Author Archives: Nina Parker

With the Olympics taking place in London this year, many local businesses throughout the city braced themselves for the increase in tourists and potential disruption of daily operations. While the actual totals are still being calculated, the total population of London was expected to expand by a third, with approximately an additional million people using the “Tube” or subway each day. What was normally a 10-15 minute commute to work could take 30- 45 minutes; placing a significant burden on employees and corporations alike.

Advanced planning and preparation were needed prior to the Olympic Games to keep corporations and other organizations running smoothly and avoid lost revenue or extended downtime. The Cabinet Office released a guide which addressed many potential obstacles companies might face in areas affected by the Games. Preparing Your Business for the Games suggested continuity plans that could be implemented to minimize the impact of increased traffic, technology failures and supply chain interruptions.

A significant concern was employee availability, as staff wanted to take time off to attend or volunteer at the games, or simply because they did not want to deal with the increased congestion traveling to work. As a result, many organizations allowed more flexible work options; such as working from home or at a different office, or altering work times to off-peak hours. Unified communications (UC) and video conferencing solutions provided an optimal platform for staff to stay engaged at work while avoiding congestion from the Games.

Karen Bond, a Director at the London office of an international consulting firm, said she encouraged most of her employees to work from home during the Olympic Games. “It was just easier than dealing with the traffic and the Tube. We kept in touch using email, phone calls and instant messaging but I did miss the face-to-face interaction with my staff.” says Ms. Bond.

Another concern was a technology failure; according to the Cabinet Office “it is possible that internet services may be slower during the Games or in very severe cases there may be drop outs due to an increased number of people accessing the internet.” Some businesses turned to cloud services to support the collaboration solutions in place by addressing network dysfunction. These services ensure video calls and other systems run over the network go smoothly no matter how much or how little traffic exists at a given time.

As the Olympic Torch has been extinguished and employees return to business as usual; companies can still use the Olympics as a learning experience. Doing things a little differently for a short period of time can offer unexpected rewards. Maybe the increased use of a video conferencing has reacquainted companies with all of the benefits video offers; from reduced travel time and expenses to a highly functional remote workforce. Or, perhaps implementing a business continuity plan prepared organizations for an unexpected power outage, snow storm or other natural disaster.

The World Collaborates – Social Media at the Olympics

August 8th, 2012 | Posted by Nina Parker in Collaboration - (0 Comments)

With collaboration becoming more and more social, we will be looking at the effect of social media on society, culture, and group dynamics. What better way than to start with the 2012 Olympics in London, a social media hot spot.

NBC’s coverage of the Olympics includes tape-delayed broadcasts of live events that are available in real-time to fans around the world via NBC’s live video streaming service and various social media web sites. It would seem that in the age of up-to-the-minute news and sports coverage, NBC may suffer a decline in TV viewers of the games.

Actually, social media’s influence may be helping the network earn higher ratings. Social media adds to the hype of Olympic competitions, drawing viewers in and giving them a forum to discuss and comment on the performances they have seen; the energy of enthusiastic sports fans is moving from the stadium to web sites.

The organizer of the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), recognizes the place social media now has at the Olympic games, and condones its (appropriate) use by athletes. The IOC encourages athletes and other accredited personnel to “take part in ‘social media’ and to post, blog and tweet their experiences,” according to its published guidelines. Facebook created a page for athletes to communicate with their fans called Explore London 2012. Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr, and Instagram all have Olympic themes as well.

Social media allows fans to get into more detail of the games than the networks can provide. Users share stories, pictures, and videos. Sarah Hughes, an American figure skater and 2002 Olympic gold medalist, is attending the games in London this year. Ms. Hughes, who has a following of thousands on her blog and social media web sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, is chronicling her experience at the games. She gave IVCi a first-hand account of the influence that social media is having at the Olympics this year.

“Many athletes competing in London have Twitter accounts and Facebook pages, which is letting them have a more direct connection to fans and supporters. Athletes are posting personal pictures and sending real-time updates, sometimes even from the warm-up area right before their competition. Social media has added a whole new dimension to the Olympic experience, making the games even more exciting,” said Ms. Hughes.

For example, those interested in gymnastics can follow USA Gymnastics on Twitter and receive updates on competitions, access instantaneous analysis by sports reporters, and read athletes’ commentaries. In addition to having her own web site, Gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas is featured on several YouTube channels, has a Facebook page fans can ‘like’ and uses a Twitter account to communicate with fans.

We are just beginning to see the impact social media has on the Olympics and other major sporting events. Athletes like Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, and Roger Federer all have major followings online. The Olympics is setting a powerful precedent: when it comes to sporting events, let the social media games begin.

Photo courtesy of www.icenetwork.com

Each U.S. city and county is unique in its climate, population, and character. This diversity lends itself to innovative uses of technology by city governments that aim to improve life for its citizens. Metropolitan areas are using video conferencing solutions to create processes that are more efficient, and they are accomplishing this in ways that are as unique as the cities themselves.

Here is a snap shot of some of the ways video is being used in towns throughout the country:

New York, New York: OATH (the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings), is an independent agency that handles disciplinary cases for New York City. Its health tribunal deals with violations to the city’s health code and other laws affecting health. OATH’s main offices are located in Manhattan, so restaurant owners from outer boroughs who receive tickets for violations must travel to the city to have their cases heard. The agency’s commitment to providing fair and timely public hearings led it to seek a more convenient and accessible alternative to these hearings.

OATH opened a Staten Island office to better accommodate Staten Island residents. However, inspectors based in Manhattan still had to travel and were unable to attend if they were busy with other hearings, which resulted in the need to reschedule. Video conferencing technology was the key to making the new Staten Island location convenient for all participants; video was integrated into the hearing, connecting inspectors in Manhattan to a judge and respondent in Staten Island. Based on the success of its video system OATH is now looking to expand the use of video to agency locations in all five boroughs

San Antonio, Texas: The San Antonio Municipal Court offers video conferencing services from an Oak Ridge location to citizens who have received traffic tickets or notices of other violations. Live, interactive video conferences are held with the Judge. Those eligible to use video are those wishing to plead guilty or nolo contentre, choose not to be represented by an attorney, and are prepared to pay fees/fines as ordered by the judge.  “Video court” is offered on a first come, first serve arrangement; no prior scheduling is needed.

City of Orange, New Jersey:  After a suspect is arrested for an indictable offense, The City of Orange Municipal Court holds preliminary proceedings. Preliminary proceedings include arraignment and the setting of bail where appropriate. Video conferencing is now available for use in this arraignment process. When used in this manner, video conferencing creates a safer environment by removing the need to transport prisoners and saving tax payers money in the process.

Nashville, Tennessee: A bill in the final stages of debate in Nashville would allow local school board members of Knox County to attend meetings via video conference. This provision would provide greater flexibility to those board members who otherwise would not have been able to attend meetings because of the need to travel out of the county for work or family emergency. The use of video would allow board members to more easily do their jobs.

San Diego, California: The U.S. Department of the Interior is using video to cut down on its employees’ extensive travel. By increasing the number of meetings that are held over video, the government aims to save on travel costs and reduce its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the route between San Diego and Sacramento ranked as one of the 25 most frequently traveled cities by DOI workers; video is one tool that can create a more efficient process for local government workers to meet.

Kern County, California: Kern County is so large that it can take several hours to get from one area of Kern to another. Now, instead of traveling long distances to get legal questions answered, Kern residents can use the video conferencing system at the Kern County Law Library to speak with law librarians. The library installed a video system that is easy to use, reliable, and high quality to maximize the user’s experience. Based on the positive feedback it has received, the library is looking to expand its video conferencing capability.

Additional Resources:

Video Conferencing & Telepresence Solutions for State and Local Government

Open for Business: SMB Video Conferencing

July 18th, 2012 | Posted by Nina Parker in SMB | Video Conferencing - (0 Comments)

If you are a small or mid-sized business owner, you probably know the secret to success lies in the quality of the relationships with customers. In an increasingly competitive corporate landscape where consumers have access to more information and more choices than ever before, small companies must build and maintain closer, more personal bonds with their clients. It is this customer-focused approach that helps small businesses please customers and increase revenue.

Of course, most organizations recognize the importance of providing outstanding customer service, but small businesses are truly in the position to deliver. They can use video conferencing technology to not only keep up with competitors in their market space, but to create more efficient processes that are needed to stay competitive and keep customers coming back.

For example, video can help small businesses:

Reach out to customers: Video conferencing allows small to mid-sized businesses to extend the personal feel of the face-to-face interactions that are their hallmark. When clients can actually see the customer service agent or sales person they are speaking with, trust is more readily established and relationships are built.

Connect remote employees: When company meetings require the participation of many remote workers, time and travel expenses can add up quickly. Video can unite dispersed teams, facilitate discussions, and foster a collaborative environment – even when employees are not based in the same corporate location.

Speed up decision making: Management teams that meet frequently to discuss corporate strategy and resolve businesses issues can do so efficiently face-to-face, without leaving their offices. Desktop systems enable busy executives to connect with each other at the touch of a button, and in doing so, receive the benefits of in-person conversations.

Shorten product development time: Smaller companies can get a leg up on the competition by using video to abbreviate a product’s time to market. Video cuts down on development time by easily connecting design teams with remote subject matter experts and other knowledge workers with specific expertise.

Train more effectively: Human resources departments at smaller businesses often consist of one or two HR professionals that communicate company policies and training material to the entire staff. Video provides the ability to communicate more efficiently by delivering one message to many people simultaneously; the same message can be streamed or delivered to all workers’ desktops or remote devices at once.

Align business divisions: Even when a company is small there are no guarantees that all departments will communicate well with each other. For example, inter-departmental use of desktop video systems makes it easier for accounting to sync up its data with purchasing, or marketing to share new material with the sales team; at moment’s notice any member of the departments can have a face-to-face conversation.

Work-life balance: Skilled employees have a choice of where to work, and companies often need to compete with incentives to hire the best in the business. Video gives organizations the ability to offer a work-life balance by allowing employees to work from a home office or mobile device when needed, yet still retain the feeling of being there.

Small businesses can especially benefit from cloud based-services to help make managing the technology and expense of video conferencing easier. In addition, these services allow remote employees and customers using consumer-based video solutions or tablets and smartphones to connect effortlessly.

Video Conferencing – The PMP’s Best Friend

July 9th, 2012 | Posted by Nina Parker in Use Cases - (0 Comments)

The essence of effective project management lies in communication – conveying goals, updates, and other information among the many parties involved.  While the type of projects that need to be coordinated may vary across industries and company departments, all project managers must accomplish set goals within a specific timeframe. To accomplish this, project managers utilize the collaboration tools that are available to get the job done; these include email, instant messaging, and audio conferences.

While these communication devices can work well, projects that utilize video are more likely to be completed on time and on budget. Video is a valuable tool for project managers because it facilitates face-to-face communication among numerous remote parties, often simultaneously. When paired with a managed service that specializes in making video easy to use and reliable from any device, all members of the project team can check-in and meet from almost any location with internet access.

The following are some of the ways actual project managers say they use video to get a job completed on time:

Start the process:  In the beginning of a project, all remote parties join the kick-off call via video. The project manager goes through the proposal with all levels of project staff and stakeholders so that everyone understands and agrees upon the deliverables. In addition, the processes needed for achieving the deliverables can be established. Video helps all parties get better familiar with each other, and establish rapport from the beginning.

Meet with the client: Communication is not only important internally, it is vital to maintaining a good relationship with the client. Video delivers a face-to-face meeting experience, and provides the sense of control clients need to be assured that all is going according to plan. When any issues arise, video aids the discussion, as it can be used in place of an in-person meeting at a moment’s notice.

Access remote experts:  Remote experts and consultants that are needed for additional service, support, or consultation can be readily accessed without the time and expense of flying them to the company or client’s location. Video also facilitates connecting to outside vendors and agencies in multiple locations.

Training: At any point during a project additional training may be needed on equipment or software. Video provides the ability to deliver on-the-spot training to numerous participants at the same time, bypassing the usual scheduling conflicts that arise, and thereby keeping the project on schedule.

Video is a valuable collaboration tool that helps project managers streamline processes and get results.

Effective project management is the hallmark of any organization. Whether its implementation of internal or external projects, proper process and engagement must be followed. The Project Management Institute is an organization that exists solely to advocate for project management and project management professionals. To learn more about gaining certifications and the organization as a whole, visit www.pmi.org.