Set that Meeting Free!

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“Does anybody have a display adaptor that will fit my laptop? I forgot mine.”

Meeting attendees surreptitiously check their watches. Seven minutes crawl by before the meeting starts – and 20 minutes later, when someone else wants to share their screen, a broken VGA cable stalls the proceedings once again. Sound familiar?

Intel employees spend 17 million minutes in teleconferences every year, and countless more in face-to-face meetings. Businesses around the globe can relate to the above “dongle hell” scenario, where meetings are delayed by having to set up conference bridges and connect multiple devices. In fact, in his keynote address at the Microsoft Ignite Event 2015, Gurdeep Singh Pall (Corporate Vice President of Microsoft’s Office Lync & Speech Group) stated that the industry average for meeting-start times is 13 minutes.

When I was hired three years ago as Intel’s IT Director of Collaboration and Productivity, my charter was to make collaboration at Intel more efficient, productive, and cost-effective. One outcome, the Intel® Unite™ app, serves as the foundation of a new approach at Intel to create smart collaboration spaces, documented in our recent white paper.

When I began, the first step was to identify the multiple and sometimes complex issues causing the problems. My team and I had multiple discussions with Intel employees. Out of these discussions, I was able to identify three pillars that would guide a solution:

  • How do people find the tools, information, and people they need?
  • How do people collaborate in real time during meetings?
  • How do people collaborate when they are not in meetings?

We found that in conference rooms, a lot of time was wasted in setting up the physical equipment. Different form factors, operating systems, and models made finding the right cables and dongles difficult. Although we started out by looking only at wireless projection, our scope soon widened to include electronic whiteboarding, finding unoccupied conference rooms, videoconferencing, using social tools, and more.

What we needed, in short, was a platform that was easy to use, extensible to multiple devices and purposes, and was FAST. Since no product on the market fit the bill, we began to work with Intel’s business units to develop a cost-effective solution that would support multiple operating systems. We also needed the solution to support remote management using Intel® Active Management Technology (a component of Intel® vPro™ technology).

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In just a few short months, we were able to test the first phase of the solution in a small proof of concept. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive. When employees entered a conference room equipped with the solution, they saw a “click to join” link on the screen. By simply clicking the URL to download the small app (which auto-updates when needed) and entering a four-digit pin (which changes on the room display periodically for security), meeting participants were immediately connected and the meeting was off and running. Meeting-start times decreased from an average of two minutes to just a few seconds. Employees appreciate the hassle-free simplicity (no driver or firmware upgrades are required) and it doesn’t matter what OS version they have.

Today, we have the solution, described in detail in our white paper, “Conference Room Collaboration Using Intel® vPro™ Technology,” installed in about 100 conference rooms and plan to increase that to about 500+ by the end of 2015. In fact, there appears to be an almost insatiable demand by employees for the solution – which is always very satisfying to see as an IT professional.

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In any shared physical space, we like to design solutions that are easy to use and hard to break. Using the Intel Unite app means there are fewer cables that can get damaged though wear and tear. And the small, unobtrusive Intel® NUC mini PC can be securely hidden away behind the display panel or under the table, making for a tidy and resilient solution.

I’m really excited that we have developed an IT capability that solves a global collaboration problem and that people love. The positive responses from our users are already pouring in. I’d be interested to hear how other IT organizations are solving their collaboration challenges, and as the Intel Unite app makes its way into the industry, receiving your feedback and suggestions for improvement. If you want to learn more about the other efforts Intel IT is contributing to, please check out our 2015-2016 Intel IT Annual Performance Report.  In it we share our insights for how we are driving growth and opportunity for Intel.  Feel free to share your comments with me and join the conversation at the IT Peer Network.