“Because our board members all have other jobs, it’s not always possible for them to travel to our offices in Morwell for meetings”
Latrobe Valley Enterprises is a not-for-profit organisation with a network of commercially viable businesses providing employment for people with disabilities. LVE’s 107 employees work in a diverse range of areas including grounds maintenance, recycling, secure document destruction, signmaking and business support services. The organisation has been operating for 52 years.
The LVE management board meets on a monthly basis to review the performance of the organisation and make decisions about future plans. To ensure a good mix of skills and experience, its 11 members have been drawn from both the Latrobe Valley region as well as other parts of Victoria.
“Because our board members all have other jobs, it’s not always possible for them to travel to our offices in Morwell for meetings,” says LVE Chief Executive Officer Wendy Bezzina.
“So they could participate, we found we often had multiple mobile phones on the boardroom table dialled in to different people. This is not ideal and doesn’t add to the free-flowing discussion process that is so important in a board meeting.”
Ms Bezzina says attempts had been made to use a laptop to allow people to connect via a video conferencing service and have that streamed to a television monitor in the boardroom.
However that setup wasn’t reliable and was limited to just a single connection.
“We knew there had to be a better way to connect remote meeting participants and so we set out to find a viable alternative,” she says.
In August, 2019 a decision was taken to investigate other ways of running board meetings and include members who could not attend in person. A request was posted on the Gippsland Business Connect website and local businesses invited to offer their proposed solutions.
Ms Bezzina says seven responses were received and, after a rigorous assessment process, Gippsland Business Machines was selected to provide a Ricoh IWB D7500 Interactive Collaboration Hub.
“Of all the options we examined, the Ricoh Interactive Collaboration Hub stood out because of its ease of use,” she says. “Being touch-screen equipped makes setting up group calls and using all the other features on offer very easy.”
The Collaboration Hub was installed during October and used to support the first board meeting in November.
Once the Interactive Collaboration Hub was operational, board members quickly noticed some significant benefits. Remote participants are able to use their mobile phone, laptop or tablet device to connect, and have the option of joining a meeting as a voice-only participant or in video mode. The large 75-inch display screen means participants in the board room can see everyone else as well as share documents and other materials during the meeting. Documents can be marked up with remote attendees seeing these changes in real time.
“It is so simple to use, and it just works,” says Bezzina. “Even if people are not particularly savvy when it comes to technology, they find the interface very intuitive.” For the functioning of the board as a whole, the Interactive Collaboration Hub has made a big difference. Where members would sometimes be forced to miss meetings due to travel or their location, now they can ‘dial in’ from almost anywhere.
The Interactive Collaboration Hub is also being put to use by other organisations including community groups and local businesses. “As well as helping them, it helps us to promote our operations more widely in the region,” says Ms Bezzina.
At other times, the Interactive Collaboration Hub can be used in local-only mode. Meeting participants can display multiple documents or webpages for everyone present, using cordfree connections. It can also be used to play video clips or display photographs.
“We are finding new uses for the Interactive Collaboration Hub every week,” says Bezzina. “It’s become a very valuable tool for the entire organisation.”
“And, importantly, our board loves it. They were becoming increasingly frustrated with our existing communications channels but these concerns have now been fully alleviated. It’s been a fantastic investment for us.”