Monday, April 27, 2009

Swine Flu, Virtual Collaboration and Content Management

No, this is not an attempt to capitalize upon what may be an epidemic, or worse. I woke up this morning suffering from dizziness and a cough that just wouldn’t seem to go away these last few days. I tried to revive myself with a few cups of coffee in front of my monitor, but seeing headlines about swine flu weren’t helping me feel better. Fortunately, I had planned to work from my home office, but I knew my first meeting needed to be with the doctor.

While I sat in the waiting room, I thought about how close San Diego was to Mexico and tried to recall who I had been in contact with the last few days…The other patients in waiting seemed to be coughing a lot more than I was. I wondered if I should have visited to get my affairs in order – really.

Once the doctor checked me out, I was quite relieved. While I did seem to be suffering from a common flu virus, I didn’t exhibit any swine-like attributes (although my wife would probably dispute this). The doctor told me dizziness was a typical effect of congestion and its impact on the inner ear. So, I didn’t get any good meds, but I could stop planning for my imminent demise.

I returned to my home office to continue working on some projects and a couple of documents I had been reviewing in the doctor’s office on my iPhone. (Sorry, for messing up anyone’s test results using a WiFi device in urgent care).  One of my RSS feeds from Forbes hyped Virtually Flu-Free Meetings (sponsored by Cisco) which I couldn’t help reading. Of course, it talked about the relative benefits of virtual meetings achieved through telepresence.

The concept seemed particularly appropriate to me today. I thought, we can really help each other and the organizations we work for by considering medical threats like this seriously and taking advantage of the technologies we have available to protect ourselves. For example, if you’re a typical knowledge worker like me, you spend almost half your time in meetings. The other half (at least the productive part) of your time consists of modifying and creating content generally related to those meetings.

A combination of real-time collaboration tools from a simple telephone to Cisco’s telepresence systems combined with a-synchronous “follow-up” tools, like an online content management application can go a long way towards bringing people and projects together without the germs. Normally, cost avoidance might drive organizations to consider these options. However, today I am thankful I can use them to continue working with my peers without sharing the bacteria, which probably produced my low-grade flu to begin with.

In all seriousness, organizations should be reminded by the current epidemic situation to have a disaster plan in place.  It’s critical that employees understand in advance what practices to follow when they are unable to travel, or possibly not permitted to commute to the office at all. If swine flu escalates to pandemic status, this may in fact become the situation.

Technology may not be the whole solution. However, as I learned today, it can certainly help mitigate a host of negative consequences. If you’re interested in exploring the concept, check out real time video options from Apple, Google and Skype as well as Cisco. You can also learn more about online content management with a free trial of Xythos at

1 comment:

Alick Mighall said...

Hi Jim, Interesting post - similar to what I've just written about here -