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March 26, 2015

Simple and SMART for Better Meetings

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director

The workplace is changing. You hear it all the time – and likely experience it even more than you realize. In many cases, we’re seeing a lot more collaboration taking place, which, on its surface is great. But, when you think about how it’s being implemented, often the collaboration ends up causing more frustration and confusion than anything.

Let’s play it out. You’re in the middle of a project, but need a quick brainstorming session. Or you call a team meeting to discuss specifics for an upcoming project. Either way, the next likely thing that happens is someone picks up a dry erase marker and starts taking notes on all the ideas and suggestions on a white board. You wrap up the meeting and everyone gets back to what they were working on pre-meeting.

A few days pass, and suddenly you want to check on the progress of the action items from the meeting… but you don’t remember all of them, because no one sent notes to the team, and the board has long since been erase. It all amounts to wasted time, frustration, and duplicate efforts – in short, inefficient operations.

But, what if your whiteboard had the ability to capture what you wrote on it? And, what if it could also send those captured notes to your team, whether they were in the room or not?  Suddenly, not only are the meeting notes and distribution guaranteed, but nobody has to take focus off the meeting to record the notes. As an added bonus, what if remote team members participating via conference bridge can follow the notes in real-time via a unique URL sent to all participants.

Now, the inefficiency has been turned on its head; frustration is eliminated; and meetings result in real actionable outcomes – thanks to SMART Technologies (News - Alert), which has developed its SMART kapp whiteboard with content “kapp-ture” capability.

To be clear, this isn’t a digital whiteboard with various collaboration and two-way interaction capabilities – some of those may be added in the future with a higher end product. For now, this is effectively a standard whiteboard that performs one – ok, two functions: it captures and distributes what you have notated on the board with a standard dry erase marker (the image is one of the files from my meeting).

The idea is to drive meeting efficiency, whether larger, planned meetings or small, ad hoc brainstorming sessions. People want to be productive in their meetings, which is what SMART kapp enables. Equally importantly, though, is the simplicity behind the product. It isn’t difficult to use; it doesn’t have all sorts of bells and whistles – though SMART does offer more advanced high-end visual collaboration solutions as well with its SMART Room System. But this is about simple technology that is more accessible and applicable to more scenarios.

“People want to do what’s intuitive and natural,” says Jeff Lowe, vice president of Corporate Marketing at SMART Technologies. “That’s what we were going for, something you just walk up and use. Nobody gets trained on the iPad or on Skype (News - Alert) – that’s how easy we’ve made SMART kapp.”

SMART Kapp is currently shipping a 42-inch version with a list price of $899, with an 84-inch version in production due to demand, which will come with an $1199 tag (News - Alert) - but, it's available for pre-order currently for $999. Both are priced to appeal to any business that uses whiteboards or flip charts, of which there are some 400 million today.

The app that enables sharing with multiple participants is free, and allows up to five participants. A $1.99 per month (or 19.99 for a one-year subscription) premium version allows up to 250 concurrent participants, provides a persistent URL for faster and ongoing sharing, adds PIN protection for live sessions, and removes the watermark from PDF and JPEG saves. The app is available from Google (News - Alert) Play and the App Store.

To be clear, this isn’t a fancy all-inclusive collaboration suite. Rather, it’s a simple, easy-to-use, low-investment substitute for a standard flip pad or whiteboard that removes the burden of copying, saving, and distributing notes and, in the process, make meetings more useful – perhaps to the point where they will be a welcomed part of business activities.




Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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