By Jack Stubbs
Many cloud-based platforms are trying to make a name for themselves in the increasingly tech-based CRE market. Bluescape—a collaborative workspace environment designed to allow teams to share concepts and present content and processes in real time—is one of the latest companies participating in this rapidly growing trend.
We recently spoke with Bluescape’s Nick Brown, vice president of business strategy, about the platform’s current status, how it aims to differentiate itself from other cloud-based software companies, and where it hopes to go in the future. Nick Brown has over 25 years of experience driving product strategy for leading software companies. At Bluescape, Nick is responsible for setting the product vision and developing the product roadmap.
What can you tell me about Bluescape (from It’s founding to where the company ultimately hopes to go)?
Bluescape was born to meet a very real need within Haworth, a leading office furniture company that needed a better way for designers and developers to visually collaborate across teams, locations and devices.
In 2012, Haworth spun Bluescape out as a separate company with a mission to redefine and streamline how we work with a new class of visual collaboration software. The company’s headquarters are in San Carlos, California, and the Bluescape solution is prominently displayed in Haworth showrooms in more than ten major cities across the US, including Seattle.
Today, Bluescape remains a wholly owned subsidiary of Haworth with more than 100 customers and nearly 80 employees across the US. True to its original mission, Bluescape is an innovator in visual collaboration software that helps companies create better, giving teams a virtual workspace to meet, share and develop ideas.
The market for visual collaboration is still in its early days but growing very quickly. Bluescape is at the forefront of this market today, and with a significant head start should remain a leader as the market matures. From a product perspective, Bluescape is continuously enhancing its platform with new features that streamline group collaboration and extend natural work processes to the virtual environment.
Bluescape serves a variety of industries, such as design firms, entertainment, consulting, creative agencies, biotech and higher education. What is it, specifically, about Bluescape as a platform that makes it such a widely-applicable platform?
Recent research conducted by Aberdeen Group demonstrates that a lack of face-to-face communication and the misunderstandings that arise from it are major issues facing companies today. Despite the wide adoption of newer collaboration tools such as Slack, Dropbox, Google Drive and Hangouts, employees spend too much time summarizing past meetings before they can move forward, and the main conduit for collaboration is still email.
Working in Bluescape, teams see the whole picture as they ideate, design and refine concepts—and ideas are never lost. These attributes are universally desired in the modern workplace.
How does Bluescape—as a company and a platform—aim to differentiate itself from other cloud-based collaborative interactive workspaces? To what degree is Bluescape exploring uncharted territory?
Bluescape is differentiated from other solutions in a number of ways, notably that it is the only one built from the ground up as an enterprise-scale, cloud-based collaboration platform. Bluescape is also the only hardware agnostic visual collaboration solution, running on over 10 display types. Its architecture allows it to run in different public and private clouds. Customers are not locked into any specific configurations.
Bluescape is specifically designed to be an extension of how we already work, and in some ways this is uncharted territory. Even the newer collaboration tools available today prescribe a specific method of collaborating that remains highly siloed, Bluescape does not. We respect your preferred method of interaction—video and voice chat, freeform notes, notecards, comments, etc. and your content no matter what type.
The fact that the software provides an “infinite” workspace seems telling of where the platform hopes to go. How is Bluescape aiming to capitalize on this idea of an “infinite” workspace?
The idea of an infinite workspace represents a blank canvas—a greenfield opportunity to create, explore, refine, etc. At the same time, all this ideation and creativity is captured in an easy-to-use, easy-to-access workspace where ideas are evolved, shared and never lost.
We also recognize that some structure is compelling for users as well, so we’ve developed a number of common elements, like timelines, that can be incorporated into the workspace to map out projects and progress.
It’s clear that the software functions most effectively when presented on a large-scale, interactive touch-screen (e.g. in a conference room). To what extent is the software functional through and across different media types? What are some of the challenges involved in ensuring that the software transfers effectively to different platforms?
I’d argue that the software functions most effectively when teams are working together, regardless of location. The large-scale, interactive touch-screen in a conference room has a decided “wow factor,” but the product is designed to be available anywhere, anytime. You can work in Bluescape from your smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop, or interactive displays, and you can still work with all the same content types you are already working with.
The ability to run on any hardware is a key differentiator for Bluescape, as is the fact that we built the solution for the cloud—which makes it available from any device. We have allocated a lot of R&D to make sure that Bluescape does run smoothly regardless of hardware, OS, or cloud provider. We’ve built out the necessary integrations and test continuously to ensure our customers do not have any issues as they work in Bluescape.
In the current age, tech and software development companies emphasize the intuitiveness of their products. Is there a steep learning curve for those hoping to take advantage of Bluescape’s platform? Are there any potential drawbacks or limitations that Bluescape is currently trying to navigate in terms of product development?
There is not a steep learning curve to get started using Bluescape, which is one reason customers choose us. In fact, when we demo Bluescape for prospects, they often join in by interacting in Bluescape while we’re talking through the different use cases that apply to their business.
There are no drawbacks or limitations that we have to navigate as we develop the Bluescape visual collaboration software, but there is a challenge that I hinted at before—balancing the ability to apply structure to a purposefully unstructured workspace. We want people to see Bluescape as a natural extension of how we already work, and that includes making it work for people who need differing levels of structure to advance projects.
How difficult is the adoption of the platform for potential users? What are some of the hurdles to a faster application of the platform across different industries? How does Bluescape strive to ensure that its product will be comprehensively understood?
Bluescape was born from a real need at Haworth by its design teams. Over time, Bluescape software has become integral to the way Haworth works in just about every function from design, finance, dealer development, customer service, product management and marketing communications. And this growth was organic; Haworth did not mandate that employees use Bluescape.
Hurdles to adoption vary by organization but not so much by industry. Just like any new technology introductions, it can take time and patience for everyone to experience the benefits for themselves. As for the how, Bluescape has a great team of customer success professionals whose job it is to make sure that users understand the product and potential uses. In addition, we maintain an active community of users who share best practices and tips with each other to ensure they are making the most of the product. Through this community, we also provide a broad range of content from webinar tutorials to customer case studies, reference guides templates, and more.
There are lots of software design companies hoping to do exactly what Bluescape is doing. How will Bluescape ensure that it stays ahead of the curve?
We work closely with our customers to ensure our product updates are in line with what they need to advance their projects. Everybody says this, but we believe that our collaboration with customers on the product will be key to our success in the market.
Bluescape has roots in the Bay Area. In what ways does the software hope to capitalize on its surrounding environment? Was Seattle a logical next step for a company looking to diversify and expand?
We were originally conceived in Holland, Michigan. Establishing the Bluescape HQ in San Carlos was a deliberate move to ensure we had access to the best software development talent as well as being centrally located in an area that is dominated by early adopters of technology.
While Bluescape doesn’t have any specific plans to expand into Seattle at this time, like all startups, we will go where it makes sense and, because we use Bluescape, it makes expansion easy for us.