I was honored to appear as a technology/workspace expert at a recent CrowdCompanies panel discussion on "The Future of Work." Part of that event featured a really insightful keynote speech from Lance J. Richards, a long-time guru in workforce strategy and global personnel management. In his new book Gen Now, he points out that the highly-connected Generation Y has very different expectations of work and workplaces than many companies, but is already one-third of the workforce, and that will grow to three-fourths in ten years. This growing mix of generations in the same workplaces makes it crucial that people be able to communicate easily, regardless of their age, culture, or comfort with technology.
How does that relate to Polycom? Well, this company was built with a vision that technology could virtually disappear if we could let people talk and collaborate transparently enough. Polycom's first product, which Business Week ranked the "Design of the Decade" in 2000, was our first step toward a goal of establishing complete, integrated Polycom solutions for the live and transparent exchange of ideas, whether voice, image, or media. That's right: the first shipping product was for voice, but the vision has always been to bring it all together.
This vision emerged back in 1990, when Gen Y had just started to enter the workforce. While we weren't so bold as to think we could predict every turn, we did know that world change was accelerating, and would be driven in large part by the expectations of these new and global workers. To meet this challenge, we adopted a strategy of adaptability and openness, and built that into everything we did via a founding philosophy of interoperability and open standards. This is an attitude that, today, continues to bear fruit - for example, in our rich and growing set of API's to facilitate third-party innovation. That's also why Polycom continues to be active in the Standards and partner communities: as a co-founder of IMTC and UFIC, and an active participant in other industry organizations, it is committed to using open standards, helping to develop them, and sharing its own capabilities via API's and royalty-free access to key technologies.
Today, human communications technologies are poised at the intersection of three demands:
Enterprises’ increasing need for worker skills;
Worker demands for more flexibility in their work environments;
BYOX (sometimes called "Bring Your Own…Everything,") which is the demand, created by the blending of all generations, to seamlessly tap into a diverse and constantly-swirling broth of endpoints and services.
Remarkably, these demands have been satisfied so comprehensively that one of the questions that enterprises today can suddenly, seriously, consider is this: what if distance, cost, time, and culture were no longer barriers? How could we work differently? Work better? Because in fact, they are no longer barriers, and enterprises today can count on that. Hallway conversations no longer require that everyone's in the same zip code, and globe-spanning voice-and-visual exchanges happen at will, regardless of the mix of networks and services that people may be calling from.
Here's a personal, and extremely recent, example in which I discovered and helped fix a problem yesterday from my home office in San Francisco. It all started with a virtual "hallway" video conversation with someone in Chicago I barely knew.
He had messaged me, saying "just want to say hi, do you have a few minutes?" He only wanted to introduce himself, not to talk about any problem, but as we chatted, he mentioned an issue his group has been having for a long time. That's when things got really lively:
I emailed a detailed question to several Polycom experts
They confirmed that something was not right
Via Presence, I knew the "problem" guy and the "solution" expert were both available
I texted them both to ask for a short discussion
And we were in a three-way Polycom video discussion within moments!
Once the three of us were in this face-to-face exchange, the problem (which had never been recognized because while serious its cause was fairly subtle) was quickly exposed and solved. We had some discussion, a few to-do list things, and we were done. Less than an hour to solve a problem that's been the subject of back-and-forth email and sporadic customer frustration for two years!
See what happened? An ad hoc hallway conversation with someone (just incidentally, in Chicago) led to discovering the problem. A couple of messages with the technical expert in Boulder. And then a lively, unscheduled, interactive conversation among all three cities. This fast discovery, discussion and resolution happened because we were able to share the kind of reliable, transparent sound, video, and graphics that we would have had in person. The old baby-boomer barriers of distance, time, cost and culture were magically lifted for us because we had that "transparent" collaboration channel - the one Polycom was aiming for in 1990, the one that works so well it becomes invisible.
To meet the demands posed by new workers and global distributed workforces, enterprises need highly secure, robust and high-definition real-time collaboration tools that can be flexibly integrated with their own systems. The solutions that Polycom offers today excel in these environments, and this is just what we were aiming for when the company started. In addition, there's this: already closely integrated with established platforms among workplaces around the world, they will continue to evolve and grow because of Polycom's fundamental commitment to interoperability, openness, and user delight.