The Workplace of the Future is Already Here

For the last several months I have been using the Beam telepresence robot from Suitable Technologies and even though we’re fully equipped with lots of video technology in our office already, I found that Beam allowed me a whole different type of presence in the office. I can freely join meetings or gatherings in the office on an ad hoc basis and I’ve found it’s really great to see what’s happening firsthand while I’m at another location.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Suitable Technologies to discuss using Beam telepresence technology. I am excited to share my thoughts and hope that you enjoy the read as much as I enjoyed the interview.

ETG wins Business Excellence Award at the NSCA Leadership & Business Conference

I recently had the pleasure of attending the NSCA Business and Leadership Conference in Dallas, Texas.

The annual conference in its 20th year,  is well known for being an industry leading event. I was not only attending as a participant, but also had the privilege of accepting an award on behalf of ET Group.

The NSCA conference incorporates their annual Excellence in Business Awards. The award criteria is broken up into six different categories and looks for companies that are leading the industry, and providing solutions to industry challenges. This year, ET Group was nominated and successful in winning an award in the Differentiating Strategies category.

In the last year, we have identified a major shift in the industry, and wanted to refocus our offerings to our clients. We understood that it wasn’t just about offering a product. We wanted to provide our clients with exceptional value. Advice and consulting became part of our offering. Our new approach weaves people, space and technology together.

This shift for us, has required our employees to be strategic. They partner with the client and really embed themselves into the organization’s culture to truly understand their needs, and where we can provide the most value. Changing how we work with clients, required us to change as an organization and adapt our own internal processes.

To achieve a real change within our own organization, we adopted design thinking, different participatory leadership approaches, moved to a self management model, decentralized decision making and encourage an advice process. We work in teams and have a work from anywhere culture. We noticed that it was also the little cultural nuances that mattered. We ensure staff take all of their vacation entitlement, understanding how important this is for our overall culture. In our customers eyes we are viewed as relevant and progressive.

The results of our commitment internally to adopt the principles we were presenting to our clients was amazing. We  have been able to grow our revenue by thirty percent, have a happier and healthier organizational culture and offer our clients value, in ways that we have personally experienced.

Although the journey hasn’t always been the most comfortable, I know, personally I have reverted to old habits, but I am fortunate to work with a team that keeps me accountable and is committed to making this work. Winning this award is a fantastic accomplishment for ET Group and our entire team, and I feel honoured to have attended on behalf of the organization to accept this award.

Brad Flowers
Principal at ET Group

Embracing Technology for Accelerated Growth

I recently had the pleasure of speaking at a MacKay CEO Forums breakfast panel discussing embracing technology for accelerated growth. The speech was well received and a number of participants suggested I share some of the insights with a broader audience. This my attempt at doing so. I hope you will enjoy it and find some of the suggestions useful!

Some context. At ET Group, we help our clients weave people, space, and technology in a way that facilitates collaboration and fuels innovation, which I believe are two of the most critical creators of value and growth for any business. As such, we live and breathe different types of social and digital technology innovations and have had lots of learnings along the way.

To get started, I invite you to answer the following questions:

  • Have you ever owned a Sony Walkman?
  • What about  a CD player?
  • What about an iPod?
  • Now, do you still uses any of these devices?

I bet most of you had or still have some of these devices and most of you do not use them anymore. Why is that?

Next question; Do you have a Spotify, Apple Music, or Google Music account?

Most of you probably answered yes.

Final question; Do you listen to music?

Assuming of course that most of you listen to music, we can deduce the following: most, if not all of us, listen to music, and listening to music is the “job we are trying to get done”. Listening to music stays constant, while the technology we use to “do the job” changes and evolves, and that change and evolution will continue.

I’m sure you would also agree that as good as they are, Spotify, Apple, and Google Music are not the end of the evolution of technology to help us listen to music.

This brings me to my key message: Using technology to accelerate growth for your business is not about focusing on the technology itself. It’s about having clarity on the “job to be done”.

Once you understand the highest ­value work that you need to complete, you can choose the right technology to help you get that job done ­­faster, better, with greater collaboration, and with better engagement. By doing this, you will truly be using technology to enable accelerated growth for your companies.

As discussed with the music example, technology changes constantly. This constant change comes with a desire to embrace the “new”, to jump in with both feet now, so that we don’t feel left behind. But there can be a cost to being too quick to adopt technology simply based on a bigger, better feature set. We run the risk of being seduced by the allure of something new before we truly understand how it will support us to do the work we need to do.

I’ve experienced this first hand at ET Group, and it’s been a transformational learning experience for me and for my team.

A story about ET Group:

I believe very strongly in the power of real ­time communication to strengthen team dynamics and collaboration. And so, inspired by this belief, we set out to improve real ­time communication and collaboration at ET Group.

We are a small enough company that has the luxury of experimenting with different technologies to see what works best for us. And “experiment” is exactly what we did.

In trying to improve our communication and collaboration; we installed Polycom hardware in one room and felt like we were off to a great start. Then we paid for a managed service to give us the functionality and quality we needed. This was expensive yet worthwhile. Once those were in place we wanted video at the desktop ­­ so we tried a number of platforms (Vidyo, Polycom, Cisco Jabber, Videxio, Microsoft Lync). Everyone now had video at the desktop. But not all platforms could connect with each other and we started to see “islands of technology”.

We had to make a choice, so we mandated Videxio as the single desktop video platform. As with most mandated decisions, it did not satisfy everyone. Instead of increasing collaboration, it was disrupting key business processes and people were getting restless.

After buying additional infrastructure to integrate some of the technologies we continued adopting new tools. Now it was time to try out Slack. Slack ­­was a great platform for asynchronous communication and real ­time collaboration, but I didn’t get the right buy in or communicated its purpose clearly. Instead, I simply started using it and asking people who worked closely with me to use it as well, believing they’d see the value and embrace it. I thought that I had the perfect solution but the result was not what I wanted. 100% of the company was on the platform but only 20% were using it.

Things didn’t seem to be getting any better until we discovered Cisco Spark. At first, Spark looked like Slack with a smaller feature set. But soon we realized that this platform could potentially replace our phone system and video infrastructure, connect to our rooms, provide asynchronous communication and messaging. In short, it could lots of different “jobs to be done” that we really needed on a daily basis.

We went all in with Cisco Spark, and today we live and breathe with it. It has transformed how we work and how we get things done to fulfill our purpose and bring value to our clients. Through Spark, we can work in a more elegant and effective way.

Although we did eventually find a solution, we got there by taking the long path. ­­A much longer path than we needed to. The most important lesson of the story: If we had started by clearly defining “the job or jobs to be done”, we would have been able to avoid spending so much time, energy, and money on iterative and redundant solutions along the way.

We learned a lot from our journey. And I want to share with you the five biggest things I learned ­­and that I believe are critical for the search and adoption of any new technology:

5 Key Findings:

1. First, approach the process with humility. Listen to different people and perspectives. We all know that listening well is one of the key attributes of great leaders ­­ and it’s absolutely critical where technology is concerned. Listening allows us to truly understand “the job to be done” in all areas of the business. As CEOs, we know how value is created, but we may not know exactly how the job is being done.

2. Second, choose the right decision ­maker. Identify a person who will gather input from all those who will be affected by the change, and have expertise around the matter. This requires humility and the ability to balance priorities from a range of inputs.

3. Third, bring in outside expertise when you need it to help surface the jobs that needs to be done. Some organizations are already great at this ­­ and if yours is, you’re ahead of the game already ­­ but many are not. There are fantastic advisors out there who can help uncover the information you need. Invest in using those advisors.

4. Fourth, clearly share the thinking behind technological change ­­ and allow people to own their part of the solution. This fosters engagement and buy­-in from inception through implementation.

5. Fifth, and most important: invest the time up front to fully understand the “jobs to be done” before jumping to a solution. I can’t emphasize this enough. By slowing down, you’re able to hone in and identify the high ­potential technologies that will truly transform your business.

If you take this approach, you’ll be amazed at how smooth the adoption of technology will be. You won’t need to worry about buy-­in, because the people using the technology had a voice in the decision making process. And this means that the solution you provide them is one they helped choose ­­ and one that will help each of them do the “job they need to do” better. The effect is extraordinary. I’ve experienced it myself, and it now informs every technology advice we provide to our clients.

To restate my key message, embracing technology for accelerated change is not actually about the technology. It’s about understanding the highest­ value work your internal teams and your customers need to do. Once you have that clear, your path to a solution is easy to chart.

The Office of The Future: It Starts with Collaboration

“When we work together, open up, and share ideas, the solutions and possibilities that surface are limitless.” – Dirk Propfe, President & CEO

ET Group had the pleasure of working with London Life: Freedom 55 Financial as their trusted technology advisor to design and implement the Office of the Future. London Life was looking for a fundamental shift in how the organization operates by redefining the customer and advisor experience. The overall success of this project was due to two key factors. Firstly, the leadership team on this project recognized the need for real change. An upgrade in technology or a design facelift wouldn’t be enough or sustainable to achieve the desired results. The team went far beyond aesthetics and technology. They were committed to weaving people, space and technology together, fundamentally changing how the organization operates. To embark on this transformational journey, the leadership team recognized the need for a cross functional team augmented by strategic partners with deep subject matter expertise and a willingness to collaborate and co-create together.

This collaborative and co-creative approach was the second factor for success. I believe workplace transformation projects are highly complex and require a co-creative approach where people are willing to learn, let go of their assumptions and beliefs, and experiment with new solutions and approaches to discover breakthrough innovation. Freedom 55 recognized not only the need but the value in bringing the right partners together to complement their team. ET Group, Figure 3, and Flexpaths were the advisors and partners that were invited to provide additional insights and expertise around People, Space, and Technology. By inviting the right partners, co-creation and collaboration flourished to offer a more holistic solution that addressed many of the emerging needs of Freedom 55.

Please check out the article to learn how collaboration is breaking through barriers and providing innovative solutions to change the future of workplaces.

Virtually Virtual: Intouch Magazine Feature with CEO Dirk Propfe

I am pleased to share I am on the cover of Intouch Magazine talking about virtual collaboration and the future of work. I feel this is very timely as ET Group is undergoing a major transformation that is very exciting and important to deliver on our purpose of weaving people, space, and technology together.

I am thrilled for the cover and accompanying article on Virtual Collaboration not just because they shine a light on the awesome work of ET Group but because I feel this article highlights how we as organizations and society at large are evolving and embracing new ways of working that are richer, more effective, and more human to connect us around common purposes regardless of our physical location.

Virtually Virtual, Dirk Propfe, CEO, Ivey Business, WesternWe are living in a highly complex world where challenges and opportunities are becoming harder to comprehend and address. I feel new ways of working, and the virtual technologies and healthy team practices that are fueling them, are a necessity to help address the challenges we are facing. Complex issues can only be addressed effectively by inviting our individual insights and talents and by weaving them together with the contributions of others. Virtual collaboration is allowing us to tackle these challenges without being limited by time and space. It is as if the virtual realm is finally becoming mainstream.

This is very relevant to our work here at ET Group of weaving people, space, and technology together as it becoming more and more important to help build bridges between the physical and virtual realms. As we continue to do this effectively, we are helping our clients evolve and embrace the future of work. Delivering on that potential reality is really inspiring for me personally and for our team as it makes our work more meaningful, resulting in higher engagement and personal growth for our amazing team members. In any case, I highly recommend the article to anyone wanting to learn how to collaborate virtually more effectively. Stay tuned if you are interested to hear more about my perspectives on the future of work and ET Group’s ongoing evolution.

Dirk Propfe

Is sustainability worth it for SME’s?

Sustainability talk, and increasingly sustainability walk, have become mainstream in large enterprises as a viable and highly profitable business strategy. Paying attention to the triple bottom line (people, planet, and profit) is also a great risk management strategy. If you need proof, simply look at the empirical research completed by Bob Willard over the past 12 years. Bob is an expert in the business case for sustainability and his research shows companies that integrate sustainability into their strategy grow their profits by 51% to 81% over a 3 to 5 year period.

Est-ce que la durabilité vaut la peine pour les PME?

Les discussions sur la durabilité sont devenues tendance chez les grandes entreprises. Elle est décrite comme étant une stratégie viable et très profitable. Faire attention aux résultats triples (individus, planète et profit) est aussi une bonne stratégie de gestion de risque. Si vous avez besoin d’une preuve, allez lire la recherche empirique complétée par Bob Willard (expert de la durabilité pour entreprises) au cours des 12 dernières années. La recherche de Bob démontre que les entreprises qui intègrent la durabilité au sein de leur stratégie, augmentent leurs profits de 51% à 81% sur une période allant de 3 à 5 ans. Ce sont de bien beaux chiffres.

sustainability-diagram-draftMais est-ce que ces résultats épatants s’appliquent aux PME? Pouvons-nous nous permettre d’investir notre temps et ressources limitées pour se concentrer sur les individus, la planète et le profit? Devons-nous nous préoccuper de la durabilité même si nous ne ressentons pas la même pression et risque de perte de réputation que les grandes entreprises ont? Est-ce que développer la durabilité en vaut la peine pour les Petites et Moyennes Entreprises?

La réponse courte est : oui, absolument.

Voici trois raisons expliquant pourquoi :

  1. La durabilité donne un objectif à votre entreprise, renforce la culture et augmente la productivité

Si vous êtes similaire à ET Group, votre force provient de la culture de votre compagnie et du dévouement de vos employés. Mais, comment est-ce que la durabilité peut aider à solidifier l’objectif de la compagnie, créer une culture plus forte et maintenir l’engagement de vos employés?

Par définition, une optique de durabilité force les entreprises à faire ce qu’il y a de mieux pour la planète, les individus et le profit. Donc, celle-ci donne à votre compagnie une raison d’être, en laquelle les gens peuvent croire ; un objectif valable qui est très motivant et engageant pour les employés. En effet, il est prouvé que cet objectif est plus efficace pour motiver la performance des employés que tout autre récompense externe (commissions, boni, etc). Je sais ceci non seulement grâce à l’incroyable discussion TED de Daniel Pink, mais aussi parce que je le vis tous les jours chez ET Group.

Des employés engagés sont plus productifs parce qu’ils croient en votre entreprise et son objectif. Ils désirent contribuer au bien-être de l’entreprise et de leurs collègues. Ils redoublent donc d’efforts afin d’assurer le succès de la compagnie. Se concentrer sur les individus, la planète et le profit aidera à renforcer l’objectif de l’entreprise voire peut-être même vous aider à trouver un nouvel objectif, qui résonnera plus auprès des employés et clients potentiels.

Un objectif valable saura :

  • Attirer des employés de qualité
  • Construire une culture solide
  • Offrir des résultats incroyables
  1. Se concentrer sur les individus, la planète et le profit fait de votre entreprise une compagnie plus résistante et capable de s’adapter au changement

468457117Les entreprises ne peuvent survivre à long terme que si elles créent une certaine valeur. De manière historique, la valeur créée par les entreprises était mesurée exclusivement en termes économiques, mais la définition a rapidement changé. La valeur véritable est maintenant définie par des métriques financières, sociales et environnementales. Les PME doivent donc considérer leur impact sur ces métriques afin de maintenir leur valeur jusqu’au bout. La durabilité vous force à étendre votre horizon et prendre en considération les impacts sur les individus et l’environnement. Cet horizon élargi vous permet de déceler les risques potentiels et les opportunités qui pourraient se dessiner.

Si vous souhaitez lire un résumé des opportunités et risques liés à la durabilité, je vous conseille de lire le sommaire exécutif de

Expect the Unexpected: Building Business Value in a Changing World (Attendez-vous à l’inattendu : créer une entreprise de valeur dans on monde en changement) par KPMG.

Comme nous le savons, les ressources naturelles seront de plus en plus rares dans les années à venir. Les quantités sont limitées sur notre planète, mais les demandes de notre population grandissante ne le sont pas. De plus, les prix de l’énergie sont à la hausse et on s’attend à ce que cette tendance continue, faisant de la pression sur nos marges. Finalement, la durabilité est devenue un élément de marchandisage de plus en plus important qui résonne avec les employés et certains de nos clients pour qui, la responsabilité sociale corporative est importante.

Ces tendances nous impactent tous, donc il est impératif que les PME commencent à se concentrer activement sur la durabilité dès à présent, si elles souhaitent être compétitives dans le futur. Se concentrer tôt sur la durabilité, donnera aux PME des récompenses telles que des coûts d’énergie réduits, une réduction de la production de déchets et un mode de transport plus efficace.

Selon mon expérience, recycler les déchets électroniques est devenu une nouvelle source de revenu pour ET Group et je sais que nous arriverons à épargner suffisamment d’argent lorsque nous renouvèlerons notre parc automobile avec des véhicules à consommation réduite. Je crois fermement que la durabilité aidera à construire des relations à long terme et profitables avec des clients et fournisseurs de qualité. Toutes ces raisons impactent les résultats de manière positive et aide à atténuer les impacts négatifs du futur.

  1. La durabilité pousse les PME à innover afin de rester pertinent auprès de leurs clients

Alors que la durabilité prend de l’ampleur, les consommateurs exigent de plus en plus de produits pratiques et durables. Les entreprises dont le cœur de métier est dans ce secteur, en tireront un bon avantage. Alors que de plus en plus d’externalités sont incorporées dans les pratiques de comptabilité, seuls les produits et services durables auront un avantage sur les produits réguliers. L’innovation de durabilité n’est donc plus seulement un avantage, c’est une nécessité.

En termes simple, nous auront à réinventer plusieurs produits et services offerts aujourd’hui afin de demeurer pertinent pour nos clients. Chez ET Group, nous trouvons ceci très passionnant et un réel privilège! Nous devons reconcevoir notre propre industrie afin de devenir plus durable et nous devons continuellement offrir de meilleurs produits et technologies de collaboration qui aideront les autres industries à devenir meilleures et plus responsable. Pour plus d’information, dirigez-vous vers mon billet : Le lien entre les technologies de collaboration et la durabilité.

Les nouveaux produits et solutions résultent généralement en une augmentation des ventes, des marges et un travail excitant. Tout cela permet la création d’un environnement de travail sain. Donc, innover devrait être perçu comme étant une bonne opportunité pour les PME.

Les PME devraient investir dans la durabilité dès à présent, et ce, avant qu’il ne soit trop tard. Je crois fermement que les PME soient essentielles pour faire de la durabilité une idée tendance. Nous avons une belle opportunité de position de leadership à prendre.

Dans un billet futur, je partagerai mes pensées sur les façons possibles pour les PME d’embarquer vers le chemin de la durabilité. Je souhaiterais donc obtenir des commentaires sur l’expérience de vie de certains lecteurs.

Le parcours vers la durabilité n’est pas si facile, mais nous pouvons le rendre amusant et excitant si nous travaillons tous ensemble. Il est aussi de notre devoir et responsabilité en tant que communauté d’affaires de nous assurer de prospérer pour les générations à venir.


Si vous aimez ce billet, veuillez le partager avec votre réseau et écrivez vos commentaires dans la section ci-dessous! Si vous désirez en apprendre plus sur ce que nous faisons chez ET Group afin de devenir plus durable, écrivez-nous et nous serons heureux de tout partager avec vous. Nous sommes ne sommes qu’au début d’une longue aventure, mais nous sommes dévoués à nous rendre à destination.

The Link between Corporate Sustainability and Collaboration Technologies (CT’s)

In this post, I will discuss sustainability as a key business imperative and explain how companies can use CT’s to transform their business and reduce their overall environmental footprint.

Sustainability is a necessity that is good for business

When you look at key environmental and social data, it becomes apparent that business as usual in no longer a viable option going forward. Over the past 40 years, the human population has more than doubled from 3 billion in 1960 to more than 7 billion in early 2012. This explosive growth, combined with a net gain for overall human wealth and well-being has put an unsustainable amount of pressure on our planet. Currently, we need more than 1.5 planets to sustain our current population and consumption patterns. This unprecedented growth and the incredible rate of change we are experiencing are quickly driving leading companies around the world to recognize sustainability as a key business imperative. Sustainability is not just a necessity; it is also proven to drive positive business results. Recent academic studies, as well as stock market data indicate sustainability leaders across different sectors are consistently outperforming their competition. However, integrating sustainability into a company’s overall strategy and operations is not an easy task. In most cases, “going green” requires a true business transformation, which affects every area of the business and requires an immense amount of collaboration and innovation between internal and external teams. Here is where the right mix of CT’s can drive tangible reductions in CO2 emissions while enabling unparalleled collaboration and innovation.

CT’s fuel innovation and reduce your environmental footprint

Collaboration technologies, such as Audio, Video, Web and Interactive Whiteboard Conferencing, can all contribute to CO2 emissions reductions and attractive operational efficiencies even if they are deployed in isolation. However, significantly higher returns can be achieved when these technologies are effectively integrated throughout the entire organization and used by different user groups. In sustainability terms, the key benefits of collaboration technologies can be allocated to each of the widely accepted sustainability criteria:

Corporate SustainabilityFrom a People perspective, collaboration technologies allow employees to integrate work into their lifestyles, thus, allowing them to work effectively from anywhere they choose. This flexibility and perceived freedom have proven to increase retention rates, employee morale, loyalty and overall productivity by more than 20%. Also, collaboration technologies allow companies to create stronger relationships with their customers, to differentiate themselves from the competition and to enable them to focus on becoming their customer’s trusted advisor.

On the Profit side, collaboration technologies allow companies to make almost every process more effective and efficient, resulting in dramatic productivity savings and capacity increases. Clear examples of attractive operational savings include reductions in travel, transportation and real estate costs. Furthermore, the effective deployment of collaboration technologies allows employees, suppliers and clients to collaborate and innovate faster than even before, therefore, creating new business opportunities. Companies that experience the highest returns do so by encouraging and integrating the use of collaboration technologies in their policies and processes.

Lastly, and increasingly more importantly, collaboration technologies can help reduce the environmental impact of most companies by reducing direct and indirect CO2 emissions, thus, lessening the strain on our Planet. Examples of large CO2 savings opportunities include emission reductions through less travel and commuting, reduced real estate requirements, and the capability of influencing employees’ mindset to further reduce emission by effectively measuring and communicating key environmental data through digital signage technologies.

As you can see, collaboration technologies contain all of the values of corporate sustainability, therefore, careful planning, attention and ongoing management of these vital tools will yield results that will positively impact People, Profit and our Planet.

About ET Group

Collaboration and sustainability are key business imperatives required to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world. ET Group designs and builds interactive collaboration ecosystems that help companies connect, innovate and execute faster while reducing their overall environmental footprint.

i– United Nations. (2011, May). World Population to reach 10 billion by 2100 if Fertility in all Countries Converges to Replacement Level– [Press Release].
ii Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. (2005). Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis.

The Rising Stars of Toronto’s Young Entrepreneurs Scene

On Oct. 20, 2011, the team from Report on Small Business invited dozens of enterprising owners to attend a networking event. We took photos and videos as a way to introduce our audience to these up-and-comers, all of whom have big ideas and grand ambitions.