Chris Kranky

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A move to real time communication

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

productivity_trainingAs summer gives way to fall, I will shift the focus on my writing to a broader category of real time communications and collaboration. WebRTC clearly has a role here, but my interest is in application and technology is simply a tool.

As inefficiencies rise radical opportunities appear to address these inefficiencies. Some of these new ideas will have billion dollar impacts to how we work. Uber, for example, is not about competing with taxis, but that most municipalities have horrible public transport systems (San Francisco, for example, borders on a 3rd world country experience). Uber, thus is easily a billion dollar idea. Imagine an Uber bus, clean, on time, efficient and a modest price. Not hard to draw that line.

In communications, I watched my office colleague as he receives approx 1 email a minute during the business day. At best he can skim and hope he doesn’t actual miss something important. Email is now a silent productivity killer. The answer though isn’t a better email client, we need a better communications system.

I equally watch employees whose sole function seems to be to go from one meeting to the next. Their day organized in nice 1 hour containers. It’s well documented that the bulk of meetings are mostly just a waste of productivity. Some companies do try with rules that limit the duration, number of attendees, ensure a clear stated goal and emergency stop buttons which allow any attendee to halt a meeting that’s off the rails. But this is a band-aid fix to a deeper gash problem. We need less meetings, more productivity.

Newish collaboration tools like Sqwiggle, slack, hipchat, basecamp and numerous others have emerged to address the inefficiencies above. It’s not hard to see that a collision is likely as voice, video, chat, file sharing, twitterish start to create combinations within nearly every application. But is this the answer?

I think not.

In my own case, while my own email traffic has moderated, I now how to check in on basecamp, bloomfire, SAP JAM, and various internal portals. I’m on 6 IM systems at any given time and continue to monitor 4 email addresses. Like sifting thru a Filene’s basement sale, it’s mostly about rapidly discarding. I hesitate to think of my ratio of time spent finding versus time acting. Because we don’t know what is valuable, we have to look at nearly everything. It’s too many micro decisions in a single day, no wonder the avg employee is exhausted from information overload.

I don’t need less of the more. I actually need more of the less to increase my productivity. Think about television, growing up I had 2 TV channels, things were simpler and there always seemed to be something on. Cable TV resulted in me having 200+ channels with the well trodden adage, there was never anything good on. More was clearly not better.

Tivo, a DVR, emerged and their idea was inline with a more of less principle. Their notion you would only have one channel. Your channel. The Tivo Channel where it was all about you 24 x 7. I loved my Tivo! They applied technology to the 200+ channel mess I had.

I haven’t found, yet, a communications application that is fun, doesn’t seem like work, doesn’t need consistent attention to keep happy and seems to deliver on my underlying need to feel/be more productivity.

The early efforts are just that, early. We have no choice but to go thru this phase to get to the next. I perk up when people talk about their application idea increasing productivity because those are indeed billion dollar ideas.