David J. Danto
Principal Consultant, Collaboration/ AV / Multimedia / Video / UC
Director of Emerging Technology
Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance
Are We There Yet?
This week I returned from my family’s summer vacation. We spent 11 days bopping around Southern California. This may be the last traditional family vacation for us as my eldest starts college in September and the natural two week “end of camp - start of school” timeframe will have less meaning. As I get back to my home office and return to a regular routine, I realize that we experienced a number of things that could be referred to as transformative around and during this trip. Yes, it begins with the fact that that my son will be off to college and that the difference between what I paid for my degree and what he will have to pay for his is nothing short of obscene. That however is only the beginning.
I suppose that looking at changes, the first one has to be why we chose Southern California this year. Earlier this year we were alerted (thanks Joe B.) that the Hilton Honors program was drastically devaluating their points system. All those frequent stay points I earn on my too-many business trips were worth what I was promised before I went to sleep one day and about half of that when I woke-up the next day. While this is a despicable thing to do to people who remain loyal to a hotel brand, it just points out what I and others have said before – never hold miles or points in your travel accounts for too long. They are like counterfeit money that you don’t own. The airline or hotel chain can do whatever they want to them – i.e. restrict, devalue, remove, convert - until you spend them. Anyone building a huge bank to take that magical trip someday isn’t realizing that unlike banks, these deposits are not guaranteed. A hastily assembled family meeting in the Danto house had to pick a destination for August with very little planning. Of all the places we’ve been to (where I could actually find three available mileage reward tickets to) we felt that the Southern California area gave us the biggest variety of things we could choose from later. A beautiful new resort on the Pacific Ocean was our main choice, with a couple of stays at less expensive properties before and after. That is free advice point two here – never have the first night of a vacation be at the nice place you’re spending a lot of time (and money) at. When you get delayed or canceled (which will happen sometimes) it really kills the plans. Make your first night a throwaway near the airport. If you get there on time then you are only sleeping there for a night then heading on to your next destination. If you experience a problem you can just cancel it and not mess-up your resort or other reservations. It is sad that people have to “game the system” to get value out of the loyalty points they’ve earned with hotels and airlines, but these companies see these reward trips as “free” instead of as “hard earned” as we travelers do. When it comes to the airline and hospitality industry understanding loyalty and treating customers with respect – no, we are not there yet.
The next change has to do with the whole concept of “work-life balance.” In the past, many of us have taken vacations with decisions to be “off the grid” – not in touch with our employer or clients, not checking messages, just decompressing. In fact the pre-eminent imaging firm Ricoh recently commissioned a research study on this topic and concluded that being off-line is the right way to vacation. Their conclusions were based on the fact that remote access is typically “not easy.” While that is true, it does not need to be. In this case we are there already. During my vacation I participated in a couple of videoconferences, worked on some documents and stayed in touch with my colleagues. What kind of person would I be if I assumed that my vacation was more important than anything that might possibly happen while I’m away? What would it say about me if I was unwilling to get a quick answer out to a co-worker to help them out of a jam? How responsive would they be to me the next time I needed something in a hurry? If I’m away for a couple of days on a special trip then things can usually wait, but when time away takes a week or more I feel I need to know what’s going on in order to be effective upon my return. With the collaboration tools available today I can do just that – be responsive, stay in touch, maybe work on a document or two if needed – and as you can see from the picture, my “office” while I was away looked a heck of a lot nicer than my office back home.
Finally, people have frequently asked me when technology will be good enough to do away with the need for business travel altogether. Are we there yet? No, and we never will be. Meetings are between people. People need to shake hands, dine together, see facilities – experience things first hand. As we mark the first anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s passing I can’t think of a better example of why technology will never replace travel. If we had sent a videoconference system to the moon instead of walking around on it it wouldn’t have represented the defining moment for mankind that it did. Technology (when planned and designed correctly) augments business travel – allowing us to be as productive from a seaside resort on the Pacific Ocean as we are from our office. Unified Communication and Collaboration technologies are not as prevalent as they could be for reasons other than not being able to replace travel. They are frequently not planned correctly – as this blog from one of my colleagues points out. Sometimes the correct business solution is a PC with the right video and collaboration software on it; sometimes it is a spectacular desktop appliance; sometimes it is a stunning, holographic “Immersion Room” – but it is never just one of those. It is always about the unique, correct blend of technologies to meet an organization’s diverse needs.
So as I settle back into my non-vacation routine – which also includes planning my next few business trips – I can be confident that wherever I happen to be I can meet my clients’ and employer’s needs without compromise. In that sense, yes, I am there. I am always there.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions. David has over three decades of experience providing problem solving leadership and innovation in media and unified communications technologies for various firms in the corporate, broadcasting and academic worlds including AT&T, Bloomberg LP, FNN, Morgan Stanley, NYU, Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan Chase. He now works with Dimension Data as their Principal Consultant for the collaboration, multimedia, video and AV disciplines. He is also the IMCCA’s Director of Emerging Technology. David can be reached at David.Danto@Dimensiondata.com or DDanto@imcca.org and his full bio and other blogs and articles can be seen at Danto.info. Please reach-out to David if you would like to discuss how he can help your organization solve problems or develop a future-proof collaboration strategy.
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