The VAR Guy Blog

Visual Collaboration: The Next VAR Opportunity Arrives

There is something special about technology that allows people to collaborate more easily, more effectively, and at a higher level of personal engagement. But what are the latest collaboration opportunities awaiting VARs, MSPs and channel partners? The answer involves visual collaboration. Here are some timely perspectives.

First, a little background. Collaboration is a process where two or more people or organizations work together to realize shared goals. Visual collaboration is a subset of the above and both a technology as well as a social science. It allows people to get work done easily and more naturally by relying on communicating through visual mediums. Visual collaboration can occur in many ways including in-person meetings, white boarding, video phone calls, and video. Unfortunately just getting people together in the same room is not a guarantee for a highly collaborative session to occur. There has to be more; a management system that is open and highly collaborative itself as well as technology that enables it to occur.

Visual Collaboration: A Closer Look

Visual collaboration can be disruptive in the sense that it creates an environment where people and groups create a level of engagement at an entirely new level challenging the current ways we connect and share information. Visual collaboration done right raises the impact of getting people together.

If you have every been part of a well done three-way video collaboration session with the right lighting, sound, and video resolution you know what I mean. The intimate aspects of communicating this way, a greater retention of information, and a higher engagement level of communications is simply amazing.

There are 3 requirements for any disruptive technology to take hold.
  1. First is a business need that drives the use of the technology.
  2. Second is availability of supporting or enabling technologies that individually are proven and cost effective.
  3. Third is social acceptance which drives mainstream acceptance. While each factor on its own is interesting putting them together drives mass acceptance.

Areas for VARs to Specialize

What we are seeing today for visual collaboration is a number of technologies becoming more available, reliable and cost effective. These include accessible broadband, low cost and high quality storage, high definition visual image technology, and public cloud architecture allowing for services to scale and remain cost effective.

Applications that facilitate collaboration are also a necessary ingredient. There are hundreds of applications that make it easier to use information to work across people and groups to achieve shared goals.  As an example check out startup Flixlab. While oriented more towards consumers, Flixlab makes it easy to share a visual experience at new levels. It’s engaging, inexpensive and easy to use.

Business needs for collaboration are greater now than ever before. More outsourcing, remote workers, and strategic partners mean more collaborating across the traditional boundaries of companies and often across states and countries. Decisions need to be made quicker, involve more people, and be handled in a much more informed way. Couple this with expense challenges focused on the cost of travel and the associated time lost and we have the fundamentals for adoption of new collaborative technologies.

Lastly is social acceptance. We are seeing more and more consumer needs driving business technology. This is now becoming the standard for what makes it into the workspace. Not too long ago it was the other way around. You had to work for IBM or Chase Bank to get to play and experience the latest technology. Now you bring the latest technology into work and expect it to be adapted internally. Just about anyone can video conference on a mobile phone, share videos over the internet and share a presentation with anyone in a matter of seconds. It’s required, expected and smart companies are figuring out how to leverage the best practices and technology to give them a competitive advantage.

People like to communicate visually and collaborate dynamically and when doing so are more engaged and connected.

The time is now to help your customers' organizations collaborate easier and more effectively. Develop a plan that capitalizes on the advances in collaborative technology, your customers' dynamic work environment, and management systems. The results will amaze your customers.

Frank Picarello is the founder and CEO of Cadence Management Advisors. Cadence’s client list includes InFocus, the Portland, Ore.-based industry leader in the visual communication market. Monthly guest blogs such as this one are part of The VAR Guy's annual sponsorship program.

Discuss this Blog Entry 3

on Apr 13, 2011
Sean: You bring up an interesting topic... Skype and user-based video. Seems to be everywhere. Wondering if there's an upsell or integration opportunity for VARs in that market. -TVG
Frank Picarello (not verified)
on Apr 25, 2011
Hi Sean, thanks for the response. Consumers are very savvy and influential. Consumers are driving the adoption of new technology - isn't it wonderful!
Sean Wilder (not verified)
on Apr 13, 2011
Great points. I especially agree with the part about consumer needs driving business technology. We have seen that shift take place with the introduction of Macbooks, smart phones, tablets, and social media in the enterprise space. With several million consumers logged into Skype at any one time, I expect user-based video to be adopted in the same way.
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