Collaboration use cases

The benefits and ramifications of collaboration, using unified communications systems such as Microsoft Office 365 and Lync, Cisco and Google, are complex.  Collaboration may also have a considerable impact upon the design of the workplace.

How collaboration works is best explained through a series of use cases describing possible scenarios.

An international marketing team working together to introduce a new product is now discussing the legal aspects of the packaging. The team has members in Shanghai, Sao Paulo, New York City and Manchester.
The team has a good collaborative working environment at their individual workplaces, but the time differences mean that for any given conversation, someone is working at an awkward hour and is therefore at home or in a hotel, so having the same tools on the move is essential.

The team shares documents, designs and exchanges ideas in virtual meetings. They have an online whiteboard to record ideas as they go. The proposed packaging is in front of the video camera, so ideas can be marked onto it and seen by everyone.

It’s not quite the same as being in the room together, but it is very close. They can look at documents and pictures together and edit them simultaneously.

When the team needs legal opinion about product safety legislation in Austria, they have to find the right person as quickly as possible. They search their organisation’s knowledge base and identify three people who can appear to be able to help. Of the three, presence tells them that one is available right now. The call is made: everyone can see and hear each other, the product and its packaging. They get the specialist information they need fast and they move on.

This is achieved at a fraction of the cost both to the company, for their time and travel, and for the individuals, as they are less exhausted. At the same time, the new product is brought to market faster than it would if everyone had to meet to discuss it and probably almost as fast as a co-located team with “all possible experts” nearby.

A factory manager in Birmingham manages as five packaging lines using sophisticated Italian machines.
These highly automated production lines bottle, label, fill, inset pump lid and box the bottles. When a line goes wrong, an engineer from Italy has to come to investigate and arrange a solution. In the past, because the turnaround for this kind of operational failure is several days, the manager had to maintain sufficient stock to withstand this outage.

Now the manager has an iPad, which he can take to the factory floor and use to show the Italian engineers by video exactly what is happening. As well as video and voice, the manager also has instant access to the diagrams of the machinery, wiring, floor layouts and everything that the engineer in Italy needs to work out what is wrong and how to fix it.

This reduces the time for outages considerably and therefore the manager has to maintain less stock and/or has fewer production line machines. There is no site visit cost and the manager spends less time chasing people to fix production lines.

Trouble shooting engineers working on oil rigs
Oil rigs are difficult places and getting people there by helicopter across the North Sea is always dangerous, even more so if the weather is poor.

Using an iPad video call to illustrate the problem, access centrally held documentation, and discuss the issue, enables many problems to be sorted out quickly without the engineer having to visit the rig. This reduces cost and risk to personnel.

Pharmaceutical sales representatives are tightly regulated and there are considerable legal constraints upon what they may say to doctors. They must not represent themselves as being medically qualified.
When they meet doctors, which might be by video, if the question asked by the doctor is outside the range of responses they can give, they would previously have had to take the question away and ask a medically trained person to go back to the doctor with the response, slowing down the sales process.

Now they can immediately call a colleague with the right qualifications to talk to the doctor. Effectively, the specialist expertise is there by their side, but only when required and at a massively reduced cost. Furthermore, the ipad can conveniently record the conversation too.

Recruitment managers
The interviewing and evaluation process takes place by video and online testing particularly for the initial rounds of the selection process. This substantially reduces the travel costs for the company. It also reduces the burden upon the interviewee to attend interviews whilst working for another organisation.

In addition to the obvious possibilities for training people by video or using online training, we have seen some interesting uses of presence to help employees complete distance learning. If an employee is studying using a modular training programme, the presence system can be used in conjunction with their diary to detect if they are at their desk for an hour with no appointments. An alert then goes to the user reminding them to complete the module at a time when there is a higher than usual chance that they can do it right then.