This-week-in-collaboration

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

Santa’s Special Connections

Connected Santa is a program that Cisco Systems has created in which volunteer elves visit hospitals to help make the connection between children and Santa using Cisco Telepresence and Jabber technology. The elves will make a video conference call with Santa so they can have the important conversations about whether they have been good or bad and what is on their wish list.

The “must-have” of mobility

Mobility is no longer a nice to have in healthcare, it is becoming a necessity and an expectation. Two technologies reviewed in this article are ad-hoc video conferencing and streaming technologies. Mobile technology brings new thinking about collaboration and EMR.

Inside The Huddle Room: The new collaborative work space

The huddle room has changed the conference room business. The huddle room is basically where personal telepresence meets group collaboration. From HD video conferencing to desktop collaboration, these high powered systems for huddle rooms can make these small rooms into powerful capsules of collaboration.

Businesses Embrace the Total Collaboration Model

Teamwork is undergoing a revolution with organizations weaving tools, technologies and systems together. One of the main factors in how to operate an enterprise successfully depends on how effectively workers are able to effectively communicate and collaborate. The answer to this lies in unified communications including mobility, cloud capabilities and social collaboration

Mobile and online collaboration leading the way in events management

Events have changed over the last few years. They have gone from just attending an event and then leaving, to being a much more collaborative experience both during, before and after. To achieve great events, organizations need to include online collaboration tools such as video streaming, Facebook, Pinterest and twitter for example, to foster communication between attendees and exhibitors. Using these technologies also helps brands both listen and interact with their community, which is essential for not only successful events, but also a successful brand.

The-Lync-Integration-Challenge

Microsoft Lync continues to gain traction as a viable desktop communications solution that encompasses IM, presence, voice, video and more. Millions of users are now using it as a daily tool and millions more are coming on-line every year.

One of the challenges with Lync is how to integrate it into the rest of a collaboration environment. Microsoft has done a great job of creating a solution that can incorporate as many users as possible; however, there are limitations in how Lync can speak to solutions from other companies, such as Cisco and Lifesize. As the ubiquity of Lync has increased, so has the desire for customers to integrate it into their company work flow. A countless number of organizations have responded with solutions that provide integration of Lync to nearly any other type of solution.

Blue Jeans Network
Blue Jeans has developed integration for Lync 2010 & 2013 that enables users to connect to a virtual meeting room that can interoperate with nearly any other solution out there. If an organization uses Cisco or Lifesize for video, all users can simply connect to Blue Jeans and meet. In addition, the service supports the sharing and receiving of content within the Lync client.

Polycom
Polycom has closely aligned with Microsoft and manufactures dozens of video conferencing and audio conferencing products that natively integrate with Lync. This allows Lync users to call a Polycom system simply by finding it in their buddy list. In addition, as Lync continues to grow as a viable alternative to a standard PBX, Polycom is providing their award winning line of phones with native Lync integration. This includes presence and the ability to login with a Lync identity so the phone is aware of whom the user is.

Acano
Acano is a new start-up that has created a highly scalable conferencing solution that supports video, voice, and web. Their solution provides enterprise grade integration to Lync 2010 and 2013 that enables content sharing, video, and more. Acano also has a web-based client that makes it easy for anyone to join a meeting that includes participants using Lync as well as standards based video conferencing or even those on a voice call.

Microsoft
In the two years since Microsoft closed on its $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype, they have been working hard to integrate the over 300 million users into all areas of their product offering. This includes Outlook.com, Sharepoint, and more. Most recently, Microsoft has enabled Skype to Lync audio calling and instant messaging. Eventually native video calling will be enabled. As a result, tens of millions of Lync users will be able to seamlessly communicate with Skype.

Lync is expanding rapidly and the market is responding with many solutions to extend the reach of Lync beyond an organization’s internal teams. As organizations evaluate Lync deployments, they now have many options to consider when it comes to integrating Lync into their already established systems and workflow. That flexibility will only accelerate Lync’s adoption at every level.

Lisa Endlich Heffernan, of the Huffington Post, was recently featured on the Today Show, speaking to how she had many regrets in her life as a working mother and staying home after her third child was born. She felt that she let down all of the women who had come before her to make it possible to attain that “High Powered Career”.

“When you leave the fulltime workplace and become a stay-at-home mom, you begin to live in a world of women your own age with kids the same age as your kids and your experiences really narrow as the range of people you deal with narrows.” – Lisa Endlich Heffernan

There is a fine line parents walk when going back to work after having a child. Many feel guilty for relying on others to watch their child while they pursue their own dreams of a career. However, sacrificing a career to stay at home can leave a void that eventually turns into regret.

Thankfully, new developments in technology are eliminating that choice by allowing parents to work remotely in an effective manner.  Unified communications (UC) solutions can simulate the traditional office environment for most remote employees.  Video conferencing provides face-to-face interaction allowing remote employees to develop relationships with their peers.  Quick questions or generic small talk can be conducted through Instant Messaging. Not to mention presence information provides the same available or away status as walking past a colleague’s office.

Even better, enhanced interoperability with mobile devices allow parents to join important collaboration session from their iPad while sitting in the parking lot at their child’s swimming lessons. Now, parents can fulfill their intellectual desires by pursuing their career while having the flexibility to run up to school and drop of their child’s forgotten lunch or walk their child home from the bus stop.

The best part about enabling parents to work remotely is the increased talent pool for organizations. Parents who would have given up their career, like Lisa Endlich Heffernan, can contribute valuable insight to organizations without sacrificing the desire to be at home for their children.

Sara Sutton Fell, CEO & Founder of Flexjobs.com, even wrote an article about 15 surprising jobs parents can do from home; specifically mentioning CEO or Executive Director. However, the actual number of jobs that can be performed remotely far exceed this number when organizations implement UC and other video solutions.

 

I attended a recent community meeting to hear about a proposed 600-home development to be built on what is now one large open space parcel. One of the concerns raised was the fact the developer had only one entrance to the proposed neighborhood, which would connect to a two-lane road. With a normal ratio of homes to cars, that translates to a lot of cars trying to squeeze into a small space during rush hour.

The meeting quickly devolved into a gripe session about the overall state of traffic in the area. My neighborhood has three separate entrances, and it seems the most difficult part of any commute is to get out onto the main thoroughfare at 8:00 a.m. on a weekday morning. Not to mention at the end of the two-lane road, the City is planning to install a roundabout to alter a dangerous intersection. I suggested that training ought to be provided for roundabouts, since I have yet to see anyone use them as anything other than a four-way stop. Polite Southerners mixing with more aggressive drivers from other regions (you know who you are) is an interesting combination.

I am fortunate that I am able to work from my home office when I am not travelling or meeting with customers. By using the calculator found on the Georgia Clean Air Campaign’s website, a daily commute of 20 miles (which is far below the average daily commute of most Atlantans), would cost me approximately $2,500 annually as opposed to working from home; calculated by gas usage, gas price, wear and tear, repairs, etc. Even being able to telecommute just one day per week would provide a savings of over $500 annually, based on the same averages.

Unified Communications solutions, with or without video conferencing capabilities, have become commonplace, and allow employees to collaborate with a co-worker at a moment’s notice. Despite recent news headlines suggesting otherwise, you can be seen and heard working remotely. Why not take full advantage of those capabilities from your home office? You might also be far more productive without having to sit in all that traffic.

You probably already have a high-speed Internet connection at home so your kids can play interactive games and download movies, so why not use that for business purposes? If more people took advantage of working from home even once per week, chances are traffic in your neighborhood would look a lot better, and we might need to build fewer roundabouts.

 

Enterprise Connect 2013 has come to a close and what an event it was. This was IVCi’s first year attending and exhibiting at the show and it was a fantastic experience that provided many opportunities for us to connect with our current customers as well as future prospects. In addition, the opportunity to see the latest technology and offerings from our partners was great. The event was jam-packed with great sessions, keynotes, exhibitors, attendees and more. Here is an overview of some of the key takeaways and messages from the event.

WebRTC
WebRTC (as previously covered here on Collaboration Insight) is a new browser based protocol that allows for real-time voice and video communication to occur right inside a web browser. WebRTC has gotten to be so big; the conference dedicated an entire track to the topic and every session was full. The reality of WebRTC is that not all browsers currently support it (only Google Chrome and the developer builds of Firefox) but the potential for it is endless.

At the end of the day, WebRTC will enable any browser to be a video client or endpoint on a communications network. In Cisco’s keynote, the example of a shopper on a website was used. They were looking for accessories and information on a his store  purchases. They simply clicked a link and a video session was initiated with an expert back in a video call center. No wait to download a client and no security issues with the install; it simply happened in the browser. When the standard is ratified and included in all browsers, the potential will be limitless! Cisco demoed a Jabber client built entirely in the browser, contact center agents could access their voice services right within the browser and more. It has to the potential to breakdown interoperability issues and extend enterprise collaboration to an organization’s customers.

Unified Communications
Frost and Sullivan presented a session at the conference in which they defined unified communications as “an integrated set of voice, data and video communications applications, all of which leverage PC- and telephony-based presence information.” UC was in full force at the conference with all major players showing their latest innovations. Both Cisco and Microsoft came with their entire vision. Microsoft presented their total solution from mobile devices (Android, iOS, Windows Phone) to tablets (Surface, iPad) to desktops and even room systems. The solution was elegant and worked as advertised. Microsoft has been pitching this vision for a while and it was great to see it fully realized. At the same time, Cisco showcased their Jabber solution which offers interoperability across all platforms and seamlessly integrates voice, video, data sharing, and more.

The key takeaway about UC is that the technology is very real and organizations are definitely implementing or looking to implement it in their current short term roadmap. Voice, video, and everything in between have converged!

The Cloud and Mobility
There was not a session that didn’t include a discussion around how cloud delivery and mobile devices would influence employees and technology. Even sitting in the sessions themselves one could see dozens of attendees taking notes on their iPads, checking email, and ultimately staying connected. The discussion of cloud, however, must be secondary. The user of the technology, how it can impact user productivity must be first. How it is delivered (on-premise, cloud, etc) is a decision that comes after.

Business Case
Perhaps the most exciting trend seen at Enterprise Connect was a focus on making the business case for the technology being presented. Certainly there was a large amount of discussion around the technology itself, the features, etc. But in many of the sessions, the business case for collaboration technology was continually presented. Some of the key messaging was around how these technologies can help move a business forward and help fulfill strategic goals. Additionally, simply deploying technology does not equal success. Organizations must see widespread adoption and employee satisfaction to really judge if the technology implementation was a success.