by Tom M. Garrison

The missing link in IT collaboration

Nov 08, 2017
Collaboration SoftwareIT LeadershipSmall and Medium Business

IT managers must drive digital transformation with seamless, secure and easy ways to share content. It all starts in the meeting room.

mobile collaboration strategy
Credit: Thinkstock

Many of the investments companies make today are aimed at building a digital enterprise. Employees and customers work and interact in an on-demand world where speed is the most essential ingredient. And enterprises depend upon technologies that enable a productive, agile workforce.

The digital transformation most organizations want requires effective collaboration amongst everyone in the enterprise; it is the underpinning of the office of the future — as well as the factory, store and warehouse of tomorrow.

While an enterprise may have invested hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars in collaboration tools, the meeting room is the one place where digital transformation is too often left behind.

That’s a challenge for most companies. According to research from the Harvard Business Review, most employees feel that nearly one-third of their meetings either are a waste of time or poorly run.

Collaboration technology tools such as Microsoft* OneDrive for Business, Google Drive or Dropbox Business extend the workspace where employees share content. Content sharing is a start, but transforming collaboration spaces will require making the spaces smarter.

Transforming the conference room for the digital age

True digital transformation means that the meeting experience and collaboration tools should be both easy to use and secure. Conference rooms and collaborative workspaces — the places that are central to how and where people meet — should not be rooted in the pre-digital age.

A scenario might go like this: two development teams — one in New York, the other in Bangalore — have just a 30-minute window to discuss strategies and sketch out a new product design through discussion and jointly sharing PC screens. The product lead calls the meeting, but participants in both the U.S. and India offices spend much of that half hour finding the right dongles, cables and meeting passcodes. Both sides want to share content and users to share presenting duties—or even share simultaneously. Being able to quickly bounce between presenters is paramount in a brainstorming or collaborative meeting. Instead of sharing content, as planned, the wasted time becomes a barrier to sharing ideas — and an impediment to creativity, speed and productivity.

The meeting room experience should exist in an environment where it’s easy to share content. Interaction should occur in a setting where the ideas and the intellectual property that are shared are safe and secure from competitors.

Remote and mobile users need fast, instant access to every meeting. And employees want to join conferences using a vast range of devices and platforms. Because new hardware and secure endpoints form the heart of digital transformation, IT teams play a vital role in providing the kind of easy-to-manage, business-friendly experiences that users love — even in the conference room.

An InfoComm survey estimated that employees participate in more than 60 meetings each month. But if the first minutes of those meetings are spent tracking down participants, downloading client apps or finding the right hardware in the form of adapters, dongles or other connections, there is considerable productivity lost during a year.

It doesn’t stop there. There are always employees or visitors who use a variety of devices, including different mobile phone platforms, iPad or Android tablets, PCs or Macs. Employees want to share content using collaboration tools from all manner of physical and virtual conference rooms scattered throughout a building, around the globe or from home or mobile offices. Simple-to-use, safe technology should bring these meeting participants together.

Driving productivity by better serving employees

Today’s workers want to work fast and efficiently. They want to get on with their projects, not waste time initiating meetings. Likewise, customers, consumers, suppliers and partners expect to interact with digital companies seamlessly, safely and securely.

The time saved avoiding slow meeting starts could fuel more innovation and creativity if only remote and in-office workers weren’t always tracking down IT support to troubleshoot voice, video, screen sharing or Web conferencing connections. People should face the business challenge at hand, and not let collaboration tools get in the way.

Simplified business collaboration is the mission of the Intel Unite® solution, an easy way for users to share content from anywhere. It’s a fast, reliable platform that IT can use to integrate existing apps such as Microsoft* Skype for Business or Zoom Video Communications’ Zoom. The Intel Unite solution streamlines how office and remote employees meet, collaborate and integrate with one another.

It brings new life to the typically underutilized, often stale physical space, the conference room. Technology-fueled discussions should inspire by enabling employees, customers and partners to share content of all stripes and origins and sizes. The Intel Unite solution allows organizations to integrate PCs and any mobile device with existing network, wireless and computing investments for scheduled and ad hoc meetings. No one needs to worry about a dongle or a cable.

Leveraging existing investments

Moreover, collaboration isn’t just a matter of adding the latest communications software or hardware to a company’s portfolio. It should be about extending the investments already made.

The Intel Unite solution begins with a collaboration-room hub that integrates software and hardware on a mini PC, allowing IT to use almost any device, such as an all-in-one PC, a compute stick and any Open Pluggable Specification (OPS) device. That provides an easy-to-set-up collaboration experience. The hub, powered by the latest Generation Intel® Core™ vPro™ processors, can be placed behind a monitor or under a conference table.

That single hub provides seamless screen-sharing capabilities for up to 100 devices — across PCs, Macs, tablets or phones. For the meeting attendee, connections are instantaneous. For the IT support team, the process is smooth, secure and scalable.

“We see tremendous opportunity with the Intel Unite solution,” says Adolfo San Martin, Corporate End User Services Manager from Acciona, a Madrid-based company that develops and markets renewable energy, including hydro, biomass, biofuel, solar and thermal. “The solution makes our meeting rooms smarter through a fast, easy wireless connection, so employees start meetings instantly — removing the burden of connecting to dongles and wires, which often results in a significant meeting delay.”

“Using Intel Unite software on Intel’s Core vPro platform not only increases employee productivity, but delivers security and manageability features to drive peace of mind for my IT team deploying the solution,” San Martin added. “We’re finding that Intel Unite is easy to use, manage and has saved us significant time.”

True collaboration means that employees are instantly gratified when they set up meetings—speed matters. The old system of creating passcodes and finding the right physical connectors feels cumbersome and antiquated for the collaborative, highly efficient enterprise.

Both business and IT leaders want to easily manage the assigning of conference attendance permissions. Meeting rooms become even more intelligent, with dynamic lighting and usage analytics that help measure productivity. That provides the IT organization with a set of metrics that determines the effectiveness of the conference room environment. One such metric, a telemetry plug-in, provides information about the number of connections and the length of each connection.

The result is that IT can make much more informed decisions about space utilization. They can determine whether to allocate more meeting space because of high demand or if the number of available meeting spaces should be reduced because of low utilization.

The faster a meeting starts and the smarter the meeting room, the easier collaboration becomes.

Collaboration in a security-conscious world

For the end user, the win is easy collaboration. For the IT team, it’s fulfilling the three key requirements for effective collaboration systems: easy setup, remote management and security.

In “The Global State of Information Security® Survey 2017,” conducted by PwC, CSO and CIO, the “adoption of new safeguards for digital business models” ranked among the top four priorities for security-concerned IT survey-takers.

According to the survey, more than half the respondents said there needed to be a link between their companies’ IT security spending and collaboration among business, digital and IT.  Moreover, the survey found, companies tend not to share information because of incompatible information-sharing platforms and technologies and because of a lack of an information-sharing framework or standards.

One of the report’s authors, David Burg, PwC’s US and global co-leader in cybersecurity, directly links security and the growth of the digital enterprise when he notes that “we’re seeing more and more that cybersecurity can actually become a remarkable way to help a company innovate and move faster.”

Security is critical and is built right into the Intel® Core™ vPro™ platform that powers Intel Unite® client. Hardware-enhanced security is automatically baked into the Intel Unite® solution. All content is secured and encrypted between the conference room Unite PC and the client device for maximum security.

Technology executives know that IT must become a revenue generator. It’s not enough to think about cost cutting. Businesses must use technology to transform themselves. And the only way to become a digital enterprise is to make collaboration within and around the enterprise as seamless as possible.

True collaboration should be as easy as opening a door to a room full of employees, all of whom are eager to share thoughts and ideas. If a business can set up meetings in seconds rather than minutes and if it can work with most devices that have an IP address, then that business has taken a giant leap towards becoming truly digital. Now that’s real digital transformation.