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Interactive Whiteboard mounted in board room during meeting

Does IWB collaboration technology make good business sense?

by David Danto
For years, interactive whiteboards (IWB) — perhaps more accurately referred to as interactive flat panel displays (IFPD) — have seen a lot of use in the classroom. Teachers often work with IFPDs daily, and as a result, they become very proficient at using them to enhance lessons and increase student engagement. It's not uncommon to see teachers using IFPDs with ease to highlight key points, display beautiful charts and graphs, and digitally share notes with students.
Businesses have not typically seen this level of success with digital whiteboards. The technology has been notorious for its steep learning curve over the years, and most company employees don't use digital whiteboards often enough to become as fluent as teachers.
If you've worked with a smart board or similar device in the past, you've likely been discouraged by the amount of training needed to operate it with skill. The technology takes hours to learn, and if you don't use these devices daily, a refresher is often required every time you set up — and the longer you've been away from the technology, the more time you need to retrain.
Fortunately, there are digital whiteboards on the market today that are easy to use and can raise business collaboration to a level that meets the increasing needs of agile work environments. But to find a good fit for your business, you should make sure one or all of the following conditions are met:

1. Your business environment is ideal for this type of collaborative technology.

2. The IFPD is as easy to use as a smart device and requires little or no training.

3. TCO is low, making scaling up by purchasing more IFPDs in the future practical.

Conference room with Interactive whiteboard at end of meeting table

Make sure your business environment is whiteboard friendly

By using digital whiteboard technology in the classroom, teachers can collaborate with students in a number of ways — including working with students on diagrams, inviting students to make notes on the displays, and letting students add to the conversation with their connected laptops, tablets and smart devices.
Companies with highly collaborative teams separated by distance can benefit similarly with these same collaborative tools. In fact, IFPDs can drive ideas that result in more innovation, especially when used in industries where ongoing collaboration — particularly among remotely located individuals — is essential to success:

  • Architects can save space and time by meeting and collaborating over connected IFPDs and mobile devices in real-time to share and revise designs, schematics, blueprints and more.
  • Graphic designers can reduce revision cycles and improve the customer experience by manipulating objects onscreen and collaborating on colors, measurements and layouts.
  • Engineers can drive lean innovation by showing simulations on large IFPD screens, annotating on the spot and easily sharing the information digitally so everyone has what they need to problem solve.
There are many more environments where IFPDs can prove invaluable — attorneys and their clients can share documents on cases and strategize together without the need to meet face to face; R&D teams can meet and collaborate in real-time with partners on the other side of the world. The litmus test is pretty straightforward: the more of a need you have to collaborate in real-time — especially when using drawings, sketches and annotation — the more likely IFPDs will be invaluable to your business.
But even if you aren't in a highly collaborative environment, if you choose a user-friendly IFPD that anyone at your organization can use with little or no training, you'll see a good ROI with the ability to:

  • Improve collaboration among your staff.
  • Deliver more engaging presentations.
  • Enhance the learning experience during training sessions.

Get digital collaboration technology that's simple and effective

Ease of use is absolutely essential when an IFPD will be shared by staff in a general-purpose conference room. For this type of situation, look for an intuitive device that's as easy to use as an iPad or smartphone, and lets you:

  • Write on the display without the need for an expensive pen device.
  • Connect to additional devices — including smartphones, laptops, tablets and other IFPDs — for real-time collaboration and sharing.
  • Easily upload documents from laptops and smart devices.
  • Use popular business apps in conjunction with your IFPD.
  • Interact with live technical support directly on the display.

Ideally, any employee should be able to walk into the meeting room, log onto the IFPD, connect a laptop or mobile device to access documents, and get their meeting underway with little or no previous training. An effective IFPD will also make it easy for all participants to collaborate and share ideas by connecting their own familiar laptops and smart devices to the whiteboard.

No matter what your business situation is, with today's technology, there's rarely a reason to purchase an IFPD that requires intensive training, nor is there any reason to make a big investment.

Interactive whiteboard against wall in modern office space
Looking up at sky with city buildings

Find a low-cost, scalable digital collaboration solution

Collaboration technology has become much less expensive over the years. Today there are a variety of low-cost, intuitive IFPDs that make collaboration simple, provide businesses with a healthy ROI, and make scaling up easy and affordable. When choosing a digital whiteboard that makes sense for your business, make sure you budget for future growth. Find a company that offers affordable licensing and pricing for additional whiteboards, and make sure they offer comprehensive services for support.
Author Icon

David Danto

Director of Emerging Technology
The Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance (IMCCA) David has over three decades of experience providing problem solving leadership and innovation in media and unified communications technologies for various firms in the corporate, broadcasting and academic worlds, including AT&T, Bloomberg LP, FNN, Morgan Stanley, NYU, Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan Chase.
Ricoh offers low-cost IFPDs that don't require any training. Plus, Ricoh's new Intelligent Workplace Solution makes using Ricoh IFPDs even easier by leveraging IBM's Watson Internet of Things (IoT) — now you can make meetings more efficient with IFPDs that respond to voice commands and capture meeting notes, action items and more.
In addition, with Ricoh Live Technical Support (RLTS), you get immediate, on-demand user support, via audio or video, directly on your IFPD — helping users to virtually eliminate the 10-minute tax to resolve issues more efficiently, so meetings can get started on time, every time. RLTS also helps to:

  • Increase user adoption with interactive support that can be accessed at the touch of a button, making setup time quick and easy for new users.
  • Eliminate user frustration with instant live support rather than automated prompts or lengthy hold times.
  • Free up IT resources for more strategic business initiatives without the need for an internal IFPD help desk.
  • Empower users to utilize the full technological capabilities of their IFPDs, helping to improve your ROI.