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Jan. 27, 2010 1:36 pm

Shop Talk: Proton Media thinks your workflow is better in 3D

If you work at a large corporation and think your job sucks, Proton Media CEO Ron Burns sympathizes with you. “Most people spend their lives in front of their inbox,” he says. “The lives of the workers of these large organization can be rather inhumane.” Proton Media, based in Landsdale, has been fighting inbox-based workflows […]

A screengrab from Protosphere, the company's flagship product.

If you work at a large corporation and think your job sucks, Proton Media CEO Ron Burns sympathizes with you.

“Most people spend their lives in front of their inbox,” he says. “The lives of the workers of these large organization can be rather inhumane.”

Proton Media, based in Landsdale, has been fighting inbox-based workflows through its Second Life-style software that acts as a meeting room for large companies. The software helps companies facilitate collaboration and cut down on unnecessary travel expenses. Specifically, life sciences and gas companies.

“Their entire workflow has revolved around files and folders. Not humans,” he says.

Last week, the company hosted an event at Microsoft’s Malvern campus to discuss how local science companies can better foster an environment for collaborate between their employees. Representatives from Duke University, Merck and former GlaxoSmithKline employees took part in a panel discussion that was popular enough to force the event to move to a bigger venue.

“The life science industry hit the recession one year after everyone else,” says Burns.

For Proton Media, that means more companies are looking at its Protospehere product to house remote sales teams and maintain digital offices. As reported by Technically Philly, the company even took on additional investment to quickly hire more employees.

Burns first founded Proton Media in 1998 as a service that provided e-learning technology to local life sciences companies. The Media native went to Cardinal O’Hara High School and first started his career as a sound engineer for video game companies. However, Burns soon became fascinated with 3D animation and the application it could have for learning.

“We came to collaboration through learning, but we’ve maintained learning as a core competency,” he says.

The company began using HTML and Shockwave and has since evolved to more complex 3D environments. Proton’s flag ship product, Protosphere, incorporates VoIP, a presence feed (whether users are on- or off-line) and integration with enterprise systems like Microsoft Sharepoint.

Burns is still pitching his wares to life science companies, but lately it’s been under a different climate. As the average consumer tightens their belt, unnecessary medical spending grinds to halt adversely affecting companies in the medical field.

Last year Johnson and Johnson, a Proton Media customer, cut over 8,000 jobs while some other life science companies were forced to cut over 10,000. The scaleback has forced these companies to not only trim their budgets, but to think about ways to more efficiently run their companies.

“Getting a [life sciences] product to market a year or two sooner is no joke,” says Burns.

The downtick in business has forced large companies to reevaluate the way they manage projects. Large sales teams often jetted in from all over the country for meetings and research and development staffs are typically forced to communicate.

The shift in economics has necessitated a culture change in large companies, Burns says.

“Human nature is to keep data close to your chest,” he says, noting that the average worker is motivated to position themselves as irreplaceable, which doesn’t exactly lead to an open communication environment and a sharing of knowledge; something he thinks needs to change not just for the bottom line, but for the health of the average worker.

“Learning and collaboration are strategic to these organizations but often the C-level doesn’t see it as such,” he says.

Below, see a video promo for Protosphere.

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Every Wednesday,Shop Talk shows you what goes into a tech product, organization or business in the Philadelphia region. See others here.

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Sean Blanda is an adviser to Technical.ly, the local technology news network, having cofounded its flagship Technically Philly in February 2009. He is a media consultant, engagement editor for Behance and lives in Brooklyn, NYC.

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