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Polycom's RealPresence Centro Seeks to Eliminate Counterproductive Meetings

March 07, 2016

Polycom recently announced that its RealPresence Centro (RPC) conferencing solution is now available in a limited set of markets around the world. The arrangement of the screens in the RPC brings a different mindset to videoconferencing; one that Polycom feels is more conducive to collaboration.

A company announcement refers to a natural human tendency to gather in circles when working collaboratively. That’s somewhat misleading as the RPC consists of four screens attached to a support that when viewed from above, would form the four sides of a square, but it is nonetheless, a much different arrangement than what is found in most conferencing setups.

The support is attached to a base unit that presumably houses the heart and brains of the RPC. A camera comes out from the top of the support, and provides 360-degree video footage of everyone in the room to remote attendees. RPC is going to be a great option for Microsoft customers, since it has native interoperability with the Lync/Skype for Business platform.

It’s obvious from Polycom’s literature and taking your first glance at the RPC that one of its goals is to transform the way businesses conduct meetings. This is a worthy objective, because meetings have long been a common source of frustration for employees and management.

Even the most productive of meetings start at a disadvantage, simply because of the expense involved. Since numerous employees have to stop what they are doing to attend a meeting, that’s a lot of man-hours diverted away from productive work.

A 2012 Psychology Today article written by Ray Williams is an indictment of the business meeting culture. Among the many sources it cited that spoke negatively about meetings was a survey conducted by Industry Week. It found that 2,000 managers claimed that at least 30 percent of time spent in meetings was wasteful. That was one of the more lenient findings in the article.

Williams also alluded to how Parkinson’s Law applies to meetings. In other words, if you allocate one hour for a meeting, then the attendees tend to use up the entire hour, even if there is much less than an hour’s worth of substance to discuss.

How would the RPC deal with all things wrong with meetings? It takes away the hierarchical seating arrangements that conference rooms typically have. This takes away the ego element that some meetings have where one or a few people dominate a meeting just to hear themselves talk.

Another way that it encourages equal participation is with the 360-degree camera. Everyone attending is on ‘Candid Camera’ so to speak, so there is no dozing off at the other end of the room away from those holding court. Everyone can do the electronic equivalent of marking up handouts, which also encourages collaboration.

It seems a bit of a reach to say that the RPC is as revolutionary as Polycom makes it out to be. What it seems to do instead however, is take existing technology and apply it in an arrangement that will make business meetings more productive. The potential cost savings from that alone may well be worth more than the unit’s weight in gold. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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