Applications and Tools, Business in Virtual Worlds, Collaboration, Education in Virtual Worlds, Second Life, Virtual World Platforms

Immersive Workspaces and Me: Remedy Partners with Rivers Run Red

I’m a strong believer that virtual worlds are ready for business. While I’m hardly some kind of guru when it comes to selling technology, I remember selling Web-based education back when most of my clients didn’t have e-mail, and didn’t have a clue what a browser was. The Internet at the time was a technology far less mature than virtual worlds are now, and yet it made sense when tech was matched to business need. Clients were smart enough to be able to strip through both the hype, and the dire warnings about safety or inappropriate content or whatever else the journalists decided was the spin of the day, and could work towards achieving a solid return on what may have seemed like an experimental technology: but one that would quickly become a transformative force.

Virtual worlds are far more established than the Web was then, and there are an increased number of options for security (most of which I don’t think are particularly relevant to most clients - firewalls are for “deep security”, frankly - and I like the idea of organizations dipping their toes in the larger community. We’ll always have a seat for them at Metanomics).

My company recently announced that we are partnering with Rivers Run Red and will act as a value-added reseller of the Immersive Workspaces(TM) application. What always struck me about IWS wasn’t just that it delivered on a common proposition about virtual worlds: that they can save companies money on travel, reduce carbon emissions, replace conference calls, or the general claim that virtual worlds mean virtual meetings. Frankly, I don’t particularly BUY the “better than a conference call” meme.

Don’t get me wrong: if you have more than 2 or 3 people who need to get together at a distance, virtual worlds help you to participate in a conversation in a way that eliminates the distractions that you get on a conference call or a Web-based meeting: conversation becomes manageable and understandable because each person present has a sense of location, their voice comes from where they are, and you can add rich content to the conversation.

I use virtual worlds daily to meet with people: whether in small groups of 2 or 3, or large groups like the Metanomics community forums. But just as important as the ‘efficiencies’ of meeting this way is the sense of community and connection that I don’t think you can get with people that you don’t work with on a daily basis, certainly not through a Web conference. It’s about people, really, and community, and in an enterprise this can mean connecting geographically dispersed team members, or about outreach to stakeholders or customers.

Knowledge Transfer and Productivity
Back before I knew the team at Rivers Run Red I conducted an interview with CEO Justin Bovington. In his discussion of the value proposition for IWS, he talked about cost savings, but he also talked about knowledge transfer, work/life balance, and productivity:

Many companies have a massive problem with disparate employees, where you may have a situation where people are working on the same problem across multiple different regions or multiple divisions. How can you get people to share and transfer knowledge? How do you get very large companies to talk to each other in a non-hierarchical fashion. And so that’s obviously one of the big, big benefits is that you can help solve this.

Another thing that we’ve picked up on is using Immersive Workspaces for pre and post events, where you can organize an innovation day in real life, for example, that lasts for 3 days. The main problem is that they’re very costly, very time consuming and how do you get people to continue that conversation. And we ran a conference where we had a pre-event inside one of our virtual spaces, and then we did a post event. So it took one day off the main conference day. When people got to the real event, they had already broken down the social barriers. They were already talking because they met in world. We noticed that people were arriving, initially picking up the conversation from where they just left off in world. And so we’ve done that. So of course as a productivity tool that’s very, very powerful.

But what we found afterward, and which was quite a surprise to us, is people were logging back in again to the space, when they got back to their offices or homes, and were continuing the same conversations. So suddenly people’s desire to share ideas and share innovation was coming through very strong.

Another benefit is in helping to adjust life/work balance. One of the biggest problems that happens in HR is that people are complaining about having on a Sunday afternoon to get to a meeting on a Monday, and helping to address that is one of the main things that we’re doing.

It’s been about productivity.

The Web Matters
One of the things that makes IWS so powerful is that it is an application that tightly integrates a Web site and an immersive environment. Through it, content can be uploaded (PowerPoint, video, etc.), meetings booked, transcripts and recordings of sessions accessed, groups administered, amongst other functions.

With the addition of Mobile Ripple, IWS added functionality for team communication through mobile devices.

This tight Web-side integration is what carries IWS beyond a beautifully functional build and into the category of robust enterprise-grade application.

An Innovation Agenda
Like the application of any new technology or process within an organization, it will partly be the moments of serendipity that drive value. By combining IWS with innovation curricula, market-specific content, and our network of subject matter experts, we can further bring clients an application against which they can set specific goals, achieve specific outputs, and thus measure ROI.

I asked Justin when I interviewed him last year what surprised him about the value that companies derived from the platform:

One of the big surprises that they’re finding is they are starting to not differentiate between this and the real world. They’ve found that they are talking about the meeting rooms as if they’re real places. So they’re starting if you like to see beyond the technology, see beyond barriers and they’re actually seeing this as a real part of their organization. A lot of them are saying that we never thought that would happen because they always saw the technology barrier as something they’d probably never get past.

There is also the sense of being able to tap into this wonderful amount of collective knowledge. So some of our clients have 300 people who are using the space, and we’re seeing people meet others that they might never have had a chance to meet.

And one of my classic stories is the guy who turned around and said I found out that I was going to be on the same problem as the guy was 3 floors below us, and by combining our efforts through the virtual space, by meeting there, we actually saved x amount of time and problems. You’ve actually facilitated a connection which is actually very powerful.

Indeed. Connection is what will drive the success of IWS. Connection with ideas, people, concepts, and data.

And, I hope, connections to communities within Second Life who are interested in working together to help bring content, insight, market-specific expertise, and a shared passion for virtual worlds to a new audiences.

Read the full release here.


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