Collaboration Solutions: Customers, Creativity, and Connections.

Jack Stephenson, Chief Software Innovation Officer As 2016 draws to a close, CIOs are finding greater opportunity to lead the transformative changes that are sweeping the digital economy. The CIO has always had a complex role and this trend is not reversing. Multiple priorities compete for time and attention, from advancing enterprise infrastructure securely to driving significant business innovation that has a direct impact on the bottom line.

The rate of innovation required in the enterprise today is now being accelerated by two forces: changing customer behavior and expectations coupled with the emergence of digitally-savvy competitors who threaten to disrupt longstanding business models.

CIOs are finding that staying focused on aligning IT’s value directly to customers, employees, and market opportunities will yield sustainable benefits.

Three strategic initiatives that should be at the top of the CIO’s 2017 agenda are:
• Creating a more connected customer experience,
• Enabling creativity with boundaryless communication,
• Building innovative new digital business models to seize competitive advantage and open new markets.

In order to take full advantage of all of these emerging trends, CIOs can no longer tackle them one-by-one, but must take a holistic approach grounded in collaboration.

This holistic approach is exactly the one that Los Angeles-based, Collaboration Solutions (CSi) partners with CIOs to achieve. CSi’s mission is built on the idea that innovation is only possible by inspiring and empowering collaboration.

To fulfill this mission, CSi offers a full range of solutions from the design of collaborative work spaces to the integration and implementation of AV and end point devices with enterprise software applications. To extend the impact of IT even further into the business, CSi also creates custom business solutions and collaboration applications that span the complete range of digital experiences.

“When we work side-by-side with our customers to create new collaboration tools that don’t exist in the market today, it’s inspiring. It’s these moments that fuel our passion to help customers imagine new ways of working together,” says CSi’s CEO and Founder, Jeremy Short.

How is CSi working with CIOs to implement the three strategic initiatives for 2017?

Creating a Connected Customer Experience

Customer expectations have shifted dramatically in favor of more connected, social, and immersive engagements. To meet this need, CSi worked with a major U.S. insurance company to create their Innovation Lab: an experience center at their headquarters office where executives and employees could map the customer journey on large interactive screens to create new products and customer experiences. This was important because customers now expect firms to create a great experience across all interations. 25 percent of customers will defect after one bad experience. The vision for the Innovation Lab was to evolve their team collaboration internally so that they could innovate new ways to create value for their customers beyond unconnected touch points. To make this type of group work possible, a whole new approach to the work space had to be imagined. The Innovation Lab that was built is a completely new environment designed to be a shared, immersive experience where team members can create, share, and iterate new ideas quickly.

When we work side-by-side with our customers to create new collaboration tools that don’t exist in the market today, it’s inspiring

CSi helped the insurance firm shape the idea from its inception and created the experience using over fifty feet of interactive, touch-screen walls leveraging a combination of both LED and projector devices.

Jack Stephenson, Chief Software Innovation Officer at CSi, says, “I think we understood their dream and built on it. We understood what the Innovation Lab’s ultimate purpose was – to spark shared creativity and innovation that would have a meaningful impact on customers. Then, we took it to a new level and now, the customer has this incredible space that is the jumping off point for a deeper relationship between executives, employees, and ultimately, with customers.”

Enabling Creativity with Boundaryless Collaboration

Workforces are becoming more distributed with more remote workers. Work spaces are being redesigned to become more agile and more open (referred to as ‘beyond the cubicle’). CIOs are challenging their teams to deliver IT solutions that extend beyond the tools of the past two decades: email, portals, and personal computing devices. In his book, Where Good Ideas Come From, Stephen Johnson reminds us that “the most productive tool for generating good ideas [is]…a circle of humans…talking shop.” Recreating that ‘circle of humans’ in a virtual way is the new collaboration paradigm: across teams and departments, between suppliers and production teams, and ultimatey between companies and their customers.

“Collaboration starts as soon a more than one person needs to meet,” says Short. “The more quickly people can move past the start up screen of the device or software application in front of them, the more successfully people can begin capturing the ideas in their heads in a digital format. Nothing is lost in translation because the technology isn’t slowing people down.”

This was certainly the case for Interscope Records. Dwayne Robinson, Vice President of Information Technology, at Interscope expands on how collaboration is a critical business need that IT needs to support. “At Interscope Records, we’re very focused on helping the biggest artists in the music business bring their creativity to the world. From Lady Gaga to Dr. Dre, we collaborate intensively with our artists and our team at Interscope to achieve this mission. This year we partnered with Collaboration Solutions to create a new experience in the meeting rooms at our headquarters in Los Angeles based on the next generation of collaboration devices and software platforms. Collaboration Solutions is our partner because they take an end-to-end approach from a/v to the network needs to the software platform which – bottom line - helps us achieve this mission faster.”

CSi worked with a global automotive manufacturer to implement Microsoft’s Surface Hub group collaboration device to support its manufacturing process within the U.S. The Surface Hub connects remote team members seamlessly with Skype for Business and the manufacturer is running an application called VirBEYA that was created by CSi. VirBEYA turns the organization’s physical Obeya rooms (manufacturing project management rooms) into virtual environments running on the large 55” or 84” Microsoft Surface Hub screens. This device and application enable the firm’s quality control analysts, production managers, and designers from R&D to collaborate on quality or production issues and rapidly create and implement changes to product design and production processes. The impact for the firm was so immediate that CSi released the VirBEYA application to the market quickly and is seeing strong demand for both the application and the Surface Hub.
Julia Atalla, Senior Director of Marketing at Microsoft devices, describes the popularity of the Surface Hub since it began shipping to business customers in March 2016. “We’re seeing the Surface Hub get recognized by our customers as a new class of collaboration device; frankly, a game changer in collaboration and business transformation. The endless canvas, ease of inking, intuitive use of applications, and ability to quickly connect with team members in the room and remotely is delivering ROI for customers.”

Chris Cecil, Chief Operating Officer at CSi, agrees. “Surface Hub lights up key collaboration scenarios for our customers in product design, engineering, manufacturing process management, data visualization, and gets people out of their chairs collaborating in new ways. It can’t be underestimated how important it is for CIOs to deliver that type of experience for their employees whose ideas will shape the future growth of their company.”

Building Innovative Digital Business Models

The last trend, of course, is digital transformation and disruption. Digital business is pointing the way to new opportunities to create competitive advantage. New business models are being shaped and markets explored that can dramatically impact current and future growth. CSi believes that empowered collaboration is at the heart of identifying and executing on these new models.

"Our deep experience in AV implementation coupled with our rich software development capabilities gives us a fresh perspective"

Let’s return to the manufacturing industry to see how this is playing out. According to McKinsey, “only 48 percent of manufacturers consider themselves ready for Industry 4.0 [which they define as] the next phase in the digitization of the manufacturing sector, driven by four disruptions: the astonishing rise in data volumes, computational power, and connectivity; the emergence of analytics and business-intelligence capabilities; new forms of human-machine interaction such as touch interfaces and augmented-reality systems; and improvements in transferring digital instructions to the physical world, such as advanced robotics and 3-D printing.”

At the heart of the Industry 4.0 disruption is the coming together of the hardware or device layer with the computational power of cloud software built on a common data layer. Once this infrastructure is connected, such as in IoT scenarios, insight must be drawn from the data and then team members must come together to collaborate to drive the necessary change to realize new value for the enterprise. CSi is working with customers today at all of these layers keeping collaboration at the core.

We’re Just Getting Started

The critical element to driving these three CIO imperatives forward is starting with the holistic view. From the moment of engagement, CSi takes into account all experiences in the collaborative continuum. They start from the perspective of crafting a connected user experience from space design to software design. Where they see an opportunity or gap in the desired experience, CSi quickly innovates with customers to bring new collaborative products to market adding to its quickly growing product portfolio that includes Shared Media Player and VirBEYA. These products are built by CSi working in concert with their customers to solve real-world challenges and to iterate rapidly. CSi also hears over and over from customers that they actually reduce complexity because they act as the complete design/build provider for all areas of an enterprise’s collaboration needs.

“And, we feel like we’re just getting started,” concludes Short. “Our deep experience in AV implementation coupled with our rich software development capabilities gives us a fresh perspective. We see new opportunities at the hardware and device layer connected to Microsoft’s productivity software roadmap and capped with our collaboration applications. The collaboration continuum truly feels endless and we’re ready to help CIOs take advantage of it.”

Collaboration Solutions

Sherman Oaks, CA

Jack Stephenson, Chief Software Innovation Officer

Collaboration Solutions (CSi) is leading the collaboration revolution by seamlessly offering a complete spectrum of collaboration solutions

Collaboration Solutions