Video conferencing is moving from a nice-to-have to an essential business tool. This is, in part, due to the ease of which video solutions have become available along with the removal of many barriers to B2B video calling. Here’s a look at a few of the most prominent obstacles and what has been or is being done to overcome them.

A User Friendly Dialing Plan:
Placing a call over video used to be a complicated process due to the lack of a universal number system. Users had to remember an IP address, often up to 12 digits with no logical sequence. Today, there is more consistency video calling standards. Advancements in technology allow organizations to assign unique video addresses to endpoints or personal video accounts. These can be formatted like an email address and can use the organization’s domain name instead of having to remember a 12 digit IP address.

A High Quality Experience:
Technology itself has improved significantly since the birth of video conferencing, creating a stronger and more consistent experience. The shift from standard definition to high definition displays and codecs has allowed video conferencing to become increasingly more realistic. This is significant since eye contact and other visual cues play a crucial role in communication, collaboration and business meetings in general.

Interoperability Between Systems:
Interoperability was traditionally one of the biggest barriers to B2B video conferencing. Existing video solutions did not connect well with each other and in many cases didn’t connect at all. This severely limited the number of individuals who could use video, thereby inhibiting the effectiveness of video conferencing. The creation of video protocol standards along with interoperability bridges has created a much larger network of users who can utilize video, which increases the value of video to businesses.

Reliable High Speed Network:
Network issues can destroy a video call; from packet loss and frozen images to completely dropping the call. Successful video meetings require a reliable, high-speed network. Unfortunately, the bandwidth necessary for a solid call used to be very pricey. Today, the cost of bandwidth is decreasing rapidly as well as becoming more widely accessible.  

Security:
Massive traffic between a private business network and the public Internet can create both real and imagined concerns. Firewalls have always played an important role in protecting internal applications and data within an organization, however, these firewalls can present many challenges for B2B video conferencing by restricting access to who can and cannot be called over video. Thankfully, firewall traversal devices along with virtual meeting rooms have made it easy to connect with external video users without compromising the security of an organization’s network.

While there are still challenges to B2B video calling, it has gotten significantly easier. Businesses are able to connect with colleagues, partners and even customers easier than ever before and with continued improvements it’s only a matter of time before video calling is as easy as picking up the telephone. 

Remote teams are quickly growing in popularity with the acceptance and growing use of telework programs. However, leading a remote team and managing remote team members is far different from traditional teams. There are many things that we take for granted being in an office, especially face time, that need to be specifically addressed for remote teams.

In a recent HBR article, Keith Ferrazzi mentions three tips to managing virtual teams. Here are a few others to ensure your remote team members function as well as local team members.

  1. Be Available:  Formal weekly status meetings are a must but don’t forget to informally check-in throughout the week. In the office, most mangers stop by and say hi to their teams and many have an open door policy. Fostering this atmosphere is just as important for remote managers. Take the time to just say hi and make yourself available for when your team has questions, needs assistance with a task, or just wants to bounce a few ideas around is very important.
  2. Trust Your Team: The majority of the time, your team will accomplish their tasks and put their 40 hours of work in, if not more. Yes, there may be a few bad apples that don’t do what they’re supposed to but micromanaging and constantly checking up on your entire team is a surefire way to disrupt productivity and frustrate your team. If you suspect one person is not putting in their hours, address it with them directly or sporadically ask them to show you what they are working on.
  3. Define Objectives:  Remote team members can’t simply walk into your office and ask what to do next. Therefore, it is extremely important to define long term goals and objectives for these employees. Consistently managing to short and long term goals will not only keep remote team members productivity but it will also make them feel that their work is contributing to the great goals of the department and the organization.
  4. Encourage Collaboration: It’s easy for remote team members to feel isolated as they don’t have the face time with colleagues that corporate employees do. Assign projects that require team members to collaborate and work on together. This will help develop relationships between remote members and allow them to feel a part of the team instead of an individual contributor.
  5. Communicate Corporate Messaging: Again, it’s easy for remote members to feel isolated from the company as they can miss out on corporate messaging as well the corporate culture. Remote managers must take the time to communicate all corporate messages and Executive teams should think about sending monthly video updates to all employees updating them on what is happening within the company as well as what to look forward to in the future.

Taking the extra time to focus on these objectives can help remote team members feel more comfortable and less isolated from the company. Additionally, it can help increase their productivity by ensuring giving them the space they need to accomplish tasks while being available to assist or answer questions.

5-W's-of-a-Video-Conferencing-Strategy

Video conferencing initiatives continue to be an increasing priority to many organizations. With advancements in technology, the promise of connecting people anywhere, any time, on any device is now an attainable goal when video collaboration is implemented correctly. The first step in this process is to put together a solid video collaboration strategy.

As a starting point, here are 5 important for getting your video strategy off on the right foot.

Who will be using video?
More specifically, what business units will be using video? Will this be for executives only? Will different departments have access to the video conferencing equipment/services?

What will they be using it for?
What type of meetings will be taking place when using video conferencing? Will they be internal or also have external participants? Will they be point to point meetings or will you need multipoint capabilities for larger meetings? Determining your priorities for these meetings will help with demonstrating immediate value.

Where will these meetings take place?
Will you have dedicated conference rooms with video conferencing equipment? Will these be in all of your locations? Will you allow desktop video conferencing and mobile conferencing abilities? These questions will also help with determining what type of technologies and if you need to implement a BYOD policy.

When will this be purchased?
What is your purchasing procedure? Will this be something that you can move forward with once the correct technologies are determined? Does your organization view video conferencing as an op-ex or cap-ex purchase? These questions are important for determining the best way to purchase this equipment and if certain options like leasing might make sense.

Why do you want to implement video?
This may be the most important question when putting together your video strategy. You must determine what your organization is trying to accomplish and what the goals are with regards to video collaboration. Once this question is answered, you will be able to choose correct technologies and implement a strategy that will work towards those goals.

Once you are successfully able to answer these 5 questions your next step will be to determine the technology, and equally as important, begin creating a video adoption strategy. IVCi can help you build a high quality video conferencing strategy and implementation as well as assist with adoption and usage strategies.

Are you ready to move forward with your video conferencing strategy? Contact us for a free consultation.

AV-Trends

With 2013 solidly in our rear view, 2014 is presenting some exciting new developments in the world of audio visual integration and technology. Based on what happened in 2013 from a product perspective, as well as new habits of users, we see several key trends emerging this year.

1. Content is King
For many years, AV rooms have focused upon the users participating in the meeting and ensuring that they look and sound as good as possible. Especially in rooms that feature video conferencing, clarity has been a priority. The world is changing quite rapidly and with the maturity of big data, the content of a meeting is becoming just as, if not more important, then the participants.

Meeting participants will want to review items as simple as a spreadsheet or as complicated as a 3D rendering of a new product. Providing the highest fidelity visualization of this data is a trend that many manufacturers have focused on. Solutions from Cyviz, Oblong, and others have brought data front and center through the development of high resolution displays and content centric interfaces. Additionally, the added resolution of 4K displays will only help to enhance the viewing of content that requires the highest fidelity including medical imagery (MRIs, etc).  

2. Collaborate Anywhere
The elaborate conference room with the latest in AV technology is certainly not going away but many organizations are looking to expand beyond that. Collaboration rooms, huddle rooms, teaming spaces or whatever you want to call them are emerging as the next phase of AV for many organizations. These implementations are often quite simple; a display with some sort of content sharing device. Furniture is plays an important role in these spaces as well and companies such as Steelcase and Ashton Bentley are focusing on delivering the type of furniture setups that help enhance the collaborative experience.

3. BYOD in the Room
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has come of age and countless organizations are now supporting a myriad of employee owned devices including tablets and smartphones. Users are empowered to connect to their corporate email, load personal and company apps, and interact both inside and outside the company. Solutions continue to come to market that allow individuals to bring their device into an AV integrated room and interact with fellow participants and content. 2014 should see this trend continue.  Crestron’s AirMedia allows up to 32 meeting participants to share content simultaneously from iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows devices. They can also receive content from the room and interact with it.

4. 4K
More affordable 4k displays (displays with resolutions of 4000 pixels) are making their way to the market and have already started to reach high end consumers. 2014 will see 4K integrated into more and more AV rooms. On the consumer side the challenge is the availability of 4k content. This is changing rapidly, though, with several streaming services announcing plans to offer this. Netflix has recently announced that its original series, House of Cards, will be shot and produced in 4k for its second season. This will then enable Netflix to stream it in 4k as well. With consumer adoption coming at a rapid pace, 4k will find its way into a myriad of applications in both the professional and consumer world.

5. Wires are so 2013
2014 will continue the trend of wireless communications protocols taking over in AV integrated rooms. Recently, 1080p streaming has been announced from several manufacturers. In addition, wireless audio continues to improve. Even consumer technologies have added wireless content capabilities, including the AppleTV and Chromcast from Google.

Not only will technology trends influence AV in 2014 but so will users and their habits and preferences. By this time next year we could see incredibly high resolution content as the norm and many of the familiar AV signals (audio, video) moving in a room without wires. It’s an exciting time for the industry and the end user!

This-week-in-collaboration

Welcome to our bi-weekly recap of the week’s best articles surrounding collaboration.

What Next for BYOD?
Cisco introduced a BYOD solution to remove some of the burden from IT Departments and provide them with a central point for managing many aspects of the BYOD lifecycle including on-boarding, device profiling, authentication, authorization, offboarding, and self-service management. This all fits in to the recently created industry segment, Mobile Device Management.

4 Productivity Tips for Business Meetings
Many people dread meetings and conference calls and according to a Blue Jeans Network survey, 6% of employees have admitted to falling asleep during conference calls. 4 tips for making the most of your meetings include; face-to-face interaction, timing, less talk, more action, and giving everyone a voice are very important to successful meetings.

How does your mobile define how you work?
A new term, ‘generation mobile’, has been coined for individuals who are defined by their preference for mobility both in terms of the devices they use and their approach to work. The majority of generation mobile individuals are in the early stages of their career and own three or more connected devices. As opposed to using these devices to aide in their workday, they are shaping their working lives around their mobile devices.

The Future of Enterprise Communications: A Customer Perspective
Frost & Sullivan published the results of their annual end user survey on enterprise communications. Business-grade softphones, tablets, and UC clients are expected to experience the most significant increases in demand over the next three years, and cloud computing is expected to increase by 20% over the same time period. Similarly, the rise of the virtual organization and the need to support remote workers, mobility, and bring-your-own technology (BYOT), along with the growing demand for social networking, visual collaboration, and a more personalized experience, are top of mind for IT decision makers and having a considerable impact on IT investment decisions.

Web, video conference insomnia therapies show promise
Insomnia treatment that’s delivered through a web-based program or video conference may help people feel less tired during the day, according to a small study from Canada. For people in rural areas, who may not have access to more traditional treatments, they can use video conferencing to connect with doctors. The study suggests that both web and telehealth based treatments of insomnia show promise and are worthy of further development and study.