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Face time is the first step to quality virtual communication

Klick Health has always counted early adopters of technology among its numbers, but they have also been quick to recognize the downsides of virtual communication. Even though the company markets digital software that helps companies collaborate and scale efficiently, Klick’s Keith Liu says there’s no substitute for meeting face to face.

Keith Liu has over 20 years of experience working in innovation enablement, product strategy, commercial team development and ecosystem expansion. His role at Klick is to identify, develop and commercialize new capabilities such as data science, behavioral science, cloud infrastructure and rapid prototyping, in order to drive innovation in commercial healthcare. Prior to Klick, he co-founded an international innovation consultancy, working with brands like Nike, Microsoft, Sony, United Health Group and Boeing

Today an 800-person health marketing agency spread across North America and Europe, Klick (founded in 1997), came to a turning point back when the company had about 50 employees. Klick co-founder Aaron Goldstein noticed that the company was becoming more inefficient as it was scaling. He recognized that email was useful for communication but terrible for collaboration, so he decided to ban its use when it came to assigning tasks internally. This was the beginning of the development of Klick’s proprietary digital tools.
“We saw that email was becoming more of a distraction than an aid — thousands and thousands of emails,” Klick senior vice president Keith Liu says. “Especially with a distributed team, email is treated like a ball that gets hit back and forth.”

Ensuring that team members have clearly assigned tasks and timely status updates

Today, Klick Health’s Sensei Labs have commercialized the tools Conductor and Catalyst, which help teams collaborate, innovate and grow. “In our system, instead of email, there are tasks with a defined purpose and article of work with one owner,” Liu emphasizes. The system also keeps team members up to
date on the status of different tasks — reducing the time needed for those dreaded yet necessary status meetings. (On a large-scale project, figuring out “Where are we now and where are we going?” can take up 20-30% of the work effort, notes Jay Goldman, Sensei Labs co-founder and CEO.) Unlike other collaboration systems, like Slack, the complete history of a task is viewable in the Sensei Labs tools. If necessary, a team member can look back on decisions made years ago.

Still, face-to-face meetings are necessary to build trust

Despite the convenience of digital tools like chat, videoconferencing, and Klick’s own internal system, Liu notes wryly that he still needs a “healthy travel budget” to bring remote team members to the home office
when they first join the company.

Excerpt from Business Digest N°293, February 2019

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Caroline Schuurman
Published by Caroline Schuurman