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Opinion: Is collaboration coming of age? – Damien Weissenburger, Sony

Damien Weissenburger, business head of presentation and communication at Sony Europe, discusses the ever-increasing importance of collaboration technology – and the opportunities it provides. 

At ISE 2015 keynote speaker and futurologist Lars Thomsen spoke about putting an end to stupidity and dumbness. He wasn’t referring to the delegates or people in general, but technology. With the growth and development of robotics in particular, he was predicting the end of dumb, one-dimensional devices. But I think there is an even greater stupidity killer: human collaboration.

It was no surprise that collaboration was a buzzword at ISE this year. Systems integration by its very nature demands collaboration between businesses. The emergence of high-resolution technologies such as 4K and the development of accurate, interactive collaborative tools have put collaboration at the forefront of business thinking.

Collaboration is not a new concept. But in modern business the idea has been hamstrung by technology limitations, at least until the mid-2000s with the arrival of Web 2.0. Don Tapscott’s Wikinomics in 2006 talked about the age of collaboration being upon us and the need for business to embrace it. In 2013, meanwhile, a McKinsey report suggested “the success of large organizations often depends on the ability of its employees to work collaboratively across time and distance.”

Clearly the correlation between collaboration and success is well documented, but what about in practice? Has it finally come of age? Do we have the technology to cope with the variable demands of collaboration across a range of industries and, more importantly, do businesses and public organisations get it?

According to analyst Frost and Sullivan, at least one-third of all employees in business in Europe are considered ‘virtual employees’, working from home, on the road or from satellite offices. This inevitably creates challenges that make effective collaboration essential for business success. But how do you do it?

Creating solutions
The solution is to focus on what stimulates and drives collaboration. This is why at Sony we deliver a range of technologies to solve specific problems that we know exist; one of the most common problems being image clarity.

4K image quality will be critical to business collaboration in the future. If the image quality is poor and employees are unable to see colleagues properly or view the content they are trying to share, it will negatively impact the collaborative experience and could cause project delays and lost profits.

Through our 4K professional displays and our visual communications solutions, we have learned the importance of being a seamless partner in enabling collaboration. If the technology doesn’t meet the demands or image-quality is poor, organisations will be reluctant to use technology to communicate, undermining any attempts at truly collaborating across boundaries.

Stimulating conversation
Collaborative technology also has to stimulate. While 4K image quality will help in this respect it is the ability to perform collaborative tasks easily and efficiently that will help drive sustained interest. For example, Sony’s Vision Presenter software enables users to bring together all of your content – videos, images and PowerPoint slides – to one screen creating dynamic presentations that are controlled with the swipe of a finger. The result is a stimulating presentation that can be shared with colleagues, and perhaps puts an end to traditional, one-dimensional presentations.

Interestingly, this idea of stimulating collaboration through stunning visual technology was a key reason behind Sony equipping Deloitte’s new office building, The Edge, in the Netherlands. Deloitte has built the most innovative and sustainable office in the world, with future-proofed collaboration at its core, using Sony’s energy-efficient visual and interactive presentation technology.

This is surely the model to follow, but it’s not just large corporations that are pursuing collaborative excellence. Any organisation large or small should be looking at the way in which its staff and students communicate. They should be looking at where the technology is creating bottlenecks or hindering collaboration, or just generally being uninspiring.

Collaboration is after all fundamental to how we work and why we use the internet. If web pioneer Tim Berners-Lee says it, it must be true. In a guest blog on the European Commission’s website in February, Berners-Lee wrote: “When I designed the web, I deliberately built it as a neutral, creative and collaborative space.”

Who are we to argue? Our role is to provide the tools to make that online collaborative experience as real as possible, where the technology is not seen or heard but just works and gets the job done in the most compelling way possible. Only then can businesses decide on how they want to manage their collaborative projects, and ultimately this will come down to culture.

report from collaboration experts PGi recently revealed that setting this culture is challenging, with task management issues, email threads and meeting schedules undermining collaborative efforts. Add issues with BYOD and security and you realise that there is still plenty to iron out within organisations. But laying the foundations, the framework in which this can happen, is imperative and this is where we see Sony.

By continuing to innovate and advance AV and collaborative technology we can help businesses and institutions remove hurdles. For organisations to flourish these hurdles need to be removed as soon as possible. As Tapscott wrote in Wikinomics: “We must collaborate or perish – across borders, cultures, disciplines, and firms, and increasingly with masses of people at one time.” This is still relevant today, but only recently have we reached a point where we can really make it possible. That is why collaboration is finally coming of age.