Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/6/2010 (2531 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Imagine a workplace in which people from different continents interact as if separated only by a cubicle wall.
Thanks to web conferencing, colleagues in London, New York and Winnipeg can all occupy the same office space. But while the ability to interact face-to-face online can revolutionize the office environment, some say Winnipeg businesses are slow to catch on.
"(Web communication) is the new way of doing training and it is the most effective way," said Sharon Evans, founder and CEO of information technology consulting firm Firefli Consulting Inc. "It's a further reach -- it's a global reach."
Evans coaches companies on effective ways to use technology. She has clients in Canada, the United States and one in Europe and web communication technology allows her to connect to them instantly at low cost.
Evans said in the wake of the recession, many businesses, especially those below the border, no longer have the travel budgets to fly her in for face-to-face seminars. Now she trains clients through webinars, and hasn't missed a step.
"I've lost no clients in the U.S.," she said.
Michael Bussiere is the principal consultant and designer at Ontario-based Telecollaborativemedia.com Inc., a company that helps organizations use what they call telecollaboration to its maximum benefit. The idea is to create an office space in which physical distance is no longer a barrier, in a globalized world where the idea of a local office is becoming obsolete.
"The biggest thing to overcome is the sense that telecollaboration is about scheduling another meeting," he said. "Telecollaboration is something that is ongoing -- it takes places throughout the entire day. The person in the next cubicle and the person in Vancouver can be equally real to you. That is a different approach that we take."
Though Bussiere has worked with countless schools, government organizations and not-for-profits, not everyone is jumping on board with web-conferencing technologies.
"There's still a resistance to it, I find," he said.
For those still struggling to catch up to seemingly incessant technological innovations in the workplace, telecollaboration can be overwhelming.
"When you suddenly introduce another level of complexity to the situation, it's very daunting," Bussiere said.
Winnipeg may be lagging particularly far behind in the web conferencing world, especially when it comes to small businesses.
"Local technology in Winnipeg is very slow to adapt," Evans said.
While bigger, technologically savvy companies are up to date, many smaller ones don't seem to know the opportunity exists. As a result, they feel isolated and forgo global connectivity.
"They are totally losing out," said Evans.
Not only can web communication allow easy meetings, presentations and day-long communication, but webinars are also an important advertising tool, Evans said. It's an economical way to get your name and your message out there.
Web communication technologies don't have to break your wallet. GoToMeeting, an 'online meeting solution' available on the web, provides a membership for $49 a month.
"It would be ridiculous not to have a membership," Evans advises small businesses.
Still, Bussiere warns that you get what you pay for.
"The more aware you are of the device (computer screen, etc.) sitting in the room, the less effective it's going to be," he said.
While not every business can afford top-of-the-line systems ranging near $50,000, new technology like HDWorkPlace by Magor Communications provides full screens and life-size visuals, allowing participants to forget the distance between them.
Looking to implement web conferencing in your office? There are a variety of services available and most offer a free trial. Here are some options that won't put you in the red:
Skype -- Free at skype.com
GoToMeeting -- $49 a month: visit gotomeeting.com
WebEx -- $49 a month: visit webex.com
Adobe Connect -- Buy it online for an annual rate of $45 a month or a monthly rate of $55 a month: visit adobe.com
For systems a bit more complex, check out Polycom.com, Tandberg.ca, Magorcorp.com and Globalcrossing.com.