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Archive for the ‘Face-to-Face Communications’ Category

In light of my most recent post on the use of technology as a substitute for face-to-face communications, I found the following news quite interesting.

Just yesterday, Verizon Business announced that it is providing immersive video technology, via Cisco TelePresence ™, for The First American 25381_telepresenceCorporation. The advanced conferencing system is intended to help The First American Corporation’s employees collaborate from afar.

According to Verizon Business, “immersive video goes far beyond traditional video conferencing by replicating face-to-face interaction so realistically that it feels as though everyone is in the same room, even though they may be thousands of miles apart.”

Listen: Audio podcast on The First American Corporation’s use of advanced collaboration technology

The technology is credited with saving travel costs, improving productivity, and reducing environmental impact.

Read: Cisco TelePresence Over Verizon Private IP Helps Largest U.S. Provider of Business Information Reduce Business Travel, Meet Environmental Goals (PRNewswire, October 14, 2009)

On the same day, Verizon released the results of a study on the use of collaborative technology in business and government, called “Meetings Around the World II: Charting the Course of Advanced Collaboration.”

Read: Study, Sponsored by Verizon and Cisco, First to Quantify Improved Performance from Advanced Collaboration; Frost & Sullivan Research Finds Dramatic Return on Investments in Advanced Collaboration Tools; IP Networks Growing as Business Platform (Verizon Business, October 14, 2009)

Not surprisingly, the study concluded that organizations that employ advanced Internet collaboration tools are more successful than those that don’t. And, of course, online collaboration is better than no collaboration.

But what the study does not take into consideration (understandably, considering its sponsors) is whether online collaboration can achieve the same intangible results as face-to-face.

While it is more difficult to put a price tag on employee engagement, job satisfaction, and team dynamics, there is no question that these factors contribute to a company’s bottom line. The extent to which Internet collaboration can positively affect these less tangible, but still critical, factors should be an important consideration for companies as these advanced tools become available.

(Photo credit: Cisco)

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Four years ago, I became a manager for the first time. Thankfully my supervisor was a patient mentor and helped me acquire skills that I still use to this day. But let me be clear: it was not an easy road. Those initial several months were incredibly painful (for both of us, I’m sure) and at times seemed an exercise in futility.

For reasons that baffled me at first, she insisted that I meet with my staff at 8:00 a.m.—daily. So each workday for two years, almost without fail, everyone in the department crowded into my office to talk about deadlines, identify roadblocks, and share ideas.

I was reminded of this exercise a couple days ago when I read an article in the current issue of Communicate Magazine, called End of the huddle?

Read: James Bennett on the irreplaceable value of face-to-face communications for Communicate Magazine

The author defines the huddle as:

… not a discussion but a series of statements listened to by the key members of the company. The huddle leader then asks each individual what he or she is working on that day and may ask for a short daily sales report or any outstanding achievements, events, or queries. Finally the leader questions each member on whether they are facing any potential ‘blocks’, or problems that could prevent them from carrying out their daily duties. Anything else is then taken offline and worked on separately.

In my department’s morning meetings, we never met for more than 10 minutes at a time and we mostly just glazed the surface of issues. But our huddles quickly became the most valuable touch points of my week as a new manager. They were a tool for me to learn about responsibilities and work product, an opportunity to identify potential problems, and a chance to get to know my staff on a personal level.

Now, software such as Yammer makes it easy for teams to connect and keep in touch with one another in a similar way. But whether online touch points are as effective as a face-to-face encounter is up for serious debate.

Bennett states that even using the best online networking tools, “face-to-face contact and that instant sharing of crucial first-thing-in-the-morning, targeted information is immediately lost.”

Today, with so much of an organization’s information-sharing facilitated by online tools, huddles and other face-to-face meetings are at risk for becoming obsolete.

But, as Bennett rightfully suggests, the value face-to-face meetings bring to an organization and its internal communications cannot easily be replicated in the online space.

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