Sunday, September 2, 2007

The new process for collaboration

I have talked about videconferencing, Telepresence, supporting the green movement by meeting online, how important it is to bridge the distance, and how useful Skype can be. One piece I have not talked about is "the process" per se. What makes it so great? What does it feel like?

To answer that, people might just say "well, to see what it feels like, you gotta do it". I not only encourage you to create an account with a videoconferencing provider, but I would like to take some time to analyse the feeling for it.

This actually came to me, from three events in my recent job. First, internal focus groups conducted by Cisco when Telepresence was to be released, proved that participants would focus on the technology for the first couple minutes, but after a while they would immerse themselves in the meeting and forget it was a Telepresence virtual conference room. Second, personal videoconferences with my family oversees have the same effect. For the first couple of minutes (probably longer with a Skype Webcam than with a Telepresence room) you are playing around with the cameras and making fun of how you look. After that, you move along with your conversations as if they were sitting right there, next to you. Third and finally, I read about how the authors of Wikinomics, the book I am currently reading, used to bring up a Skype session while they worked together.

All's been said so far... you can draw your own conclusions on how this thing works. In a nutshel, collaboration has two stages: (1) the Playing-around stage, and (2) the Productive stage.
The Playing-around stage corresponds to that period of time where you are aware of using an outstanding piece of technology. Therefore you look at the options, customize it, see how it works. The shorter this stage is, the most efficient the product is and the greater the productivity you will obtain. The second phase is when you are actually conducting the meeting, and forgetting that you are connected via the Web.

The more conferencing you do, the faster the playing-around stage will be. The closer to real life the product is, the faster the playing around stage will be. Therefore... if you can't afford a Telepresence unit at your workplace, stick to the same technology and as you get familiar with it you will peak productivity.

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