This month we’re launching Solstice 2.1, and its focus addresses a pet peeve of mine – bad business meetings and lost productivity. We’ve been looking at how to address productivity-loss in meetings with the Solstice collaboration software for a while, but the 2.1 release directly addresses some of the more glaring problems in conducting effective meetings.
I probably don’t have to spend much time describing how business meetings can have such a negative impact on productivity – you’ve almost certainly attended meetings that are used for bureaucratic accountability-dodging, company politics and insulating participants from their real work. A fairly well known study by 3M has already pointed out that 20-25 percent of the time spent in meetings is wasted. More recent research at the University of Minnesota by Kathleen Voghs and her colleagues demonstrates cognitive reasons that long meetings can negatively impact productively by depleting our limited store of “executive” thinking.
Although I can’t help you avoid unnecessary meetings (that’s up to you and your company culture), I can help you conduct more effective meetings. Take a look at how a typical, 70 minute meeting breaks down into tasks:
A large amount of time in a meeting is spent simply starting it. On average, out of the 70 minutes, six of those are spent connecting the presenter’s computer to the in-room display, activating room control systems, and generally situating everyone. Those six minutes may not seem like much, but for most companies, this lost productivity really adds up. According to a University of Arizona study, there are more than 11 million formal meetings per day in the United States which equates to about three billion meetings per year. Those six minutes cost U.S. companies 1.1 million hours a day.
This is why we challenged the engineering team with the 45-second meeting launch challenge – focused on helping create more effective meetings. Can users walk into a conference room, wirelessly connect to the display and share their desktop in less than 45 seconds, even if they don’t have Solstice software? If everyone coming into the room can do the same, imagine how quickly your meeting could get started. No more, video cable scramble, no more repeated banging on the Fn+F7 key, and so on.
It was a big challenge and we were able to introduce a “Quick-Connect Client” feature in 2.1 that allows anyone to connect with their device – laptop users, tablets, and smartphones – simply by entering a key shown on the screen into their web browser. Because Solstice now speaks HTTP directly, we can serve a lightweight client to the browser, launch it, and it will automatically connect the user to the display. We combined this with another usability-enhancement – the “Easy button” for sharing. Users are presented right away with a simple “Share my Desktop” button when they are connected, and they can begin sharing on demand. On average, the whole process, from the time a user opens their web browser to the time they are sharing the desktop, media files, and application windows to the screen, is about 36 seconds.
I’m excited to see the impact of this new method on the traditional six minute A/V setup time. Will Solstice 2.1 increase next-year’s U.S. GDP? Probably not. But I know I’ll be happy to spend less time in meetings. I hope our customers will appreciate it too.