Author Archives: Lisa Avvocato

Video Conferencing and Fighting for Freedom

July 3rd, 2012 | Posted by Lisa Avvocato in Government | Video Conferencing - (1 Comments)

Fourth of July is almost here. Bring on the fireworks, the barbeques, and the fun! Before we celebrate though, let’s take a moment to say thanks to all the men and women who have fought to preserve our freedom.

In honor of our military, let’s take a look at the evolution of technology that has allowed troops to keep in touch with their families back home.

My (now) husband was Army Infantry and deployed with one of first units sent to Iraq - back when instant messaging was all the rage. I remember waking up at four o’clock in the morning so I could get thirty precious minutes chatting online with him. We would constantly say can you imagine life before IM?

Back in the days of Vietnam or World War II, soldiers had to depend on snail mail to keep in touch. I had a hard enough time waiting two to three days to hear from my husband; I can’t even imagine having to wait weeks let alone months!

But now, less than ten years later, I see all of these families who are able to stay in touch with their deployed loved ones over video. It’s simply amazing, these men and women are thousands of miles away; and yet they can still interact with their family as if they were sitting right next to them. Even if it’s only every few weeks, deployed parents are able to look into their children’s eyes, smile and reconnect. It’s such a dramatic difference from simple email or instant messaging and I must admit I get a tiny bit jealous at times. But, then I remember I have the luxury of seeing my husband every single night and at least I had IM capabilities when he was deployed.

At any rate, when I get home tonight I am going to put my flag out and fly it proudly. Then I’ll thank my veteran and every other member of the military who lost or put their life on the line to protect the rights that many of us take for granted. I hope all of you will do the same.  Happy Fourth of July!

In a recent InfoWorld article, Adopt the Cloud Kill Your IT Career, Paul Vezina makes a handful of arguments. General ideas include adopting the cloud leads to integration issues, causes security concerns and most importantly, leaves organizations susceptible to a monstrous disaster that is waiting in the wings. While some of these arguments hold true in certain situations, many do not apply for visual collaboration and unified communications technologies.

More often than not, integrating the cloud does not produce more problems than it solves. As with anything, a lack of experience or expertise can cause major problems and organizations should do their research when selecting a cloud service provider. While there certainly may be cloud providers that do not have high levels of expertise, many distinguished service providers have highly trained, expertly certified engineering teams.

Of course, this does not lead to infallibility as there are always different challenges or unexpected events that can occur during implementation. It is like completely overhauling your bathroom or kitchen, you never know what to expect until you get behind the walls. However, the chances of a major integration issue, extended downtime or complete disaster is far less when left to specialized professionals.

The experience and expertise distinguished cloud service providers have obtained allows them to not only resolve potential issues quickly, but proactively address problems before they arise. Take major software revisions for example; several organizations will simply upgrade the software on their video conferencing unit or UC client not realizing the potential effects on the rest of their environment. Distinguished service provides will thoroughly test any new updates that are released to ensure compatibility and a seamless transition. Many IT departments within an organization simply do not have the time or resources to do this.

Organizations must find a balance between IT activities to keep in house and IT activities to outsource. For example, issues regarding an employee’s phone, email or computer would be handled by an in-house IT representative and not be directed to a highly specialized engineer. Similarly, point-to-point video conferencing calls can most likely be managed end users or local IT staff. However, multi-platform video bridging and firewall traversal are better left to specialized professionals because of the sheer volume of intricacies required.

Sure, there are some people who will be able to handle these situations but in the long run it’s going to pull them from other, more productive, activities. IT departments should be able to focus on what’s most important to their organization; developing and maintaining the systems to keep the operation running efficiently.

Even if an organization is budgeting video troubleshooting, management and support into their daily agenda they are pulling resources from the areas that they can have the most impact and drive the most effective outcomes.

Unified Communications, Unified People

June 27th, 2012 | Posted by Lisa Avvocato in Collaboration | Unified Communications - (0 Comments)

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 second post in a series discussing the benefits of social collaboration. For part one click here.

Collaboration technologies are continuously evolving and creating new ways for employees to interact with each other; both formally through WebEx and telepresence meetings and informally though IM or video chat. When employees interact with each other, they not only catch up on their personal lives but discuss different ideas or share tips and tricks. This type of social collaboration results in a type of knowledge sharing that can not only increase productivity but increase employee satisfaction.

The most effective organizations have a variety of employees with a wide range of expertise; from marketing and finance to information technology and operations management. Sometimes the best ideas are created through the most informal interactions, when employees are merely catching up with one another. Social collaboration, and the subsequent knowledge sharing, can assist with problem solving or create a more efficient process by simply providing a different point of view.

For example, a few weeks ago I was catching up with one of my colleagues and she began saying how frustrated she was with this new project. Essentially, she was completing a manual process in Excel which was not only time consuming but rather boring. Having a slight obsession with Excel, I offered to take a look to see if there was a way to make it easier. A few minutes later, I showed her a simple formula that allowed her to automate part of the process. Not only did this save her several hours of time over the course of the project, it saved her sanity by allowing her to focus on more engaging activities.

Additionally, social collaboration can spark a creative moment that leads to a product improvement or a new way to position and differentiate a service. Garnering information from people with different backgrounds or expertise can give employees the fresh perspective they need for a breakthrough idea. This can enhance both the employee and the firm’s effectiveness by ensuring they are engaged in the right activities.

Finally, allowing employees to easily interact over instant messaging and chat; then effortlessly switch to web or video conferencing helps increase employee satisfaction. By nature, humans are social creatures and crave interaction with others. Spending five minutes to discuss the weekend or the latest sports win allows employees to relax and ultimately recharge their batteries. As a result, they are more focused during meetings or when completing their individual tasks which leads to better ideas, better products and a more efficient organization.

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

Part One: The Rise of Social Collaboration
Part Three: The Power of Business Partnerships
Part Four: Using Collaboration to Increase Customer Lifetime Value

Video is becoming ubiquitous; everywhere you look there is a new application or platform. Plus video enabled smartphones allow you to bring video virtually anywhere. Countless organizations have used the technology to connect remote workers, cut travel expenses and create a competitive advantage. Here are a few overlooked industries that use video in a fun and exciting way.

Post-production: Directing a movie is a strenuous job, when one movie wraps another one starts, making it difficult to complete the final product. While the editors are back at the studio in Los Angeles, the director is already on a new film set in Thailand. Video conferencing allows the director to work through key scenes with the editor in real-time, ensuring post production stays on schedule.

Help predict the weather: Weather patterns are notoriously unstable and meteorologists have one of the only jobs where they can be right less than half the time. Video conferencing can easily connect local meteorologist to national weather experts so they can prepare residents for any severe weather or provide up to the minute updates that could potentially save lives.

Review the plays: Despite their best efforts, referees can miss a play or a professional athlete can cross the line. Sometimes a second opinion is needed for a game changing call and other times the league needs to step in for supplemental discipline. League officials can easily review the plays and confer with one another. If needed, officials can hold supplementary discipline hearings with players

Crime scene investigation: investigating crimes and finding those responsible is getting more and more difficult by the day. Advanced forensic science has allowed experts to unlock crime secrets while also freeing those who are wrongly accused. In some situations, blood spatter or other experts can be consulted over video during the initial investigation. This brings the highest level of expertise to any location in the world.

Finding the perfect outfit: The retail industry has been known to use video conferencing to view clothing samples and make alterations with manufacturing partners overseas. Consumers can also use technology to help find the perfect outfit. Not long ago, I started a video chat with one of my friends so she could help me decide on the right dress for an event because, let’s face it; my husband’s opinion just didn’t cut it.

Introducing Norm – The Most Interesting Guy on Video

June 22nd, 2012 | Posted by Lisa Avvocato in Tips & Tricks - (1 Comments)

Norm here. I use video on a daily basis and absolutely love it; although, I seem to make a lot of mistakes which can be rather embarrassing at times. Out of the goodness of my heart, I’m sharing some of these instances so you can avoid making the same mistakes. 

Yesterday, I was in the conference room for our monthly sales meeting. We were discussing the latest market trends when this new guy appears on the screen to give his thoughts. Now, not only did this guy have long blonde hair, he had his shirt unbuttoned a little too far if you know what I mean. 

So I lean over and whisper to Carl, who does this guy think he is Fabio? When I turn back, I saw a few people snickering and Dan (aka Fabio) had a really weird look on his face.

I thought to myself, could they have heard me? No way, they’re thousands of miles away and I was just whispering to Carl.  Maybe they read my lips? That seems highly unlikely – although Fabio is pretty distinct. 

Later that day, my manager calls me into his office to discuss my ‘inappropriate comment.’  Uh oh – busted. Turns out, microphones are super sensitive and can pick up even the slightest sound. Even though I was whispering, the microphone picked up my comments for every single person to hear. 

Note to self: Whispering is not really whispering on a video call.  

Anyway, the next day I called Dan over video to apologize for my behavior. I told him that sometimes I speak without really thinking and he was cool about it. He said perhaps I was just jealous because he could pull off the look and I couldn’t.  Right, that’s it.