King County Focuses on CollaborationBy Samuel Greengard
Digital technologies have ushered in enormous communications and collaboration capabilities. Today, the ability to connect teams across the office or around the world is at the center of business transformation. One organization that sees the big picture is King County, which encompasses Seattle and holds the distinction of being the most populous county in the State of Washington. "In the past, we used a variety of systems and technologies. It was time consuming to administer from an IT perspective and the performance wasn't adequate," says Alex Patrut, senior system IT specialist for King County.
In some cases, Patrut and fellow IT staff found themselves spending 20 minutes or more setting up videoconferencing systems, which often relied on legacy technology from multiple vendors along with computer monitors and VGA quality TV sets. With 30 conference rooms on site and multiple requests to use systems daily, "We realized we had to standardize the technology and build out a platform that supports collaboration," he says. "We were spending too much of our time putting out fires -- and existing systems had limited capabilities and features." Among other things, teams couldn't connect remotely and establish multipoint connections with smartphones and tablets.
In December 2016, King County IT (KCIT) turned to Logitech to take its videoconferencing and collaboration tools into the digital age. "The technology offered a straightforward upgrade path," Patrut says. KCIT handled the installation and implementation of the systems on its own. It now uses the vendor's SmartDock solution to hold meetings, interview job candidates and handle other tasks. The integrated secure meeting console is designed to work with Skype Room Systems and accommodate remote connections as well as SharePoint. As a result, participants can now view and edit documents in real time.
The results have been nothing less than impressive, he says. Not only are employees using the videoconferencing and collaboration systems without IT involvement -- something that is allowing the IT team to address more strategic tasks -- it has spurred much higher levels of usage and helped drive greater productivity. "The ability to share presentations and co-edit documents -- Word, Excel, whatever -- has completely changed the way people work and interact. It has introduced true collaboration," Patrut explains.
The transition to the new framework presented a few challenges. The biggest was upgrading from Exchange 2010 to Exchange Online. The next generation Skype Room System wasn't compatible with the version of Exchange KCIT was running. On the cultural side, Patrut and the IT team focused on how to create conference rooms that attracted users. "We looked at the color of the room, the table design, the layout and the lighting solutions. Just as a person wants to push on the metal plate or pull on the handle on a door, we wanted to drive adoption and cultural transformation by making the systems and environments highly appealing," he says.
King County, which has approximately 14,000 employees, is now looking to roll out the collaboration technology to additional meeting spaces at other locations. It also is studying using the Logitech systems in offices, hallways and public spaces. "Communication and collaboration have become critical components for work," Patrut says. "The technology boosts efficiency and productivity. It delivers a high return on investment."