Digital Transformation and the Role Collaboration Technology Plays #DigitalTransformation Talk 001

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Digital Transformation and the Role Collaboration Technology Plays #DigitalTransformation Talk 001

Imagine working in a team setting which requires constant contact and conversation with your co-workers. Easy enough, right? Now imagine your co-workers don’t work in a cubical close to yours—in fact, they work across the country or even across the world. This digital transformation of business culture, and of the workplace, is becoming more commonplace, and the globalization of the workplace is a trend that will definitely continue moving forward. In this inaugural episode of my new show, #DigitalTransformation Talk, we discuss new and existing collaboration technologies that will streamline communications across different platforms of business. I’m joined by Eric Vidal, one of my business partners, and a frequent collaborator on this series.

Why All the Fuss?

The ability to collaborate efficiently has major benefits for companies. Instead of one platform for video chats, another for IM, and yet another for file sharing, best-in-class unified communications platforms are incorporating every tool necessary in one collaboration program.

Moxtra, Cisco Spark, Slack, Microsoft’s Teams, and even the newly released Google Chime App are prime examples of collaboration technologies that offer multi-purpose functionality and tools embedded within the platform itself. This is a big deal. Time is the most valuable asset to any company, or any individual, and collaboration technologies save an immense amount of it, and of course lead to more productive employees. The common theme of a user-friendly design is one of the biggest assets of these technologies. Why? The learning curve for these programs are slim to none, saving companies time and money.

Senior leaders and managers love collaboration technologies for reasons besides their positive impact on bottom lines, though. Take the incorporation of live video chats, for example. As we discuss in this episode, live video chatting gives participants the ability to attract and retain the undivided attention of their employees.

Note senior leaders and managers aren’t the only people who enjoy these programs. Collaboration technologies also benefit employees. Today’s collaboration platforms allow live video chat in the blink of an eye, with multiple team members in different locations. Screen sharing, whiteboarding, and even recording video meetings for future reference by the team participating and/or by members who weren’t able to attend make for enhanced productivity and infinitely more seamless work processes. My colleague and business partner, Eric Vidal, and I explore this in more detail in this episode of Transformation Talk, with lots of examples of how we’re using collaboration platforms internally—and loving them.

Collaboration technologies are at the forefront of streamlining businesses, and they are only going to get more popular as time goes on. There’s plenty more to talk about when it comes to finding the best way for your team to collaborate—just one of the topics covered in our digital transformation-focused series, #DigitalTransformation Talk.

Watch the full episode below, and don’t forget to subscribe so that you don’t miss an episode. I can promise you the content will be things you want to know about. And if you’ve got a topic you would like for us to cover, and/or would like to be a guest on the show, reach out and let us know!

If you’d rather listen to the podcast, grab that here:


Shelly Kramer:  Welcome to the inaugural episode of Transformation Talk.  In this show we’re going to cover all things related to digital transformation.  And in this kick-off episode, I’m joined by my partner-in-crime Eric Vidal.  We are going to cover the topic of collaboration today.  Eric, welcome.

Eric Vidal:  Thanks Shelly.  I’m excited to jump in on this conversation.  I’ve been involved with collaboration technology since 1999, believe it or not.  I’m really excited to share some insights here.

Shelly Kramer:  Yeah, you’re old.  Did you hear that slight slam? Yeah, you’re old?

Eric Vidal:  Oh, thank you.

Shelly Kramer:  I’m sorry.

Eric Vidal:  Well actually, I was a senior in high school when I was working…. I can’t pull off that one.

Shelly Kramer:  When you first started collaborating?  Oh, let’s not go there.  Okay, well, the thing about collaboration is it’s such a timely topic, because all of the major brands, we are seeing everybody turn a laser focus on collaboration, on developing collaboration platforms.  We are already seeing a lot of investment in that space.  I think we are probably going to see a lot of acquisitions and mergers in that space.  It’s really an interesting time to kind of watch what’s happening.  What do you think Eric?

Eric Vidal:  Well, yeah. And I think even on the other side for the companies that aren’t involved in collaboration technologies, they’re not manufacturers or distributors or resellers, but they are the ones who are buying those technologies.  There’s been a lot of growth from that perspective.  I have a recent stat here that just came out.  72% of CEO’s in outperforming organizations they make collaboration, especially when it comes to customer collaboration, a top priority.  So, I think that need is dramatically going up.  And I think because we are so much more of a mobile world, now the iPhone has been out for 10 years, I think collaboration is just going to continue to rise and the need for it, especially from a mobile app is just going to continue to increase.

Shelly Kramer:  Well, I absolutely agree.  I think what might make sense for us here is to try and tackle some of the reasons that collaboration is such a big deal these days.  One of them you hit on and one of them we experience on a daily basis with our team.  We have a team of about 30 within our family of companies.  We are all virtual.  So being able to collaborate across time zones, across countries, is incredibly important.  And we not only collaborate internally with one another by way of different collaboration platforms and tools, we collaborate with our customers as well.  And we are a small company of 30 so when you multiply that by factors of thousands all of the sudden the need to collaborate and to bring in your remote workforce, your people out in the field, your people who work from home, I think that all of the sudden collaboration really gets to front and center in terms of business necessity.

Eric Vidal:  Yeah, there are so many interesting things going on when it comes to collaboration.  I mean, we can do ten different shows on ten different topics.  One thing that has always interested me is how they are embedding collaboration into different processes.  A lot of times it used to be project management or teams and I know that some of the technology vendors out there are creating their platforms around teams and team collaboration.  But one thing that stood out to me was Moxtra. They are a provider.  One of their differentiators is they are embedding collaboration into a business processes, into an actual platform, like into CRM’s or into market automation platforms. So, if you are in a marketing automation platform you are a marketing person.  That’s what you live in all day.

Shelly Kramer:  Right.

Eric Vidal:  Or you are a Training Manager and you work in the learning management system all day.  Do you want to leave the platform and go leverage another collaboration technology unit and log in and use that technology?  Or do you just want to push a button inside the platform and be able to just instantly IM or send a video or a request to chat in the platform?  Or do it even on mobile?  That’s interesting and I think that is something you are going to see a lot more of over the next 2,3,4 years.

Shelly Kramer:  Yeah, that makes perfect sense.  I haven’t experienced that platform, that application yet.  That sounds really cool.  You know, one of the things that we are experimenting internally with right now is Cisco’s new Spark product.  I just wrote about this earlier this week.  Eric, I know that you know this, but one of the things that is especially cool about it is that again, our team is all remote.  We have team meetings, we have end of week hang-outs, just everybody having a virtual Happy Hour together, but we also do training sessions.  We do social media training sessions.  We do training sessions with our writers on SEO and best practices.  We do training session for new hires that come on board. Typically, what we do for a lot of those training sessions is we record them.  So, what our team has been used to doing with regard to that content is creating it in a different platform.  What we’ve been able to experiment with using the Spark platform is that Spark is a place where you can collaborate, you can share files, you can have video conferences, you can make phone calls.  You can do all of this collaboration inside of the Spark platform.  The other thing that you can do is that you can record a meeting or a training session while it’s happening.  So, it lives there in that platform.  For our team it’s just like you were talking about.  It’s one less instance where we have to go outside of something that we are messaging in, on our devices, on our desktops, on whatever device we happen to be using and it’s one less time we have to go outside of that interface.  We can do it all right there.   And it can serve our needs in terms of a recorded archive of accessible content.  I think that’s a big deal.  I’m definitely interested in checking out the platform that you are talking about as well because I think really tying it all in with your marketing automation stuff because your sales people are in there.  Or your CRM stuff, I mean that’s definitely the future.  What people want is to be able to have to go to fewer environments do to what it is they need to do.

Eric Vidal:  Going back to Cisco Spark, obviously I’m familiar with it because I’ve been using it with you the last few days in team meetings and the funny thing is over the last five or six days, we’ve only had it implemented a few days, and talk about transformation.  It’s changed the way our company is working.  We’ve had other collaboration tools, but it’s so easy, easy, easy.  You come in, you see everything. It’s clear.  It’s simple.  You don’t need the training on it.  It’s intuitive and I love that.  Talk about transformation.

Shelly Kramer:  I agree.

Eric Vidal:  Some of the people on my team are already addicted to it.  And so it’s wonderful.

Shelly Kramer:  I mentioned this in the article I just wrote about it that I will link here in the show notes.  As you know, we have been users of Slack for a long time and we love Slack and have used it a ton.  And so I knew when we said to our team that we are embarking on this journey with this Cisco Spark team and the only way we can see what we think about it is for all of us to dive in and for all of us to use it and to replace what we are doing on Slack with it.  I knew our team was going to throw rocks at me, but the cool thing is that didn’t happen because like you said, when you can build a user experience that is intuitive, that doesn’t require reading training manuals or videos or going through PowerPoint training.  Nobody wants to read the instruction manual.  We want to take it out of the box and we want it to work.  We want to know everything about how to get it to work as fast as we can.  That’s what has really been super conducive to a great onboarding experience for us and our team.  We continue to learn.  When we did our first video call the other day Eric, we were looking at some website architecture and a preliminary mockup of a website that we are building for a client.  There were three of us on a video conference and we were able to pull in the design files and look at the design files and still have our conversation with one another so it was incredibly helpful.  The most interesting thing is that none of us had done this before in the Spark interface and it was super quick and easy to figure out how to do it so that made all of our lives incredibly easy.  We liked that.  What I’d like to talk about a little bit, Eric, is the kind of audience, the kind of people, the appeal that collaboration technology in the workforce has to different people.  Do you want to touch on that a little bit?

Eric Vidal:  I look at it from two different perspectives.  I look at it from the employee perspective but the other one is from the executive perspective.  Let me start with the executives first.  So, I worked for a couple of different video technology type companies, the collaboration companies like the ones we talked about.  One of the things that I noticed or we noticed over the last few years was executives want to be on video, whether it’s canned or live.  The one’s that wanted to do it live, just the increase of satisfaction, engagement, everything went up.  Those executives were looked at as more authentic, more real, someone I can connect with.  And it didn’t have to be 1979 in a can perfect.  It was real. And so those stats have increased over the last few years dramatically.  Executives want to be on video and connect with their teams or their employees on video more, and more often.  That is something I think you will see increase dramatically, even in a team meeting perspective.  I think if you look at it from the other perspective, from employee’s coming in, one of the things I noticed almost two years ago, when I was working for a tech start up in Cooper TNO which is in California, in Silicon Valley.  I walk in and it took me about ten minutes to figure it out, but I walked in and this collaboration that was going on across the office, it was a big office, all open by the way, no traditional offices only some conference rooms.  So there was that traditional collaboration that was attractive, and I heard from one of the executives that a lot of people found that very attractive, especially millennials.  The other thing was some of the technologies they were using, like the ones we talked about a second ago.  All mobile. A lot of video.  Everyone had their earbuds in.  People were meeting in the hallway with someone two continents over.  And there’s a millennial, and I’m just dying laughing because he’s in his meeting in between two desks and he’s doing push-ups during the meeting.  He would take himself off video, then put himself back on video.  I’m talking about multi-tasking.  It’s attractive to a lot of people to be able to have all these different technologies and to be able to connect but the video just adds a more personal touch.  I think that is a positive thing, as opposed to the conference calls we were doing a few years back, and sometimes we still do, right?  I think it’s a better way to connect with your staff, your customers, your partners, what have you.

Shelly Kramer:  Your example about the millennial doing push-ups, by the way, I’m not really interesting in having a meeting, any kind of meeting, with that person.

Eric Vidal:  He was hiding it though.  He was multi-tasking and he came back on video and nobody knew he was doing push-ups twenty seconds earlier.

Shelly Kramer:  Yeah, that’s not the person I really want on my team.  I don’t care, it’s not the person I want on my team.  But what I’m saying is, what I think video collaboration does is forces the immediacy.  If you are having a meeting and there are ten people there and someone is coming in and out of the room turning their video camera on and off and everybody else is staying in the room and being a part of the conversation that is kind of an obvious thing.  I feel like the thing about video collaboration tools, video collaboration specifically, I think that video holds you to a little bit higher of a standard.  You can’t be having a video meeting with somebody and posting Facebook updates at the same thing.  If I started doing this on my other laptop that’s nearby you know that I have taken my attention away from what it is we are talking about.  So there is an accountability factor there if you choose to make that be a part of the equation.  I think it also requires you to think about your presentation style.  It’s easy to slog off an email and to be sloppy and not pay attention to detail but when I’m speaking to you, whether it’s just us one-on-one, well us one-on-one is different than us collaborating with a group, but I have to show how articulate I am, how I articulate my thoughts, how I participate in the group discussion.  Am I a bump on a log or do I participate and share my thoughts?

Eric Vidal:  I agree with you 100% and I love it.  Like I said, we have only been using Spark by Cisco for what, seven days maybe?  And it’s dramatic.  It’s a difference because go back two-three weeks ago, four weeks ago if I’m on a conference call, and I won’t name people on our team, but they are updating Facebook, or they are doing something else.  I always move my laptop down and I turn away and I have a pad or paper.  Right or wrong, but I don’t want to see my emails or IM’s pop up.  I want to stay focused.  Now that I am using Spark I am starting to do more video calls because I can see the people I’m meeting with and I can experience everything you just said.  And you know what?  I know I have their undivided attention, because it’s very important stuff and I only need fifteen minutes of your time.  But I want to make sure you hear me, you understand me, and if you have any questions then we can answer those questions and move on.  I don’t want to know that a day or two later what I said just got washed over and was only part of it was taken in.

Shelly Kramer:  And that’s why I don’t want you doing push-ups while we are having a meeting.

Eric Vidal:  Exactly.  And I don’t want you looking at Facebook either.

Shelly Kramer:  No, but I’m saying, technology is an addiction.  We are all addicted to our channels, our devices, our email.  You and I talk a lot.  Every day, right?  And there’s times when you are making a cup of coffee or driving to Juice Stop and we are distracted.  Sometimes we are distracted by incoming calls, or you just can’t help it and look over at your email or you get a ping because someone’s messaged you.  Like I said, when you are doing this collaboration it’s really obvious when you check out.  I think we are trying to be accountable when we are driving in our cars and not having our mobile devices in our hands.  I think focus is the challenge of our time.  And we suck at it.

Eric Vidal:  Yeah.  It’s interesting.  You brought up a very good point and I’m going to bring it back up.  First, the title of this video podcast show is Transformation Talk.  You said we are going to talk about digital transformation and that journey and those best practices of leveraging technology and the culture.  It is a journey.  It’s a challenge to be able to transform your business or your culture to adopt these new technologies or these new things, these new processes.  What’s interesting is it’s addicting.  Some of these things are addicting.  It’s addictive, right?

Shelly Kramer:  Right.

Eric Vidal:  What we are doing here is addicting.  Mobile is addictive.  It’s not only addictive, it’s easy.  And so that makes the digital transformation a lot easier, a lot more entertaining, enjoyable, and like all the other reasons you just said, more effective.

Shelly Kramer:  Right.  I think it’s really interesting and I think as we said at the beginning of the show and as we get ready to wind things down collaboration and collaboration technology is exploding.  We are going to see more players in this space.  We happened to have just mentioned two.  And by the way, I do not in any way count Slack out of this equation because Slack is an awesome company and an awesome platform.  I know that they are changing and growing and upgrading it all the time.  What was the Microsoft acquisition that was billed as a Slack killer?  What’s that product called, do you remember?

Eric Vidal:  I’m going blank but I remember the announcement not too long ago.  They haven’t killed it yet because I haven’t heard too much about it lately.

Shelly Kramer:  Everything is the killer of that, whatever, whatever.  I think for these platforms it’s a matter of what the functionality is, what the user experience is and what does it integrate with?  Like you said, being able to look ahead to the future and say can we integrate with a CRM?  Can we do this? Can we do that?  I know the thing about the Spark platform that is attractive is the connection to WebEx and so can you do virtual events there.  That sort of thing.  It will be interesting to watch and see what happens there with those two separate platforms.  I think that this is a fascinating time and it will be interesting to see what happens on the collaboration front and we are only going to see improvements and get better as we go along, don’t you think?

Eric Vidal:  I do, and it’s exciting because like I said, I was working with some of these collaboration companies.  The list is long and I won’t go through all of them but one of them was WebEx and Cisco acquired WebEx.  I remember in 2007-2008 we were trying to do some of the stuff that they did with Spark.  It was hard back then because of the different layers of technology that had to sit on top of each other.  Mobile wasn’t really a factor back then.  Things have changed and they’ve done a fantastic job and I know there are others that will be doing a fantastic job or are already doing a fantastic job so it is exciting.

Shelly Kramer:  It is, and these thing drive everything, right?  They make my life easier.

Eric Vidal:  Yes, they do.

Shelly Kramer:  Well, I think we are going to wind down this episode for today.  Thank you, as always, for being my partner in this conversation Eric.  It’s awesome.  And thank you for listening and we will see you next time.

Photo Credit: Sevan Dalkian Flickr via Compfight cc

Shelly Kramer is a Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, she has worked alongside some of the world’s largest brands to embrace disruption and spur innovation, understand and address the realities of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of digital transformation. She brings 20 years' experience as a brand strategist to her work at Futurum, and has deep experience helping global companies with marketing challenges, GTM strategies, messaging development, and driving strategy and digital transformation for B2B brands across multiple verticals. Shelly's coverage areas include Collaboration/CX/SaaS, platforms, ESG, and Cybersecurity, as well as topics and trends related to the Future of Work, the transformation of the workplace and how people and technology are driving that transformation. A transplanted New Yorker, she has learned to love life in the Midwest, and has firsthand experience that some of the most innovative minds and most successful companies in the world also happen to live in “flyover country.”

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