Published 12th July 2021 | Articles

Video Conferencing in Product Design

Zoom, Teams, BT CloudPhone, Webex, Jit-si, UberConference, GoToMeeting: you’ll probably be familiar with most or all of these video conferencing and online meeting technologies, which sprang into the spotlight at the start of the COVID pandemic. 

Interestingly though, most had been relatively obscure (at least to non-business users) before then. 

Although video conferencing grew in popularity at the start of 2020, many companies (including Cambridge Design Technology) were already regular users of these systems before the global pandemic.  

In fact, here at CDT, we had actually been using Zoom and TeamViewer to meet with our clients since 2016 as part of our ongoing commitment to using advanced technologies not just in our design and production work but for our operational and communications processes. 

Using video conferencing provides a highly effective and efficient way for us and our clients to communicate remotely, and indeed we’ve written previously about working and collaborating with a product design consultancy over distance, which has always been a key part of our offering.  

It’s proven to be extremely useful during the pandemic, as businesses all over the world shifted to online and remote working, as we were already set up to manage our consultancy on a fully virtual and global level. 

And of course, there have been plenty of funny videos like this one circulating on the web – providing a bit of entertaining advice on how not to run a conference call! 

Cambridge Design Technology’s first taste of “virtual” product design consultancy 

Back in the mid-1990s, Jon Plumb and his colleagues at the time met with a Chicago-based healthcare multinational that was working on the core technology development of a volumetric intravenous drug delivery pump.  

From our offices in rural Essex, suited and booted, we gathered in front of a camera and waited for Roundlake, Illinois, to log on to our first ever video conference call. 

This would be the first time we saw our US colleagues and learned what they looked like.  

The wait, at the time, was incredibly suspenseful and exciting, particularly because the Poly-Span kit had cost the company £15,000 and required us to clear out a special room to make the first call. 

The call worked well but it was a big event to stage – even our choices of striped ties had to be considered, in case the fabric pattern interfered with the camera refresh rate making the tie throb and glow. 

How our global offering has evolved 

We have come a long way from that awkward video call back in the 1990s, both technologically and with our manufacturing.  

Since then, we have been able to deliver entire projects using wholly digital means, remotely, without ever meeting with clients face to face, and often working across thousands of miles of distance and multiple time zones. 

With the help of Zoom, Teams and other video conferencing tools, we don’t see any reason why the quality of service we provide should be limited by geographical factors.  

That’s why we have clients based across the whole of the UK and as far afield as Florida, Connecticut, Illinois, South Africa and European countries including Belgium, Italy and Holland. 

Why video conferencing in product design works 

Some people – for very good reasons – prefer a more traditional in-person, face to face working style. We have no problem at all with that, and we’re more than happy to accommodate these preferences for clients based in the UK or further afield who are willing to travel.  

However, if you’re on the other side of the world, or facing travel restrictions due to the pandemic, we’re very pleased to be able to offer what we feel is exactly the same quality and efficiency of service virtually. 

Today, we use collaborative tools including Microsoft Teams, BT Cloud Phone Meeting and Teamviewer.  

Thanks to these, clients in any location can take part in sessions, sharing desktops pointing and clicking on a single desktop and ensuring they have a full understanding of the project – all in real-time. 

With our extensive experience in the product design business, we also know how to co-ordinate work across time zones in order to make long-distance collaboration not only possible but also highly effective.  

For example, a presentation given in the late afternoon UK time will be attended earlier in – or at the start of – the day in the US depending on where in the US the client is.  

At the same time, a designer in the UK can send their work over at the end of the day, giving the US-based client a full working day in which to absorb the progress made, review the project internally and comment or report back via email ahead of the following day.  

Then the UK designer can respond to any feedback at what is the start of the next US working day. 

Want to find out more? 

As good as it is, the video conferencing technology we use in our meetings and communications is only one of many “tools of the trade”.  

What makes our approach so successful is how we creatively, productively and collaboratively approach each product or technology design project we work on. 

We understand that clients may initially be nervous about working with product designers who they can’t physically visit (at least not easily). However, these concerns are easily overcome by our strong project management approach, which involves working with complete transparency and proactively updating every client with the information they need without them having to ask. 

Our experience, allied to the expertise of our team, means that we’ll always have a solution, alternative approach or action plan waiting to take effect before any problem costs time or money or impacts on the end result. 

If you’re looking to work with a team that can adapt to an ever-changing technological environment and who knows how to manage long-distance collaboration, get in touch with Cambridge Design Technology today to find out more about us and the expertise we offer.

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