, we can now edit the one file simultaneously in the cloud.
  • Instead of needing everyone in the same room for the presentation, we can now share the content over a video conference, with participants in many cities and/or countries.
  • Instead of porting the information out of the meeting to a new project application we can now use the same online platform to track the action items and the life of the project.

While these may seem like only incremental technical changes to our tools, they actually represent much more than that.  These changes represent a bridge to the world.

When the people I’m collaborating with or presenting to don’t need to be in the same building as I am – or even in an office – what has changed is the nature of business.  Our virtual meetings mean the office can be wherever we are – at home, in transit, at an airport, wherever.  That can also have a profound effect on our personal lives.

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I currently live in the northeast US – a suburb near New York. Why did I choose to live there? Yes, the schools, the community, the stores, etc. are all OK – but those were really secondary requirements. The primary reason for my family and relatives to live in that area is because it is close to a large city economy – where we can find work and support ourselves. The area’s many thriving industries have kept me employed for nearly 40 years. Today, however, with online meetings, I can do my job from anywhere.  Charlotte, Irvine, Raleigh, Chicago, Denver, Oshkosh, a home, a hotel near a client – it doesn’t matter. Where ever I have connectivity and can collaborate virtually I can be productive.

What does that mean to an employer? A bridge to the world.

  • Firms can now hire the best and brightest people from anywhere – any city, any region. It means more access to expertise and a more diversified workforce.
  • Firms gain the ability to assign the best person to each job regardless of geography. Supervisors and employees no longer need to be in the same office, city or even country. Subject matter experts can provide input from wherever they happen to be. All of this is made possible because you can electronically connect individuals for rich, spontaneous communication that takes place as easily as it would if they were in the same office.
  • Required business trips no longer mean a complete loss of other productivity. We don’t have to ‘catch-up’ as much when we get back to the office – we catch-up from wherever we are.

What does that mean to an employee? Also, a bridge to the world.

  • Information workers can now live wherever the quality of life is the best for them. Climate, comfort, community, family, etc. can now shift to being the primary criteria for choosing a place to live.
  • Work-life balance is now much easier to achieve. Workers no longer have to sacrifice many hours a day commuting to an office and wasting resources in the process. Their office is wherever they are. That time now becomes available for family or additional productivity.

These and other conclusions were validated in a recent Stanford University study. They found – amongst other conclusions – that productivity of a remote workforce went up 20-30%, attrition went down 50%, and employers saved money in the process. Other studies have also shown that remote workers have reduced stress, greater productivity, a better attitude and realize savings on expenses at the same time. Whenever the stress, time, and cost of unnecessary commuting are eliminated, both the employer and the employee benefit.

The key takeaway here is the realization that online tools – video conferencing, web conferencing, enterprise social and team platforms – bring with them a powerful sense of community. Being able to work with peers regardless of their location increases the quality and cohesiveness of an organization’s culture. They form a bridge to the world – reducing costs, improving the quality of life and increasing productivity – and that world gets a little smaller in the process.

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