Globalisation and communication in the 21st century
USING COLLABORATION TECHNOLOGY TO CONNECT TEAMS AND CROSS BORDERS. The commercial landscape has changed dramatically since the early 1990s. Globalisation has redefined the modern economy and revolutionised the way we conduct business. We operate in a 24-hour economy where instant communication is a basic currency; leaving customers waiting is not an option for companies wanting to succeed internationally.
The very nature of globalisation is also evolving. The multinational model of the 20th century with distinct national operating companies is being replaced by integrated worldwide operations with a global matrix of virtual teams. At the same time, business culture is changing. Today, more than ever, ‘work’ is a process that can be carried out from a variety of locations, rather than any single building.
The challenge for this new phase of globalisation is how to deliver effective communications between disparate teams, ensuring that critical decision-making is not delayed. The answer lies in creating a business that embraces flexibility, transparency and agile working. Agile working is based on interactivity over processes, collaboration with customers rather than negotiation, and the ability to rapidly respond to change. This has driven the development of agile teams; the equivalent of corporate Special Forces that react immediately to customer demands and deliver on projects anywhere in the world.
Of course, it is not easy to deliver agile working. Whilst international travel is a catalyst of globalisation, it does not come without costs. Many companies with multiple offices, a culture of flexible working and a dispersed client-base see no alternative to face-to-face meetings, despite the financial expense and travel time lost. International travel also incurs a heavy carbon footprint. Today’s businesses face growing public demands and regulatory requirements when it comes to their environmental impact. No longer a footnote in the annual report, environmental sustainability is now a key part of business strategy.
So how to achieve a more agile, interactive workforce that meets the demands of the modern global economy, delivers collaboration with globally dispersed colleagues and customers, while producing financial savings and a lower environmental impact? Inevitably, a plethora of technologies has emerged, all trying to provide a solution by simulating a single meeting environment from multiple locations. Teleconferencing, video conferencing, web conferencing, and then telepresence all promised to meet this demand, giving people the opportunity to hear and see each other.
These technologies may solve the travel issue, but they fail to recreate the dynamism, interactivity and productivity that are generated from agile working teams. These solutions tend to only focus on one-to-one or one-to-many connections rather than true collaboration within a group. In short, the level of engagement is insufficient.
To approach this issue differently, we should start by focusing on people, not hardware, and understand what happens when colleagues meet to work collaboratively in the same room. What is it that generates new ideas and better decision-making? It’s not simply the ability to see and hear one another; a key ingredient is immediate access to data with the ability to instantly manipulate and capture information in real time. It is about combining voice-based communication with device-based applications to create real time data conferencing.
Real time data conferencing has until recently lacked the technological innovation to make it highly engaging and interactive. The roots of today’s solutions lie in the education sector, where interactive whiteboards are replacing blackboards and transforming the teaching experience. The technology is so intuitive that primary school children use it in their first week.
To conclude, there is no doubt that these are tough economic times; but opportunity exists in adversity. Anyone doing business internationally needs to find solutions that harness the dynamism and creativity that is generated when colleagues and customers come together to solve problems, establishing a sense of virtual agility and interaction from multiple locations that generates real time results - regardless of location. The technology that facilitates this exists and can contribute significantly to the successful operation of businesses trying to capitalise on today’s global marketplace.
Patrick Lelorieux is the VP and General Manager EMEA, SMART Technologies.