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LIFE SCIENCES 2010: The Podcast
ThinkBalm analyst Erica Driver moderates a panelist discussion about collaboration in
3-D virtual worlds, featuring Melanie Kittrell, Merck; Thomas Kaney, formerly with
GlaxoSmithKline; Tony O’Driscoll, Duke University; Sam Batterman, Microsoft; and
Ron Burns, ProtonMedia
Ron: We’re getting started late because we oversold the event today. How about that?
When a small software company outsells a room at Microsoft you’re kind of lost for
words. I was trying to think of maybe the right words that would fit that. I feel a quote
might be in order.
There’s a number of people I was thinking of quoting to start today off, but to me the
quote is from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “In every work of genius we recognize our own
rejected thoughts. They come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.” And you all
look very majestic to me today.
I’m very pleased to introduce Erica Driver from ThinkBalm. For those of you who have
been following the analyst space in Web 2.0 and the enterprise, Erica is a former
Forrester analyst and has been excellent in covering the immersive Internet space. And
we’re very pleased that she can join us today for Life Sciences 2010: The Global
Collaboration Imperative. Erica?
Erica: Thanks, Ron. It’s a great pleasure to be here this morning and have a chance to talk
with all of you and to experience a full house about an emerging technology topic, great
fun, great excitement.
So in my role as the MC this morning, I am tasked with trying to weave together a few
threads. And so these threads are life sciences. So how many of you are in the life
sciences sector? Looks like maybe two-thirds, something like that. The second thread is
collaboration. How many of you are facing collaboration as a challenge, as a solution?
And then the third thread is immersive Internet, guaranteed a smaller number of hands.
How many of you have exposure to virtual worlds or immersive learning environments,
these virtual technologies? Six hands, all right. So I have my work cut out for me because
that’s really my area of focus.
So I’ve been an industry analyst for a long time. I was with Forrester Research for 11
years, where I covered enterprise collaboration strategy and platforms. I also covered
information workplace, which really has looked at how collaboration is coming together
with portals, with content management, with office productivity, and business
And during my last few months at Forrester, as I was starting to cover the use of virtual
worlds for work, it completely gripped me. And I realized I had to leave and go off on my
own and focus on this. So that’s really my area of expertise.
And let me define for you a little bit about what this coverage area is for me. And then,
again, my task is to make sure this gets woven in with the broader collaboration topic and
really has a focus on life sciences.
So the term “immersive Internet” applies to the set of emerging technologies that’s really
been pulled out of gaming and out of virtual worlds, and is being deployed directly to
solving business problems. So it’s allowing people to meet, to collaborate.
In training, collaborative data virtualization is the ability to do prototyping, collaborative
prototyping, or even to remotely operate systems and facilities from within a virtual
environment. So I’m looking at the use of these technologies for those kinds of purposes.
What I’m going to do is to pick out a few of the most obvious or pressuring life sciences
problems that are not exclusive to life sciences, but really take those and paint a picture
of how the immersive technologies like ProtoSphere can be applied to these problems.
As an analyst, I’m covering a good two dozen vendors’ products that focus on this area.
Very, very early-stage market. We’re in the early-adopter stage, and will remain in this
phase for the remainder of this year, an exciting time to be paying attention to an
So I’ll focus on a few of the common problems that are really significant, and then talk
about how the immersive technology can be used to solve some of these back-breaking
When you look at an industry where the drug development life cycle is 10 years, 12
years, how do you create an identity or a home for those projects that span this long
lifetime when you’ve got people coming in and people leaving? And who stays in a job
for 10 years, except for me? Most people don’t.
Most people move on, they come in, they leave. How do you handle the knowledge
transfer and create a repository of information that’s useful and insightful? So that’s
certainly one challenge.
Another big one is M&A, with at least four big mergers in the past year. Those
integrations are now underway. One of our panelists this morning, Tom Kaney, is going
to be focusing a lot on this and what some of the challenges are specific to that.
But when you have executive teams trying to join two different cultures, the legions of
information workers to try to get people working together to solve problems, you have
hierarchy-of-needs issues at stake when people are thinking, “collaboration might mean
losing my job here.” How do you motivate? How do you incent? How do you make it
possible, really, for people to do the collaboration they need to do to get the job done?
And then the third sort of trend or issue here really is around collaborating across
corporate boundaries. And while this is not specific to life sciences, it’s certainly
something that comes up a lot.
So the pharmaceutical companies, with research organizations and universities and
biotechs, with ideas being sourced outside the organization, sometimes it works well and
you’ve got these parties communicating and collaborating. You’ve got things going the
way they need to go.
But other times you might have the collaboration break down. There might be intellectual
property concerns, there might be legal requirements, regulatory requirements, and the
people who need to talk or share information can’t.
Or you might have this hierarchical system where the information really is only flowing
one way and it’s not a good communication stream. There’s no real way to share the
needed information. So being able to collaborate across the corporate boundaries is
another huge issue.
One of the uses of immersive technology in this scenario is to provide a project work
space or a 3-D war room, especially when the immersive technology—and, by the way,
to take sort of a little caveat here—I’m describing something that really can’t be
And fortunately we have Ron Burns and team here who will demonstrate and show you
what an immersive environment looks like and what you can do with these spaces. That
will come a little bit later. So I’ve got some snapshots and I can talk about this, but you’ll
see it for yourselves.
But really, the real way to get an understanding of what this technology can do is to use
it. And it’s hard for people who are talking about it and trying to evangelize it and who
are focusing on solving problems with it, but that’s the truth. The best way to understand
what it can do is to use it.
So going to a meeting, attending a presentation, joining in on a brainstorming session in
the immersive environment, you at your computer with your mouse and your headset on,
are the best ways to realize what this can do.
So back to the point here. By taking in data, whether it’s in the SharePoint system,
whether it’s something in the ERP system, maybe it’s pre-clinicals data or trial data, data
from the repository, and being able to pump this into a 3-D space where whomever needs
to collaborate on that data can come in.
So here’s my little avatar, and this space here is simply a mockup. This is a snapshot
from a set that members of the ThinkBalm Innovation Community created. That’s a
community that I established about a year and a half ago. We now have about 400 people
who are interested in or using immersive technologies in the workplace.
And so we’ve done all sorts of experimental events and activities, including creating
video. So we made a video that was designed to communicate the concepts and value of a
3-D war room.
So what you have here, you’ve got data being pulled in from spreadsheets. You can click
on it, highlight certain data. In theory, you could click on it and drill down into that data.
Here you have a 3-D brainstorming tool that allows all the participants to put up their
ideas, to move them around, and really collaborate in that way.
We have a little voting tool for anonymous voting. So everyone who is in the meeting,
you may be trying to make a decision, you can click and vote and help decisions get
made that way. So this is just a very, very basic image. And you’ll see some more
examples of this this morning.
Back to challenges, we’re talking also about a sector where, unlike other sectors, a huge
portion of the workforce is information workers, people who use computers every day to
do their jobs. People whose jobs involve some form of making decisions or collecting
insights from information and from data.
And that’s compounded by the volume of data. So when I look at the job of a
pharmaceutical sales rep having to understand this amount of information, technical
information about that product they’re trying to sell, to me that’s mind-boggling.
Or trying to understand, what’s the meaning? What’s the insight in the clinical trials
data? Never mind all the documents. There’s this huge data problem. So when I think
about that, I look at one of the emerging use cases as a killer app.
When we did research at ThinkBalm about nine months ago into business value, we
looked at one of the use cases, what are people spending their time on? And we asked and
we did a survey. It was a small survey. Sixty-six people who were involved in immersive
Internet projects in organizations and had some insight into business value.
We found that the No. 1 use case was meetings, No. 2 was learning and training, and No.
3 was conferences. Data visualization is out there sort of on the far horizon, but it is out
there, and it’s a killer app. So let me give you a couple of examples.
Here we have a snapshot showing world oil data. Can you picture the data, the
spreadsheet or spreadsheets showing production consumption of oil in the world? The
blue is the production and the red is consumption. You can see two little avatars.
So you and I could, as we’re trying to make sense of this data, we can go into this
environment. We can walk around, sit on, stand on, click to drill into and really get an
understanding about what this data means.
We live in 3-D. We think and see in 3-D. There’s power in being able to visualize what
that data is showing you. And just as a side note, the huge blue skyscrapers are
production out of Saudi Arabia and the Russian Federation. The huge red skyscrapers are
consumption in the US. But being in the data allows you to feel it, to feel what the
meaning is, then glean insights into that.
The right-hand side here is a little bit more relevant to today’s focus. This is a biotech
scenario where you have a tissue sample. There’s an image of what that tissue sample
looks like. And all of these little dots are data points.
And so you could have the medical team, the research team, logging into this
environment, being able to walk into the data and to have it be all around. And to see it
from different angles and for me to be able to say, “No, but look. Come over here. See
what I see.”
So we’re just starting to really get into what it means. But the potential for using
immersive environments for collaborative visualization is enormous. I mentioned a
moment ago that meetings and conferences were up at the top of the list for uses. Here
are a couple of real-world examples.
The first one is this is a snapshot from an event that Cisco Systems held in September. It
was called GSX, or Global Sales Exchange. At the end of 2008, John Chambers issued
the mandate. “We’re cutting $1 billion from our budget next year.” That meant “see ya”
to the annual sales kickoff.
The team spent about nine months figuring out how to create an immersive virtual event
to allow people to get together without traveling. They brought 19,000 people together
for a virtual sales kickoff.
They used technology that’s not full 3-D to really allow for that scalability. They held it
over several days. There was something like 85 hours of consecutive sessions and
presentations, 19,000 people, and they were able to do it at 90 percent cost reduction over
what it would have cost to bring everybody together.
On the right is a screen shot from an event that BP held at the beginning of last year. BP
has a program where they bring together young, up-and-coming professionals inside the
company, Global Graduates. They introduce them to executives. They work through
career paths, and help people network and really develop them in the organization.
Normally they bring everybody to London for a big event, and it cost $5 million every
year to do it. Instead, they held the event—and this is in ProtoSphere—that brought
everybody together. They held multiple sessions and presentations. Again, what was
going to be a $5 million event was now 10 percent of that.
So here, this use case is sort of a no-brainer. When travel is cut, when you can’t pay for
venues and you need people to get together for that large event, that conference, this
technology can fit the bill.
When I think about the use of 3-D, I think about meetings and conferences as sort of,
yeah, of course, no-brainer. It’s sort of taking the WebEx to the next level, and really
allowing people to have more of an engaging experience. But, for me, the more exciting
aspects of 3-D are things like collaboration and really being able to do things you can’t
do in any other way in these environments.
So a couple of screen shots. These are from ThinkBalm Innovation Community events. I
mentioned we do all sorts of crazy events. We use any technology we can get our hands
on. We’ve done brainstorming sessions, role-playing sessions, meet and greets, and “un-
lectures” where four people do 10-minute presentations in an hour. It’s a great way to
learn and share.
Here’s a screen shot from a role-playing session we held that was around, how do you
give new users a good first experience? We have several people playing the role of the
trainer and a bunch of others playing the role of the newbies who have never been into an
immersive environment. And, in fact, in this case it wasn’t all that much role playing
because we used a technology that most of the attendees hadn’t used before. So it was
What you see here is a couple of very simple avatars, one of them is mine and a couple of
other people. We’re participating in an activity where we’re collaboratively trying to
build these little simple robots in the immersive environment. It was a team-building
You can’t do this on Web conferencing and video conferencing, and you probably can’t
do it in the physical world either, unless you’ve brought a bunch of parts together and
you do a lot of prep work for that.
On the right-hand side over here, we have a bunch of avatars posing in front of our proud
work product, which looks like a molecular object, but is, in fact, a 3-D mind map. And
what happened here was we brought 15 or 20 people together for an hour of
We focused on a topic and each participant. As you had an idea or you heard something
you felt was meaningful, you could add a note to that mind map, label it, go over here,
add another note over there. And so together as a group, you see your idea growing.
Again, this is something that you really can’t do with other collaboration technologies
and you can’t really enjoy it in person. So that’s one of the thought threads I’d like to
weave into today’s event, is just looking for opportunities to do things you just can’t do
in any other way.
There’s a report that actually ThinkBalm just published today that’s a technology
selection guide. It’s available on our Web site, ThinkBalm.com, for anyone who wants to
download and read it.
We went through this full analysis that actually we’ve been trying to do for probably 15
months, and finally we got it done. But one of the core questions that has come out of the
research that people really need to focus on is, what’s the problem?
Yes, there’s great excitement about this technology, many people are excited about it and
there’s lots of opportunity. I’ve highlighted just a couple of examples of really, what’s the
problem? And once that’s clearly identified, then there’s another set of questions that can
easily be derived from that.
One of the most significant ones, okay, now that you’ve identified the problem, what’s
the experience you’re trying to create? Because immersive technologies are all about
experience and engagement, and you’ll hear Tony O’Driscoll talk about that on the panel
in just a few moments.
So with that, what I’d like to do is wrap up with a couple nuggets, just things to think
about, and then I will introduce our panelists and ask them to come up and we will move
into phase two of the event.
So I’ve been talking about immersive technology and that’s my focus as an analyst. But I
want to be crystal clear that it’s not either/or. It’s either a physical meeting or an
immersive meeting. There’s not either SharePoint or ProtoSphere. The value really
becomes obvious when all of these things get blended together.
And so you’ll hear Sam Batterman talk a little bit about how SharePoint can be integrated
with ProtoSphere, and some examples of the power of SharePoint in life sciences.
So it’s not either/or. It’s really about looking for the places where you can tie all these
new technologies in with the existing technologies.
Think unification. This is something I’m thinking about a lot right now. We’ve been
hearing about unified communications for years. In your organizations, how many of you
have deployed unified communications? I see a few hands.
So that means your voice mail is coming into e-mail, you might have one phone number
where it’s sort of a find me/follow me situation, you’ve got presence awareness and
instant messaging in your organization. So anybody other than the few hands? Literally
fewer than five.
So while unified communications as a vision has been out there for a long time, it’s not
really come to fruition. One of the potentials of the immersive technology is to provide
that presentation layer, at least part of it. Within this immersive environment, in comes
your instant messaging, in comes your presence, in comes voice.
You can call out to people who aren’t in that immersive environment via phone or via
Voice over IP. So really to be able to tie these thing together, the unification of services,
could end up being another killer app for the immersive technology.
And lastly, the golden opportunity. Really, it’s about identifying what can I do with this
that I couldn’t do any other way? What are the problems I have that I don’t think I can
solve? What problems require too much of being together in the same place at the same
time or too much in terms of data? There are tremendous opportunities here.
So with that, what I’m going to do is to invite our panelists to come up. We’ve got
Melanie Kittrell from Merck; Tom Kaney, who has been a Senior VP with
GlaxoSmithKline and is a consultant; Tony O’Driscoll, who is a professor at Duke and
who has a new book out, many of you have copies on your desk; Sam Batterman, who is
a BI evangelist at Microsoft; and Ron Burns, CEO of ProtonMedia.
So the first thing I’d like everyone to do is to introduce themselves, just tell everybody a
little bit about what you do, where you work, and take just a minute or two, and then
we’ll walk right in. Go ahead, Melanie.
Melanie: Hi, I’m Melanie Kittrell and I’ve spent about the last 20 years in the pharma
industry, both at Merck and I’ve spent some time at Wyeth and also Biogen. And I’ve
had the opportunity over those 20 years in many of my jobs to really be focusing on how
to improve collaboration and knowledge sharing and how to use innovative technology to
help further that cause.
I really am a big believer that new technology is going to continue to enable us to
improve our ability to work together effectively and efficiently. I’ve had the chance to be
in these areas sort of informally. And now formally, I have an opportunity to be leading
some collaboration and knowledge-sharing activities at Merck as well as innovation. I’m
looking forward to today’s discussion and learning also from my fellow panel members.
Tom: Hi, I’m Tom Kaney. My former role in large pharma was Senior VP of HR for
Pharmaceuticals North America, also held the same job with R&D. And my most
interesting position there was a time when I was asked to spearhead the merger and
merger integration of SmithKline and Beecham.
So a trans-national merger, largest ever at that time, and it was declared a success, I
guess, relevant to all the non-successes that were occurring prior to that in the Harvard
Business Review and other places.
So we had a success story and then we moved on to the merger with GlaxoSmithKline,
which was variable in terms of the merger success for a variety of reasons. So we’ve seen
the good, the bad, and the ugly, and I’d like to share some of that as it relates to both
technology and collaboration.
Ron: I’m Ron Burns, the CEO and founder of ProtonMedia. ProtonMedia is a software
vendor that provides immersive virtual environments. We are here partnered with
Microsoft today. Thank you for jointly hosting with us, Sam. We appreciate that.
Ron: We recently announced this past fall an integration into SharePoint, a big effort
that’s underway with our organization rolling out an immersive environment on top of
the SharePoint stack in our large life sciences organizations.
Tony: My name is Tony O’Driscoll. I’m a professor at Duke University Fuqua School of
Business. For the last 20 years I’ve really been exploring the intersection of business
innovation, learning, and technology.
Whatever happens to be at the intersection of those four circles is what I look at. And for
the last four years I’ve been looking at mostly multi-player online role-playing games and
immersive virtual environments.
Ron: And Tony has a new book, which is out today.
Tony: Yeah, I just saw it. Ron actually brought it. It actually happened. I’ll prove it to my
wife that all those nights actually came to fruition.
Sam: Hi, my name is Sam Batterman. I work at Microsoft as a business intelligence
evangelist focused on the life sciences arena. I’ve been in the business for about 20 years.
Half of that was spent at Merck and half of it’s been spent at Microsoft.
A lot of what Microsoft is trying to do right now is democratize business intelligence and
take the kinds of things that have been very difficult for engineers and business people to
do with data and make it possible for everybody to do that.
We’ve had some good success with that, and now what we’re actually starting to see is
companies like ProtonMedia that are taking technologies like DirectX, you might think of
it more as Xbox, that’s probably the easiest way to describe it, and start to apply this to
the business arena.
And the kinds of things that we can now solve with the technology as cheap as DirectX
and as pervasive as something like SharePoint is actually quite profound. One of the
challenges that we’re trying to spearhead is, how do I think of business problems in this
new arena of dealing with things in a three-dimensional, or even a physics-based
environment, the kinds of things that ProtoSphere is actually bringing to the game?
Erica: All right, well, we’ll start the conversation with Tom because Tom has really been
at the highest levels of some of these events and activities in the pharmaceutical sector.
So, Tom, the first question for you is really where does the process, like a merger or an
acquisition, where does that process tend to fall down?
Tom: Right after the deal. It is good news/bad news. Things have gotten better in general
with megamergers. In 1990, 80 percent of the mergers failed to meet their expectations,
particularly from investors.
Right now the statistic, which are not comparative because they come from different
sources, but it’s about 70 percent still fail to meet expectations, which is not acceptable.
It’s a huge issue, and many of you have observed or experienced that.
The big issues are people issues. It’s often forgotten in the press for getting on with the
business, getting the numbers, introducing change, introducing new technology. People
are what drives it, makes it happen. And what happens, which is natural, is people move
into a fear and confusion mode.
If that isn’t engaged and dealt with and overcome, things move to a stalemate, the legacy
companies get into a standoff. Work sort of gets into a survival mentality rather than a
creative and innovative and energized approach to managing the change.
So I made a list of some things about what happens when it falls down. I think the first
thing that happens is the top team doesn’t do work on their own. With help as needed, in
coming together themselves to create.
First of all, enough trust to have decent dialogue about what are the intentions, the
purpose, and the visions of the new company. And to work together until they have
adequate consensus, not perfection, not a love fest, but adequate consensus and a plan for
executing the change.
Not just the business strategy, but the change management aspects that go along with it.
So lack of alignment at the top is the first boogeyman that needs to be faced and dealt
with. It’s where things get missed quickly because everybody feels pressed to get on with
it, including the top team.
Not identifying and honoring and leveraging the practices and capabilities of the legacy
companies, starting off as if you’re two different companies. Not saying, “Well, from
this company, this business capability, or that technology capability, really need to be
incorporated and transported across the former heritage company lines.”
Leveraging those and being very conscious and aware of what they are. No plan for
guiding and facilitating change. Top management down through middle management
have to be fully engaged, aligned, and informed as to how we’re going to manage this
Not just let it happen and solve the problems as they crop up. Because there’s too many
of them, people get rapidly overwhelmed, particularly director and mid-management, and
VP-level individuals who happen to be human, too, by the way, and face these same
Lack of deep and effective engagement of the workforce through a variety of processes
which we can discuss. I don’t need to go into them now, but the workforce is often
disengaged just by human nature.
They’re fearful, they’re sort of in the bunkers and the trenches. If there isn’t a plan and an
approach and a process to engage them where they are, and to encourage them to come
forward with new work to do.
Some hope, some vision, and a focus on doing their work differently then, again, this
stalemate occurs. Lasts for a while, and the company does not fulfill the vision and the
purpose for the merger.
Lack of process for designing and managing work. Work has to be redesigned. In your
own field of technology, when technology is applied, it requires a redesign of the way
people work together. That is a conscious, deliberate, and mechanical process. It’s not
done by exhortation.
Leadership by exhortation does not work. You have to tell people what’s changing, what
to do, and how it’s going to be done. What the expectations are, what the accountabilities
are, and what the rewards are going to be. And it has to be very explicit.
It requires a heck of a lot of energy on the part of senior and middle management. As I
said, they’re human, too. They’re overwhelmed, they’re a little bit fearful. So it requires
some heroic effort as well as a plan.
Not fostering collaborative working mandates and methodology. I’ll use an example from
the SmithKlein Beecham merger. Somebody asked me, “What was the most important
We put the key teams that were managing the core competencies and capabilities of the
company together with mandates to create something new, different. That built on the
platforms of the best of the old companies and had them working together as teams.
Working together is what overcame the resistance and the mutual fear and the concern
that we’re right and they’re wrong, we have the best practice, they don’t. And they
actually came up with heroic efforts.
Some of them designed themselves out of work and jobs, but it was for a higher purpose.
And that high purpose is really what stimulates people to do their best work and redesign
the work they have to do.
And lastly, simply the treatment of people. Again, you’re going to have fear. It’s just
there. It’s not abnormal, you know. I’m hearing about the Merck merger. Now I’ve heard
about the Pfizer merger. Everybody is sort of in the bunker, as I said.
How people are treated, both leavers, because people will be leaving and that needs to be
done quickly. Get it over with within nine months to a year. That’s another key success
But also survivors. How do you treat the people who are, to use the term, mourning the
loss of the way it was and the loss of their colleagues? We did things like held groups of
maybe the number in this room.
The only questions were, “What’s going on? How does it feel? Your friends have left,
you’re going through a lot of change, how does it feel?” Robust, incredibly important,
and highly emotional dialogue created a real catharsis in the organization and showed
that the company is treating people well, fairly, and with dignity on the way out the door.
So that might be a longer answer than you wanted, but …
Erica: A wonderful one. Melanie, I’ll have you take it up from there. You’ve been
working on collaboration projects and initiatives and strategies and design for a long
time. So what are some of the ways you’ve seen collaboration change in life sciences?
Melanie: Yeah, I actually have a very positive view of how collaboration has been
evolving. Maybe a little bit more slowly than we’d like to. But in thinking back and
preparing for this discussion, I was thinking about the fact that I have seen steady
improvement and steady appreciation of the benefits of approved collaboration.
When I started 20 years ago, we really were working in very small silos and there was
really very little diversity of input from other teams and other players and others. And
then you saw, really, an evolution towards cross-functional teams.
Bringing in a lot more diversity of experience and opinions and backgrounds really began
to show people what the benefits of a more diverse kind of group. Working together, how
the outcome could be better or could be approved by sort of opening up the work
environment to a more collaborative environment across diverse groups inside the
And then I think there was a move toward really improving diversity and looking at
diversity. Not just through one lens or two lenses. Really looking at it through multiple
lenses and trying to get diverse input onto your project from a number of different areas
and experiences and background, whether they were sort of formally assigned to your
project or not.
Just that appreciation of diversity brings maybe better outcomes and all of that. And then
in the last few years, a lot of us had moved toward globalization and starting to realize
that all the best ideas don’t necessarily come from the U.S. or from France or from
They really come from all around the world. Some of the most exciting and innovative
approaches to a business problem that you’re trying to solve really could be anywhere. It
could be anywhere in the company.
The company really has assets and great people all over the world that may bring
enhanced value to business challenges that you’re working on. So I’ve seen a steady sort
of improvement, I think, in the appreciation for the benefits of collaboration.
I think the technology may be a little bit ahead of our adoption and use of it. That’s one
of the things that I think is the challenge. I’m only speaking really from my own personal
experience for the last 20 years.
There are many people in different parts of Merck who may have seen greater adoption
of use of some technology than in my particular experience. So I’m not speaking
officially on behalf of all of Merck, because I haven’t experienced it at all of Merck, or
have those points of view.
And I encourage you to talk to other Merck colleagues that are here to tell you about their
view. But I’ve seen steady improvement and I expect to see further improvement as time
Erica: Following up on that, Melanie, what are the benefits as far as your team has been
able to measure them? Benefits of implementing collaboration technologies, whether
that’s document repositories, teamwork spaces, instant messaging, video conferencing?
Melanie: Yeah, and all of those things are available in my company and in many
industries and companies today. I think the application and the proven benefit of a lot of
those is somewhat inconsistent across enterprise.
We don’t have the same adoption and use and application of all those technologies at
every level. You know, like as you were speaking about the unified communications, we
have a lot of good communication tools and processes.
They’re not 100 percent unified in all ways, but I see them steadily improving and
steadily growing. We are working to improve our own kind of collaborative tools and
processes right now. We are all working hard to do that.
I think the benefits that we’ve seen in the past of some of the specific applications and the
benefits that we hope to achieve are things like faster speed to market of solutions,
services, or products. We all want to improve the speed with which we can bring things
Decrease cost just through the elimination of waste or redundancy. Instead of inventing
something or redundantly working on something, making sure that you’re leveraging the
good work that has happened across the enterprise and can take advantage of it.
Greater use of expertise. A lot of people in the pharma industry, they’re very intelligent
people who have developed exquisite skills and experience through lives of hard years of
slogging away at it.
They’re able to enhance our leverage of all that experience and expertise through
improved collaboration and improved identification of that expertise, and how it might
apply to other problems and business challenges that we have.
So I think we’re going to continue to see the benefits of collaboration as we improve. Not
only the tools and processes, but I want to emphasize the adoption and use. For those of
you who are working in “tool land” or “technology land,” I just need you to understand
that being on the business side, I mean, if we build it, they will not just come. You know?
We need to really think about how we make it easy, how we embed these things in
workflow, how we improve the understanding and the education and the training that
goes along with using all these great tools.
The tools are fabulous and they’re getting even more fabulous, but the adoption of use
really has to be paid attention to. Just like Tom was talking about, it’s all about people. It
It’s all about people and to get people to effectively use these collaborative tool sets is
really a pretty big challenge that we’re all facing, I think, and we need your best ideas as
to how we can improve that adoption and use.
Erica: The next question is for you, Sam. Sam Batterman with Microsoft. So SharePoint
is one of the collaboration lynchpins in many organizations. In fact, show of hands, how
many have SharePoint in your organization? It looks like half or maybe even more than
that. So it’s everywhere. I’d like to hear a little bit from you about what life sciences
companies are using SharePoint for?
Sam: OK, so it’s kind of important to step back a moment and say that the reason that life
science companies are adopting SharePoint, and what it represents in their organization,
is a road that started even before that.
One of the technologies that actually is enabling SharePoint to be successful in life
science companies is the fact that these companies that have adopted it are using a
technology called Active Directory.
When you sign in in the morning or when you’re signing in from your laptop, Active
Directory is being used to authenticate different kinds of documents. That kind of idea for
how I would reach out and control who can see what and how I can group people into
manageable scenarios for managing different kinds of tests is what SharePoint builds up
So SharePoint is pervasive in lots of different places. When we actually start up the
ProtoSphere demo, you’re going to actually see a wall or a presentation of all the
different brands from the corporations in life science that have adopted it. But it’s
basically very pervasive.
One of the things that’s important about this is that we hear life science companies saying
instead of e-mailing documents back and forth across the transit, what I’m going to do is
I’m going to e-mail an HTML link to you.
When I click on that HTML link, I’m not just going to send an e-mail, I’m actually going
into a SharePoint document repository or perhaps maybe, to think a little bit more
futuristically, I’m going into a ProtoSphere environment.
I’m going to be able to mesh together tasks and people and the backgrounds of where
those people came from, where they’ve worked in their past, meetings that they’ve been
So one of the challenges that has come up is how do I get people to think about
SharePoint in a different environment? There are so many people that say SharePoint is
just this glorified network share. It’s my N-drive. It’s the equivalent of the N-drive.
So what SharePoint is really doing is it’s taking the tasks and the context of a specific
kind of a workflow and putting it into a physical environment. Now it’s flatland
compared to what ProtoSphere is trying to do on top of SharePoint.
But it is a place where people can basically provision their own sites, add documents to it,
and grow those sites out. Some of the things that we’re seeing being used in life science
is investigator portals, both internally for people inside the organization trying to manage
these clinical trials and also externally.
How do I create a presence so that people want to do investigative studies with me more
than Pfizer, or more than GSK, or more than Johnson & Johnson? What is that
leveraging point that I can do by extending SharePoint outside of the frontier of my
Due diligence in the data room. This is kind of a crazy new one, but a lot of
pharmaceutical companies will take 4,000 people, jam them in a jet, fly across the
country, and then park them in a room, a data room.
Then just throw documents at them. They sit there and go through with magic markers
and try to figure out risk, not a risk, good to go, bad to go, park it over here. Basically
you’re triaging documents to try to figure out, “Am I going to spend $50 million to buy
this molecule or this protein? Or, better yet, can I just spend $100 million and buy the
So, if you think about it, data room and what SharePoint represents is a pretty close
cousin. What ProtoSphere represents, to take a data room to another level, means that we
don’t have to take things that are three-dimensional like proteins and compounds and
flatten them out and put them inside of Microsoft Word.
Maybe we can actually have the protein or the compound floating in an environment with
the documents actually linked to the articulated structure of these things. Another thing is
chemistry plazas. We actually have got a pharmaceutical company saying we’re trying to
open source some of our backgrounds, and what we have figured out for things like
I’m going to take all of our learnings. I’m going to put them into this environment and
once it’s basically been checked by our scientists, I’m going to push it out into the
environment and invite people to come and see what we have posted out there. That it’s
like a three-dimensional Wikipedia kind of an idea.
Another one is innovation and ideation networks, in other words being able to get into an
environment, as you showed earlier, and basically fusing together different ideas from
Then being able to persist that or, maybe even to a different point, take that idea with a
due diligence data room and being able to, after I’ve taken all these ideas, to vault that
room so that nobody else can ever get in.
Sometimes these things don’t always make a lot of sense, but those are some of the
business requirements that get dropped on our head periodically. Finally, what
SharePoint represents for the sales organizations.
Think about how much Excel spreadsheets are actually being fired back and forth.
Actually in the sales force and actually out in the districts where there are hundreds and
hundreds of these kinds of projects.
Headquarters really doesn’t want to get involved and wants to actually empower them.
Those are the places where SharePoint is very, very effective and, obviously, you can see
from the branding here that SharePoint is actually taking off very rapidly.
Erica: So, Ron, the next question is really for you. We’ve been hearing about SharePoint
and hearing about 2-D. The question for you really is why 3-D? What is the business
value in meeting in 3-D, in seeing the data in 3-D, and bringing SharePoint documents
Ron: I’ve heard that one before. I think the interesting answer to that is the really
screaming need we’ve seen in life sciences enterprise customers to somehow meld the
adherence to data and their people problems, right?
So the large life sciences companies that we’re working with, the ERP systems and some
of the data systems are so rigid and structured that the human process actually bends the
fidelity of the data and the process, and that ultimately is a prescription for failure.
Particularly when you’re talking about two different ERP systems or three different ERP
systems coming together on top of the big merger. The human components, which are
essential for success, which Tom has so thoughtfully laid out for us, get lost in the mix.
So for us, it’s not just about the data room and the notion of spaces being filled with data.
It’s the notion that avatars themselves have a lot of information associated with them. So
individuals, as Mel pointed out, know things from their years of experience.
Avatars are kind of walking about in our environments within an invisible tag cloud of
relevance. What I know, what I want to know, that’s a metaphor of me carrying my
knowledge to someone else, not just going to a space where I pull knowledge.
Now, the challenge is, this is a profound challenge. I think this is why this is not just a
technology story. It’s a culture-change story, as Tom pointed out. You have strategic C-
level people in all of our customers indicating that collaboration is strategic to their
organization and strategic to success.
However, on the ground in these organizations, the culture is one of fear and holding
what I know close to my chest to protect me in the battle to come. You have this
enormous gap between strategic goal of the organization and actual motivating factors on
the ground in the enterprise itself.
And the added complexity of most of the daily processes where people engage with
technology is difficult. It’s not organic, it’s not collaborative. So there, that’s really the
answer to why 3-D. It’s four-dimensional problem. We’ve probably got there 75 percent
of the way with 3-D.
Erica: Tony, take it a little further for us. In your new book, there’s a formula in the book,
if I x I = E. So interactivity times immersion equals engagement. And so how does the
immersive technology influence workforce engagement? It’s a problem that Tom pointed
out. It sounds like there’s a great fit here, technology to solve the problem.
Tony: Right. I was going to pick up on something Sam said. I was at IBM and IBM
Research. We had a project called reinventing e-mail, because e-mail was the killer
It was killing the human part of the system because you’d get over 200 a day. There’s this
crazy disease called Web basketing, this feeling you have when you actually organize
everything into a folder of accomplishment. When an accountant would say you’ve done
nothing, you’ve just moved bits from one bucket to another.
And the other side on the network. It’s killing the network because everybody is now
sending 10 MG flash files or whatever around. So you’ve got a technology thing and
you’ve got a human thing coming together.
We started to look at collaboration, as Mel was talking about. To me, it’s about human
beings interacting around workflow. To a certain extent, the first round of ERP was more
engineering than it was design, and it was about adhering to process.
Clearly, process is important. However, what happens is, and we looked at doing this
inside of IBM, it’s hard to keep the process current, because the environment changes so
I think of organizations as spheres. The people in the middle of the organization, the
corporate people—and I can say this because I was one—run around trying to capture all
the tacit knowledge out there, and render it in some way that other people can figure out
what to do.
Then they push it back out to the edge of the sphere. The only problem is, I call it
“structure lag.” By the time Ron’s figured something out cool at the edge of the sphere, it
gets sucked into the middle. It goes through the corporate filter, and it gets codified and
pushed back out. You’re training old habits because the world out there has changed.
The new trick now is pushing orchestration and coordination to the edge and keeping it at
the edge, allowing the people at the edge to do that, but they’re really busy. So you
cannot add another layer on top of what they do. You have to integrate it into what they
do. That’s the notion of workflow-based.
The thing about e-mail and why it’s a killer app is it has no context. You get a
pornographic notice, followed by you need to change your health care plan, followed by
really urgent meeting for a $1 billion contract tomorrow. There is no parsing out except
for urgent or non-urgent and we know they’re all urgent. E-mail is devoid of context and
that’s why it’s killer.
Everybody says 3-D is a hard thing to process. We’re processing 3-D right now. We’re
cognitively wired to do it. So it’s actually more congruent with the way we process
There are technology hurdles to get there, and granted there’s some issues. But once we
get there, it’s a far easier interaction, particularly when you’re doing more innovative
work. The I x I = E is interactivity is necessary, but not sufficient. If you bring immersion
to the game where we’re all immersed, I think the three waves of the Web.
The first wave was connecting to the Web to access data. I’m going to get my bank
statement, I’m going to look at my stock prices, individual accessing. The second wave
of the Web, or Web 2.0, was connecting through the Web. Here, have my music files.
Here, let’s get together on MySpace.
The third wave of the Web is where we connect within the Web. We actually become
consumed by the Web and the context is rendered out the way we see it. So you can fire
up a collaboration war room, you can fire up a senior team merger prioritization thing.
And it’s not another thing. It is the thing where things get done.
When you bring immersion in, you get a much higher fidelity engagement of each
individual to the task out of all the individuals together around the task. And that’s where
I think this really makes a difference.
Erica: So, Tom, back to you for a moment. A lot of the work that you’ve done is focused
on leadership, and so I want to get your take what leadership skills you see needed
moving forward? And then I’d like to tie it back to you, Tony, because you’ve done
research into what leadership means when you’re working in 3-D. So we’ll try to see if
we can synch those. So, you first, Tom.
Tom: I’ll start with a story. When we were engineering the merger with SmithKlein and
Beecham, once we had clarified strategy, desired competencies, leadership values,
business practices, which were essentially precursors to what I’m going to tell you, we
brought 700 leaders from around the world together in different venues.
Different ways of being together, but we tried to mix them from different countries.
That’s not the important part. The important part is that there was a download of new
expectations for leadership that was a clear shift in requirements from a command-in-
control way of leading.
It was kind of endemic in the organization. These are leaders that sort of grew up in the
organization, many of them had 10 or 20 or more, to empowering and enabling form of
leadership. And we were very specific about what was and was to be.
I will tell you that about approximately 20 percent of those leaders that went through that
experience had a personal emotional crisis. And the difference was I have to be an
enabler. I have to not tell people what to do. I have to not evaluate them every day and
give them my feedback about what they’re doing right or wrong.
Resources have to be gathered by me rather than given to me, and allocated to the team to
help them do their work. These sound like things that we all read about in the books and
we all think are appropriate today.
I think they are still not instilled in the consciousness and talent base of many leaders in
the organization. For a variety of reasons, largely historical in the way many of us and
many leaders grew up.
But that shift from command-in-control to an enabling and empowering form of
leadership is a very difficult shift that requires a lot of effort in the arena of leadership
development including training.
Every now and then we substitute learning for training. Well, learning is the effect, but
you literally have to lead people through very concrete experiences of what to do, how to
do it, what’s different, and hold them accountable.
That was a very deliberate effort that did make the shift among a critical mass of leaders,
not all of them. So defining the requisite competencies and training and helping people
learn and experience them through live practice is very important.
Now, here’s where I think the new integrative technologies can occur. If we had and
knew about back then, which was not possible, of course, the kinds of things that you are
doing, that you are talking about, the technologies that we’re talking about at
ProtonMedia and others, we could have accelerated that process to a tremendous degree.
I guarantee we would have had more resistance because there’s the other question on the
table. How do people adapt to new technologies? There’s a double resistance. You’re
going to ask me to change as a leader, now you’re going to give me something that is an
exotic tool that I am scared to death of.
I can’t tell anybody I’m scared to death of because I will look like a fool. But I’m going
to sort of be passive in the process. That all has to be worked with sort of dynamically.
It’s literally a sociological problem within the organization.
I think the issue of talent selection and development becomes very key here. The key role
of senior people is to spot those people who are early adopters, who have the right stuff,
who get it and try to build some critical mass in the organization.
Within a reasonable period of time, you can say Joan, Sam, and Helen have been
appointed to these new jobs because they are paradigms of the new way of doing what
Now, focus of senior leaders tends to be on the problem children. The problem children
are sort of dug in. They’re in the bunkers. They’re resisting. They’re not being bad
people, they just want to wait and see.
That is a depletion of leadership energy like you can’t believe. You have to create a
critical mass of leaders. Doing it the new way to be able to point to which will, by the
force of their movement in the right direction, start to bring others along with them.
I have a breakdown in my mind that I use that I call early adopters and pioneers. I’d say
that’s 5 percent to 8 percent. Not even 10 percent, willing victims who are going to say,
OK, I’ll do it. I’ll try it and learn in the process.
Compliant citizens will wait and see until they are forced forward into the use of new
technologies and the change itself, and then there are resisters and saboteurs. Now, with
resistors and saboteurs, you have to find them out.
Show others that this is not the way to go. Have some public hangings in the morning of
the saboteurs. And that’s a little strong for an HR guy to say, so please understand I mean
Tony: You could do it virtually.
Tom: Yeah, we can do that virtually. You can have your avatar out there. But anyhow,
just to show that that’s not the right way to go. The talent selection and talent
development and a commitment to leadership development at a time when resources are
constrained, a lot of companies abandoning training and development of all kinds, they
don’t pay attention to this stuff.
And the one thing we often forget, our leaders are just as confused, just as fearful, and
just as resistant. Although they have a larger role to play so they get forced out of their
bunker earlier situationally.
They have to be helped to change, too. There are some of the issues of leadership. It’s a
vast topic and there are other ways and other times to discuss it. But that’s the top line as
far as I can see.
Erica: So, Tony, some of the work that you’ve done around leadership is very interesting
in this context, so would you share with us a little bit about that. About how leadership is
the same or different when people are in the environments?
Tony: Yes, so this is actually how I got into 3-D. About four years ago now, I was at IBM
Research. And there’s a project at IBM called the Global Innovation Outlook. They pick
big questions to look at. And this question was what is the future of enterprise? What will
multinational companies look like 50 years from now?
It’s a question you could write in a sentence, but when you start trying to figure out how
you’re going to actually tackle that question, it becomes challenging. So what we first did
was we started to characterize. What could an enterprise look like 50 years from now?
It’s going to be more open, it’s going to be more global, it’s going to be more virtual, it’s
going to be more volunteer. In other words, people will be choosing to work with you
because it’s knowledge driven.
We started to characterize, what will the ecosystem look like? And then we said, OK, if
that’s where it’s going to go, the future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed.
Are there places where we could look at environments where people are doing work that
have those characteristics?
So we started to look around. And very quickly, stuff like EVE Online, World of
Warcraft, and EverQuest started to pop up. Millions of people working in teams trying to
achieve a number of tasks that have different roles and with outcomes and with currency.
So there’s money in all this stuff in these environments.
We said, that’s interesting. What we’re going to do is, we’re going to take IBM’s
traditional leadership competency model. Actually, there’s another side to this thing. The
other side of the equation was Ronald Coase, Nobel Laureate economist for the 1930s.
He says, “Firms will shrink or grow to the point where the transaction cost inside the firm
equals the transaction cost outside of the firm.” At one point in time, Ford imported sand.
Why did they import sand? They made windshields. Today lowest bidder in wherever
they are made, FedEx’ed to the Dearborn, Mich., plant and then it’s built.
So the transaction cost is moved outside. If you start thinking about that, their researcher
would say that firms, given that we have this, we’re bathed in the psyche network,
everybody’s got SharePoint, should shrink around their core competence.
They should actually, firms might actually get smaller and shrink around their core
competence. Then all the other stuff just gets connected through the network. So IBM
started to get worried.
They said, well, if that’s the truth and we’re moving in that direction, we’ve got 330,000
people. We’ve got a million people in our ecosystem of partners. How do we manage our
brand in that context and what does it mean to lead in that context? Because it’s certainly
not a command-in-control context.
We have to figure out what the new leadership competencies are. We took IBM’s
existing leadership competencies, we mapped them to Tom Malone’s work who wrote
the book, “The Future of Work at MIT, The Sloan Distributed Leadership Model,” and
then we went into these worlds.
So we’re essentially like journalists with virtual video cameras, running around,
following people doing leadership work inside the worlds. The initial question was, can
you learn leadership faster inside these worlds, leadership as defined by the current
competencies that IBM had defined?
The answer is categorically yes. It is a very fast way for you to learn the kind of
leadership competencies that we’ve defined because you get many more chances than
you do in the real world.
In the real world, you get promoted to manager. You hang there for two years, you do
well, you get promoted. Here, the roles are temporary. It’s like Johnny can’t play tonight.
He’s going to get divorced if he plays tonight. Ron, you’ve got to fill in. You’ve got to be
the tank, or you’ve got to be the strategist, or you’ve got to be the major.
So the roles are temporary. It moves really, really fast. Data is coming at you really
quickly. Decisions have to be made in teams very, very quickly. You have to recruit
folks, you have to compensate folks. It’s like running a business. So we started looking at
can you learn? The answer is yes.
The second thing, then, we did is, OK, maybe we’re just looking at 17-year-old, spotty-
faced males and they’re not indicative of a generalizable study. What I did then is, was I
took that same study, there’s a Harvard Business Review on this called, “Leadership’s
Online Labs,” if you want to take a look at it.
I went into IBM and I said, hey, directors and above, if you’re gamers, please let me
know. One-hundred-and-twenty people later, after two days, I got a lot of notes back that
said, don’t tell my boss, but I am playing. So we ran the same study with senior-director-
level people and above at IBM.
We asked them, what does gaming do to your leadership style? Yes, the answer again
was, yes, we’re helping develop the competencies you say I need. But there’s a whole
bunch of competencies I’m developing in these environments that you don’t even know I
need that help me back at work.
That was a really, that’s what we love as academics, the stuff you didn’t know was
actually in the research. And the third thing was, oh, by the way, the affordances (that’s a
technology term) for all the way that the game is set up actually help us do leadership a
whole lot better.
If you look at World of Warcraft or EVE Online or any of these games, they have a
dashboard. On that dashboard, you’re viewing your team going through the work activity.
But on the left up on the top, you have your strategy.
What is the plan that you’re trying to execute? Down here you have your
communications, narrowcast, broadcast, multicast. I can speak on VoIP. I can broadcast
everybody. I can type, so you’ve got six different modes of communication going on.
Along the bottom, you’ve got your human resource capability. How many majors? How
many tanks? And the other thing you have is transparency. Everybody knows the
capability of the other teams. Now you have 60 people working in a team trying to
accomplish a goal.
Each one watching each other’s back in real time as they do the work. The biggest
learning we actually got out of this research was not, can you learn the existing leadership
competencies in games? It was that we need to learn how to gamify work and that the
interfaces to work activity need to instantiate workflow in a much more compelling way.
That’s the big outcome.
Erica: So, Ron, I can’t remember if we decided to do Q&A before your stuff or after?
What did you decide?
Ron: That’s your decision, Erica.
Erica: All right. We’re going to wrap it up with one last question for Melanie in
particular. Then I think what we’ll do is maybe 10 minutes of questions while they’re
fresh in your mind, and I’ll turn it over to Ron and Tony for demo stuff.
Melanie, you’ve been focused on emerging technologies and sort of futures for a while,
so what’s your take? What do you see coming down the pike in terms of collaboration
technology and their adoption inside the pharmas?
Melanie: Like I say, I’m an optimist. I’ve seen steady improvement, but I hope to see
even faster improvement. I think one of the challenges is we’re still dealing with a lot of
older legacy systems. We’re still dealing with sort of inconsistent application and various
tools around the enterprise.
What I hope to see is more seamless integration of all of these interfaces and all these
tools from ERP to other forms of communication to learning to etc. You know, we’re still
dealing as an employee inside these companies.
You’re just dealing with tons of systems and interfaces and the need to sign in and sign
out and move all around. I just think if we can improve the integration and pull all these
things together so that the employee has a really much easier time to access and use these
tools. That’s going to be a big improvement.
I see some hints of that coming even as we continue to evolve our infrastructure inside
my company. The other thing is I do think 3-D plays a role and will play more of a role in
the future. I’m still trying to figure out. Ron and I have had many conversations about
I’m kind of still figuring out where does it fit into the portfolio of options that I have to
communicate and collaborate through? I don’t know that it takes the place of everything.
I don’t know that it’s the best environment to solve all business problems.
I think it has a real place and I think we’ll get more and more experience and
understanding of that. But it’s kind of like I think of myself trying to improve
collaboration with various arrows in my quiver. I think 3-D and virtual immersive
technologies is going to be another arrow in the quiver.
I just need to figure out exactly where it adds the most business value that we would want
to use that, or replace some of the things that we do today. And I think that’s just a matter
of more experience with application and also the quality of those tool sets.
Then the thing that gives me great hope is the new Millennials coming into the
workforce. Oh, my God, they’re going to bring so many sort of natural experience and
previous experience with more collaborative tools and processes, and just like what you
were talking about, gamifying work.
You know, they have learned so many lessons in leadership and they have learned so
many lessons of management through their game playing, the Millennials. I remember
my eight- or nine-year-old in a car ride somewhere picking my brain about whether
citizens in a town would value nuclear power more than parks and recreation.
And I’m like, what are you talking about? I found out that he was worried about his
rating as a mayor in SimCity 2000. And his ratings were not going up. So he was really
trying to understand how to better manage his city at nine years of age.
I thought, Oh, my God, I didn’t even know what a city was at nine years of age. I think
just the experience that a lot of those newer generation employees that are coming into
the company is going to help transform us because they really have developed in a
different milieu, if you will.
And my daughter, when she was a third-grader, told me she had to be late for dinner
because she had to go to a board meeting. When I asked her, what the heck are you
talking about? It was in Ultima Online.
Her guild was going to vote whether to merge with another guild. She was a board
member and she had to go sit at the virtual table and have a discussion about the pros and
cons of merging with another guild in third grade.
I just think that that’s exciting to me. I think it’s going to bring new employees into the
company who have some natural skill sets. Not only the training that they got through
using those tools.
But also just their comfort level with the tools to help enable decision making and sharing
of knowledge and coming together to collaborate, to solve a business problem. I’m very
encouraged by that and I think that’s really going to help us a lot. So send us your
Tony: I was at Lowes over the weekend and I saw a bumper sticker that says, “My gamer
fragged your honor student.”
Erica: Well, this has been a phenomenal set of commentary. At this time I’d like to first
give everybody a warm hand and then open it up. Go ahead and shout out your questions
and I’ll repeat them back in case people in the back of the room don’t hear it. Go ahead.
Question: Where do you think we are in the adoption of these types of environments in
businesses and their short transition from the games to actual work acceptance? Is it a
demographic thing or is there something else?
Erica: So I’ll repeat the question. So it’s really an adoption life cycle question. Where are
we in terms of adoption of immersive technology and is it just for gamers, just for kids?
Whoever raised your hand first, take it away.
Ron: I’ll grab that one. I actually think it’s a really important question because as we
started selling our product a couple of years go upon launch. We saw that some of the
collaborative problems that we were trying to solve with the product were being
addressed, for example, by SharePoint.
We decided this is an already-existing infrastructure going in on the Microsoft stack that
are addressing these issues. We think we can extend the value proposition that’s already
been started here to the extent to which our virtual environment, for example, can read
Microsoft presence information and it authenticates through Active Directory.
You can go from an e-mail into a world and pull in a SharePoint document. Those points
of entry on existing IT infrastructure will increase the rate of adoption. We believe,
because now everyone, I like to say, and don’t take it personally, Sam. But I like to say
that many people lead lives of quiet desperation in front of their inbox, right?
If we can make that moment more collaborative, that pain point right there, and make that
more collaborative, the fact that it’s 3-D or not doesn’t even really matter. We’ve solved
a major issue.
The other big issue that we’re seeing coming into sharp focus is there is a huge distance
between the way most ERP processes run right now in the enterprise, and the human
processes that are needed to make that happen.
If there’s a hire/retire process or a supply chain process, it’s submit that process, wait a
few days, submit, batch process, call someone at the help desk. We build a virtual
environment where the process you’re already familiar with.
You’ve got multiple data feeds coming into that room and your help desk person is there,
as an avatar in that space, and we can get that process, you’re already committed to
strategically getting done and get that done more efficiently.
This isn’t an esoteric gamifying of anything. It’s just pure efficiency and the metrics will
fall out in terms of numbers and more efficient enterprise.
Erica: Let me take a crack at that question, too. Because in the research that I’ve been
doing, I’ve found it’s not about age. If you think about the conferences where we’ve all
seen each other focused on virtual worlds and you sort of look around, I think the average
age is maybe 40s.
You know, it’s not the 20-somethings. Granted, it’s the decision makers who can afford
to go to the conferences, but if I think about the people who are in the ThinkBalm
Innovation Community or people who are our clients, they’re not the kids.
It’s not the young ones who really are enthusiastic about this. I think it’s not so much age
as it is maybe personality type. It’s the explorers, it’s the people who like new things, it’s
people who like technology. So that’s more of a defining characteristic than age.
Tony: I’d like to just grab onto that one a little bit, too, because I’ve been looking at
disruptive technologies for 20 years, right? And then I’ve studied them. So things like the
printing press or the locomotive all came from an invention that became an innovation,
but then took a while to have impact.
So 50 years of printing Bibles before someone had the bright idea we could print other
books, too. So the innovation was there, but the kind of human application and the real
economic value, the steam engine locomotive.
So if you take that tack, you’d say, OK, here’s this new technology. My own way of
thinking is it hits all the marks of what a disruptive technology is. So from my
perspective, it’s not if. It’s when. Then the question is it’s just a time game.
The other thing, if you look at the literature as an academic, if you look at the literature
about first mover advantage, the literature is split. Sometimes it’s cool to be first. Other
times it’s not. If you swing in IT, a lot of times it’s cooler to be first. So if you’re kind of,
what’s the second biggest auction site? Who cares? The first one is eBay. They made it.
They kind of became the market maker. So there’s a lot in your question. You have to
figure out if you buy the “if” and not “when,” and if it is just a matter of this is how
things will be done. I think the larger demographic of the younger people coming
through, that’s what they do.
My kids are four and they have a couple of avatars. They’ve already done multiple
identities. They know this is how work will be done. So then you’re really just playing a
timing game. And if you’re playing the timing game, the question is, how quick can you
get up that curve and can you make the investment?
Two things. Bill Gates, number one, one of his favorite comments I quote in the book is,
“The truly destructive technologies are over-hyped at the beginning of the cycle and
underestimated at the back end.” I think this is such a technology.
The second one is Intel, Andy Grove. When Gordon Moore gave him the key said,
“Whatever you do, the first thing you have to do is always invest in the recession because
technology companies can’t come out of a recession with the same technology they went
in if they want to continue to be leaders.”
So at this point in time at this arc of where we are, if you take all those together, it just
makes no sense to not place a bet, in my opinion.
Erica: Another question? Yes, go ahead.
Question: I just wanted to hear from the panel. How important do you think the
persistence of sort of place is? When I think about the difficult between a WebEx or an
Accenture One and something like this, the idea of having places that exist and they go to
a certain place to find a person, how important is that in collaboration?
Erica: I’ll repeat that back. So the question is, how important is a persistent place or
space? You make the point that the immersive technology can provide this where some of
the other real-time collaboration tools don’t, like Web conferencing.
Ron: I’ll just jump on that real quick and let the other panel folks answer. It’s interesting
because it’s a time issue, right? The WebEx is a time-bound event. We’re going to do the
WebEx from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. or we’re going to do the Live Meeting from 2 p.m. to 3
That’s different than an always-on network. An enterprise that wires itself as an always-
on network can get data to itself through a presence feed, through the right data, and the
right people together at the right moment to make optimal decisions.
The important metaphor, from my perspective, to move beyond is: The data is attached to
the people, their own personal data, what they want to know, what they know and are
willing to share, and that travels with them. And when we get into the demo, you’ll see
how we believe social networking tied to 3-D environments is a big part of that.
But the persistence of the space is also very important because that’s where you
humanize the processes which, right now, are coming from multiple different IT systems.
So I don’t know if that answers your questions. It’s probably a good one for you, too,
Sam, if you have any thoughts on that.
Sam: Sure. I was just going to say that spatialization and what we tend to think of a map
in that regard, but whether or not scientists are looking at the right amino acid. Imagine
how much time is wasted in a WebEx or even a Live Meeting or whatever, trying to
describe where in a protein I’m trying to communicate.
Whereas in an idea of spatializing or the context of I’m looking right here. I’m starting to
glue literature right into this amino acid, or grabbing an amino acid from the context,
pulling it away, and now I’m just going to deal with it so I see the context of where it was
and now I’m dealing with it in detail.
That’s a principle of data visualization only energized in an environment like this. It’s
easy to look at R&D to pick out those kinds of things because that’s where people live in
3-D with proteins and compounds.
But one of the things, I think, to go to this gentleman’s question as well, is that the
volumes of data and the dimensionality of the data is now crushing all of our flatland
applications. I’m talking about that’s hard for Microsoft to say because we can only add
another million rows to Excel.
I’ll give you a classic example. Excel went from 64,000 rows to over a million in the last
version. One of the first things I heard from a customer was, “Why not 10 million? Why
not 15 million?” Why is that? Because they’re crushing Excel and they’re actually
abusing the tool beyond what it was really designed to do.
So three dimensions being able to absorb five, six channels of information and adding
physics and animation to it to start to generate better understanding than simply carving it
up into million-row slices, is something that this technology really does take to the next
Tony: I think one of the things in the book that I talk about are what are the attributes or
four instances of this technology that differentiate it from flatlands, and one is the power
of presence and the other is the death of distance.
If you put those two together and you have a workflow environment and data biz
environment for life sciences like Sam’s talking about. That persists independent of who
comes and goes and you can time shift with that, too.
You could also, if this is all in a virtual context, there’s nothing that says you can’t record
what was going on in tag. What was going on so I can actually travel back in time to see
Jonas Salk talking about whatever he was talking about in the future, right? Whoever the
new genomic person is, I can actually visit that.
That’s a very powerful opportunity here that the context shifts with the freight in 3-D and
you can capture it and revisit it. That’s really useful.
Erica: I think we should probably shift gears over back to you, Ron, for a demo.
ProtonMedia has built a very interesting interactive display for Tony’s book. So I want to
have Ron demo some life sciences features and then, as Tony talks about the book a little
bit, take him into the 3-D environment and explain it that way. So over to you, Ron.
Ron: Thank you, Erica. It was very well done. Are we bored yet? We’re in a 3-D room.
One of the things that we wanted to share with you today is how we’ve been thinking
about these ideas. In particular, I’m going to try to tie it to some of the panel discussions
so you don’t feel like you’re being sold anything today.
We really are trying to share ideas here and not necessarily just do a demo. One of the
first things I heard in the panel that was interesting to me was this notion that it has to be
easy, it can’t be another layer of complexity, it can’t be another thing I need to learn, it
can’t be difficult.
One of the first things we’ve done with our environment here is we’ve built this from the
ground up for the enterprise user and so everything is labeled first level, it’s a basic thing.
But you read a piece of text on the first level. You never have to dive down anywhere to
figure out what something is. Things are very self explanatory.
That’s a very important issue for us. Each one of these individual characters you see here
represents a network connection or someone else logged in online. So how many folks
are familiar with virtual worlds? Let’s see a show of hands. OK, so I guess I don’t need to
explain what an avatar is, particularly with as well as James Cameron’s movie is doing.
But a couple basics to move around. You use your arrow keys on the keyboard and you
can run if you press the shift key and you can jump, which is exciting as well. You can
jump in first-person mode and be the eyes in the environment.
You often see characters that are not actually live humans, but bots that can take you to
some sort of process or a learning or training activity. And, again, to communicate,
you’ve got VoIP. We have some folks here that we can talk to. Hey, guys, how are you
doing? Can we get a little Voice over IP check, please?
Voice: Hey, Ron. How are you doing?
Ron: So, you see, when people talk, we’ve got an inset window very similar to a video
conference window with their name above it. Very basic, but we need to know who is
talking when and why. And we’ve tied in a polling function in this environment.
Essentially, if I want to know who is saying yes or no in a give scenario, put the mirror
on myself here so you can see what this looks like. We’ve tied this very much to the way
people are used to using WebEx, for example. If I agree with you, you see me nod my
head, but you get a yes or no as a polling function.
If I disagree with you, you see I said no. I raise my hand and go to the top of the list, and
there are all kinds of other gestures that you can use as well to keep people engaged.
And, again, the engagement factor is no joke. People really care about that. So if you’re
really thinking about what somebody is saying, you can indicate that in a nonverbal way.
So there’s actually some of our friends from IBM here who have done some very
interesting work on the value of gesturing in environments in terms of how at a base level
we’re replacing a multi-point conference call.
There’s something about this that’s more like being there than a video environment
would offer. So, and by the way, there’s, of course, text chat both public and private as
If I wanted to type to the group or to an individual. So already we’re sort of seeing a
convergence here. What we just showed you is text chat, VoIP, a live environment, and
an easy way to navigate.
So there’s a technology convergence thing that’s going on here and I want to keep it as a
theme as we move through this. Because there are other technologies that are converging
around this and that’s the opportunity where converging business needs and converging
technologies work well together. So we’re going to jump into a pseudo case study here.
One thing I’ve learned about life sciences companies is you can’t actually do a real case
study on a particular product. But this is a pseudo case study around a disease state of
diabetes, you may know which one. There are many diabetes projects going on with our
A typical workgroup, again, teaming, remote teaming and virtual teaming is something
that every large organization is committed to at this point. There’s really no argument
about the fact that teaming is something that everyone is committed to. How do we do
that better? What are the ways we can do that better?
We’re building virtual team spaces and you see here we have a collaboration room. And
this is what a typical meeting would look like in ProtoSphere. We have a group of people,
each room would be a separate Voice over IP or text chat and so on. You would be
But rather than just randomly wandering about and trying to find someone, we want to
match them up by relevant social data. So, again, we talked about convergence. We
integrated a social networking system that includes blogs, wikis, and user profiles all in
the same searchable database.
And so you have the opportunity. How many people use LinkedIn here? A very popular
system, very useful outside of business. SharePoint 2010 has an excellent expertise
system in it as well, and I think people are used to the idea of an expertise locator. We’ve
tied these user profiles to actual presence information of who is online and when.
For example, I can type in the word diabetes and search. Not only do I get individuals
who have some level of expertise around diabetes show up and user profile show up, I
also get a blog posting.
Now, not only do we find people online who know things that we want to know, but
we’re also finding strings of ongoing conversation around a particular topic area. So this
is useful. This, by the way, is tied to where people are.
I can, for example, Nigel, you can jump to the data visualization room and send me an
invite down, that would be great. I can be working on a project and working with my
team and someone can search and look for … I’m looking for an expert in diabetes.
They send me an invite based on the relevant match that I knew something that they
wanted to know about diabetes. So their unified communications invite to me is tied to a
relevant social match or the power of social production.
When I do accept that invitation, now I’m teleported to a data visualization area and we
have the opportunity to go look at data rendered in 3-D. The opportunity to do some
training together around the diabetes disease state and leverage all those affordances that
Tony was talking about.
Again, the idea that we can take live XML data streams, all the data in ProtoSphere is
coded with XML. So one of the real opportunities is to be able to take live data streams
from ERP systems, research systems, and put them in a shared state where we can work
on them together. The power of co-creation and co-work.
It’s very powerful and a really interesting system that will do that. Now, one of the
interesting things that I’ve noticed about life sciences is that the circles of collaboration
that people talk about don’t just extend to the inner boundaries of the enterprise. It’s not
just within the firewall.
I think it’s become apparent to us that strategically all organizations want to create
boundaries and collaboration to patients, to doctors, to academia. What’s that look like?
How do we get that information from an enterprise-oriented product out?
One of the things that we’ve thought about, particularly in the way the economy has
rolled in the last two years in life sciences and with these two mergers. We’re seeing a
retreat from large external sales forces and we’re seeing a real movement toward sales
forces being inside.
So we have an enterprise collaboration platform here that’s inside involving research,
involving meetings. How do we tie that on to the sales force? One of the things we’ve
done is we’ve built a virtual contact center.
In this particular environment, you’ll see that our VoIP is positional. So you’ll see that
my microphone grays out when I walk into one of these work spaces. We can outsource
an entire sales team into this environment and they don’t have to physically go to any one
So there are a number of folks we saw from the list here who are involved in outsourcing
projects, call center projects. The new commercial models and new multi-channel
marketing models that are cropping up all around life sciences are really about: How do
we find a new way to work?
One of the ways that we think is very important is we’ve got to bring in the data that
you’re using already in the enterprise. This is what we call our SharePoint data carousel.
We can flip through documents almost as if we were … am I allowed to say the word
Apple in this building? We’re not in a Microsoft building. We can say that.
But any time I can just browse and add a document and all of the documents. As I look
into these carousels, mirror the file folder structuring of SharePoint. So we literally can
build out a team based on SharePoint.
So you’ll see here we have, for example, three color-coded SharePoint carousels around a
particular sales process. If you look out into the data center you’ll see we’ve got the red
team, the blue team, and the yellow team. All tied to the red team, the blue team, the
yellow team SharePoint carousel.
We’re loading an interactive layer on top of your existing infrastructure. But to Tom’s
point about the human side of this, if I excel, maybe I don’t want to be Dilbert and I don’t
want to be in the cube. Maybe if I excel, I get the corner office in Manhattan, right?
Some really valuable ways to manage remote workforces to handle things like distributed
call outsourcing and remote sales teams. The other thing that we’ve been working very
hard on for a long time is the notion of embedding learning into the environment.
One of the things that’s been, to some extent for us, disheartening is the recession has
brought about an environment where the C-level believes that learning is a drain where
money goes and it’s not strategic.
I think the reality is it is very strategic. The ability to use 3-D environments, for example,
to do simulated learning events, simulated soft skills events is a very important part of a
lot of the work that we do.
So in every classroom, for example, you have the opportunity to jump into simulation
today at different times. So here’s an example of a sales training simulation we’ll just go
through real quickly.
Simulation: Welcome to the credibility maze. The goal of this exercise is to have you
learn through practice and game play what the best strategies are for turning the 30- to
60-second doctor call.
Simulation: It’s quite a busy day here as you can see. May I help you?
Ron: So now I’m in my own asynchronous simulation. This can be a breakdown and I
can have 30 to 40 people in a sales training session. The administrator can lift me out, put
me in a sales training simulation, and as I go through the simulation, all my answers get
tracked back to your learning manager.
Simulation: Great. Let me ask the man how long Dr. Jones will be. We’ve been swamped
with a variety of things this week.
Ron: So, again, the idea to embed learning into our collaboration we think is really
important, right? In particular, the number of training and learning initiatives that are
coming online related to these mergers are staggering.
If we can embed learning into the workflow, we think we have a real opportunity to make
learning strategic to organizations. The other component that’s interesting for us is video.
We have some partners who are very fixated on video. They will also go nameless.
But one of the things that we’ve seen is in terms of, and we want to pay homage to Tony
at Duke University. Those of you who don’t know, Tony is from Duke. And this is a
video telepresence room that was built for Duke.
And the opportunity here is to look at unified communications as not necessarily one
dimensional. Our first degree of presence is your basic Active Directory. I’m logged on
to the stack. Am I on within OCS and you see my user name, am I on?
The second level of presence is, what do I know? What do I want to share with people?
My LinkedIn-style SharePoint user profile. Another degree of presence would then be to
join with other avatars in a shared state and then, give it a higher degree of granularity,
the need for video.
When Duke turns on their video, a live video screen in the room that looks just like this
appears in mixed-mode kind of reality here. So we really have the opportunity to think
about collaboration as not being one particular kind of technology.
What ProtoSphere is really trying to achieve is a convergence of multiple platforms, in
particular around processes. So if we have a solution that would require, for example, that
somebody enter data into a system, we have the potential to put help desk people here,
and we could have a SharePoint carousel on one side and an ERP carousel on the other.
What was before a disjointed kind of process, now we have the opportunity to put in a
shared state together with help desk and you go to your upload any kind of image or
PowerPoint related to that process in real time.
So it’s an exciting technology. Just to give you a quick look at some of the larger
broadcast capabilities here, we do have large meeting areas. If you wouldn’t mind
jumping in there, let’s take a look at some of the data from some of our recent research, if
you could facilitate that PowerPoint, I’d appreciate it.
One of the things we’ve done is we’ve had the opportunity to do some early pilots of
these projects and have some actual real data come back from these pilots. One of the
first metrics that struck us, and this is from a product we did with British Petroleum, BP.
They found, their particular project was to take a certain percentage of their middle
management and have them graduate to another degree of leadership development.
They just felt they were spending less time doing it in a virtual environment than in real
life, because it’s just a lot of overhead, it’s getting the meeting started.
We started 15 minutes late today, primarily because Tony was signing books out front.
But there is, when you get an ongoing process going, there is something to this notion of
efficiency from a pure time perspective.
We think that’s a big metric, the best one I know of. Thirty-five percent higher retention
rate than traditional eLearning flatland types of applications. When I talk about why 3-D,
there’s a good one, right? The speed of knowledge transfer is higher. One of the reasons,
when we dug down to the data on this, is context.
You’re able to put subject matter experts around the data in real time. So if someone had
a question, there is a human. We didn’t gamify the enterprise. We humanized the
enterprise in that case. Just putting a live layer on top of all this data is very, very
valuable in and of itself.
Next piece for me, Nigel? This one shocked us. It’s from a life sciences company. We
created a virtual poster session that was similar. How many folks know what a scientific
poster session is in life sciences? When scientists get together, they share data on big
posters and we created a virtual version of this event.
Shockingly, this metric came back. And when we dug into this, we saw something very,
very interesting. We got feedback around a hierarchy and the human capital sort of flows
in the organizations. The feedback was, “I would have never spoken to that senior VP
had this been live. I would have never spoken to that senior scientist had this been a live
There was an anthropomorphizing of the sense of self. I can watch my own behavior.
That sort of looking at your own behavior created what we call social courage, the ability
to really exchange data.
That’s crucial. Is this stuff fun? Is it gamey? A little bit, yeah. But life sciences could use
a little fun right now. Next slide for me? This one is about what Erica was talking about
earlier. We thought introducing this technology, we would see resistance breaking down
along generational tracks. That has definitely not been the case.
This is a 55-year-old woman who said, “I never played a video game in my life, but I
love learning this way.” And an old piece of evidence but really valuable for us, the
fastest-growing segment in gaming right now is women above 40.
You know, Wii has really changed that in the consumer space. Those habits and
behaviors are coming to bear on the enterprise. I think that’s the last test slide, right? Yes.
So, Rich, can I ask you to pull the lights up for me?
We have about four minutes left and I’m sure everyone is hungry. I’m going to leave this
up here and we’ll leave an art gallery up here of some of our customer builds, so you can
get a sense of what we’ve done for other customers.
There’s a free download online that is available at ProtonMedia.com. We are fully
integrated now on SharePoint. We are also integrated on top of Active Directory. So your
Active Directory permissions fold out into your security and where you’re allowed to go,
the zone-based permissions in the environment.
We want to thank Sam and Andrea from Microsoft for hosting this event today. Do we
have any questions before we break, before we get to eating? I want to make sure we give
an opportunity for a final set of questions on the technology, on the notion of what it is
we’re doing here.
Ron: Thank you for coming and please enjoy your meal.