Better Inter-Office Collaboration Helps Forbes Tear Down Walls, Eliminate Distances, and Spur Innovation
Forbes Media is one of the biggest names in financial news and events on the planet. The first issue of Forbes Magazine was published in September 1917 and has since spawned 38 international editions. Over the years, we’ve also made a name for ourselves online: Forbes.com receives some 71.5 million visitors a month worldwide.
Forbes is best known for our lists, including the Forbes 400 (the richest American individuals) and the Forbes Global 2000 (the most valuable companies in the world). Our focus has always been on innovation and entrepreneurship. This has led to the recent creation of Forbes’ 30 Under 30, a series of lists of emerging leaders—all in their teens or twenties—in dozens of fields.
The publication of these annual lists is followed by a series of international conferences that bring together young business leaders from around the world. Initially held only in the United States, 30 Under 30 events have now gone international. As the Executive Office Manager of Forbes Slovakia’s publishing operations, I’m helping to organize the 30 Under 30 CEE summit held in Slovakia this year.
Bringing Teams and Regional Offices Together
I started at Forbes Slovakia as the Subscriptions Manager a couple of years ago. In my current position as Head of Office, I also deal with the sales, marketing, subscription, and events teams.
On any given day, you might find me talking about our products and their statistics with our sales team, making strategic plans for subscription campaigns, or planning a conference with our events team. I also work as a liaison between the publishing department and our newsroom.
One of the most challenging aspects of my job is getting everyone to work together. None of the teams in the Forbes Slovakia office has a leader, and so it is my job to create the conditions for collaboration and to oversee the work that the different teams do individually and collectively.
On top of all this, I coordinate projects that involve Forbes’ Czech and Hungarian operations. In the past, we would drive to meetings at our offices in Budapest and Prague—an act that would take up a good chunk of our workday. Despite the fact they’re in other countries, these cities are only two and three hours away respectively by car, but that’s still valuable time spent commuting.
It was not the best use of our time, but it was far better than doing business on the phone or by email. After all, you can’t truly tell what someone is thinking if you can’t look them in the eye.
Tearing Down Walls and Adopting Webex
About a year and a half ago, we moved into a new office, and so we took the opportunity to change the way we work with one another. The biggest change was adopting an open concept workplace. Tearing down walls has created an atmosphere that is far more conducive to collaboration. The other big change was adopting a collaborative platform that would allow us to work better internally, and to better interface with Forbes offices in neighboring countries.
To help bring our offices together, my boss met with the General Manager of Cisco Systems in Czech Republic. Cisco introduced my boss to the Webex Board: the heart of Cisco’s suite of collaboration tools.
Combining an intelligent digital whiteboard, audio and video conferencing, and screen sharing in one device, Cisco’s Webex Board was the perfect solution for in-house and inter-office collaboration. So, we ordered units for all three offices in the region, and someone came in from Cisco to install and demo the device here in Bratislava and also in Prague and Budapest.
Our staff thought it was cool, but they were still a little skeptical. “Do you think we can use this every day?” they asked me. “Of course,” I replied as a tech lover. I saw its utility right away. But my colleagues needed some convincing. So, we played around with it a bit, and realized it was very easy. As a matter of fact, our Editor-in-Chief has a three-year-old son who comes into the office from time to time and uses the Webex Board to draw. It really is child’s play.
Learning Webex on the Fly
Things truly took off the first time we used Webex to plan our biggest event. It was in the lead up to the 30 Under 30 Slovakia summit organized in April last year. I called my colleagues into the meeting room with the Webex Board and suggested we try the drawing functions. I asked our event manager Livia to show us the layout of the main conference room. She picked up a stylus and diagrammed the seating arrangement. Although she had everything figured out in her head, she had never shared it with anyone else. It was a transformative moment.
Livia loved the colors and the way her drawing looked, and asked if she could get it on her computer. With a single click, I launched the Webex document sharing application and sent it to her. That brought everyone else in the room onto the same page. Next, I showed the group how to share their screens with one another, and then we went through the functions one by one, as we needed them.
We ended the meeting by video conferencing with Czech colleagues. The call had been on the meeting agenda, but we hadn’t initially planned to use Webex. Once again, a click was all it took. The seven of us here in Bratislava were chatting with our colleagues in Prague as if they were in the same room. Another similar experience was organizing a joint Czech and Slovak event at the Forbes on Fifth in New York. It celebrated the Centennial anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia, and the next 100 years of innovation. It would have been nearly impossible to do it without technology like Cisco Webex Board.
Replacing Old Workflows with Webex
We started with a room of skeptics and ended with a group of converts. Now, we use Webex almost every day. The biggest impact has been on inter-office collaboration. We’re not just saving money on travel and hotel, but we’re accomplishing so much more. 30 Under 30 CEE summit is just the beginning. Bringing together our Czech, Hungarian, and Slovak teams on a regular basis will allow us to plan bigger regional events that generate bigger revenues and attract the best minds from across Europe and around the world to our events.
Webex has a tremendous impact on everything we do here. It’s changing workflows that have existed for ages. For example, people have stopped using PowerPoint for their presentations. Instead of spending hours preparing slides, they just draw everything up on the Webex Board in real time and share it at the push of a button with everyone in the office after the meeting.
I’ve only been here a couple of years, but Cisco Webex and the new open concept office have transformed Forbes Slovakia. We’ve torn down barriers to collaboration and have made the process far less formal. In February this year, we won the award for the best office of the year.
Using Technology to Break New Ground
I am a firm believer in using technology to break new ground, and that’s part of why I love working here. I may be a recent graduate, but I have a say in the way this office functions, and I want to push for more innovation. That’s why I was so pleased that we will upgrade our office with other Cisco technology.
I can’t wait to see what new solutions Cisco will bring to the table. I can only imagine the way that new technologies will further transform our workplace.
In the end, the quality of our work—born of our collaborative efforts—speaks for itself. The various teams at Forbes Slovakia publishing department have come together as a single unit. We have also forged better bonds with our Czech and Hungarian offices to create a strong regional presence. Cisco has helped us build a team that innovates across national boundaries.