by Miguel Tam
Propel is a software company that helps manufacturing companies collaborate with their customers, partners and employees to create innovative products.
Open collaboration is a key component of our corporate culture. For example, our headquarters is an open work space with few walls, so our employees are very informal in how they communicate. Everyone is accustomed to simply asking a question or making a comment to the person a few desks away.
Because of the high value we place on easy and open communication, fully integrating remote employees and making them feel a part of the team has been challenging. Our remote employees used to fly in several times a month just so that they could participate in normal day-to-day activities. While it was always valuable to collaborate in person, our employees experienced travel fatigue and also felt badly about spending time away from their families. And on our end, travel expenses were significant.
Further, not all our remote team members were able to commute to the corporate office on a regular basis. For example, we have a development team in Uruguay and it didn’t make sense, financially or otherwise, to fly them in. Using social collaboration, web conferencing and emails was useful, but this also fell short in terms of fostering instant and open collaboration.
To overcome these communication challenges, Propel purchased a Beam+, which our team adopted with immediate enthusiasm. Now, remote employees can simply Beam in, drive over to a co-worker, and start a conversation. Other employees then often jump into these informal meetings, and instantly there is a much higher level of collaboration. Remote employees feel more integrated, and on-site team members find it easier and more natural to communicate with those in other places.
We don’t just use Beam+ for remote staff; when local employees are working from home, at a partner’s office, or are meeting with a customer off-site, they can also collaborate easily with the team back at Propel’s corporate office.
The ROI for the Beam+ was rapid and obvious. We have completely discontinued trips to our headquarters solely for the purpose of collaboration, which has significantly reduced travel expenses. The elimination of just one weeklong trip by a remote employee has easily paid for the purchase of a Beam+. Remote employees are now able to use the Beam+ to meaningfully participate in day-to-day activities and decisions.
An unexpected, positive side effect of purchasing the Beam+ was that account executives and other staff that visit customers have a means of informally showing off the office and our employees. For example, when a sales rep or implementation specialist is at a customer or prospect site, it’s easy to Beam in, with customers watching, and casually meet members of the tech support staff or development team. The Beam+ has helped Propel demonstrate a certain “cool factor” to customers and prospects – without us having to say a word, it communicates that our company is a modern, creative, enthusiastic adopter of technology.
To say that a robot has opened up greater avenues of interpersonal communication and collaboration may sound paradoxical, but it has done just that. Every company that has remote employees, or employees that sometimes work from home, should have at least one Beam. The benefits are truly tremendous.