Greg Clarke tells Sean Gallagher how he swapped fruit and veg, and fax machines for high-tech office success
Not very long ago, having a fax machine was seen as being ahead of the curve when it came to using technology in business. Today, faxes have largely been replaced by photocopiers with integrated scanners that speed up the transfer of documents while eliminating waste and reducing costs.
Similarly, advances in video conferencing have greatly reduced the time and cost associated with staff having to travel to face-to-face meetings with other colleagues or customers located in different parts of the country or indeed the world.
One company at the forefront of helping firms keep up to date with such advances is Dublin-based Digicom. Set up in 1997, it employs 36 and has an annual turnover of more than €8m.
“Our business can largely be divided into two main areas,” says managing director, Greg Clarke at the company’s headquarters in Dublin. “Firstly, we specialise in office print technology which includes supplying, installing and servicing everything from printers, and photocopiers to scanners and document management systems and software. These take care of the needs associated with running a modern office facility from capturing and importing documents to managing, storing, indexing, archiving and delivering documents throughout an entire organisation. We also provide security systems that protect these documents against unauthorised access.”
Greg then points to recent research that shows that workers can spend up to 20pc of their time filing or searching through paper documents. They can also spend as many as 10 hours a week searching for documents that were incorrectly filed or recreating misplaced ones.
“By implementing document management in a digital format, employees can now instantly retrieve documents within a digital repository through a simple search function that allows companies allocate a lot more time to using information and a lot less time trying to find it,” he says.
“The second part of our business involves the supply, installation and servicing of all things audio visual from large format LCD displays used for video conferencing and unified communications to digital signage and digital room booking systems,” Greg says.
His customer base includes large firms in the finance, tech, professional services and pharma sectors, such as Bank of Ireland, Northern Trust, HP, Indeed, Matheson, William Fry, Mazars and MSD. In addition, he works with a variety of local government clients including Cork County Hall and Roscommon County Council as well as a wide variety of small and medium-sized businesses.
“While most of our work is in Ireland, we also carry out work abroad, primarily in the UK and Europe, and usually on behalf of companies that are based in Ireland but who have staff and operations in other countries,” he says.
From Dun Laoghaire in Co Dublin, Greg spent his teenage years helping out in the family’s fruit and veg wholesale business. There he would regularly be called upon to do everything from unload bags of onions to mucking out fruit that had gone off. “It taught me a valuable lesson about the challenges of dealing with products with a short shelf life where you had to either sell it or smell it,” he says.
After school, he completed a degree in marketing in Trinity College before returning for a time to join the family business. However, he quickly came to the conclusion that his future in the business was limited due to the emergence of supermarket chains with dedicated fruit and veg departments. With that in mind, he headed off in search of a different career.
He began by selling electric typewriters before progressing to photocopiers and faxes. In 1988, and driven by a desire to experience life outside Ireland, he headed firstly to the Isle of Man and then to Los Angeles, where he spent the next seven years selling IT and computer software.
By 1995, he was ready to return home and set about establishing his own company, which was officially launched two years later. “I could see that all technologies were going ‘digital’ so that’s why I called the business, Digicom, standing for Digital Communications,” says Greg.
At the time, his biggest challenge was learning how to manage his cash flow. This was because investment in equipment was usually upfront while payment from customers was often slow.
Having worked abroad for years, he joined the Dublin Chamber of Commerce as a way to develop contacts and new opportunities. It was a move that would turn out to be invaluable.
In 2001, Greg hired sales director and now shareholder, Peter Fox to lead the development of the audio-visual side of the business. Originally from Cabinteely, Peter had built up a considerable track record in sales from selling franking machines with Pitney Bowes, paging systems with Eirpage and telco and internet services with Worldcom.
“We could see that technology was developing at a fast pace and that the nature of work itself was also changing, with many people now opting to work remotely,” Peter says. “Companies had staff in multiple locations and across different countries who needed to collaborate with each other regularly and we believed that video conferencing and webcasting would be the next big thing,” he adds.
They began to target young companies with growth potential on the basis that if they got in with these early, they could grow with them. Their strategy worked. As did their decision to approach FDI clients and the recruitment companies and office fit-out businesses that helped them get set up in Ireland.
“Our key differentiator in the sector has come from the extensive range of print and audio visual brands we stock but more importantly from our genuine commitment to providing impartial advice on what solutions best suits are clients’ individual needs,” says Greg.
Looking to the future, Greg and Peter see huge opportunities in both print and the audio visual as companies continue to seek out more efficient and more cost effective ways of doing business and communicating with staff, customers and wider stakeholders. “We plan to continue to grow at home and abroad and are confident we can double our turnover over the next three years,” says Greg. “We are always on the lookout for suitable acquisitions to help speed up that process and are currently undertaking research into developing a whole new division within the company that we hope to launch in 2017,” he adds.
After using the expertise he developed abroad, Greg, who is committed to giving back, became President of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce last year. He is also a board member of www.bizworldireland.org, a not-for-profit organisation that teaches entrepreneurship skills to primary school students. “It’s my way of doing my bit to help develop the next generation of Irish entrepreneurs,” he adds.
Conference calls are a staple of business life, a necessity for organisations of all shapes and sizes. It might even be difficult for you to put a number on the how many conference calls you have participated in during your career. However, how many of those conference calls were run efficiently and were a productive use of the participants’ time? Here are 5 tips on how to do it:
1. Be prepared ahead of time
There is nothing revolutionary here. Being prepared for anything will probably make you more efficient at it, but there are a couple of basics to make sure are covered before call time. Send out an agenda in advance of the call to all participants. This will make sure that the call stays on topic, keeping the length down, but it will also allow people the time to prepare. Hopefully this means that they can bring their best insights and perspectives to the discussion. Send out conference room PINs and bridge numbers well in advance to all participants. The sooner everyone can get into the conference room without unnecessary delay, the sooner you can get down to business. For International participants, make sure you’ve given them a local number to dial into.
2. Keep statements short
As humans, we communicate best in person. Body language is a very powerful communication method. Of course, on audio conference call, we must rely on our voice. You need to tailor how you communicate to the medium you’re using. For voice only conferencing, keep your statements concise and to the point to avoid confusion. Instead of trying to remember what you said 4 sentences ago, or furiously scribbling notes, others can take your point on board and respond appropriately, leading to a better discussion.
Again, this is pretty basic, but at some point you have probably felt the pang of uncertainty or frustration that comes from sitting in a conference room by yourself 5 minutes after the scheduled start time. Obviously the quicker the call starts in earnest, the more the group can get through but how often does a person who has been waiting for other participants leave the conference room when the others are late because he or she has plenty of other work on their plate? There are three outcomes to this, either the call is rescheduled, cancelled altogether or there is even more delay getting someone to dial back in when the rest of the group are finally ready. Time is one of the more precious commodities, so if you are going to be late, notify the moderator or other participants. The call moderator should dial in early, to make sure that everything goes smoothly with the rest of the group joining the call.
4. Record the call
If possible, record the call. You’ll need to let everyone know that you are recording and confirm that anyone from another company is OK with this but it’s well worth doing. Nearly everybody takes notes at some stage during a conference call, but if they need to check another detail after the call, the recording will allow them to do so even if they can’t get in touch with another participant. A recording will also let you summarise the what was discussed, allowing you to action our final and most important tip…
5. Share outcomes of the call
Following on from the previous point, this tip works for in person meetings too. Sharing the outcomes of a meeting or call allows the participants to set about the action points assigned to them, or at least remind them to. They don’t have to double back to confirm what they need to do.
What is one of the biggest Challenges in your organisation?
Your internal client is the most important asset in your organisation. You’ve taken significant time and resources to recruit the right talent. Now that talent wants to work in a positive work space environment with dynamic technology, that works seamlessly.
User Interface User Experience
The technology is only as good as the client’s use & experience of it. Digicom invest in experienced Certified Audio Visual Solution Architects, who consult with the client and design a solution that aims to exceed the user’s expectation
Project Management (PM)
Delivering the UIUX
Once the design is agreed in a written format through a bill of quantities, program of works and scope of works, the Solutions Architect is ready to kick off hand over to Project Management. PM manage the CAD Drawings & schematics with the client design team, through a series of site meetings. PM own installation, commissioning and programming of all the AV inventory, using certified engineers, up to the point of delivery to the client.
Maintaining the UIUX
On completion, PM hand to service support and training is scheduled with the client. Digicom provide ongoing dedicated service support with a help desk to schedule room bookings and dedicated Field Service Engineers. The responsibility for our solution remains with Digicom for the lifetime of that solution.
Polycom recently conducted a global survey, in conjunction with analysts Quocirca, of their existing video customers to help give them a clearer picture of how, why and where their clients are making use of collaborative video. The full 12-page report ‘Fostering a culture of adoption’ has been released and is full of compelling insights into how to drive more video use within your organization.
They’ve summarized some of the major findings in this infographic ‘Six steps to creating a highly collaborative video culture’ below:
ISE 2015 was certainly a spectacle to behold, there were several hundred exhibitors showcasing the latest and greatest on offer.
Cisco had a very impressive magician at their stand drawing the crowds toward the new sleek MX series products, I kept hearing the same tag line from Cisco reps around the stand “they are now just big phones”. You order one part code and parachute it in.
Maybe not quite as simple as that but it’s certainly getting there with the integration of the Cisco Be6K which allows phones and VC systems to seamlessly operate within the Cisco environment.
The real magic however came from a smaller stand behind, and they were creating quite a stir.
Pexip makes a virtualized software infrastructure which transcodes communication types and lets everybody meet in the middle. It can be deployed on premise, or run in a private or public cloud, and even supports connecting the two if you require scale and flexibility.
To date it was able to take feeds from traditional video conferencing units, soft clients, Lync, Web RTC through your browser or traditional phones and because everybody is meeting in the cloud you are not as worried about firewall traversal.
The Pexip team were showing off some new releases which will allow users to integrate Skype, yes Skype! Not just Skype for business/Lync and the new release also allows a very cool feature where you can leverage your existing video conferencing systems and make a live broadcast through YouTube.
Image: Crowd getting treated to some slight of hand.
Conor O’Neill, Digicom Audio Visual Consultant
The classroom was abuzz with discussion on the best questions to ask in the interview process, and how to elicit ideas and needs from potential clients. In general, InfoComm training at ISE is a tremendous draw, particularly for Peter Fox, sales director of Digicom in Dublin, Ireland. “I come to this event for the learning, to learn more about the industry and the happenings within the industry. I concentrate more on attending classes than going to stands,” he said, adding, “I’m basically in these classrooms or in one of the show-floor Unified Communications or Commercial Solutions Theatres all day.”
By Kirsten Nelson, www.avnetwork.com
Defining the standard of the future
The HDBaseT Alliance advances and promotes the adoption of HDBaseT technology as the global standard for high definition, digital connectivity. Since its founding in 2010 by LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Valens, the Alliance has brought together the leading names in the Consumer Electronics and .Professional AV manufacturers, and it counts today with more than 100 members and hundreds of products
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HDBaseT technology has become the new standard for home and professional networking. It brings a rich feature ,TMset, increased reach, and better performance than existing solutions. The cornerstone of the technology is 5Play the converged delivery of uncompressed high-definition digital video, high-quality audio, Ethernet, up to 100 W .power, and various control signals, through a single LAN cable.
Coming to a home near you
With the recently released HDBaseT 2.0 specification, the Alliance is now enabling the development of consumer .electronics devices to better address the needs of the connected home HDBaseT 2.0 brings the quality of pro-AV to the cost-conscious consumer electronics market, for an unparalleled user ,experience. From simple point-to-point applications and up to the most cutting-edge multimedia home solutions. HDBaseT 2.0 delivers the 5Play feature set, from any source to any display around the house, using a simple control app.
Brad Grimes chaired an interesting panel discussion with knowledge experts, from within the industry at this years ISE Trade Show in Amsterdam. The internet of things or the automation of internet things, will be the most influential change in our lives in the coming years. We will track the behaviour of users of Audio Visual and automate it. Smart technology will be the unique buying trigger to decide what technology will be procured by organisations.
The technology will always be evolving and adapt to people’s behaviour, in many cases, without them even noticing. Currently the industry is guilty of building silo’s. IoT will change this with presence and intelligence, that will end integrators building dumb rooms.
With the ongoing integration of IT and the presence of Cisco and Microsoft at this years event, the panel described how important it will be for integrators to build their eco systems around their platforms. They are the largest enterprise platforms in B2B offices now.
So, as a result the top 5 trends to watch for by the panel are:
- Intelligent Devices
- IP Version VII on the 5G Network.
- Remote engagement
- Software as a service, cloud based technology. Particularly in the video area. And oh, finally
- Watch your teenager. Their behaviour with technology is naturally collaborating and multi tasking. Observe it and see the future in the enterprise space.
So the future of Audio Visual is challenging, as we learn to stay expert in this exciting industry.
With so many manufacturers pushing the latest and greatest in 4k or ultra HD, it can quite confusing on what it actually is. 4k technology is generally referred to as 4x times the quality of Full HD or 4x 1080p. Simple right….unfortunately not..
There are 3 things that make up picture quality. The first of these are the number of pixels. So having 4x the amount of pixels is a good start.
The second of these is the frame rate or hertz. This is the number of frames per second, so the higher the frame rate the smoother the picture quality.
Finally the colour sampling or chroma sub sampling is the final component that makes up the picture quality. This refers to the amount of true colour shown on screen at one time. Unsampled colour is referred to as 4:4:4 while it is often sampled at 4:2:2. This reduces the bandwidth required by a third without effecting the visual quality of the image.
So, now that we know what makes a high quality image, how do we get all of on the screen. Easier said than done.
Display port is capable of carrying 4k at 60 fames per second with a colour sampling of 4:4:4. As is HDMI 2.0, which has taken over from HDMI 1.4 as the new standard of HDMI as of 2014. So unless you have a source device with a DisplayPort output or HDMI2.0 chipset you will end up with 4k at 24-30 FPS. This will greatly reduce the quality of the image and a better picture would be achieved at 1080p instead of 4k.
So we have the cable and we have the TV’s that can produce a 4k image. The problem comes in when you try to switch 4k video. Currently there is little or no way of switching true 4k due to the large bandwidth required. Many of the switchers use colour sampling of 4:0:0 to reduce the bandwidth. This becomes noticeable especially on the larger 4k screens.
The other factor and probably the most important component that currently posses a major roadblock to the success of 4k is content. With no standards set for a 4k video player currently on the market and with HD TV currently being broadcast at only 720p it is hard to see 4k being available to every household. There also remains the fact that there is very little content out there recorded in 4k
On the other hand streaming services such as Netflix are starting to release content in 4k as a premium service. Using Netflix as a native application built into the display eliminates the transmission issues inherent with 4k. On the downside it is recommend to have a 25mb/sec broadband speed and unlimited data allowance to watch 4k.
While there are a number of issues currently stopping 4k from being readily available, there is no doubt that the incredible picture quality offered by 4k means it is here to stay unlike 3D which proved to be little more than a gimmick.
Ciarán McGrath, Audio Visual Consultant (Digicom)
Kramer VIA lets you connect wirelessly, collaborate easily, and engage everyone in the room in the work you’re doing. It provides a common platform for all those laptops, smartphones, and tablets in real time on one digital canvas. So things get done right then and there—not afterwards or through email.
Kramer VIA is a shared workspace for team collaboration in real time. Anybody who’s in the room can help create and edit a common document through their individual devices, then share and save it. Designed to eliminate wasted time, lack of productivity, and distracted attendees in meetings, classrooms, and presentations, Kramer VIA is the enemy of inefficient meetings. That’s because VIA acts as a collaboration hub so you can:
VIA is a solution that enables you to bring your own device (BYOD) to a meeting: Mac® or Windows laptops, tablets, iOS or Android based Smartphones. Just log on using Wi-Fi or LAN connections and you are connected. It’s wireless, it’s instantaneous and it’s easy!
Attendees can work together in a meeting, using VIA’s network. All you do is click “Step-In” and your screen is integrated on the main display. Then, you can start collaborating and interacting with other participants, work on a shared document, save it and send through the VIA Cloud or even use the interactive whiteboard.
VIA enables authentic engagement in meetings. You can share your files with other participants, chat or stream full HD videos in perfect quality. Everyone gets to participate, interact and be involved. Attendees become active participants – not bored bystanders.
via Kramer Electronics