Photo: Eagle Investment Systems
Most companies are stuck in the dark ages when it comes to workforce tech. They think letting their workers use their own iPads to send corporate e-mails is cutting edge.Pshaw.
Want to see what tomorrow’s “social enterprise” looks like? Take a peek at Eagle Investment Systems. They call it the “high performance workforce.”
Their use of tech is so inspired, they literally turned the walls of their building into whiteboards for web conferencing by painting them with special paint called Walltalker.
Seriously. In any room in the building you can scribble on the wall. Then you can hook up some portable Bluetooth-enabled wands and fire up a Cisco WebEx meeting and everyone can see and interact with your wall.
Boston-based Eagle sells tech software to financial firms and supports about 600 employees and contractors. About a year ago, they moved to a new headquarters and that’s when they changed their outlook about IT, explains Mike Fitzgerald, Eagle’s top IT guy.
Today, all of Eagle’s tech serves one purpose: helping employees work together no matter where they are. Here are some of the ways Eagle is doing this:
They shifted from offices to “huddle rooms.” Every 40 feet Eagle built little rooms where employees work together, he says. They never have to book a conference room through Microsoft Office. There’s always a space available with a monitor for web conferences. Employees cubicles are now tiny, 150 square feet each.
“Priorities have shifted away from employees sitting in a cube to what’s happening in the virtual world. It’s all about information flow, data, collaboration and in a dynamic, ad-hoc fashion,” Fitzgerald explains.
They killed off traditional desk phones. Employees all have tablets (iPad or Android), laptops and cell phones (iPhone or Android). They use software-phones meaning the telephone is just another application and phone numbers can become part of any app. Eagle uses Cisco’s Jabber and WebEx software to make calls, chat over IM, post status updates and do web conferencing. Employees are given portable Plantronics headsets and speakerphones.
Eagle all-but-killed-off e-mail. Fitzgerald’s team built a new portal application that lets people create projects by dragging and dropping info like contact info, data, calendars, schedules. People can use the IM/web conferencing tool, Jabber, to communicate. It now takes two days to launch a new project. It used to take up to two weeks to e-mail people, gather materials from multiple computer systems and get everyone onboard with a project schedule.
E-mail is still there, but people hardly use it. “We now have more IM sessions than we do e-mail. 7,500 IM sessions a day,” he says.
Video conferencing and collaboration is everywhere. Since it’s so easy to do, remote employees are always included, particularly through video conferencing. Meetings use Skype or WebEx whenever possible. Relationships between workers, particularly overseas employees, are much better compared to the old, e-mail days, says Fitzgerald.
Status updates are displayed on monitors throughout the building. Employees are always kept in the loop with other employees even when they are walking around the building. More than that, they can always find an expert to help as needed.
Next up, Fitzgerald envisions a day when when applications between companies are this social. For instance, as an employee travels, a calendar app can track the GPS location from phone or tablet and keep all the people on the agenda in the loop. People in the contact list can be automatically alerted if they are nearby, attending the same event.
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