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

7 steps to unified comm – and control over mobility services
In the three years since passage of the Telework Enhancement Act, government agencies have been spending a significant share of their time and budget to make sure they have what they need to support their exploding mobile workforce. Even so, all too often, agencies have launched mobile and collaboration technologies irregularly and without coordination, largely because new requirements popped up or budget became available.

Staying Ahead of the Collaboration Requirements Curve
Collaboration applications have a purpose: to bring people together whenever there are decisions to make and information to share. The experiences of our customers have shown that regular fine-tuning of a collaboration infrastructure is necessary in how IT organizations look at optimization. Using Optimization services can pave the way for a smooth transition – and prevent unpleasant surprises — when new applications are ready to move into production.

Bringing healthcare services to students at school
For communities that don’t have access to local healthcare providers, or for families that simply can’t afford to visit doctors and specialists, the local public school can be the primary healthcare provider for their children. Unfortunately, the healthcare services available in these schools are often limited. To help increase the access to quality healthcare services, many schools are looking to telemedicine solutions. Utilizing advanced video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions connected to scopes and other medical devices, these telemedicine solutions enable an on-site nurse or aid to consult with a nurse practitioner or doctor via video to deliver care to a student.

3 Tips for Overcoming Open-Space AV Challenges
One of the many challenges facing commercial audiovisual professionals today is the lack of space for installed equipment. The move to open space in the corporate world has burdened many design engineers with the challenge of where to put the gear. Today’s office spaces are taking on the characteristics of living rooms, home-style kitchens and dens. Gone are the cookie-cutter, four-walled conference rooms and cubicle spaces. This switch in office design is pushing us in the AV industry to change our traditional approach to system integration.

What Is the U.S. Digital Government Office?
According to a press release from Rep. Anna Eshoo (Calif.), “Studies show that 94 percent of major government IT projects between 2003 and 2012 came in over budget, behind schedule, or failed completely.” Congresswoman Eshoo, a member of the communications and technology subcommittee, along with Rep. Gerry Connolly (Va.), proposed that a U.S. Digital Government Office be created to fix what has become a major problem for the federal government. The bill, known as the Reforming Federal Procurement of Information Technology Act (RFP-IT), would be a key step toward eliminating wasteful spending in the government.

Ever wondered what a video arraignment looks like?

Well now you can watch as Penelope Soto of Miami, Florida attends her video hearing with Eleventh Judicial Circuit Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat.

Video arraignments have been growing in popularity as they present numerous benefits and cost savings for state and local governments. Not only do video arraignments eliminate the need to transport detainees to the courthouse they can speed up the process for traffic violations and other hearings. Municipal courts can utilize video conferencing solutions to help spread out heavy case loads and resolve more tickets in less time.

A word of advice though, just because you’re not in the same room as the Judge doesn’t mean you can mouth off. Soto ended up with a 30 day sentence for flipping off the Judge in the video below. She later apologized and hopefully learned her lesson.

The federal government has experienced the benefits of video conferencing and now new legislation is being introduced to demand it. Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania has introduced a new bill, the Stay in Place, Cut the Waste Act of 2013, into the House of Representatives that encourages the usage of collaborative solutions, such as video conferencing, to reduce the amount spent on travel by federal agencies. If this bill passes, at least 50% of federal travel expenditures will be cut, saving taxpayer dollars.

Many of the benefits of video conferencing have been mentioned in the bill. While it will not only save money, it will also cut down carbon emissions as there will be less of a need for travel. It will also help in facilitating staff training, meetings, and enhance employee productivity.

The bill cites previous legislation, like the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which required every federal agency to establish policies that enable remote working and greater flexibility in management of the federal government’s work force through the usage of telework programs. Combining the intentions of these two bills will ultimately create a beneficial system.

Other governments worldwide have already discovered the benefits of using video conferencing. The UK government put Operation StepChange into effect in order to plan for the chaos of the 2012 London Olympics. This plan encouraged business professionals to change their working practices and utilize video conferencing, particularly with the excess amount of tourism in London. There is also discussion of making this change permanent, depending on the plan’s success, “Depending on the success of Operation StepChange, there are those who advocate making these reforms permanent. This could transform the civil service as we know it – and that is getting the interest of some of Britain’s political classes,” says Max Smolaks.

The introduction of this bill indicates that video conferencing has become a priority for the political system in the United States. Hopefully, the United States will pursue this need as other countries have and encourage the use of video conferencing in order to gain greater sustainability and create a more efficient workforce.

 

As many of you know Hurricane Sandy roared through the Northeast earlier this week and wreaked havoc in New York City and Long Island (IVCi’s Headquarters). Monday night my husband and I simply watched the sky light up as trees blew over and knocked down transformers. Approximately 90% of Long Island’s power was knocked out, along with all of lower Manhattan, due to immense flooding and downed trees/power lines.

The effects of Hurricane Sandy will be felt for days from as close as New York to as far as Japan. The New York Stock Exchange closed for the longest time since 1888. Airports from Washington DC to Boston closed while New York’s LaGuardia flooded in dramatic fashion. Unprecedented damage has been done to New York’s subway system with seven tunnels completely underwater; keeping the city’s main method of transportation closed.

However, just because New York is shut down doesn’t mean the rest of the country, let alone the rest of the world, stops working. Therefore, it is extremely important for organizations to have a business continuity plan in place. This allows the business to continue functioning; even if at a reduced capacity. Redundancy and communication, both internal and external, are key components of any business continuity plan. Management must ensure they are able to communicate with employees effectively and minimize the impact on customers.

Most importantly, a back-up generator is crucial to keep an organization’s operations running. Email, video and voice calls are only valuable if they work; therefore, it is important to ensure email servers and other key applications have power, even if the actual office is closed. This allows remote employees to continue working; either from home, their local coffee shop or wherever they can get power and a wifi connection.

Additionally, video conferencing and unified communications solutions are useful not only in the wake of natural disasters, but in the planning and preparation for one as well. For example, city officials and other emergency response teams need to communicate with each other to minimize the disaster’s impact and ensure the safety of citizens. The ability to quickly connect over video results in faster updates and quicker decision making which are critical in any emergency situation.

Finally, as the clean up and rebuilding process continues, we appreciate your understanding with delayed responses. In addition to little power, approximately 25% of cell towers and many network/data lines are down. As a result, communication is extremely difficult for many people.

For those of you looking to help, a little donation goes a long way. Visit http://www.redcross.org/, call 800-Red-Cross, or text the word “redcross” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. All donations will provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to those affected by the storm. Thank you!

*Photo courtesy of Huffington Post

Last week Telework Exchange released “Fly Me to Your Room: Government Video Conferencing Collaboration Report.” This report outlined the benefits of video conferencing and telecommuting that can be realized by the federal government. In the report, the authors interviewed 128 Federal employees in an attempt to understand the value of video within the government.

As a prelude to this report, President Obama issued Executive Order 13589 in November of last year that promoted “efficient spending” and one of the key areas mention was Government travel. What’s truly amazing about this is that the federal government spent $15 billion on travel in 2011. So clearly, reducing travel spend is of top priority!

From the executive order:

“To ensure efficient travel spending, agencies are encouraged to devise strategic alternatives to Government travel, including local or technological alternatives, such as teleconferencing and video conferencing.”

In addition to the potential travel costs savings, the report reveals time savings and productivity time recovered. Respondents reported that video conferencing saves them an average of 3.5 hours of work time a week. In addition, “if just half of Federal government works used video conferencing, the government could save $8 billion annually in productivity costs.”

The numbers are truly astounding. While the government is a huge bureaucracy, even the smallest of organizations can realize a savings when implementing video conferencing.

To read the entire report, click here.

Additional Resources
The Traveler’s Guide to Video Conferencing – Webinar Recording