This-week-in-collaboration

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

First Look: Why Banks Should Copy Amazon s Mayday Video Support

Financial institutions should take notice of Amazon’s video on-demand customer service feature and think about utilizing a similar service on their mobile and tablet applications. Giving customers the ability to speak to a customer service representative face-to-face from their mobile device or tablet could exponentially improve their users digital experience.  This could not only help customer service but also be further extended as a sales tool when branch personnel help with remote assistance to their customers.

Getting Great Audio in a Video Call

Video conferencing has helped to make communication an increasingly enriching experience. However, quality audio in a video call is an essential aspect that cannot be overlooked. Some of the important ways to get great audio include; good echo cancellation, a wide range of frequencies carried by a system, directional microphones, specialized signal processing, high quality speakers and an audio visual optimized room. Any effort to achieve better sound will quickly pay off with more productive and energetic meetings.

Virtualizing Video

Cisco announced it is virtualizing Videoscape, their leading immersive video solution, by putting it in to the cloud. It now is offering cloud software capabilities that can run on public and private clouds, enabling service providers to deploy new video applications on demand. They are also offering Videoscape Cloud Services functionality “as a service” using a unique consumption based model. Cisco Cloud Fusion for Videoscape ties all of the implementation options together. It allows SP’s to seamlessly integrate various models of deploying Videoscape to best support their business needs, maximizing return-on-investment.

A Third of Meetings Use Mobile

According to Blue Jeans Network’s bi-annual “State of the Modern Meeting” report, a 1/3 of all meetings now include a participant on a mobile device. Some other findings include that 71% of people believe they lost a deal due to the lack of face-to-face interaction and 6% admitted to falling asleep during an audio-only meeting. Using video conferencing has proven that visual collaboration is possible regardless of budget-cuts, holidays, bad weather, or geographic dispersion.

Collaboration Wanted; Employee Buy-In Required

Collaboration technology promises many benefits. These advanced solutions remove traditional communication barriers and make it easier to conduct business and speed up decision-making. These solutions can also provide travel savings and reduced office space necessary when implementing telework policies. However, to truly benefit from collaboration tools, end-user buy-in is critical. Because collaboration technology is designed to improve the way people interact, it is very personal. Due to this, users need to have a firm understanding of how the solution is going to meet their own unique needs.

WebVideoConferencing

Video conferencing and web conferencing are two commonly confused technologies. Traditionally, these two applications were very different. At a very basic level, web conferencing focused on content sharing while video conferencing focused on providing face-to-face interaction.

Web conferencing is and was often used for lectures, presentations and webinars for larger groups of people. They were also designed for individuals to easily join from their desktop. Depending on the solution, web conferencing had either two-way audio capabilities or only one-way audio for the presenter.

On the other hand, video conferencing was most frequently used for meetings between two different locations. The video conference consisted of two-way video and audio transmission. Likewise, the equipment was designed for conference rooms and meant for groups at two locations as opposed to individual usage from their desktop.

However, lines are now blurring when deciphering the difference between these two conferencing tools. This is due to web conferencing applications adding two-way video capabilities and video conferencing solutions including the ability to share content and present. Furthering the confusion, both web and video capabilities are being built in to other collaboration software solutions. These changes and additions to the technologies have transformed two separate tools in to very similar offerings. One might say that it is now a matter of what features you need in your collaboration tool as opposed to the old question of “web conferencing or video conferencing?”

When trying to sort out what technology and tools makes the most sense for your organization, the best place to start is answering a few important questions;

  1. What types of meetings will be conducted?
  2. How many people/locations will be participating in these meetings?
  3. Will people be joining these meetings from a conference room, desktop, mobile, or all three?
  4.  Are people or content the focus of the meetings?
  5. What do you want your collaboration solution to accomplish? What are your end goals?

These are just a few of the important questions that must be answered when determining what collaboration technology makes the most sense for your organization. Once these are answered, it is important to put together a full collaboration plan in order to get the most from your technology deployment. This includes everything from technology selection to usage and adoption plans once the tools are implemented.

Still confused on what conferencing technology makes the most sense for your organization? Contact us for a consultation and let us help you in determining where your business needs lie and what technology fits those best.

Corporate New Years Resolutions

It’s that time of year again, for New Year’s Resolutions. While individuals resolve to eat healthier and stay in touch more with family and friends, organizations can also take this time to establish new company-wide initiatives that not only affect the bottom line but can also motivate and inspire their teams. Here are a few resolutions companies can drive for 2014:

Reinforce Green Behavior
This can be accomplished is numerous ways such as reducing travel, replacing paper with digital documents or encouraging carpooling among coworkers. It helps to set specific goals such as replacing 10% of business travel with video conferencing or visual collaboration sessions. Additionally, companies can introduce week or month long initiatives to promote recycling, carpooling or reducing the use of paper. For example, a company can declare March carpool month and encourage colleagues who live close to each other to carpool twice a week during the month.

Increase Collaboration Across Teams
Many organizations and teams suffer from information silos; people concentrate on their own tasks instead of the team’s overarching goals or the roles of their colleagues. Companies can help improve collaboration by implementing a company newsletter or deploying unified communications technologies. Newsletters help improve company-wide communication while UC technologies give colleagues the opportunity to connect in both formal (video and web conferences) and informal (IM and video chat) ways. Increased communication and collaboration can help drive productivity through faster decision making and more efficient processes.

Implement Corporate Wellness Programs
The benefits of exercise are enormous and include increased energy, improved moods, reduced stress levels and better sleep. This can translate into happier and more productive employees which can significantly impact a company’s bottom line. Companies can implement a corporate wellness program by providing employees an activity tracker like Fitbit then encourage colleagues to be more active with daily goals and weekly challenges. “Combining collaborative and competitive elements helped motivate employees to walk more and encourage each other. Our staff has been happier and more productive [in the office]” said Maggie Utgoff from Hack Reactor, an organization that recently implemented a similar program.

These are just a few initiatives companies can resolve implement in 2014 to help motivate and inspire their teams. As with any resolution though, have a firm plan in place so resolutions don’t fall by the wayside come February!

Christmas-Blog-Post-Banner

Santa is officially headed out and is on his way to our homes to leave gifts for everyone all over the globe. While he is away, how does he stay connected to all back at the North Pole? On second thought, how does he stay connected all year round? Well video conferencing plays a big part in Santa’s role as CEO, husband, and global gift giver. Take a look at a few of the ways that Santa uses video collaboration to make his life a little bit easier.

Driving Elf Productivity

Santa has a demanding job being the CEO of the entire elf workforce. Therefore, using video conferencing helps him to expedite decision making, enhance the ability for him and the elves to function as a team, creates more efficient meetings with the elves while he is out on the sleigh, and betters his ability to quickly ensure toy quality while the elves are on the production floor. All of these help elf productivity and allow Santa more time to spend time with Mrs. Clause.

Staying Connected With Mrs. Clause

That brings me to my next point. We all know how important it is to spend time with your significant other. This applies to Santa as well. Whether he is out on the sleigh traveling around the globe delivering presents, or spending time at the toy production facility, he can still connect with Mrs. Clause via video conferencing. Even better, with BYOD abilities, Santa can use his tablet or mobile device to conduct video calls instead of having to lug his computer around on the sleigh. Video conferencing with Santa makes for a happy Mrs. Clause, and we all know the saying….happy wife, happy life!

Collaboration With Parents

It is quite the task for Santa to go through the lengthy naughty or nice list every year. Utilizing video conferencing to speak to parents about how their children are acting this year, makes going through the list much more efficient. Santa can also use video to share content about trending toys to help get ideas and input for toy production the coming year.

Elf Recruitment

As the elf population continues to grow, it becomes increasingly important to find efficient ways to conduct elf interviews. Likewise, with toys being more and more technologically advanced, it is imperative to recruit the best talent possible. By using video conferencing, Santa can conduct interviews regardless of the elf’s location. Santa can also conduct more interviews in less time by alleviating the need for elves to travel to Santa’s workshop to partake in the vigorous interview process. Video conferencing gives Santa the ability to find the best and the brightest elves from all over the North Pole without even leaving his home.

Connecting With Sick Children

Some children in hospitals are not able to get to wherever Santa is to sit on his lap to let him know what they want for Christmas. By working with Cisco Systems, he has come up with a program called Connected Santa. This allows Santa to connect with hospitals all over the world and use video conferencing technology and equipment to make bedside visits to sick children. Santa does not want to forget any child around Christmas and this use of video collaboration allows him to make sure he gets to all of them.

2013 has been another great year for collaboration. A few trends that continue to be at the forefront of innovation include big data, SaaS, Mobility, Content, Social, and Telework. Below we will look back on some of these popular collaboration trends of 2013 and why they continue to help shape collaboration.

Domination of SaaS and the “Cloud”:
SaaS and the Cloud have continued to influence the IT industry this year. SaaS companies have continued to grow, and many providers of on-premise software and hardware options are now introducing SaaS solutions to both complement existing solutions and give alternative options in order to retain their customer base. The benefits of these SaaS solutions include no installation of hardware or software, faster release cycles, pay as you go usage and no maintenance costs. Another reason organizations are moving to cloud-based options is the ability to scale. This flexibility with cloud services allows organizations to purchase for their current usage, expand the solution as demand and usage increases, and add functionality as the business grows.

Mobility Wars:
BYOD is here, and it is not going anywhere. According to IDC, there will be 6-7 mobile devices to every PC by 2016. The challenge is no longer if you will support BYOD, but which devices will make up your BYOD strategy. The mobility war between mobile device manufacturers remains as well, and applications to make these devices more effective continue to expand at rapid rates. With that said, questions are now centered around vendor preference/combination, security, versions, scrubbing and customer data. No doubt, these concerns and decisions will be a main focus this coming year as mobility continues to dominate the forefront of technology and collaboration.

Collision of Video & Content:
Although most people think of video collaboration as only video calls, the ability to display, discuss and annotate content while conducting a video call is extremely important to achieving effective collaboration. Video collaboration and content collaboration have both been around for years as separate entities. This integration of the two has finally matured this year resulting in companies experiencing better collaboration, faster decisions, and ultimately, BETTER experiences!

Convenient Social Collaboration:
Social collaboration is about the casual interactions among colleagues, business partners and even customers that enable creativity and drive innovation. Creating both formal (video/web conferences) and informal (IM or quick video chat) collaboration sessions enables colleagues to brainstorm and make decisions in the most effective manner. Unified communication tools with presence makes it easy to tell when people are available and easily hop from email/IM to video chat. This quick and convenient connection increases interactions among colleagues, which in turn increases productivity and drives innovation.

The Year of the Video Start-Ups:
This year could be called the year of visual collaboration start-ups. Some noteworthy ones include Videxio, Pexip, & Acano. Pexip introduced a scalable software platform that provides personal meeting rooms for any number of users on video, voice, & mobile. Videxio, a subscription based, infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offering, makes large scale and rapid deployment of video conferencing both possible and easy. Acano brought us coSpaces; virtual meetings rooms where users can connect with any device or application they have with the added benefit of dedicated spaces for people to organize and exchange ideas by storing chat logs, content, and meeting notes. These companies continue to bring innovative solution to the visual collaboration world.

Big Data Boom:
Data continues to grow and based on IDC estimates, will continue to grow at 50% a year and more than double every two years. Companies continue to need to analyze large amounts of data streaming in, understand the voice of the customer in the social media world, and find better ways to create visual data in order to facilitate better and faster decision-making. The growth in big data has created a culture of data-driven analytics used to make key business decisions. Organizations have also been forced to take a closer look at data security and data privacy in order to address and prevent security threats. How organizations use data to gain competitive advantage continues to be a debate, however, the information gathered from handling and managing big data collaboratively is advantageous to any organization.

To Telework or Not to Telework? –  That is the question:
The telecommuting debate has emerged with a vengeance this year due to noteworthy announcements like Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer discontinuing telework policies and the Federal Government’s  introduction of the Stay in Place Cut the waste initiative. Marissa Mayer’s controversial ban on telework centered around her belief that collaboration and communication are important in continuing to build the business and for that to happen effectively, people need to be working side by side. This new policy received harsh criticism ranging from anti-feminisms comments to the belief that Yahoo was moving backwards by removing the ability to telecommute. On the other end of the spectrum, the Stay in Place, Cut the Waste Act was introduced in July. This would require the government to develop a plan that reduces agency travel expenses by up to 50% by 2017 by implementing video conferencing technologies. By utilizing video conferencing, individuals can stay connected face-to-face without the need for expensive travel and loss of time. Other advocates for telecommuting argue that not only does productivity increase, but employees are also happier and achieve a better work/life balance when they have the option to work remotely. As research continues on both ends, the debate will remain.

Looking back at 2013 illustrates just how important collaboration has become. Organizations throughout the world have upgraded collaboration technologies to mission critical applications. The above trends tell a compelling story about the need to address not only the technological challenges of connecting people but also the social, psychological, and business issues involved in people working together. Ultimately, moving any business forward requires a keen eye on the power of people. In 2014, organizations who have not embraced those ideals will find themselves struggling to compete.