Friday, May 28, 2010

ProtoSphere testimonials from Holon Institute of Technology professor and student

I received an interesting e-mail the other week from Dr. Gilli Shama, a professor at the Holon Institute of Technology in Israel. She told me that she's teaching a graduate studies seminar on synchronous e-Learning. For the uninitiated, synchronous e-Learning is real-time, interactive learning over the Internet. Webinars and online lectures are examples of this. But recently, Dr. Shama took this in a new dimension.

She gave her students the assignment to present on the topic of 3-D synchronous e-Learning. During their research, the students found ProtoSphere, and conducted their entire lesson from the environment.

Naturally, I wanted to learn more. I reached out to the student who led the project, Yael Ofir. She sent me an e-mail describing the project, why they decided to use ProtoSphere to hold their lesson, how the lesson went, and their overall feedback of the experience. I grabbed this screen shot of the meeting room they used in ProtoSphere.

Here's the initial e-mail Dr. Shama sent me, and the follow-up e-mail from Yael. I'm posting them here, so you can get their story first hand.

Dear Domenick Naccarato,

I'm a professor of a seminar on Synchronous eLearning in HIT college in Israel.
The course is part of graduate studies in technologies for learning.
We are using AT&T Connect for most of our lessons.

Last week we had a lesson on 3D solutions which Yael and her team members delivered excellent in ProtoSphere.

Thank you very much for using ProtoSphere.

Dr. Gilli Shama

Hi Domenick, thanks for approaching us!

I passed your contact details to our professor.

In the meanwhile, here's a bit more details about the experience from our end:

This course is about Synchronous Learning in general and it's being held as a part of our BA studies in Learning Technologies. Each week, a team of students needs to teach the class about a different aspect of this type of learning. Our group's assignment was to present the topic of 3D Synchronous Learning. During our research of the topic, we came across references to your product, mainly in the works of Karl Kapp. We checked the trial version and thought it would be very interesting to conduct our entire lesson from within the environment.

How pharma and biotech have reacted to the recession

New reports are coming out on the effects of the recession on pharmaceuticals and biotech. And for a change, things aren't looking so grim. The world’s established biotech companies reached profitability for the first time in history in 2009, according to Ernst and Young's Beyond borders: global biotechnology report 2010.

However, companies continue to face a challenging funding climate, causing them to operate under what E&Y calls a "new normal." More analysis is in Ernst and Young's press release announcing the report findings, and one point in particular stood out for me.

"The biggest opportunities in this new normal will come from increasing efficiency: more efficient ways to fund innovation and achieve returns for investors, better outcomes for every dollar of health care spending, and more efficient R&D and operations at drug companies," states the release.

Maureen Martino also picked up on this point in her coverage of the report on FierceBiotech. I'd encourage you to give her article a read. In my opinion though, some biotechs began operating under this new normal before 2009. As I wrote in the comments on Maureen's article, some of them were using ProtoSphere to create high-performance virtual workplaces for global teaming.

These companies saw the trend to increase efficiency coming long before the economy flopped. We were already working together to get them communicating and collaborating in ProtoSphere to improve the productivity of their dispersed workforces. Today, biotech, pharma, and other life sciences companies alike are investing more in virtual collaboration.

Ernst and Young's report gives us an international view of the biotech industry. But it's also worthwhile to look at regional trends. Medical News Today published a good roundup of how the recession is affecting biotechs across the nation, looking at regions such as Illinois, Florida, and California.

There are some solid stats in there about jobs and growth. By and large, the numbers are showing increases in employment in most areas. However, one thing these companies shouldn't lose sight of is how to ensure their new and growing workforce is efficient and productive.

I explained this more in a comment on the article, but the gist is this: To really cut the cost of global collaboration, you've got to cut the cost of travel without cutting the ability to speed collaborative decision-making throughout the product lifecycle. That requires virtual collaborative workplaces. This is the impetus behind our new partnership with RWD.

So give Medical News Today's article a read-through, and then take a look at my thoughts. What's your opinion? For those of you in biotech and pharma, is your workforce growing? Are you putting plans in place to ensure teams can cost-effectively communicate and collaborate?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

IBM's Cindy Skirvin joins our Executive Advisory Board

Cindy Skirvin
ProtonMedia's Executive Advisory Board is continuing to grow at a healthy clip. I'm very proud to announce that Cindy Skirvin is our latest member. She's the Partner of Strategy and Transformation Workforce and Talent Solutions for IBM Global Business Services. She joins Cisco’s Greg Pelton and Microsoft’s Sam Batterman around our advisory board table.

Cindy's sweet spot is deploying and running human capital management and corporate training and learning programs in life sciences. She's spent about 15 years consulting to organizations including Merck, Pfizer, Amgen, Abbott, and Johnson & Johnson. Having her on our board is an ideal fit for us, as we continue to develop ProtoSphere to meet the human capital management needs of life sciences companies.

If you're looking for more details on Cindy's background and what she'll be bringing to the table, take a peek at the press release we issued to announce Cindy's joining. We're also working on interviewing our new board members in turn, so watch the blog for that.

Welcome to the team, Cindy!

ProtonMedia Adds IBM’s Cindy Skirvin to Executive Advisory Board

Partner at IBM Global Business Services will provide strategic insight into the continued development of ProtoSphere for helping enterprises improve human capital management

LANSDALE, Pa.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--ProtonMedia, the developer of the ProtoSphere virtual collaboration environment for the high-performance workplace, today announced Cindy Skirvin has joined the company’s Executive Advisory Board. Skirvin is Partner of Strategy and Transformation Workforce and Talent Solutions for IBM Global Business Services.

Monday, May 24, 2010

From ASTD 2010: How enterprises are collaborating in virtual immersive environments

Last week, Drs. Karl Kapp and Tony O'Driscoll presented at the ASTD conference about the key concepts they cover in their new book, "Learning in 3D." It's the first title from a major publisher to help organizations understand how virtual immersive environments (VIEs) can improve enterprise learning and collaboration.

Next to their book, Karl and Tony's ASTD presentation is some of the most in-depth coverage of their 3-D learning concepts and case studies. They explained the basics of VIEs, and shared nine case studies from early adopters who are using this technology today. They also described 10 steps required to drive successful enterprise adoption of 3-D learning solutions.

Karl and Tony walked the audience through ProtoSphere, and demoed its data visualization functionality and other capabilities that organizations are using to communicate and collaborate in the 3-D virtual workplace.

If you missed their presentation at ASTD, or if you saw it and want a refresher, you can catch the complete video below.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fun times at ASTD 2010

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know Dr. Karl Kapp and I are close buds. And as close buds are known to do, we like to have a good time. And the thing about it is, sometimes out of silliness comes creativity and different perspectives on things. That's one aspect I like about Karl. He sparks new ideas in me.

The ASTD 2010 conference was no different. We filmed a short video capturing our fun and experiences at the show. Maybe in future posts I'll share some of the other ideas that came out the conference.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Roundup of recent media mentions: and Schreyer Institute

I wanted to share a couple mentions we've gotten lately in the media.

The Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence added its thoughts to my "This is your brain on PowerPoint" post. There are some interesting food-for-thought bullets there that I'd encourage you to read over.

And included Sam Batterman joining our Executive Advisory Board in its "On the Boards" roundup. Thanks for featuring us!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

How the ProtonMedia-RWD partnership will help companies improve human capital management

Yesterday you heard my take on our new partnership with RWD. We'll be working together to develop the first 3-D virtual collaborative workplace for human capital management.

Now hear about it from RWD's perspective. Mal Poulin, Enterprise Market Director for RWD, and Paul Bejgrowicz, Principal Performance Consultant for RWD, gathered round the table with Dr. Karl Kapp yesterday at the ASTD 2010 conference to talk about the partnership.

Tune in to the interview below to learn how we'll be integrating RWD's human and operational performance improvement solutions into ProtoSphere. Mal and Paul also explain how RWD's customers can take advantage of the data visualization and other 3-D capabilities of ProtoSphere for executing initiatives such as improving job performance.

That's all I'll say here. Watch the video for the full scoop!

Monday, May 17, 2010

ProtonMedia and RWD partner to add third dimension to human capital management

Ok, waiting time's over. I mentioned earlier today that we'd have some big news coming at you from the ASTD 2010 Conference in Chicago, so without further ado, here it is: ProtonMedia and RWD have partnered to develop the first 3-D workplace for human capital management.

RWD is a leading provider of human and operational performance improvement solutions. Thousands of organizations worldwide use RWD's solutions, including many Fortune 500 companies. They're in industries including life sciences, energy, and manufacturing, among others.

We'll be working together to integrate RWD's technology into ProtoSphere. The result will be a high-performance collaborative platform that quickly connects people to their colleagues, and gives them immediate access to the information they need.

Our partnership officially kicks off today from the ASTD Conference. RWD is exhibiting at booth #913, and I've joined them to represent ProtonMedia. If you're here at the show and have stopped by the booth, you might have noticed the signage for ProtoSphere.

If you haven't swung by yet, by all means, feel free! If you want to catch up, I'll either be at the booth or mingling around the show floor. Buzz my mobile at 215-350-2461 if you can't find me and want to chat. :)

But that's not all we have going on with RWD today. We're also co-exhibiting with RWD at the SAPPHIRE conference in Orlando. If you're unfamiliar with the show, SAPPHIRE is the leading event for SAP customers and partners to meet and learn about new SAP technologies and solutions.

RWD is exhibiting at booth #2509, and some folks from the ProtonMedia sales team are on hand to meet, greet, mingle, and share news of our partnership.

I'm excited to get things going with RWD, and looking forward to putting the new platform into the hands of employers and their people. If you're interested in more details on our partnership, give our press release a read below. We'll keep you in the loop on our progress!

Enterprise Human Capital Management Goes 3-D

RWD Technologies, LLC and ProtonMedia forge partnership to deliver world’s first 3-D immersive workplace for human capital management

BALTIMORE & LANSDALE, Pa. -- (BUSINESS WIRE) -- RWD Technologies, LLC (RWD), a global company that develops and implements human and organizational performance solutions, and ProtonMedia, the developer of the ProtoSphere virtual collaboration environment for the high-performance workplace, today announced a multi-year partnership that will add a new dimension to workforce learning, collaboration, and performance.

ASTD 2010 Conference: two sneak peeks

Once again I'm jetting around the country. This time, I'm at the ASTD 2010 Conference in Chicago. The show is the premier event for workplace learning and performance. Pre-show activities started over the weekend, and the general session begins today.

No one was around yet on the show floor yesterday, but I grabbed my camera and took some video footage of the booths to give you a sneak peek of the scenery.

And here's another sneak peek: We have some big news coming out this morning from the show, so keep your eyes peeled on the blog for our upcoming announcement. :)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Virtual environments in the classroom

Our core focus at ProtonMedia is to help life sciences companies create high-performance workplaces that allow their people to speed collaborative decision-making and knowledge transfer online.

But because at the end of the day our technology is built around 3-D virtual worlds, we're always interested in what's happening in the vw bubble. Virtual environments are not just for the enterprise, and avatars are not just for the movies. You can also find them in high schools and middle schools. But just like virtual environments for business, there's no playing games.

In Suffern, N.Y., for instance, 2,500 middle and high school students are learning math and foreign languages in a virtual world. Social studies students are experiencing what it was like to immigrate to the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century by creating a virtual Ellis Island and role playing.

The New York Times covered this story last week. It's an interesting article, and a few things struck me as I read it, namely:

1. Mainstream media continues to make ironic mention of PowerPoint. In this case, it's being used as a back-up for a school teacher's lecture because the Second Life platform had glitches!

2. Our kids are finding it boring to learn in the ways us grown-ups did with lectures and slides. This tells me that by the time our kids hit the workplace and are sitting in front of their PCs (if PCs even exist at the time), they're going to practically DEMAND to be using virtual environment applications. It's like what the Internet is to Gen Yers. They grew up on it, and they expect it at the workplace. The old ways of rolling out training and learning applications (Flash-based page turners) has got to change to accommodate this younger generation of future business workers and leaders.

3. Virtual environments can open a world of possibilities. If entire enterprises were using more tools like this Ellis Island simulation and more virtual 3-D workplaces like ProtoSphere, what would be the effects? If you're BP, for instance, would it perhaps make it easier and faster to come up with solutions for the Gulf oil spill or other huge environmental issues?

4. Video game was used three times. Game was used seven. Does the fact that the mainstream media still refers to these platforms as video games, aid to the stigma that already exists out there about these kinds of applications? I believe it does.

It will be interesting to see whether and how this school continues to use virtual environments as part of its curriculum. Will other schools catch on? Will virtual environments be as commonplace as computers in the classroom one day? What are your thoughts?

The next generation of unified communications

The notion of unified communications has evolved greatly over the past few years. But it seems like many people still think of UC in terms of the turn-of-the-century notion of uniting e-mail, voice, instant messaging, etc.

For instance, take this article on eWeek by Jonathan McCormick. It did a nice job of breaking down what UC is and how companies can benefit from it, and it's worth a read. But it stopped short of covering the full scope of unified communications.

I'm talking about a completely unified environment: A 3-D virtual workplace that brings together voice, data, social networking, as well as the workplace itself into a single environment where people can communicate and collaborate.

I expanded on these thoughts in a comment on the article, and you can click over to pick up where I leave off here. What are your thoughts? What's next for UC?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What the ProtonMedia-Kaplan EduNeering partnership means for life sciences companies

There's a reason life sciences companies are at the forefront of organizations researching next-generation ways to collaborate globally online. They don't have a choice. The major industry consolidation we've seen in recent years is all but over. Companies are discovering that old communication models are inadequate for the new realities of their corporate structure.

For instance, e-mails with people BCCed on the threads create compliance challenges. Workers flying from 26 points around the world to converge at one campus for a day-long conference is not cost- or time-effective. And global teams are increasingly hitting the limits of PowerPoint, Excel, and tools such as WebEx as they struggle to contain, conceptualize, and communicate complex information. The 2-D "flatland" model is broken.

This is the impetus behind our new partnership with Kaplan EduNeering. If you've spent any time perusing our case studies, looking through our media coverage, or talking to people in life sciences who use ProtoSphere, it's clear we have figured out a practical, yet cutting-edge and cost-effective way to help global companies eliminate barriers of time, distance, and 2-D.

But that's not to say we've figured out everything. The Kaplan EduNeering Platform delivers learning management technology across industries, and its award-winning, compliance-based LMS, ComplianceWire, is at the forefront of compliance learning programs for the life sciences industry. We see incredible synergy and benefits for both our customers by pairing ProtoSphere's virtual collaborative workplace technology with ComplianceWire's compliance tracking engine.

That's all I'll tell you here. Get the full download by watching the interview between Lisa Clune, President of Kaplan EduNeering, my good friend Dr. Karl Kapp, and myself, taken at Kaplan EduNeering's Knowledge Summit last Thursday.

By the way, we also have the transcript of the interview available, if you'd rather read than watch.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Four things killing collaboration in the enterprise

If you have a knowledge-based position -- research and development, engineering, etc. -- you'd probably agree that collaboration is more important to your job than ever. Your assignments and projects require knowledge and resources from your colleagues. You can't work in a vacuum.

Yet, we continue to face barriers to collaborating and communicating across countries, states, cities, and heck, from one cubicle to another. Why?

Knowledge management blogger Luis Suarez points to these three reasons in a recent article.
  • Recognizing individual performance vs. team/community performance
  • Lack of long term vision
  • Lack of education
They are valid responses, and I encourage you to swing over to his article to read them through. I won't recap them here.

But I'll add bullet #4. Collaboration has long been the Holy Grail of information technology. Yet IT vendors have not done a great job of delivering on the promise of collaborative tools. (By the way, I originally left this as a comment on the article, but I haven't seen it show up yet, so I thought I'd publish it as a blog post instead. My apologies if it shows up. Trust me, I'm not trying to duplicate content! ;-))

How many of us remember groupware in the '90s? It ended up costing organizations a ton of money, a ton of time, and never really delivered on the promise of empowering the collaborative workforce.

We have an opposite problem today. Thanks to the availability of a global network -- the Internet -- sharing information has become easier. A lot easier. But sharing isn't collaboration. It's just the first step on the road to real collaboration.

In the past few years, we've seen an explosion of tools that try to tackle the challenges of collaboration … everything from screen, app, and file sharing (think WebEx and such); app/data-sharing platforms like Google Apps, Google Docs, Zoho Office, etc.; huge "science experiments" like Google Wave (which few people find usable or comprehensible); and extremely narrow conversational tools like Yammer, that attempt a social spin on collaboration.

But again, the emphasis is on sharing of apps, data, and posts, as opposed to true collaboration that actually occurs in the real world. In the end, the application requirement remains unmet.

There doesn't seem to be a real clear-cut course or process or platform that really fosters collaboration. In the knowledge management space in particular, you could say the applications have historically been siloed, and under the auspices of the anointed KM experts who vet and control the flow of information. Not exactly collaborative.

I don't think the answer rests in any given application vertical, such as desktop apps or enterprise social networking or KM. Rather, I think we need new virtual collaborative environments within which businesses use these apps. Today the forefront of that type of thinking is occurring around telepresence, the 3-D Internet, and virtual business environments.

We're seeing real metrics that show teams going beyond sharing, to where they are accelerating collaborative decision-making, and making knowledge transfer as efficient as the real world. The end result is what Gartner defines as the "high-performance workplace."

Application requirement met, but not perfectly; at least, not yet. The challenge here remains connecting the sum total of organizational knowledge that's trapped in myriad legacy and contemporary platforms, from mainframes to SharePoint, and making it actionable in a unified way. We're certainly getting closer, but there remains work to be done, even for the most advanced systems.

Reexamining CIOs' priority on virtual collaboration

The video conferencing market grew 30 percent last year, as reported by Sramana Mitra in this recent Forbes article. As regular readers of this blog know, whenever I see news about telepresence, I feel compelled to respond. ;) I shared my views on this in a comment on the article. What do you think? Post your thoughts here, or better yet, over at the Forbes piece.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Life sciences compliance goes 3-D

No need to don your 3-D glasses for this one; we're taking care of everything for you. And instead of giving you a headache with those funky spectacles, our new partnership with Kaplan EduNeering, which we just announced today, will help eliminate headaches for life sciences compliance officers.

In case you aren't familiar with Kaplan EduNeering, I'll give you the background. Kaplan EduNeering is a part of Kaplan, Inc., and it develops solutions for helping companies comply with regulations from agencies including the FDA, CMS, OSHA, EPA, ISO, and others. It's known as the gold standard in online quality and compliance learning programs.

We're working together to create a virtual environment in ProtoSphere that includes Kaplan EduNeering's compliance tracking engine, the Kaplan EduNeering Platform, underneath. The result will be a virtual workplace that lets life sciences companies collaborate across every stage of their product life cycle, while meeting compliancy standards.

Things are in their early stages, and there's much development to do to bring this workplace online. We're looking forward to bringing our joint innovation to life sciences companies, and we'll keep you updated on the blog with any interesting developments as we roll through our road map.

We officially announced our partnership today at the 7th annual Kaplan EduNeering Knowledge Summit in downtown Philly. I'm here at the Westin Hotel now for the summit, meeting and networking with professionals in knowledge management, regulatory compliance, and business performance.

I just wrapped up a great interview with Dr. Karl Kapp and Lisa Clune, President of Kaplan EduNeering. We'll have that video for you on the blog as soon as we get it off the camera and put it through production. Hoping for early next week on that one. And later today, I'll be co-presenting about our partnership with Kent Malmros, Director of Business Development for Kaplan EduNeering.

So I'm going to get back to things here! I leave you with the press release we issued today announcing our partnership, if you are interested in more details about it. Adios!

Kaplan EduNeering and ProtonMedia Announce Alliance

Partnership to combine Kaplan’s online compliance and knowledge solutions with ProtonMedia’s leading 3-D virtual environment, ProtoSphere, to help life sciences companies speed collaborative decision-making while meeting regulatory requirements

PRINCETON, N.J. & LANSDALE, Pa. -- (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Kaplan EduNeering, a leading provider of compliance and knowledge management technology solutions, and ProtonMedia, the developer of the ProtoSphere virtual collaboration environment for the high-performance workplace, today announced a new multi-year partnership. The companies will develop and offer a uniquely comprehensive suite of tools for compliance training, product life cycle management (PLM), and collaborative decision-making for life sciences organizations.

Dr. Tony O'Driscoll and the benefits of 3-D collaboration

Yesterday I spent some time with my good friend Dr. Tony O'Driscoll, and recorded a quick video of him where he speaks about his recent visit with a group of life science CIOs and the benefits of 3-D collaboration to aid in generative learning. See what he had to say.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

ShareFEST 2010: SharePoint momentum in life sciences is palpable

If I could sum up the ShareFEST conference in one word, it's passion. Passion for SharePoint. Passion for new ways to collaborate. Passion for driving innovation. It literally was a "share fest."

I've had a chance to gather my notes from the show and put some thought into how it went and what I learned from it. Here are my high-level takeaways.

The energy at the ShareFEST was exhilarating. As I said, the show wasn't dull by any means. SharePoint evangelists and users are a very vibrant community. They live and breathe the platform. You could see and feel the excitement around SharePoint, and how life sciences companies were committing to the technology and looking forward to the new ways they could leverage it.

SharePoint is becoming increasingly pervasive in life sciences. SharePoint is becoming the standard for document management in life sciences, if it hasn't already been established as such. It's particularly popular within the clinical research trial space, where scientists have to validate documents and ensure they're following certain approval processes and procedures through their product life cycles. All of the top life sciences companies were at ShareFEST, and it looks like most, if not all, have made a commitment to Microsoft and SharePoint. Now they're looking for ways to get it off the shelf.

The challenge now is to foster SharePoint adoption. Based on my conversations and interactions at the show, it seems most life sciences companies have at least bought SharePoint. Some are using it, whether that be in just one or two divisions or throughout the entire organization. The major adoption challenge they're facing is consolidating dispersed content from across their organization into SharePoint. They're looking for ways to unlock their information silos (like SAP, e-mail, document management systems, etc.) and centralize content in SharePoint.

We stuck out like a sore thumb, in a good way. I am a sales guy, but I don't mean to toot our own horn when I say this. ;) ShareFEST vendors largely showcased extensions to SharePoint that make the platform more social and less of just a storage area. ProtoSphere stuck out as the only virtual environment that integrated with SharePoint. No one else at ShareFEST was making SharePoint more social and collaborative in this manner.

The SharePoint market is exciting, and brimming with new innovations for helping life sciences companies get more out of their SharePoint investment. If you weren't able to make it to the show this year, I'd recommend you put it on your list for 2011. It's a hot spot for life sciences companies who are turning to SharePoint and integrated technologies to drive collaborative decision-making and productivity.

Google-Bump deal: Google gets it

Media are digging into why Google acquired Bump Technologies, and there's been a lot of speculation that the buy could help Google better compete with, or outdo, the functionality of the iPhone operating system.

In my opinion, it's a smart move. Google's interface could use a little "bump," er, excitement. More important, it's clear Google recognizes we've reached a tipping point where we have so much data that it is becoming easier to visualize it in 3-D.

Journalist Erika Morphy rang me up to discuss my reaction to the deal, and she featured my thoughts in articles on E-Commerce Times and MarketingVOX. She also explores other facets to Google's reasoning for acquiring Bump. Swing over to read her coverage and more of my thoughts on the deal.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Needed: a virtual assault on global warming

NO SMOKE-BLOWING: Virtual teaming is the new green energy
As I zipped between airports on my way to Research Triangle Park this week, burning jet fuel in an oxymoronic quest to tell the world about the benefits of working virtually, scenes of the massive oil spill unfolding in the gulf haunted me on every public TV I passed.

I think this event has the potential to be a wake-up call for us in the IT industry, start-up and established players alike.

We can't afford to wait for next-generation energy sources to be discovered, developed, and commercialized. That shift from fossil fuels to green energy will take a generation.

Meanwhile, we have to conserve energy and protect the planet now. And that means we have to establish the next-generation workplace now -- one that makes good use of virtual collaboration technologies to cut fuel-burning, emissions-belching travel. How much of our business travel is actually necessary? I dare say a small fraction of it, once a virtual workplace is factored into the equation.

We need to step up as a society, and show the world it's possible. We need to stop talking about the mobile, high-performance workforce, and start empowering it. And it's not just about flying. It's about driving and railroads, too.

We recently had one of our life sciences customers in the Mid-Atlantic area take stock of how much commuting was going on between their New Jersey and Pennsylvania campuses. It wasn't that far, as the crow flies. But multiply that by thousands of employees, thousands round trips per week, tens of thousands of hours of productivity lost, untold gallons to fill 'er up (along with however many tons of carbon emissions), and now we can say, "Houston, we have a problem."

Most industries are publicly committed to working virtually, whether they call it telecommuting, the mobile workforce, or virtual workplaces. In meetings with top brass at global companies, I hear time and again that "virtual teaming" is a key strategy of these organizations. But the frustration and disillusionment sets in when people attempt to spend a day on platforms such as WebEx, GoToMeeting, etc.

There are two fundamental problems that surface. First there's the notion of spending a day "on" WebEx (or what have you). Whenever you work virtually with a 2-D "flatland" meeting product, you are "on" something but not "in" anything. Second, there's the squishy use of the word "meeting" to describe these tools. In truth, they're not collaboration platforms. They're screen-sharing programs. Big difference.

Compare this conceptually to a 3-D workplace powered by ProtoSphere. The team members are invited "in" to their virtual office. It's a place (not a screen) where they can see their coworkers come and go, sit and talk, share ideas, work on documents and projects together, and collectively tap the businesses other IT assets. They can also work with data in 3-D, as visualizations, gaining perspectives and insights that are simply not available in 2-D.

That's not a sales pitch. It's a definition of the gating factors that dampen the adoption of virtual teaming, and a statement of the opportunity we have to overcome these gating factors -- and the opportunity to have a measurable impact on the environment -- by teaming in 3-D.

We can now work with anyone anywhere, without burning fossil fuels, and without losing our humanity in a 2-D flatland screen share. The time is right for bold business leaders to set the pace, and lead by example. We can empower a massive and highly productive remote workforce with a 3-D high-performance workplace like ProtoSphere. And doing so would have a measurable impact on the planet, not to mention the bottom line.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Welcome, Sam Batterman, to ProtonMedia's Executive Advisory Board

Sam Batterman
Greg Pelton won't be lonely for long on our Executive Advisory Board. Sam Batterman has just joined the Board as well. Yowzaa, talk about brain power!

Sam is a Visualization Specialist for Microsoft's Life Science Group. He's probably familiar to some of you. Regular blog readers know him from our LIFE SCIENCES 2010 event, where Sam was a panelist. He also recently penned a guest article on our blog.

Sam will be advising ProtonMedia on areas including company strategy, business development, and virtual technology innovation. He brings with him 19 years of experience in business intelligence and database technology, including eight years spent at Merck leading customer relationship management and sales force automation projects.

We're excited to have Sam with us, and issued a press release today with more details on Sam's background and what he'll be bringing to the table at ProtonMedia. You can catch it below.

PowerPoint redux

PAIN POINT: PowerPoint is a 2-D solution for 3-D challenges
I've recently joined ProtonMedia's Executive Advisory Board and I couldn't be more thrilled. As a true believer in the power of 3-D environments to enable new collaboration models, I've known ProtonMedia for several years and admired ProtoSphere.

However, the market is just now reaching an inflection point where technology and user needs are converging to create the 21st-century workplace. This workplace is not a real place, but a virtual one. It is global, data-rich, interactive, collaborative, and visual. Most important, it is also 3-D.

Ron's posting last week covered one of the most used and abused of all business tools: PowerPoint. In this case, the U.S. Army's strategy in Afghanistan was illustrated by what can only be described as the PowerPoint equivalent of a neural network.

I can't fault the author of this chart because we've all faced the same struggle in the past. We have a complex set of information to convey to our audience, and we slice it into 8 1/2-by-11-inch pages. Clicking through them one by one comes about as close to our original intent as the Visible Human Project comes to meeting a real person.

We have two objectives when using PowerPoint. One, to convey relevant information, and two, to tell a story so that the audience reaches the desired conclusion. Our charts might capture data as elegantly as Edward Tufte or have the emotional simplicity of Steve Jobs, but we are still fighting a losing battle.

The problem is that PowerPoint is trapped in 2-D, while people live life in 3-D. This problem is only exacerbated as we increasingly work in distributed virtual teams, where the nuances of face-to-face discussion are lost. PowerPoint must be viewed passively, without the scowls and hand-waving and laser pointers of the conference room.

The solution to the problem can be found in 3-D collaborative environments. A 3-D environment allows complex data to be captured in forms that our brains are already wired to process. Think about viewing a stack of blueprints versus walking around inside a completed building, and you quickly see the difference.

3-D environments also allow storytelling in both a linear and non-linear fashion -- whichever works better for your audience. As an example, consider your last visit to a history museum. It was likely laid out chronologically so that as you progress through the building, you move forward in time.

Each time period laid a foundation for the next, and the story unfolded one century at a time. However, if your appetite for history matches many executives' appetite for information, you might have quickly moved on to the gift shop and skipped a few of those historical details.

3-D environments are more than just a replacement for PowerPoint. I believe they are the foundation for the 21st-century workplace, and I'd like to explore some of the reasons right here in future posts.
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