The Next Development of Capture Deliverables

Posted on by Ben Cikanek

Photo by jc/pics

Once upon a time, knowledge collaboration took the form of hand written notes carried in 20lb bags on the backs of Pony Express riders.

Once upon a time, knowledge workers didn't have any technology except a desktop computer with Microsoft Works or Corel DRAW.

Fast forward to today, and somehow, knowledge working has become akin to technology slavery. We focus on technology improvements and short term client requests instead of delivering a better client experience.

We need to re-shift our deliverables focus to be client centered, not tool centered. 

We focus on products and technologies like Pixid Whiteboard to make our job better or easier. We jump at the latest digital camera that will enable less blur, we look to new programs or Dreamweaver Extensions like Project VII to make our 'journals' or websites prettier or have less clicks.

We even go so far as to think someday we will have a whiteboard in every breakout that you can just press a button and the image will be delivered to the radiant room and a printer and everyone's PDA. 

All of this is non-sense. It completely misses the point. We are delivering knowledge work to facilitate the clients objectives. We need to make this as easy and seamless as possible, and increasingly today, as economic as possible. 

Here are my thoughts, experiences with a variety of Capture Deliverables:

1- The long tail of capture

It would have been incredibly entertaining if a client asked us to 'shoot a wall' 10 years ago. For the sake of security (fear), and because of client knowledge, it is becoming more standard to shoot every wall that any person writes on in any place in the environment. I only have the analytics on journal usage over the last 2 years, but they tell a pretty compelling story: walls are downloaded .001% of the time (people photos represent over 90% of all activity). Essentially, the long tail of capture in case a client needs a wall is almost completely a waste of time on all but 1 in 1,000 events. Yes, that 1 event has happened to me, but more time was spent trying to find the exact wall than what could have been solved by having a 5 minutes conversation with the client. Once again, making the case for shooting every wall for every module virtually worthless. I agree it gives the client a sense of comfort, but perhaps and at best, these walls should be burned to a DVD and never enter an actual capture deliverable. They just confuse the output. 

2- The digitization of output

Once upon a time, we would transcribe walls onto paper and then pass it out. Once upon a time, the back of the napkin yielded magic. Now we just snap a photo and are done. The ironic part is that we don't utilize this simplification of data. Check out the video above. Two programs automate production and actually make the output more useable.

a.) JotNot is an App for the iPhone and iPod touch that whiteboards photos. No hiding behind a camera, connecting it to a computer and then following all the other steps.

b.) Evernote translates all text on any whiteboard or flip chart or napkin into searchable text. Yes, searchable, printable, useable whiteboards. 

c.) There are lots of other programs out there aimed directly at what you are trying to do. I list these because they work on mobile devices and on regular Mac's or PC's. 

d.) For the sake of argument (I only use this with some clients...) why do we as facilitators need to do the capture at all? Almost every participant has a camera on them. Put an e-mail address at the top of every breakout. Have them snap a picture and e-mail it to whoever is managing all the content. Better yet, have them e-mail it to one of the applications above. They all provide e-mail addresses to input data. They even offer multiple addresses for each breakout room. Self organizing deliverables. Not bad! If you don't want to use a specific program, the biggest Wiki/Blog programs offer e-mail addresses for content submission... Wikispaces, Wetpaint, Wordpress, Blogger etc. Flickr is also great for this! There are literally hundreds of options/Apps/programs- explore what is best for your specific clients. 

3- Bank online, why not deliverables? 

The idea that content is not secure online and should therefore be delivered on discs is so ludicrous, it is hard to imagine anyone with a straight face could make that argument anymore (I know, they do, but merely out of fear). Ironically, 20% of new laptops don't even have a CD/DVD drive. 

So how do you deliver your output online? There are countless companies out there right now working to make this as simple as possible for you. They are simple, incredibly fast and requires no manual-rework. NOTE: The most important factor to consider when choosing and online service is the manual labor involved. If you ever have to resize an image, create a different display format, offer any instructions to the client, than the program is WRONG. Everything should be automated. I strongly encourage use of programs that have open API's so that other programs can build off of them. For example works with everyone from LinkedIn to Picnik. Please see the list of software that you might find helpful in choosing an application that will work for you. I have lists of dozens of others. If you would like to see it, please send me an e-mail. 

4- The automation of previously manual work (hint: OUTSOURCING) 

I recognize that this is a little controversial, but much of knowledge work is actually just data entry. There is no reason or justification for skilled employees to get their day rate for this type of work. It should be outsourced. If walls or templates or tiles need to be typed in, simply make the photos accessible to your team in the developing world working for $4 to $12 an hour depending on the skill level of work required. There is already an article on Collaboration King about how to utilize this. See Hiring from Beyond Your Desk: ODesk. If you need personal references and aren't comfortable hiring directly online, I am always happy to recommend who I use. Here is a link to do a search to find your first virtual employee/solution:

The On Demand Global Workforce - oDesk

5- The shift back to knowledge work

- Almost every camera on the market has the ability to print directly to the printer in your environment. Why are we quadrupling knowledge working time by thinking everything needs to be wired.  

- Why are we spending hours making name tags and team lists. Several programs automate this. Check out the seating chart function on (registration required) RegOnline offers countless services for every sized event. 

- Why do we spend hours designing graphics when we could be helping teams achieve their purpose for being there with you in the first place. Here are auto graphic generators. And why not crowdsource themes and full design documents (my favorite is CrowdSpring

- Why don't we focus on simplicity and client ease of use. The relatively Adobe Acrobat (PDF 9) will create a journal or website or interactive document with a simple drag and drop. 

- There are lots of companies that make products directed just at us. From fully electronic white boards to facilitator kits in a box. These are definitely more than just gimmicks, and as much as I want to be John King on CNN with my own personal touch wall, it is mere fantasy for our work in the next several years. Don't even try! 

- If you still hold strong to building a CD/DVD/Wiki/HTML based journal, why not have it created automatically? DIMIN is a PC program that will do what would take you an entire event to do in Dreamweaver... in 5 minutes. It works off the folder structure you create to store all the same materials you would store for a Dreamweaver/Wiki/Website journal. You can then customize the look and feel to make it look more like a traditional journal. If anyone is interested, the programmer for this application would happily take donations to customize the software to work more closely with event journals. 


In closing, and most importantly, create the most appropriate deliverable for exactly what the client needs. Most of the time, clients have very sophisticated content and collaboration management software that you can input the event materials so that the clients will use the output more often and hire you again.