The year 2020 was a strange one globally, especially in workplaces, with collaborative technology solutions in higher demand than ever before. Brad Sousa, GPA Innovation Leader and CTO of GPA’s US business unit AVI Systems has been at the forefront of discussions with some of the largest global enterprise organizations. Throughout 2020, Brad recognized that rapid innovation during an unusual year had impacted the stakeholders and workflows associated with those decisions. When looking at customers internationally who have continued to do amazing things through a challenging time for many businesses, it becomes apparent that some distinctive attributes and ‘tools’ are used amongst them. But overall, there is a common theme – these businesses recognized that although excellent engineering is required, amazing outcomes are more about the people and what the technology does for the individuals and workgroups within the organizations.
Here are the five tools that Brad recommends to turn a good idea into an amazing outcome:
- Workshops, not surveys – Before starting engineering work on a project or idea, it is vital to first understand the purpose behind the project and the outcomes that the business is trying to accomplish. Engineers often rely on questionnaires and surveys to fill in the gaps, but sometimes this is not enough to fully understand the user’s sentiment and expectations of the technology, which is a critical factor in broad-scale adoption of the technology within the organization. It is vital to have free-flowing conversations to understand the worker’s expectations of the technology solutions before commencing any design or engineering work.
- Expectations, not specifications – Satisfying expectations leads to adoption on a broad scale, and broad-scale adoption leads to amazing outcomes. Every time we deliver a collaborative technology that does not meet the user’s expectations, that gap between expectation and capability is technical debt. The broader that gap, the bigger the debt. The more projects delivered that have that gap, the more debt is accumulated, resulting in low technology adoption as the users now have a gap between what the technology is capable of doing and what they wanted it to do. So it is crucial to minimize the technical debt for every project delivered to close the gap between what the users expect the experience to be and what the experience actually is.
- Listen for the friction – Friction is the difference between completing a task that may sound simple to one person, e.g., “all you have to do is,” compared to how it is for another user who may not be as familiar with the technology. For example, dialing into a Webex meeting from a Zoom room can be explained as: “You just have to hit that button, go to that field, type in the SIP URI and dial into the meeting”. While the system can do that, for the user, the friction that it takes to go through all of those steps means that it won’t be as widely adopted. So we need to always listen for friction and drive it out.
- Think big, start small, move fast – Brad took this concept from one of AVI Systems’ customers, the Mayo Clinic. The idea behind this is that rather than worry about solving a problem at the beginning of a project (which can seem daunting), sometimes a team can take the idea and deliver an innovative solution more quickly when it is broken down into smaller chunks. An example of this concept in action at the AVI Systems offices is AVI Personal Touch, which uses mobile phones and tablets to interact with in-house audiovisual technology and conferencing systems by scanning a QR code and entering a pin. No app is required for this, just a web browser, enabling the user to launch meetings and share content (with the option to control privacy). The system was developed after COVID-19 saw a rise in the demand for simplified meeting solutions and collaborative technologies. The timeframe from the initial concept to the finished product was only six weeks, which is amazing. The trick behind the swift rollout was that AVI Systems took smaller, more accelerated steps to find a solution that was easy for users, driving adoption at a time when technology and workplaces were quickly changing.
- Support the users, not just stuff – Naturally, engineers often focus on designing the technology. But providing proper support after the technology is rolled out is also critically important as it helps to assess whether the system is meeting the user’s expectations or if the user has to find alternative ways to make it do what they originally wanted it to do. When support is designed at the same time as the technical solution and in a way that helps accelerate the learning curve for users, that leads to an amazing outcome by driving adoption as early as possible.
“What is amazing? Amazing is the recognition that we are all working together in a multi-generational workforce, and with those different generations and demographics bring different definitions of what work means and different ideas and expectations of the purpose of the technology.”
– Brad Sousa, CTO AVI Systems
By implementing just a few of the above tools when planning your next innovative project, whether local or global, you may be surprised at how quickly you can turn a good idea into an amazing outcome.
Watch Brad Sousa’s full presentation here: