An Agile Virtual Office? Beam Me Up, Brody! – Sococo Virtual Collaboration

HOW TO WORK REMOTELY WITHOUT BEING ISOLATED

If you really work alone, without collaborators, then you can skip the rest of this post. It probably won’t matter much to you.

I value agile collaboration. I work with others, at various times and places. If you do, too, then please continue reading…

When you can’t be in the same room or building with your team and others, how can you work together?  Sococo Team Space!  That’s how. You can be remote…yet visibly present and connected…very much so!

Sococo, where were you when I needed you?

I spent most of my past three years working remotely…

I was a full-time member of an awesome organization (NASA), staffed with amazing people (engineers and, yes, rocket scientists!) who engaged in plenty of collaboration around the work (Independent Verification & Validation). I was hired to work from home, with travel as needed to various locations.

To be sure, we made good use–heavy use–of our phones, conference lines, screen sharing apps, content management systems, file sharing, secure virtual private network, messaging and email. That technology stack was good enough that some people would “dial in” to a meeting from the same building! If you are working from a wheelchair, you already know how valuable that technology can be, especially on a hilly, ice-and-snow-covered campus of several buildings! (West Virginia is known as “The Mountaineer State” for good reason!)

Yet, in spite of our “connectedness” that technology stack didn’t quite achieve the level of collaboration support I hoped for. At first, I traveled half the time. That was a great jump-start for meeting new colleagues and building rapport. The next year, a week a month. But travel budgets continued to shrink. I made only two trips last year. Can you spell ISOLATION? Sometimes it felt that way.

What I really craved

Tangible Virtual Presence!

As an “agile” engineer, I wanted easier collaboration, higher bandwidth, and consolidated multi-media access to collaborators…within reason. When I was “there” it was easy to “see” if someone was “in” their office, a meeting room, conference, or common area.  So, I’m spoiled already. I wanted something that was as close to “being there” as possible. To see and be seen, hear and be heard. Near-instant access to others. But more than just an instant messenger, a phone call, a Skype session, or web meeting. I wanted something more integrated, encompassing audio+visual+media+whatever, and…LIVE!

I wanted a continuous, mutually-tangible and symmetric tele-presence.

Enter Sococo. Paul Brody (@pjbrody) is CTO and co-founder of Sococo. The folks at Sococo have made it even easier than ever to engage and collaborate remotely…and it’s rich, really rich, in capabilities and nuances! The way it looks to me, you can have it all… and customize your space to adapt to changing needs. For example: cube farms, private offices, large conference rooms, small meeting rooms, a break room, and common area or a lobby. It works in 2D, with numerous visual and audible cues. With a single click, you can instantly “beam” yourself into a room–if the door is open–and engage with everyone else in that room. And not only audio. You can use multiple shared screens, virtual speaker phones, or other furnishings of the future. I can hardly wait to see what comes next!

It keeps getting better! Here’s a recent blog from Sococo:
Blurring the Boundaries Between Online and Physical Presence.

Kudos to Krebs for his kool kollaboration…

Special thanks to my friend and colleague, AgileBill Krebs (@AgileBill4d) founder of AgileDimensions LLC, for leading me to Sococo! Bill is a passionate innovator and evangelist for distributed teamwork. He keeps finding new ways we can work better together. Recently, Bill created Sococo Team Space for the Agile3d Distributed Agile Congress meetups. If it weren’t for Bill’s invitation… I shudder to think how long I might have waited to get “beamed up” into an agile virtual office suite! Thanks again, Bill!

-Ken (singing) “I get by with a little help from my friends!” ;-)

10 Responses to “An Agile Virtual Office? Beam Me Up, Brody! – Sococo Virtual Collaboration”

  1. Sameer Bendre
    March 27, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    That sounds really cool!

    • peter
      March 27, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

      I believe, sir. It doth work

  2. Ken 'classmaker' Ritchie
    March 27, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

    Behind the Scenes: The making of the second picture…

    The second picture–the composite including a global map–was created by AgileBill Krebs from screenshots taken during our “Agile Testing” meetup on March 21, last week. The virtual rooms belong to the Agile Leadership Hall, a Sococo Team Space created by AgileBill for our meetups.

    10 participants — 5,420 miles apart!
    Six people present in our Team Space.
    Four others connected by a “speakerphone”
    conference in the Planning Center “room.”

    Zsolt (3 AM in Europe!) connected via Sococo as we moved into the Feature III Bullpen “room.” Our audio presence was amazing! It was as if we were physically sharing a room. With our microphones open, we had fully concurrent chatter. It felt very natural. What a great meeting!

    Thanks again to AgileBill for facilitating this!

    • peter
      March 27, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

      Wow. Very cool.

  3. AgieBill
    March 27, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

    Thanks for the excellent description Ken! There are so many tools that help with distributed collaboration. But like the Agile manifesto says, it’s not about tools, it’s about the principles.

    I have failed with many approaches, which has been most educational, hehe. Most tools today have screen share, text, voice, and webcam of my wrinkled face. But what these new approaches offer is a ‘sense of place’. We can custom build the venue, and even make it interactive. Webcams are good to get to know you, but after that I want the bandwidth for voice.

    I am beginning to think it’s about ‘spaces, not faces’. Sococo helps us with that ‘always on osmotic communication’ we like when we work together in one room (a bullpen or fishbowl).

    Thanks for the discussion!! I look forward to meeting y’all online! … @AgileBill4d

    • Ken 'classmaker' Ritchie
      March 28, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

      So, @AgileBill4d, it seems you’ve spotted a trend…

      “it’s about ‘spaces, not faces’[with] ‘always on osmotic communication’”

      You’ve put your finger on the heart of what I craved! For me, the missing element was a ‘sense of place’ — that’s it! A place to go, a place to collaborate, a 24×7 virtual “facility” integrating visible and audible cues and presence, together with all the usual media sharing facilities.

      Thank you for articulating that so well. You made my day!!! Indeed, what a bright future we have ahead of us!

      Thanks again… @classmaker

  4. Kent Libbey (with Sococo)
    March 30, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    Thanks for a great post Ken! You and @AgileBill4d are echoing what we hear (and experience ourselves) all the time about Sococo: that there’s a sense a place—a feeling of belonging—you get in Team Space that simply doesn’t exist with conventional communications tools. And that’s not by accident; whereas others sell ‘unified communications,’ we work hard to promote ‘unified teams.’

    We look forward to you continued feedback and insights!

    • peter
      March 31, 2012 at 10:52 am #

      Awesome! Thanks for letting us know!

  5. Karol McCloskey
    April 4, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    Ken – way cool; useful too while gasoline prices get closer to the higher altitudes. I could have used just this very thing not too long ago. Me thinks it would make “teaming” a little easier.

    AgieBill- had to laugh about webcams and unflattering facial rendering.

    Thanks so very much for sharing!

  6. Ken 'classmaker' Ritchie
    May 30, 2012 at 10:21 am #

    Sococo UPDATE: Camera sharing has been added to the Sococo screens!

    Very nicely done! Your own camera and any shared cameras in the same room are previewed–live–in the lower-left panel. Very intuitive. My learning curve lasted less than a minute, quickly dabbling with the sharing and viewing options.

    The Sococo “transporter deck” is a delight!!!

    Kudos to the Sococo team, again! Many thanks!

    Ken ;-)

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