With the advent of smartphones, tablets, and other consumer devices, employers are now dealing with a high demand from employees to not only allow BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) but also to provide the tools and support needed to integrate these devices into new and existing business technologies.

One major area of interest is mobile video conferencing. Due to the many options available, it is important to define a clear strategy to ultimately drive usage and adoptions. While there are many areas of the business to consider, here are five key ones to begin with when defining your strategy.

What’s the end game?
It is important to understand what the goals of implementing mobile video are. Is it about connecting remote teams no matter where they are located? Is there a travel expense reduction component to it? Or, is it providing visual feedback to manufacturing floors and production plans? No matter what the goals are, it is important, as Stephen Covey would say, to “begin with the end in mind.”

Usage & Adoption
The worst thing that could happen to a mobile video strategy is that time and monetary investments are made, but no one uses the technology. It is imperative to consider the end user experience from initial setup to day-to-day usage. Any mobile strategy should include a comprehensive usage and adoption program that focuses on internal communications, training, on-going awareness, and user feedback.

Technology Management
Do not underestimate the task of managing the technology (mobile devices) and any infrastructure involved. Depending upon your environment, servers may require software updates, user devices may require software and security tweaks, and remote networks may need to be configured properly. As part of the strategy, ensure there is a clearly defined technology plan that takes all of these areas into account. Without this, the technology could fail and create end user disappointment and negative sentiment towards mobile video.

Extending Existing Services
If your organization already uses video conferencing in boardrooms and/or desktops, it’s important to ensure the mobile technology can integrate seamlessly. This should not be an issue if you plan on using tablet and smartphone applications from the major video conferencing manufacturers. However, if part of the plan calls for the integration of consumer video applications such as Skype or Google Video Chat, additional services and processes will be needed to bridge the gap between professional and free applications.

User Base
Another key decision will be who do you want to give mobile video access to? Organizations with a BYOD approach may think that since users are providing the technology, they might as well extend mobile video to everyone.  However, while ubiquitous video can only help to increase collaboration and efficiency in an organization, managing it can be a huge undertaking. If your plan is to provide the service to all, begin with a small key user group who can test and help work out the bugs. Those users can then be empowered to train other users within the organization. This “train the trainer” approach saves time by pushing training out faster, as well as, saves the cost of involving the technology group in training every person within the organization.

Mobile video conferencing has improved the way people can work. When heading down a path of implementation, make sure you create a comprehensive plan that examines all areas of your business and what will be needed for success. If the proper planning is done the roll-out will be easier and your user base will be happily engaged!

I use video on a daily basis whether it’s to collaborate with colleagues, catch up with friends and family out of state or simply say goodnight to my husband when I’m out of town. There is something about connecting face-to-face with someone who is hundreds or thousands of miles away that still amazes me and I’m constantly trying to convert people I know into avid video users.

Unfortunately, I’m still met with a significant amount of resistance from some people who have, what I deem as, irrational fears of video. Here are some of my favorites:

People can (and will) spy on me
I was visiting my family in St. Louis when I went to talk to my mother, who was in her office, and I noticed a piece of paper taped over the top of her laptop. I asked her what it was and she very nonchalantly told me she was covering up the built-in webcam on her computer because she didn’t want people spying on her. I just rolled my eyes and said I was pretty sure her coworkers had better things to do than sit and spy on her.

Yes, it’s possible for someone to hack into your camera to spy on you but, as long as you’re careful, it’s improbable. A few tips to keep yourself safe is to first and foremost turn off any auto-answer capabilities. This applies to consumer and especially enterprise video applications including software clients, personal and room-based endpoints. Second, make sure you are on a secure network, behind a firewall and use a decent antivirus and spyware detection software. Here are a few other tips to keep your webcam from being hacked.

I can’t multitask
Alright this is true; you can’t get away with everything you can on the phone. But let’s face it, you really shouldn’t be multitasking; not only is it rude, it actually decreases productivity. Need proof? Read the HBR blog article How (and Why) to Stop Multitasking. Video essentially forces you to focus on the matters at hand which can lead to enhanced creativity and quicker decisions.

Now, we’ve all had a chatty Cathy talking our ear off when we have about five thousand other things to be doing. It’s difficult to interrupt over audio so you simply put her on mute while you go about your businesses and feign interest here and there. With video it’s easier to escape; simply look at your watch or hold up a finger to catch her attention then let her know you have to run into a meeting or finish up a deliverable that’s due shortly.

Video creeps me out
Personally, I think being able to see someone’s facial expression over video is pretty darn amazing. Unfortunately, I have heard many people say that video is downright creepy. It took me a little while, but I finally understood what they meant – just replace the word creepy with vulnerable. Yes, video is more vulnerable as participants can pick up on visual clues, such as facial expressions, that would otherwise be missed over audio.

I have to admit this does take some getting used to and there are times I would love to roll my eyes or laugh at a ridiculous comment someone made. But, more often than not, being able to see my colleagues’ expressions has helped meetings progress. I can easily tell when they’re following along and when I’ve lost them in a field somewhere.

Now please get over your fears and join me on a video call. Thank you!

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Stop Being A Video-phobe Part Deux

“Last year was the worst year we’ve had in the history of disasters.” – Al Berman, Disaster Recovery Institute.

That sounds pretty ominous, but what exactly does it mean?

Organizations have been facing costly downtime and the frustrating task of getting systems back online and operations up and running in the aftermath of earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and more. A disaster can be as simple as a single building power failure or severe and horrific as the Japanese tsunami. Even if the event is isolated, the after effects can permeate throughout an organization, especially if employees are dispersed and required to collaborate remotely.

What’s alarming though is that countless organizations do not have a business continuity plan in place. These plans outline the processes and procedures needed to react quickly in situations and limit the amount of disaster recovery efforts needed in the aftermath.

So what is the best way to go about preparing for a disaster?

Redundancy is Key
A business continuity plan must be defined and agreed upon by all stakeholders and have well-defined IT strategy that includes redundant systems housed in multiple locations. If the organization relies on cloud hosting providers, ensure those data centers are geographically dispersed. For example, if your host is 10 miles up the road and the entire region is hit by a massive hurricane, the redundancy of the cloud will be null and void.

Enable Collaboration
Communication is perhaps the highest priority during disaster situations; therefore, any plan should include how to maintain contact with all employees. Unified communications technology plays a critical role as it keeps employees connected throughout day-to-day operations. In addition, these systems are essential to keeping the lines of communication open during a crisis. It’s far better to have employees doing their jobs during these times than spending the time trying to figure out how to do their jobs.

Harness the Power of Video
Most organizations know the power of video conferencing along with its application during normal business operations. However, video becomes even more powerful in times of duress. It can enable face-to-face collaboration in situations where people cannot meet due to crisis circumstances, such as the volcanic eruption in Iceland that stalled air travel. Keeping people connected and communicating face-to-face will facilitate better operations in addition to relieving some of the stress of the situation.

Don’t Forget the Customer
As always, the customer is paramount. An organization can do a great job keeping the business running but if they forget about the customer their efforts may be useless. Most customers will be sensitive to the situation but they are still going to expect to be served. When defining a continuity plan ensure customer communications and service are a top priority. If customers are communicating to the organization primarily via voice, the phone system must have multiple redundancies. Also, it is critical to be able to redirect voice traffic when employees can’t make it to the office.

With a well-defined business continuity plan in place, organizations can continue to function at the highest level possible while still serving their customers. A plan that takes internal and external communication and collaboration into account will not only benefit the organization but also its employees, customers and ultimately its well-being.

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.

Collaboration, team work, relationships and communication; these are some of the latest buzzwords in business today. Companies are not only embracing the collaboration era but looking for ways to enhance communication and strengthen relationships between colleagues, business partners and even customers.

The result: video enabled organizations.

The benefits of video conferencing are undeniable and technological innovations have made video more accessible and easier to use than ever. As a result, organizations are adopting visual collaboration solutions at a rapid rate. However, while some organizations are creating a competitive advantage with stellar results; others see the equipment slowly collect dust.

So, what makes the difference between the two outcomes? How can an organization ensure a successful video implementation?

Simple, effectively manage the implementation and build a video culture.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done as organizations tend to underestimate the amount of time and planning required to effectively manage a video implementation. A company must consider the impact the technology has on the interrelated subsystems within an organization; including the behavioral subsystem (the people), the structural subsystem (the process), and the technological subsystem (the equipment).

An integrated approach to adoption must be used as the impact of a new technology reaches beyond the equipment, affecting the people and the process within an organization. Failure to consider these inter-dependencies can result in significant resistance and even abandonment of the solution.

To dig deeper into this trend and understand some of the best practices and key areas to consider, download our new white paper.