Interview conducted with Matt Corbett, IT/End User Experience Manager at Electric Power Research Institute.
In 1965, 30 million Americans lost electricity in the Great Northeastern Blackout. This crisis left people vulnerable and showed society’s great dependence on 24-7-365 electric service. Because of this blackout, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) was established as an objective, nonprofit organization to conduct research and development in all aspects of power production, delivery and use, for the benefit of the public.
On a daily basis, 1200 employees at their U.S. offices and labs and around the world collaborate in a range of programs with their peers, member companies, and stakeholders. Effective communication isn’t just important, it’s essential – for establishing and managing research, for reporting results, and for applying new technologies in power systems around the world.
We had the opportunity to talk with Matt Corbett, IT/End User Experience Manager at EPRI, about how EPRI is creating a video-first culture to equip employees to communicate — and collaborate — more easily and effectively than ever before.
When Corbett joined EPRI in January 2017 his first goal was to understand how the company was collaborating. Which aspects were working and providing a good experience, and which needed improvement? He spent his first months just listening. From this, Corbett put together a transformation strategy, aligned directly to EPRI’s unique needs. Alongside key partnerships with the HR and Facility teams, he was able to secure the executive support he needed, and — most important– establish trust across the organization that proved critical in the success of the transformation ahead.
In a workplace driven by collaboration, the goal was to drive seamless continuity and a flawless user experience. At the heart of the transformation was the need to sever ties with old technologies and habits so that the EPRI team could share ideas and foster further research more readily and effectively .
Corbett determined that hardly anyone was using video frequently or effectively. To address this he brought in new software and hardware, and began modernizing EPRI’s offices, conference rooms and other shared spaces. His team focused on creating comfortable meeting rooms and “huddle spaces,” with easy-to-use conferencing systems.
Creating an intuitive, well-supported experience for employees was crucial to the strategy. Video conferencing became seamless for individuals on a desktop, individuals or groups in small conference rooms, or large groups in meeting- and conference-size halls. For all these, a simple push of a button is all that is needed.
As a result, collaboration technology has become more integral to EPRI’s collaborative business model. More people are using video conferencing more often, and its use has moved beyond in-house team meetings. EPRI is now simulcasting all-hands meetings, bringing its far-flung team together with video conferencing software. By using the systems for interview screenings, EPRI is reducing travel costs. EPRI is using video conferencing to deliver externally-facing training and classes on demand, extending its reach globally.
Corbett advises: listen and have an open mind. Don’t approach a situation with a solution already in mind. Ask thoughtful, probing questions. Allow people to express opinions and share their experience. Ultimately you want the team to be excited to adopt a new technology. Also, in your various work spaces, don’t default to the same solution for every room. Regardless of the size or shape, determine which technology and configuration best serves the particular needs – even if that means trying a configuration that is a bit different than the norm. At the end of the day, the technology should fit the way you work, not the other way around.
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