Author Archives: Lisa Avvocato

Norm Goes to Japan

July 27th, 2012 | Posted by Lisa Avvocato in Tips & Tricks - (0 Comments)

Guess what? We finally closed the Japanese bank deal! It’s been a bumpy ride the past few months but on the bright side I’ve learned how to distinguish between about sixteen different types of hmmms.

Let me back up a little.

Prior to my first meeting with the bank’s executive team I sat down with my sales manager Tom to discuss our strategy. He explained that business was conducted differently in Eastern cultures than it was in Western cultures. In the first meeting, the initial focus is on establishing a relationship by understanding each other’s needs rather than simply discussing different products and services.

He also told me that when we exchanged business cards to make sure I took each business card with two hands and looked at it for a couple seconds before putting it away. Simply taking it and putting it away is considered disrespectful.

I felt pretty confident going into the first meeting but left feeling extremely frustrated because we barely got anything accomplished and I was sure they were not interested. But a few days later they set up an additional meeting so I guess they were.

Anyway, at one point during the second meeting, the CEO asked if our software could perform a specific function. I was getting ready to say no when Tom interjected saying that it would be very difficult but he would look into it. The rest of the meeting went this way and I was so confused. Every time a question was asked, the answer was either that is something we can accommodate or that will be very difficult.

What happened to a simple yes or no?

After the meeting, I asked Tom what was going on and he shed some light on the situation. Apparently, Japan is a very high context culture; answers are situational instead of explicit. Saving face in front of peers is extremely important and the word “no” is almost never used. It is better to use phrases like that will be difficult or we will have to think about it. Basically, how things were said was more important than what was said so I needed to pay more attention to how they were saying things.

It took a few more meetings but I finally was able to distinguish when my points were received favorably, when they were not interested (fyi “we’re considering it” means we’re not so move on), and when they simply needed a few moments for personal reflection. It was completely exhausting but we were finally able to tailor our offering to their needs and close the deal!

Social collaboration, a combination of social media, visual collaboration and unified communications, is becoming a significant trend in business today. When used together, these technologies can improve products or processes and ultimately drive true innovation which has a direct impact on a firm’s bottom line. This is the final post in a series discussing the benefits of social collaboration. For part one click here.

Customer needs are changing faster than the weather these days and companies have to find new ways to adapt; otherwise they will simply fade away. Pushing products or services upon customers, à la advertising or herded cattle, is no longer an effective business model. Technological innovations have changed the way consumers think, act and shop; however, they have also made it easier for companies to develop relationships with their customers.

Why should companies care about developing relationships?

Three words: customer lifetime value. The stronger the relationship a customer has with a brand the higher their loyalty, their retention and ultimately their sales. Having conversations with customers over social media and listening to their thoughts, opinions and ideas can help form a solid foundation for a relationship. Similarly, utilizing video technologies for customer service or technical support can help establish trust with consumers as video almost humanizes the company in customer eyes.

Furthermore, strong customer relationships can help drive innovation. The more companies converse with customers and the stronger the relationship is; the more apt customers are to provide honest feedback. This not only helps companies fix product flaws but allows them to stay in tune with market needs and opportunities.

Companies can collaborate with customers to create products and services that are perfectly aligned with market needs. Product development cycles can be sped up through beta versions of a product where customers provide feedback on their likes and dislikes and offer suggestions on how to make the product better. According to Nilofer Merchant in the HBR article Rules for the Social Era, “the social object that most unites people is a shared value or purpose.”

A shared value or purpose can be creating or modifying a product to satisfy a market need. People love to be the first to try something new; even more, they love giving feedback so they can say they helped create a product.  Unified communications solutions have given a new meaning to the word focus group; companies can easily set up forums for customers to give their thoughts on beta versions. This is far more cost effective, and provides better results, than hiring a few engineers and product development specialists to test all aspects of a product before mass-marketing it.

Collaboration with customers allows companies to stay agile and ahead of new trends. It helps ensure they are meeting customer needs by constantly making improvements or trying new ideas to create new niche markets. Collaboration helps companies stay relevant which really is the key to staying in the forefront of customers’ minds.

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

Part One: The Rise of Social Collaboration
Part Two: Unified Communications, Unified People
Part Three: The Power of Business Partnerships

Knocking Down the Walls of Collaboration

July 23rd, 2012 | Posted by Lisa Avvocato in Cisco | Telepresence - (0 Comments)

In most organizations, highly interactive working sessions not only occur but are considered crucial to the business. Unfortunately, many times subject matter experts and other team members are located different offices. While video conferencing helps, it doesn’t quite offer the level of interactivity needed for high-pressure situations or critical projects.

Picture this: it’s almost 7:30 pm in New York and the Tokyo stock exchange is set to open in about a half an hour; but first, there’s a quick strategy meeting with the Japanese office. There’s a long list of trades that need to happen plus the futures market is looking a little shaky and needs to be discussed.

Everyone takes their seats around the center table while the call automatically connects with Japan. A document with the trades is displayed on the whiteboard and participants located in New York and Japan are making changes back and forth.

When the market finally opens; real-time ticker data is projected on the screen to the right while trade data is being noted on the whiteboard to the left. Carl is slightly stressed out and is pacing around the room watching the ticker and listening to what everyone else is saying.

How is that even possible?

Well, start with a Cisco CTS 1300. Then add a large, interactive SmartBoard and integrate it with Cisco WebEx. Throw in a projector and second display screen for good measure and don’t forget to replace the standard conference table with a few café-height tables.

The end result: An Active Collaboration Room.

This true technology mash-up provides a collaboration experience like none other. Participants are no longer confined to a chair; they can move around as needed, enhancing creativity, inspiration and innovation. Remote participants can share, annotate and create documents as if they were in person; expanding teams to include the best and brightest individuals within an organization. Complex projects are completed faster with improved quality and reduced errors driving efficiency throughout the organization.

The benefits are endless and the collaboration seamless; innovation knows no bounds with a Cisco Active Collaboration Room.

Additional Resources:
Cisco IBSG Whitepaper: Transforming Business Models by Accelerating Distributed Team Performance
Brochure: Active Collaboration Room

Stop Being Such a Video-phobe!

July 20th, 2012 | Posted by Lisa Avvocato in Video Conferencing - (0 Comments)

I use video on a daily basis whether it’s to collaborate with colleagues, catch up with friends and family out of state or simply say goodnight to my husband when I’m out of town. There is something about connecting face-to-face with someone who is hundreds or thousands of miles away that still amazes me and I’m constantly trying to convert people I know into avid video users.

Unfortunately, I’m still met with a significant amount of resistance from some people who have, what I deem as, irrational fears of video. Here are some of my favorites:

People can (and will) spy on me
I was visiting my family in St. Louis when I went to talk to my mother, who was in her office, and I noticed a piece of paper taped over the top of her laptop. I asked her what it was and she very nonchalantly told me she was covering up the built-in webcam on her computer because she didn’t want people spying on her. I just rolled my eyes and said I was pretty sure her coworkers had better things to do than sit and spy on her.

Yes, it’s possible for someone to hack into your camera to spy on you but, as long as you’re careful, it’s improbable. A few tips to keep yourself safe is to first and foremost turn off any auto-answer capabilities. This applies to consumer and especially enterprise video applications including software clients, personal and room-based endpoints. Second, make sure you are on a secure network, behind a firewall and use a decent antivirus and spyware detection software. Here are a few other tips to keep your webcam from being hacked.

I can’t multitask
Alright this is true; you can’t get away with everything you can on the phone. But let’s face it, you really shouldn’t be multitasking; not only is it rude, it actually decreases productivity. Need proof? Read the HBR blog article How (and Why) to Stop Multitasking. Video essentially forces you to focus on the matters at hand which can lead to enhanced creativity and quicker decisions.

Now, we’ve all had a chatty Cathy talking our ear off when we have about five thousand other things to be doing. It’s difficult to interrupt over audio so you simply put her on mute while you go about your businesses and feign interest here and there. With video it’s easier to escape; simply look at your watch or hold up a finger to catch her attention then let her know you have to run into a meeting or finish up a deliverable that’s due shortly.

Video creeps me out
Personally, I think being able to see someone’s facial expression over video is pretty darn amazing. Unfortunately, I have heard many people say that video is downright creepy. It took me a little while, but I finally understood what they meant – just replace the word creepy with vulnerable. Yes, video is more vulnerable as participants can pick up on visual clues, such as facial expressions, that would otherwise be missed over audio.

I have to admit this does take some getting used to and there are times I would love to roll my eyes or laugh at a ridiculous comment someone made. But, more often than not, being able to see my colleagues’ expressions has helped meetings progress. I can easily tell when they’re following along and when I’ve lost them in a field somewhere.

Now please get over your fears and join me on a video call. Thank you!

Related Articles
Stop Being A Video-phobe Part Deux

Collaboration, team work, relationships and communication; these are some of the latest buzzwords in business today. Companies are not only embracing the collaboration era but looking for ways to enhance communication and strengthen relationships between colleagues, business partners and even customers.

The result: video enabled organizations.

The benefits of video conferencing are undeniable and technological innovations have made video more accessible and easier to use than ever. As a result, organizations are adopting visual collaboration solutions at a rapid rate. However, while some organizations are creating a competitive advantage with stellar results; others see the equipment slowly collect dust.

So, what makes the difference between the two outcomes? How can an organization ensure a successful video implementation?

Simple, effectively manage the implementation and build a video culture.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done as organizations tend to underestimate the amount of time and planning required to effectively manage a video implementation. A company must consider the impact the technology has on the interrelated subsystems within an organization; including the behavioral subsystem (the people), the structural subsystem (the process), and the technological subsystem (the equipment).

An integrated approach to adoption must be used as the impact of a new technology reaches beyond the equipment, affecting the people and the process within an organization. Failure to consider these inter-dependencies can result in significant resistance and even abandonment of the solution.

To dig deeper into this trend and understand some of the best practices and key areas to consider, download our new white paper.