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Maximizing Efficiency with Virtual Workspaces: Sponsored Content

Collaborative platforms bring together people, capabilities to speed planning, decision making.

The speed and distributed nature of the modern public and private workplace means that getting the right teams and people aligned for a project can be challenging, as can coordinating and sharing information between those individuals. One way to do this is through virtual workspaces that can be applied to both existing physical spaces like meeting rooms and in a purely online setting.

This type of cooperation is important because it helps teams and decision makers work together in ways that traditional collaboration and screen sharing tools can’t because of their inherent limitations, explains David Kung, vice president for marketing strategy at Bluescape.

“We have geographic boundaries, technical boundaries, specialization boundaries, and just time and space,” Kung says. “A video call simply can’t do it all. You need more to truly collaborate.”

What this means is that many current collaboration and conferencing tools aren’t a good fit for this new world. One example is videoconferencing. While it’s fine for broadcasting information or having conversations with a small number of people, Kung notes that it isn’t interactive.

This can be a problem if data such as video, graphics, images or documents all need to be shared and worked on at the same time. Other tools such as Microsoft Teams, which is heavily used in the federal sector, allow for basic collaboration, but important information in email or chat threads can be quickly buried under new material, leading to wasted time as people search for specific items, Kung says.

Existing tools, whether videoconferencing, or collaborative applications, usually don’t work well together, if at all. This leads to teams having to switch between different tools for certain activities. The costs, in terms of time and effort, to switch between different platforms during a decision making process, such as planning a military operation or managing a project, can be severe.

“They cause more work and risks of miscommunication and information loss, are compounded,” Kung says.

Virtual Workspaces

One way to enhance collaboration is through the use of virtual workspaces, platforms that let individuals visually organize projects and decision making. An important aspect of such a tool is a digital whiteboard capability. While Bluescape is currently the only secure digital whiteboard available to the public sector, Kung notes that this is too narrow a definition as whiteboarding is just a single feature.

A better description of a virtual workspace is that of having an infinite canvas as a shared desktop. “Basically you can upload, organize and share all the information that’s relevant to either you, or your team, especially in terms of how you use that content in a collaborative setting,” he explains.

Another important aspect of virtual workspaces is that they are persistent—the information gathered on them remains, either on-premises or in a public or private cloud where it can be accessed and referenced. This is different from many available screen-sharing tools because the information displayed via screen sharing is ephemeral.

“Once the meeting is over, once the person stops sharing content, it’s gone,” Kung says.

What virtual workspaces provide is a single platform for creating, sharing and reviewing content, data and team communications. Instead of just a whiteboard, Kung says such platforms are much more, essentially a conference room in cyberspace “where the whiteboard plays a role, but so does the display, the telephone and the table.”

Kung describes Bluescape as the table in that virtual room. This is where content is presented and orchestrated and where team members can interact with it and each other, in much the same way a physical table in a meeting room does, he says.

Government Applications

Like other collaboration tools, virtual workspaces have many uses in federal agencies. Because it provides a common workspace, Kung notes that Blusescape lets users upload a variety of Office 365 and Google documents and share links to them. Files can be directly uploaded or links can be shared with files in cloud collaboration systems.

Users can also upload images and media such as video files. Kung adds that customers in defense agencies like the ability to upload high resolution imagery and videos such as surveillance materials.

This flexibility lets agencies adapt to changing situations such as crisis and disaster response. The ability to centralize information and allow onsite and remote teams to collaborate allows organizations to create “war rooms” that can be quickly set up to manage a situation and just as quickly reallocated or shut down when not needed.

“Bluescape gives you a true, hybrid war room platform. You can go completely virtual or you can use it to actually make your physical war rooms more digital,” Kung says.

In addition to centralizing information from a variety of sources and feeds to help teams react quickly to changing situations, virtual workspaces can be used for planning and decision making. They can gather key information and decision factors in one place. This is especially useful for program management applications for federal projects, which can require massive amounts of information and have far-reaching consequences.

By offering a combination of presentation, brainstorming, annotation and feedback tools, virtual workspaces let decision makers and teams visualize and model processes and scenarios. Such a capability must provide the ability to upload and share information, give comments, and make sketches on a single platform that enables real-time and asynchronous input from any location, Kung explains.

Virtual workspaces also create a single pane of glass that provides geographically scattered users with a common operating picture andthe ability to share operational context and intent. In Bluescape’s  case, this includes the ability to flexibly deploy either on premises or into a private cloud.

Private Sector

While it has recently worked to make inroads into the federal marketspace, Bluescape has worked in the private sector almost a decade. One customer is the Ford Motor Company, which contacted Bluescape to help redesign how it used its physical meeting spaces and to move the company away from a PowerPoint-based meeting culture, Kung explains. Ford’s use of digital collaboration tools like Bluescape is also playing a key role in developing its hybrid workplace model.

Bluescape is also used by media and entertainment companies, which use creative war rooms to develop ideas. Kung notes that this process can be cumbersome when done traditionally because it can involve transcribing and distributing meeting notes, searching for emails and printingart and other materials. Virtual workspaces consolidate and streamline all of these processes, he says.

As Bluescape expands in the federal sector, it is also working with contractors such as FedData and Peraton that provide consulting and system integration services to agencies such as the Department of Defense. Consulting firms usually work by travelling onsite or via a video call. But because there is often so much information to manage, discuss and consider in a government project or program, arranging and displaying it visually in a virtual workspace has many advantages.

“Bluescape is more engaging and it’s more interactive than a video call and slides, so consultants and integrators get more value out of their collaborations with customers and it helps elevate their brand and differentiate themselves inthe federal space,” Kung says.

Virtually Saving Bandwidth

To save bandwidth for virtual users or those operating at the edges of a network where connectivity is not assured, Bluescape uses screen snapshots of documents or spreadsheets, which allows only the most essential information to be downloaded. Should users want more information, they can click on links in the provided documents, which then triggers an opening to access that specific document or image, says David Kung, Bluescape’s vice president for marketing strategy.

This also serves to streamline the process, which means users don’t have to manually open each link. While there might be an initial dip in bandwidth when the workspace is opened on a device or workstation, Kung says the impact after this initial activation is minimal as the users are all sending information like panning, scrolling and zooming on material already loaded into the system.  

Kung adds that a study by Bluescape found that using a virtual workspace is more bandwidth efficient than screen-scrolling via video conferencing. This is because in a videoconference, if a slide is shown for 10 minutes, it is being streamed across the network and consuming bandwidth, even though nothing on it may be changing. With Bluescape, “if you’re looking at something in the workspace, you’re just looking at it, it’s not traversing the network, so it’s more efficient.”

For more information, go to https://www.bluescape.com/government/