By David Danto
Director of Emerging Technology, IMCCA
A funny thing happened to me last year. I woke up early at a hotel in the middle of a business trip because I had to give a presentation to a client. I ate some breakfast in my room, showered and dressed and then gave that presentation flawlessly. The client was impressed both with the subject matter on the slides and my skill in presenting it. It was a complete success. The funny thing was I was still in my hotel room — which happened to be in Irvine, California – and the client happened to be in Connecticut… and Toronto. The even funnier thing was I still wearing the lounge pants I slept in.
Now you can take away from that story the funny image of me in my pajamas — like the now classic videoconference tale of only partially dressed participants — but in doing that you would miss the more subtle yet completely transformational point. I didn’t need to be anywhere in particular. I successfully performed my job from whatever location I happened to be in. When the meeting ended I remembered sitting back for a moment as that thought slowly flooded over me like a tiny breaker turning into a tidal wave. Wow.
I’ve lived around the New York City area my entire life. The primary reason for that is that’s where the work is. Many, many others also live within a one hour commute to Manhattan or another urban city for just that reason. One can usually get a decent job in the area, and if it doesn’t work out, can also find another one relatively easily.
So here I was — sitting in my jammies in Irvine, realizing that it could have been Boulder or Kansas City or San Diego or Portland or Austin or Honolulu for that matter. It no longer mattered where I was — work is what I do, not where I go. I could use “pervasive video” and collaboration tools to do most of my work from wherever I chose to be. For the times I needed to be in a specific place for a site inspection, meeting or conference I could travel to it from anywhere. (Oh, that glorious thought of someday no longer being a Newark Airport Hub captive flyer still makes me smile…)
I did realize that this doesn’t apply to a waitress or a ditch-digger — they and other service individuals need to be where the services are performed — touching the shovel or the coffee pot. But there are still a whole lot of us that don’t spend any time touching anything other than a computer keyboard and a telephone. Won’t it be an amazing world when all of those people can make their decisions on where to live based on other, more important criteria? Things like where the schools are more appropriate, or where the quality of life is as calm or bustling as they desire, or where real estate costs are more manageable, or living near their family — those are the criteria that initially come to mind, but I’m sure there are others. It’s easy to see why this would be transformational to any employee.
It would also be transformational to the employers of the world. Think about how HR and recruiting would change — being able to hire the best and brightest regardless of how close they live to an office. And once they’re hired, being able to assign the best person to any task — promoting all those appropriate. This effects multiple levels of the workforce, not just those at the top. For example, call centers can now be virtual — without the need for a firm to buy heating or cooling or electricity or even a building for them.
The most interesting part of all of this is that it’s not some future vision, it is now. I work with organizations every day to show them how to achieve this. Unified Communications, with the rich, face to face collaboration it facilitates is the key. No one “plan” or “product” gets you there — UC is an outcome, not a technology you can buy from anyone. Every organization needs to determine the correct blend of technologies, consumption models, user segments, strategies, operational plans and adoption plans to achieve its unique business goals within its unique priorities and culture. You don’t want to be (or be working for) the next Yahoo or Best Buy who does it wrong and then needs to pull back in a blaze of negative press. (Usually hiring a really good consultant to help figure it out is a great start.)
The important take-away here is that my PowerPoint in pajamas was actually a virtual Pandora’s Box. People and organizations who experience this “Smarter Working” done right are never going back. Organizations that don’t embrace it will be left behind, losing the next generation entering the workforce to their more progressive and transformed competitors.
So you have to ask yourself — where do you really want to live in the next few years? How do you want your organization to stack-up against your competition?
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions. David has over three decades of experience providing problem solving leadership and innovation in media and unified communications technologies for various firms in the corporate, broadcasting and academic worlds including AT&T, Bloomberg LP, FNN, Morgan Stanley, NYU, Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan Chase. He now works with Dimension Data as their Principal Consultant for the collaboration, multimedia, video and AV disciplines. He is also the IMCCA’s Director of Emerging Technology. David can be reached at David.Danto@Dimensiondata.com or DDanto@imcca.org and his full bio and other blogs and articles can be seen at Danto.info. Please reach-out to David if you would like to discuss how he can help your organization solve problems, develop a future-proof collaboration strategy for internal use, or if you would like his help developing solid, user-focused go-to-market strategies for your collaboration product or service.
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