Monthly Archives: January 2012

Explain your job to a 5 year old…

Last week I was asked to fill out a form for my son’s Kindergarten class explaining what I do.

My life is spent explaining what I (and my solutions) do to customers of all ages. Explaining to a kindergartener shouldn’t be too hard right?


It turns out, everything I do and sell is assumed by 5 year olds.

When my son is talking to me on my wife’s iPhone – he is LOOKING at the screen for me. He is assuming he will be able to see me when talking to me, even if he is driving home from school talking on a mobile device.

Our home phone rolls to my wife’s cell phone when nobody picks up – he assumes that communications aren’t tied to places or “lines”.

We regularly reach out to family members over video to play the “pass the pen” game — pretending that the pen I toss behind our computer screen is the same one my brother pulls out from behind his computer screen.

When I’m travelling, my kids assume I won’t miss out on little things like playing hide and seek over video.

What does this tell me?

  1. At a minimum, in about 20 years technology consultants will no longer need to explain “why” video is better. Video will simply be assumed to be the way businesses communicate.
  2. We better work on that pen transport technology or else I’m going to have to eventually break it to my kids that it isn’t really the same pen!

Telepresence is…a sneak peek into my personal demo script

I recently had the opportunity to present a demo to a customer during their national sales convention.
The format was akin to a convention like CES, Cisco Live, etc. where you are given small slices of time with people who come by the booth to check out what you are pitching.

Therefore, the challenge was – given only a couple minutes of interaction, leave the end users (the audience was regional leadership at a national company) with a taste to spark their hunger for some of the solutions we were asked to show. The collective hunger of the regional leadership will then help us build a compelling solution for the organization based on the leaderships direct feedback.

We were focused on three different topics for the discussion:

  • Telepresence
  • Workspace
  • Unified Communications/Collaboration

For this post I’ll review the Telepresence Messaging and demos.

The key message I wanted users to leave with was that “Telepresence is Personal, Mobile, and Integrated“.

Telepresence is Personal
In the past days of video conferencing and immersive Telepresence one would need to go to a public area or room to take advantage of the richer visual experience. This results in scheduling conflicts and a general sense of video being “unreachable” for most employees. It is seen as too expensive, and only to be used for large meetings – which limits the positive impact it can really have on a company culture.

In my opinion video is most effective when used in smaller groups – a large meeting means the camera isn’t really looking at anyone, or it is switching between people all the time which keeps the technology “in the way” during the experience.

Cisco and Tandberg’s immersive systems did a great job of constraining the number of people in the meetings to eliminate this issue – and as a result the technology fades to the background.

However while the immersive systems were great at limiting users, there were horrible at making video available for “average” personal interactions. Those immersive systems came with a sizable price tag, and were expected to be utilized at a high degree, which meant that they were out of the question for your run of the mill conversations with customers, coworkers, and friends around the world.

Enter Telepresence in 2012…
The first choice for personal telepresence is the unit I’m typing this on – an EX90. That was the centerpiece of the products we were showcasing, and without fail the response was extremely positive (although nobody came close to guessing the price…)
The experience on an EX90 is one of having a large monitor that transforms into a HD video endpoint – magically and on the fly – FOR ME. It is used when I want to have interactions with someone across the country, world, or office – I don’t need to head down the hall, find out a room is booked, and reschedule my interaction based on the availability of a scarce resource. I’m able to place a phone call – and have a HD video experience.

Dan Stephens (my new coworker) argues that video is exploding because:

  1. Bandwidth is now more common
  2. Quality matches our expectations
  3. We finally get the need for a visual vs. audio experience.

I would add that another huge reason is that the ease of using technology is finally coming in line with where it should be. The use of touch pads vs. remotes is a MAJOR step forward for UX – which makes it possible for a video endpoint to be my main communication device.

Telepresence is Mobile
As I’ve mentioned above, video conferencing historically stayed in the ivory tower and walls of either an executive suite, or a public conference room – hardly something that you could take with you. In order to use video capability – you had to travel to the technology vs. the technology traveling with you.

Enter Telepresence in 2012…
As I’ve posted previously, I’m using Telepresence on my iPad2. Now that might be breaking some marketing laws since I’m technically using a Polycom client on my iPad2 to tie into Cisco Telepresence, but through the power of open standards, my Telepresence capability is now mobile.
In addition to Telepresence on my iPad2, I’m able to use Telepresence (Cisco blessed this time) on my Cius. The quality is better on the Cius than on the iPad2 (you’re welcome Cisco), however the key point here is that Telepresence goes with me. When our CEO was traveling around to all the INX offices to discuss the pending acquisition in November, I was on the other side of the country and unable to show up in person. So I used my Cius sitting in the hotel lobby to call our Tandberg C40 at the office and participate in the meeting. Telepresence is Mobile.

Telepresence is Integrated
I had a life changing experience with telepresence in late 2010. That is to say, I finally jumped on the telepresence bandwagon. Not that I wasn’t a fan of it before, I just truly didn’t see much of a difference between “Telepresence” and say…Video conferencing. I’m somewhat cynical about marketing efforts, and was feeling like the current “Telepresence” marketing efforts were rather thin. So sue me. Wait. Nevermind.
The life changing experience happened while I was supporting a customer who was deploying 9971’s to international locations – specifically Australia. We had a 9971 at the Santa Monica office I was at, and the technical contact at the other end plugged in theirs. We called it.
The oceans evaporated.
Perhaps not literally, but it was as if the oceans separating us and the employee in Australia were suddenly irrelevant. We were talking to him in person, and we hadn’t gone to great lengths to do so. We simply called him. There is power in placing a call, and seeing someone. Power that gets you hoooked. Power that makes you realize what a waste of time it is just talking on the phone. Power that makes you understand that a key strength of Telepresence is that you don’t need to place video calls – just calls. Let the system that is integrated to the endpoints figure out what to do – and how rich of a call you get. Simply call, and see.
Telepresence is integrated. (Perhaps Unified even?)

So…what do you think?

What else is Telepresence to you?

Collaboration in unexpected places

Collaboration keeps popping up in places I wouldn’t expect.

Church this morning for instance.

Two verses in the bible were referenced –
The first is written by Paul who was one of the leaders in the early Christian church. Paul was writing a letter to a group in the city of Corinth, and this passage comes from an explanation of how the flow of their gatherings should be. 1 Corinthians 14:26 – When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.

Looks to me like collaboration being used in a distributed manner even in a new religion. We usually think of religion as hardened and frankly fear based. Personally I see a correlation in many businesses. They are fearful of allowing employees and customers to participate in a loose but meaningful way because of the sense of a lack of control. Well, collaboration seems to have played a part in the spread of the Christian church… Just drive down any street.

The second reference is from a book written by King Solomon who is widely considered to vie for the title of the wisest person to have ever lived.
He writes in Proverbs 15:22 –
Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed.

This is collaboration in both planning and action. Have you ever been on a project that failed because the right people were not brought into the discussion during planning? I have and it is amazing how dumb I felt to have missed something that would have been obvious had I included all the necessary people.

On the action side – collaboration is critical to ironing out the bumps and surprises that come up. When issues aren’t surfaced and worked on by the team they become too much for one person to handle – and the timeline slips as a result. Have you ever seen a timeline slip because too much of the load was on one person? I have, and again it is frustrating to see a project suffer because of a lack of collaboration.

Bring in the experts – whether it is employees explaining their workflow or consultants explaining the technology.
Keep communication and collaboration open and frequent – ensure timelines and budgets are met.