Author Archives: Adam Kaiser

Video Conferencing: Myth vs. Reality

July 5th, 2012 | Posted by Adam Kaiser in Video Conferencing - (0 Comments)

Everywhere you look there are analysts, pundits, and pretty much anyone you can think of that are saying video conferencing has hit its stride and adoption is growing exponentially. While this is true in many cases, there are still some common misconceptions that seem to be getting in the way of true ubiquity. Let’s take a look at five of them:

Myth #1: Video conferencing is too costly for small to medium businesses.

Reality: While this was once the case, the cost of video conferencing has dropped significantly. Most of the major manufacturers of enterprise video have brought lower cost solutions to market, along with some creative bundling. The line between business and consumer technology has blurred and it is now possible to use video conferencing for almost no upfront investment. While the quality of these free solutions may not match those of a fully realized business system, it’s a way to get started.

Myth #2: It is difficult to connect consumer video (Skype/Google Video Chat) to business solutions (Cisco/Polycom/Lifesize).

Reality: A number of services and technologies have come to market that completely break down the barriers of video conferencing interoperability. When you are on an audio call, you don’t think about how people are connected. Is George on a cell phone with AT&T? Is Bob on his landline with service from Verizon? The technology simply works with any phone or service; as is the case with these new video services. Users can connect with the chosen platform and the service solves potential interoperability in the cloud. The result is each participant seeing everyone else, regardless of how they got there.

Myth #3: Video conferencing is too complicated for a non-technical person to use.

Reality: Video conferencing technology has gotten easier and easier to use. Connect to a colleague can be very straight forward thanks to streamlined interfaces and automation. It can get a bit more complicated when trying to connect large groups or people across different networks, but there are video management services available that can handle everything allowing end users to focus solely on the meeting at hand.

Myth #4: You need a dedicated video network.

Reality: If you are using an immersive telepresence system, you will most likely need dedicated network for the highest quality; however, many HD video calls are carried out over the public internet. With bandwidth becoming cheaper, faster, and more reliable, public internet calls are now more successful than ever.  Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict outages and other traffic that could interrupt your video call, so if quality is mission critical, dedicated networks still offer a great solution.

Myth #5: Video conferencing is not secure.

Reality: Recent news stories have painted video conferencing technology in a negative light from a security standpoint but the reality is video can be incredibly secure. As long as systems are properly configured and restricted, they will not automatically let anyone in to a boardroom. In addition, many available cloud services provide an extra level of protection through additional encryption and randomized meeting ids.

There are many more myths than can be debunked about video conferencing but the ones above are some of the most common. As with anything, it is important to do the research and understand all of the ins and outs of the technology. Talk to you trusted technology advisors to get the real facts!

As video conferencing continues to become ubiquitous in the business and consumer world, the entertainment industry has taken notice and continues to integrate the technology into the plots and characters of television shows and movies.  Here’s a look at some of the more popular instances of video conferencing appearing in our favorites!

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
With the planet in peril once again, the Transformers must maintain communication with the command center of the NEST (Non-Biological Extraterrestrial Species Treaty) team.  The Transformers are in the field with their human counterparts, meeting with national security advisors and heads of defense departments. The briefing is about the latest threat and how to address it. How do they meet? Via telepresence. There is no better way to see the power of video communication than to have Optimus Prime laying down the law 4 inches away from the camera!

NCIS
NCIS (Navy Criminal Investigation Service) is one of the most popular television series on the air today. The premise of the show is a team of Navy officers who investigates crimes within and related to the Navy. The show has its fill of quirky forensic specialists and one liners (what crime drama is complete without them)?  Video conferencing comes into play with the quirky forensic specialists.  In many cases they are able to connect to the field teams to review the evidence they have analyzed back in the lab and this helps guide the next moves of the men and woman investigating and interviewing.

24
24 has been off the air for a few years now but represents the first major appearance of telepresence in entertainment and Cisco went as far to promote its inclusion in several ads and promotions.  In the show, telepresence is used in several different instances. Throughout the entire series, the plot focused on the current sitting president.  In many occasions this president is isolated and must communicate with their cabinet and national security teams remotely. Telepresence provides the life-like communication needed to make decisions that could potentially save the country from utter doom!

Up In the Air
George Clooney hired to fire you? Ouch. In this movie Clooney flies around the country as a hired gun for organizations doing massive layoffs. George loves to travel and not deal with what’s going on with his life on the ground. Video conferencing plays a pivotal role in the plot as a young new hire attempts to replace the in-person firings of the entire company with an outsourced, video conferencing based approach. This threatens Clooney’s way of life but also makes him deal with the reality of his life. This is an application of video conferencing we hope never comes to be!

Clearly video in entertainment is ever growing, just as it is in real life!

Selling Your Boss on Video Conferencing

June 25th, 2012 | Posted by Adam Kaiser in Telepresence | Video Conferencing - (0 Comments)

With so many organizations either using or implementing video conferencing, the technology is becoming ever-present. Whether an organization is implementing the highest quality immersive telepresence, or rolling out video across iPads and smartphones, someone at some point had to sell their boss on the value of video.

Perhaps you find yourself in a similar situation? Here are some tips to make it just a little bit easier to sell the power of video to your superiors.

Teamwork – Selling your boss on the value of video conferencing to connect disparate teams is crucial. Maybe you work with a sales person in Los Angeles, an engineer in Dallas, and a support specialist in Chicago. Connecting the team face-to-face will help make all of you more productive and foster better relationships. This type of increase in productivity will only help to increase the bottom line.

Travel Costs – This is an oldie, but goodie. There is no doubt that organizations save significant dollars on travel once video has been implemented. To make this process easier, see if you can get your hands on the company’s travel expenses from the last few months. If you can’t get that much data, look to your own expenses for travel. Take that number and calculate 25% to show the potential savings video can provide on travel. When presenting this to your boss, point out that 25% could be a conservative number.

Outsmart the Competition – With the rapid communication abilities of video, your company will be able to stay one (or maybe more!) steps ahead of the competition. Whether its responding to a customer issue in the shortest time possible or getting a product to market faster, this type of rapid response is only going to make your company and your boss look good!

Recruiting Top Talent – Remind your boss of the last time he recruited a new sales executive. It started with 10 phone interviews then four were brought in for face to face interviews. When the candidates showed up, none of them had the appearance or polish of a sales rep. It almost seemed like there was a different person on the phone! With video, the first interview can occur visually, making it easier to find the right candidate sooner.

There are many more ways to sell your boss. If you are in a particular niche industry (healthcare, legal) there are very specific use cases to present as well. But if you begin with the four points above, you will be well on your way to selling your boss.

The Rise of Social Collaboration

June 20th, 2012 | Posted by Adam Kaiser in Collaboration | Industry News - (0 Comments)

The last year has been quite interesting with a constantly shifting landscape of social media, visual collaboration and unified communications. Social collaboration, a combination of these, is becoming a significant trend and driving the behavior of key manufacturers and software companies. At the same time, businesses of all sizes are beginning to see social collaboration as a key component of their communications strategy.

Point in case, Cisco announced Cisco WebEx Social earlier this week. Originally marketed under the Cisco Quad brand, WebEx Social is an attempt at 2 key things: 1) Expand the incredibly well known Webex brand into the social enterprise space and 2) Create a “hub” for an organization’s collaboration efforts. At the same time, there are rumors of Microsoft looking to acquire Yammer, another provider of social enterprise software.

Cisco and Microsoft are following suit behind Salesforce.com’s continued expansion of their Chatter social platform, Jive Software’s IPO and popularity (another social software company), and about a dozen or so smaller companies vying for a company’s social business.

The key trend emerging is about interaction and communication. As organizations continue to explore social collaboration, they have to ask themselves a key question. What kind of interactions do we want to foster? Organizations can either focus on internal communications by making sure employees can collaborate in the most effective way possible. Or, they can expand those interactions outside the company, making collaboration with partners, vendors and customers possible.

With those questions answered, a company can look to implement the aforementioned “hub.” With this in place, employees have a single starting point for all of their interactions; they can interact with people through IM, chat, and ultimately launch a web conferencing session, voice call, or video conference. This level of integration provides a seamless way for employees to move from one form of collaboration to another. It provides a new meaning for unified communications and will help drive adoption of the technology in addition to foster a team environment.

At the end of the day, all of these technologies are pretty amazing. But, what are the true business benefits? How do employee interactions increase productivity and aid the bottom line?

For one, the cliché “two minds are better than one” holds true; employee interactions with partners, customers and other employees increase productivity through knowledge sharing. As employees interact, they share different tips, think creatively and produce ideas that can improve products or processes and ultimately drive true innovation. All of these aspects have a direct, and dramatic, impact on a firm’s bottom line.

In the coming weeks we will explore in more detail how these different types of interactions can improve an organization’s performance.  Stay tuned!

This post is part of a series covering the benefits of social collaboration within an organization.

Part Two: Unified Communications, Unified People
Part Three: The Power of Business Partnerships
Part Four: Using Collaboration to Increase Customer Lifetime Value

Skype To Start Advertising

June 18th, 2012 | Posted by Adam Kaiser in Industry News | Video Conferencing - (0 Comments)

Would You Like Fries with Your Video Call?

Sample advertising in a Skype call

Late last week Skype announced Conversation Ads within their calling window. The ads will start appearing only in 1:1 audio calls but Skype has already mentioned additional “commercial experiences” in the future. So advertising during Skype video calls is certainly a possibility. Although, for paid customers, it appears the ads will not be present.

Skype is a fantastic application, great for linking family and friends, as well as easily pulling in remote employees into video meetings. But, do you want to build your organization’s entire strategy behind it? Improved bandwidth and cameras have helped blur the lines between Skype calls and business video calls; and at times, they can be indistinguishable.

But when Skype decides to make a big change, like building advertising into calls, it can cause all sorts of issues. Do you want the CEO of your company taking a video call with an advertisement for maple syrup?  I don’t think so!

The key to Skype, is using it to compliment your business video environment. If you have implemented Polycom, Cisco, Lifesize, Radvision, or some other technology, a cloud service can provide the link between those higher-end business calls and Skype. It is important to maintain those solutions and use them for business critical meetings. Skype should be used sparingly!

In situations where remote participants are looking to connect from a mobile device (iPad, Smartphone) or from a remote location, Skype makes perfect sense. The best way to think about these meetings is to focus on the fact that the reach of the meeting is more important than achieving the highest audio and video quality. We’ve seen clients running a fully managed meeting in their boardroom and a remote participant connecting via Skype from the Middle East. It was important for this person to be seen and heard in the call; the fact that he/she was able to connect at all was enough.

The consumerization of IT is apparent from the largest to smallest companies. As these companies embrace it and encourage employees to BYOD (bring your own device), Skype is going to continue to be more and more prevalent. Embracing it as a complimentary technology will not only make managing Skype easier, but will provide users with additional avenues to collaborate with their co-workers.