The modern boardroom in the ‘now’ normal

Johannesburg, 27 May 2021
Read time 3min 40sec
Itumeleng Mochocho, Unified Network Solutions Executive, Sizwe Africa IT Group.
Itumeleng Mochocho, Unified Network Solutions Executive, Sizwe Africa IT Group.

The concept of remote work has been with us for a while, but it’s been more than a year since the majority of South Africa’s workforce was sent home. And the majority of them have stayed home.

All of which makes tools that support a remote workforce more vital than ever before.

The boardroom has had to change to accommodate meetings between attendees regardless of their location.

Even with the relaxing of lockdown restrictions, social distancing is still encouraged, says Itumeleng Mochocho, Unified Network Solutions Executive at Sizwe Africa IT Group.

“The traditional conference room contains multiple technologies that may include a whiteboard, projection screen, conference terminal, projector, microphone and laptop, tablet or PC. All of these technologies are required to make a conference room fully collaborative.”

Today’s fully interactive whiteboard combines all six technologies into one device, saving the business costs as well the complexity of having to manage all the different technologies and making sure they speak to one another. “All too often a technician needs to be called in at the last minute to connect a network cable or a speaker that doesn’t work. With all of the technology integrated into a single device, everything is connected and works from the outset – and all of the meeting attendees connect to that one device.”

Mochocho points out that the deployment of these whiteboards has moved beyond the boardroom and into other sectors, including education. “This type of technology enables remote learning, which became the norm during lockdown. Some universities are even in favour of adopting remote learning long-term as it’s proven so successful.

“There’s the option of connecting the whiteboard to the Internet and accessing content stored in the cloud, but for rural training environments, where connectivity may be unreliable, the courseware can be stored on a notebook and displayed on the screen. It’s also possible to load the content onto the whiteboard itself and share it directly from there with learners.”

Classes can be attended by remote attendees, with the trainer using the whiteboard and the learners connecting and interacting with it remotely. “Handwriting recognition means that everyone’s contribution is clarified by the technology and turned into recognisable text,” highlights Mochocho.

Other capabilities of the modern whiteboard include the ability to block out ambient noise and cameras that follow the speaker. It can also accommodate attendees on any virtual meeting platform, ranging from Teams to Webex to Zoom, offering the business huge flexibility regardless of its platform of choice.

Other business benefits include reduced capex as less technology is required to equip a boardroom for virtual meetings. In addition, the whiteboard can be easily moved around the business, allowing smaller meetings based in people’s offices to benefit from the technology.

Not only can these whiteboards accommodate virtual meetings in various formats, they can also display all types of content regardless of the format or device that it’s stored on without any integration issues being encountered. Changes made to documents during the session can be shared, including sketches and notes, even if multiple people make changes to the documents.

“COVID-19 drove adoption of remote working and remote meetings more than any technological innovation could have done. People were forced to start using collaboration technology, but what’s been needed is an inclusive tool that brings all of these together and allows everyone to participate regardless of the tool of choice. And that’s what the interactive whiteboard does.”

Asked to name future innovations that could improve this technology’s capabilities, Mochocho says that the ability to record the entire session would be invaluable for sessions like board meetings, negating the need for someone to take minutes, as would be the use of facial recognition to keep an attendance register. He also says making the technology even more portable by scaling it down so that it can be used in very small office spaces would be incredibly useful.