Of all the ways organizations have of communicating and collaborating both internally and with their business partners, none is more powerful than face-to-face. But we also know it isn’t always possible or practical to in the same space and share a visual frame of reference for our meetings. Video conferencing and the use of UC tools like Skype for Business is therefore the direction many companies take in an effort to promote better collaboration and idea sharing—often with mixed levels of success.
There’s no question that communicating via web link or video conferencing is preferable to using audio alone (especially when it works seamlessly). But what if there was an even better way to communicate and collaborate visually that’s an improvement over any of the previous methods we’ve seen?
That’s the promise of a relatively new technology I was introduced to at this year’s Enterprise Connect event in Orlando. Prysm Visual Workplace is a collaboration tool that allows participants to create, edit, share and store all types of content and applications in a ‘visually-centric’ manner. It uses unique software features that combine any web interface, video conferencing tool, application or program (not to mention Prysm’s large scale touch screen video wall displays) into a shared experience that can be simultaneously worked on by participants at many locations at the same time.
Check out a video of Prysm in action:
After seeing the demonstrations of Prysm and the various ways in which it can be used, I wanted to learn more about this new type of interactive media workspace. That’s why I recently sat down with Dana Corey, Vice President of Global Strategic Partnerships at Prysm. I asked Dana for his perspective on the unique features of their system, and the various uses he sees it being put to. You can listen to our entire podcast interview here.
A Unique, New Visually Collaborative Environment
Dana explained to me that Prysm began in 2010 as a company looking to make better display screens, with improved performance and efficiency when compared to other large format displays. With the development of their unique laser phosphor display (LPD) technology, Prysm was able to make screens that were not only 75% more efficient than technologies of the time, but that also had much improved image quality. Their LPD modules could also be configured and combined to create display sizes up to 100 feet wide and 10 feet high.
The company soon realized however, that new screens alone didn’t necessarily solve the collaboration challenges video conferencing faced, so they acquired a software company with the idea of creating a new type of software and hardware integration.
Differences Between Visual Collaboration and Video Conferencing
In order to make the most out of visual collaboration, businesses need to commit to the idea of making content (video or otherwise) within the workplace being available anytime, anywhere for all stakeholder. It was this philosophy that led to Prysm towards a focus on visual collaboration rather than just video conferencing. I asked Dana for his thoughts on the differences between the two.
Dana explained that video conferencing accomplishes one thing very well; it allows people to see each other and shared images on a screen. However, this is still a single-stream or analog way of visualizing information. What was needed was more content, more context, more interaction, and more engagement—of which video is just one component. It is this collaboration that is lacking in simple video conferencing.
“When we talk about the Prysm Visual Workplace, we’re really talking about bringing in the video conferencing component - and also all of the other elements around the company ecosystem, such as browser-based portals, data analytics systems, and content from any source - into one shared environment. By bringing all of this into one space and making it available for all participants to interact with, visual collaboration allows for a new level of sharing and engagement,” explained Dana
The Importance of Content in Visual Collaboration
When we think about the level of engagement, idea-sharing and participation among collaborators, the best case scenario is being in the same environment / location with your peers. As Dana put it, “It’s great to be face-to-face. But an important question to ask is ‘Why does my experience as a user and as a collaborator need to decrease the further I get from the building?’”
What the folks at Prysm found was that sharing of content and the ability to participate in the manipulation of data and information played a big role in increasing engagement. It allows anyone who is working as a part of a project to share equally in the discussion—as Dana put it, breaking down the barriers between in-room and remote collaborators.
“Folks can circle or highlight something, bring up a file, edit a document and participate in the meeting as if they were in the same room.”
The Importance of Getting Remote Workers Engaged
Prysm has also considered the existing tools and investments in technology that companies have already made, in developing their Visual Workplace software. Video conferencing technologies such as Skype for Business or Cisco video products have been incorporated into the Prysm environment. For example, a call that is initiated with the Prysm software can be made to broadcast or share the content or video feeds from S4B, but in this case it shares the information dynamically across a broadcast channel.
So, a remote user can join a discussion using the Prysm software via a web browser or a mobile app and can share information by creating a broadcast window, hitting an “on-air” button, and begin to drag content into the conversation. Remote and mobile workers are provided with the same capability to interact with the content, add content, annotate content as their colleagues working in the office in front of the conference room display. Add in some solid audio conferencing and speakerphones and the collaborative environment is almost like you are there.
Collaboration and the Persistence of Meeting Details
Another area we discussed was the concept of meeting persistence. Usually in a meeting, especially a collaborative, multi-location meeting, the output from the meeting comes from a person taking notes and trying to wrap up the action items (or it just quietly disappears). With Prysm’s system, details (and the canvas) from each meeting are captured in real time and the entire meeting is available and persistent in the cloud for future review and analysis. There is a lot of value in this in terms of process improvement, best practice creation or simply going back and looking at how a particular direction was decided upon.
Prysm addresses this need for retention by creating snapshot views, notes and changes, by also by capturing the meeting data as it is created. In addition, there is the ability to snapshot or capture specific changes, while the meeting itself is being persistently captured in real-time within the cloud.
“We tried to make it simple. We tell companies, here’s your canvas; bring the content as you like and fit it to the display, and in fact when you’re done we’ll make sure it persists within the cloud and is available anytime, anywhere.”
As we’ve talked about plenty of times in the past, the trends towards remote working, open office environments and web and video collaboration are not slowing down or reversing. Solutions like Prysm’s Visual Workplace are providing a new level of capability to enhance collaboration for the way we work today.