Author Archives: Lisa Avvocato

Manufacturing – Video Conferencing Style

December 10th, 2012 | Posted by Lisa Avvocato in Use Cases | Video Conferencing - (0 Comments)

Manufacturing relies on efficiency more so than any other industry. Being able to decrease the cost of goods sold by just one or two cents per unit can translate into a significant increase in profits. Many companies have begun outsourcing their manufacturing overseas for lower labor costs; however as products become increasingly complex and technical, a brighter and more technically sophisticated workforce is needed. As a result, the United States is starting to expand in manufacturing jobs. In fact, Apple recently announced that it plans to start manufacturing some of their Mac computers in the US.

Video conferencing and unified communications solutions can help US manufacturers drive efficiencies and remain competitive with global competitors. Here are just a few examples:

Hiring the Right People:
In a recent HBR article, Scott Erker states that manufacturing profits come from a company’s ability to “make the best use of technology to flexibly create high-quality products with continual process improvements and few accidents.” Therefore, US manufacturers need to hire “technically sophisticated, adaptable, engaged workers who are self-motivated to learn.”

Video conferencing allows hiring managers to screen applicants in a more effective manner, especially those located in different cities or even states. Conducting the first interview over video allows hiring managers to distinguish facial expressions and other non-verbal clues which can help determine whether or not the applicant will be a fit for the company.

Employee Training & Development:
Using complex machinery and technical equipment requires a significant amount of training for the most efficient and effective results. Video conferencing and unified communication tools can be used to enhance employee training and development. Streaming video can provide a consistent experience for training sessions, policy updates and other company messages while reaching multiple employees simultaneously.

Coordinate with Suppliers:
A key to efficient manufacturing is to build in redundancy for raw materials and source components from multiple suppliers in multiple geographic locations. Maintaining quality and consistency can be challenging and requires consistent communication with suppliers. Video conferencing solutions can be used to coordinate with suppliers, verify product quality and negotiate contracts without the added expense and hassle of business travel.

Green Initiatives:
Manufacturing places a significant strain on environmental resources due to the high consumption of energy and other natural resources needed to operate manufacturing equipment. Video conferencing solutions can help minimize a company’s carbon footprint by reducing airline and automobile travel to the plant without sacrificing face-to-face meetings.

Additional Resources:
Manufacturers Stay Ahead of the Competition with Video Conferencing

What Does Wii U Mean for Video and U?

November 30th, 2012 | Posted by Lisa Avvocato in Industry News | Video Conferencing - (0 Comments)

Last week Nintendo released the Wii U, the successor to the revolutionary Wii game console. The newest addition supports point-to-point video conferencing capabilities powered by Vidyo technology. Ofer Shapiro, Vidyo CEO, discussed bringing video conferencing to the masses along with the benefits of the Nintendo partnership. However, there have been several comments around whether or not this was the right decision for Vidyo and what this means for the ubiquity of video.

Is deploying a business solution to the masses through a video game going to dilute the brand? You most likely wouldn’t conduct business video call in your living room and you certainly wouldn’t put a video game console in the boardroom.

If that’s the case, won’t this partnership hurt Vidyo more than it helps?

The short answer is no because it opens up a significant realm of possibilities to connect businesses to consumers. Take telehealth for instance; have you ever woken up in the morning with a slight pain in your side and immediately thought what if I have appendicitis? Don’t you wish you could quickly ask a healthcare professional if there’s anything to be concerned about instead of Googling your symptoms and ending up with appendicitis or an abdominal tumor?

Many health insurance companies currently offer 24 hour medical hotlines with access to medical professionals. Unfortunately, without being able to visually see the patient they can only offer limited advice. By connecting over video, the healthcare professionals can more accurately provide advice on certain medical conditions.

For example, Max twists his ankle playing outside and instead of going to the hospital his parents connect over video to a healthcare professional. The doctor asks Max to move his foot and rate the pain, along with a series of other tests, and determines he has just twisted his ankle. The doctor then recommends icing and wrapping Max’s ankle and taking Tylenol as needed for pain. Alternatively, the doctor could decide it might be a more serious issue and Max should go to the hospital for x-rays.

Other possibilities include tutoring sessions where students can connect over video for help with their math homework, instructor led workout classes, or even customer support. Think of the dad trying to build his child’s bicycle and having a couple “extra” pieces. He can easily call in via video, show the support agent the piece and find out where exactly it goes.

Up until this point consumer based, living room video conferencing systems have failed to catch on due to several factors including price and utility. The Wii, however, is a game platform that just happens to have video functionality. This could lead to explosive usage and the endless possibilities noted above.

Of course, interoperability presents a major challenge at the moment. There’s a slight possibility that putting the Wii in offices across the country may lead to a minor decrease in productivity. If Vidyo develops a business or desktop video client that interoperates with Wii the lines between consumer and business video will blur significantly and put us one step closer to true video ubiquity.

Integrating Video Conferencing into Distance Learning

November 28th, 2012 | Posted by Lisa Avvocato in Education | Video Conferencing - (0 Comments)

Distance learning programs are rapidly increasing in popularity as colleges and universities try to reach a wider array of students. Potential students scattered around the globe generally select a school that is geographically continent because they cannot relocate simply to attend school. Additionally, part-time graduate students find it difficult to attend class on a weekly basis due to work commitments, child care coordination, and the plethora of other things that come up in their busy lives.

Unfortunately, even though distance learning programs are growing in popularity, many continue to lack the interactive experience that facilitates true learning. For example, two years ago I took an accounting class online to fulfill one of the requirements for my MBA. The class consisted of self-paced video tutorials, online message boards where we were required to discuss current events related to accounting and an online chat room where we could ask our professor questions about our homework assignments in real time.

The video tutorials were essentially PowerPoint slides with sound clips; however, I found myself having to replay sections three or four times because my mind would start wandering to other things. It is extremely difficult to focus on a static slide with a voice over because there is nothing to grab your attention. In a traditional classroom, you are able to see the professor’s facial expressions and movements around the classroom which helps focus your attention on what the professor is saying.

Furthermore, trying to ask and answer questions over chat was quite frustrating, especially for a math based class. It is extremely hard to articulate a mathematical process without a visual representation of the steps and the numbers. Often times it would take twenty to thirty minutes just to get one difficult question answered because the professor was having difficulty understand exactly what question I was asking.

At the end of the class, I was very disappointed in the experience as I felt I did not learn as much as I could have. Face-to-face interaction is a critical component of the learning experience and therefore needs to be integrated into distance learning programs before these programs can truly rival traditional classroom-based programs.

The good news is video conferencing solutions can help bridge this gap by creating a virtual classroom. With cloud-based meeting rooms, a professor can simulate a traditional classroom environment with lectures and interactive discussions. Students only need a webcam to join and can connect to the classroom with Skype, Google Video Chat or even their browser!

The professor can then easily present a topic, call on raised hands to answer questions and even see when students are not paying attention. After the lecture, the professor can facilitate an interactive discussion among students since they are able to see the professor as well as other students simultaneously.

Integrating video conferencing solutions into the curriculum can not only help address many of the distance learning challenges but allow colleges and universities to find a renewed efficiency and effectiveness within their operations.

Stay tuned for more ways to integrate video into educational programs!

Related Articles:
Extend the Reach of Education with Telepresence
A New Kind of Study Group

Developing Trust Among Virtual Teams

November 19th, 2012 | Posted by Lisa Avvocato in Collaboration | Video Conferencing - (0 Comments)

Trust is an integral component of any relationship whether it’s with a spouse, close friend, colleague or business partner. It’s also an integral part of effective collaboration. Picture yourself in two scenarios; one meeting where you do not know anyone, the other where you know everybody at the table. In the first scenario, you’re a little more reserved since you’re worried about making a good first impression. You want to come off as intelligent rather than foolish and might keep some ideas to yourself since you don’t want to sound stupid.

In the second scenario, you are much more relaxed because you’ve already developed a rapport with the meeting participants. As a result, you freely express your ideas, even the ones that seem a little crazy because sometimes the craziest ideas turn out to be the most profitable. Unfortunately, building and maintaining trust in a virtual environment can be difficult; especially since the need for establishing trust is either overlooked or deemed a waste of time.

In an HBR webinar, How Virtual Teams Can Outperform Traditional Teams, Keith Ferrazzi discusses the importance of trust and how the development of strong bonds can enable a virtual team to actually outperform a traditional team. There are three different kinds of distance that can affect teams. The first is physical distance, or geographic proximity. The second is operational distance, such as different priorities, incentive structures or other projects that prevent the team from connecting.

The third, and most important, is affinity distance which is the level of familiarity or commitment among team members. Essentially, it is level of trust or the bonds developed between team members that allow them to truly connect. Ferrazzi states, “Affinity is the trump card – the thing that really matters. High affinity distance can sink a physically proximate team. On the flip side, with high affinity, physical distance doesn’t much matter.”

So how can organization enable high levels of affinity among teams?

Video conferencing plays a major role as it allows team members to see facial expressions and other nuances that can help build trust. Additionally, it is important for individuals to view their team members as actual people and get to know each other on a personal level. Ferrazzi suggests scheduling time for personal chit-chat at the beginning of a meeting or support a favorite charity like the ASPCA as a team, something that can foster a community spirit.

Relating this back to my own experiences, I work on team initiatives all of the time and have forged many relationships within IVCi. Recently a large group of our organization was in town for a meeting and I was talking to several people when we both realized we had never actually been in the same room before. We have met countless times over video and thanks to the relationship we have forged, the need to be physically present just faded away. It was rather ironic to say “nice to meet you” for the first time when we have been partners for over three years!

Cloud Services Aid Business Continuity

November 12th, 2012 | Posted by Lisa Avvocato in Cloud Services | Unified Communications - (0 Comments)

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, now dubbed Superstorm Sandy, many organizations are taking a second look at their business continuity plan. This storm knocked out power to over 90% of Long Island and all of lower Manhattan leaving many businesses vulnerable. New York is a major hub, as well as a headquarters for many corporations so losing power for an extended period of time can have drastic effects throughout an entire corporation.

For example, if an organization’s video conferencing and unified communications infrastructure was hosted at a site with zero power, the entire organization would have been unable to use the tools. In New York, contingency plans failed as backup generators were destroyed due to unprecedented flooding; plus a gas shortage left many without the fuel necessary to run their generators.

The results can be damaging for any organization. While customers in the surrounding area will be more than sympathetic, customers located thousands of miles away may not be as understanding. Why should a natural disaster in New York affect customer service in California or Tokyo? Therefore, it extremely important to have multiple layers of redundancy built in to an organization’s platform.

With our headquarters on Long Island, IVCi faced several challenges from flooding and impassable roads to neighborhood destruction and more downed power lines than one should ever see. However, multiple contingency plans prevented our Managed Video Experience (MVE) customers from missing a single meeting. Temporary operations centers were set up and customers were able to communicate with our MVE team via public IM or an alternate telephone number until power was restored to our headquarters location.

Cloud services provide an additional layer of security as infrastructure is typically hosted in multiple state-of-the-art data centers in multiple locations. If one data center goes down, there are still several others to handle the load of video meetings. IVCi hosts the infrastructure for MVE across the country and the world. Data centers are designed to withstand storms and power outages like those presented with Sandy. As a result of this, IVCi was able to immediately move into redundancy mode and continue to serve our customers.

Additionally, the MVE team proactively reached out to sites that were located in the North East and offered free use of our Mobility Experience which allowed individuals affected by a loss of power to connect to a video conference via their smartphone or tablet. As a result, every single meeting scheduled since Sandy terrorized our town continued as originally planned.

If your organization was in the path of Sandy, did your video conferencing go down? Were you able to continue business operations despite the storm? Bottom line, IVCi’s MVE provides a consistent, uninterrupted experience. Video conferencing has become a mission critical application within organizations and cloud services can ensure continuity no matter what the circumstances may be.