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.

The video conferencing industry is changing faster than anyone can keep up with. The technological innovations are staggering and many have led to greater reach and lower cost, higher quality video solutions.

One of the latest trends emerging is video conferencing directly within the web browser.  HTML 5 and a new standard known as WebRTC are making many of these solutions possible. WebRTC allows browsers to facilitate real-time communication; including voice, video, and point-to-point file sharing. This new technology will soon be standard in all popular browsers.

This standard is still in a “draft” format from the Web Standards Body but many of the applications that have experimented with it have been quite impressive. Small software companies to major manufacturers of hardware based video conferencing systems have been working with web clients for some time. The advantages of this approach are:

  1. Users can be connected to a video meeting with little to no download and setup time. Currently WebRTC is not finalized so small plugins must be downloaded the first time a user enters a video meeting. In the near future this should be eliminated and the browser will be able to launch directly into the video call.
  2. Beyond a web camera, there are no hardware requirements to participate in a video meeting.
  3. Browsers exist on devices beyond PCs; mobile devices, televisions, tablets, and more. Soon these devices will be video conferencing ready out of the box without any configuration.

There have been a number of announcements that have centered on video conferencing in the web browser including:

Blue Jeans:  This service has bridged the gap between consumer and professional video conferencing offering “meet-me” rooms in the cloud that allow users of pretty much any traditional VC system  to connect with users on Skype, Google Video Chat and Microsoft Lync. Last month, Blue Jeans added a browser-based option to their service. When a user receives an invite to a Blue Jeans meeting, they can click a link and attend via their web browser.

Polycom:  Last year Polycom acquired ViVu, a small organization that had been offering “embeddable” video conferencing into web applications. This week Polycom announced the first initiative based on that acquisition. HP is now shipping a Polycom HD video application with their new web cams. The app makes it easy for users to connect, via video, to any of their contact lists from Facebook, Skype, Google, etc. When a user invites a contact, the receipt simply clicks a link and is immediately launched in a web based video call.

Cisco: A few weeks ago Cisco announced some significant updates to their Quad social portal. The newly branded Cisco Webex Social features integrated video calling that all happens in the browser.

There are sure to be many more announcements and releases around web-based video conferencing. Its impact on the industry remains to be seen, but it is sure to be significant and will only make video even more accessible for everyone.

Social collaboration, a combination of social media, visual collaboration and unified communications, is becoming a significant trend in business today. When used together, these technologies can improve products or processes and ultimately drive true innovation which has a direct impact on a firm’s bottom line. This is the third post in a series discussing the benefits of social collaboration. For part one click here.

Today’s global environment is moving at a faster pace than ever. New products and services are continuously being created and modified to adapt to changing consumer and business needs. As a result, organizations need to find renewed effectiveness and efficiency in their business model; a balance between doing the right things and doing things right.

Many organizations are turning to business partnerships to create new avenues for innovation in a variety of different ways. From new products and services to new processes and procedures that can enhance a firm’s productivity while inspiring ingenuity. Wal-Mart, for example, was a pioneer with supplier collaboration by implementing technology that provided real-time, point of sale information to their suppliers. This not only decreased stock-outs but increased sales and customer satisfaction by ensuring products were always available for purchase. Similarly, Apple has created valuable partnerships with manufacturing companies to produce their products; allowing them to focus on their core competencies of technology design and innovation.

The most successful business partnerships are built on a strong foundation of trust which is established through open and honest communications and face-to-face interaction. Two-way data sharing and peer-to-peer collaboration can provide new insights for partners on how to make their relationship more effective and ultimately improve their bottom line.

Vendors, suppliers, joint ventures and other forms of business partners can not only meet face-to-face through video but collaborate through interactive whiteboards. Additionally social networking helps expand an organization’s network providing access to thought leadership, top talent and other potential business partners.

Geographical diversity presents a major challenge in developing meaningful relationships as most business partners located in different countries, if not continents. However, collaboration technologies are continuously evolving to create an effective means of communication. One of the biggest roadblocks for partner or B2B collaboration has been the disparate nature of networks and network providers.

For many organizations that choose to move their video communication to a dedicated network, there can be a “walled garden” created where they are unable to connect to other systems outside of the network. Service providers have been providing so-called B2B exchanges for many years as a way to combat this. Recent trends towards cloud services and carrier interoperability relationships have helped make this type of collaboration easier to achieve.

This post is part of a series covering the benefits of social collaboration within an organization.

Part One: The Rise of Social Collaboration
Part Two: Unified Communications, Unified People
Part Four: Using Collaboration to Increase Customer Lifetime Value

Norm here. I use video on a daily basis and absolutely love it; although, I seem to make a lot of mistakes which can be rather embarrassing at times. Out of the goodness of my heart, I’m sharing some of these instances so you can avoid making the same mistakes.

Well yesterday I had a little snafu during my presentation to a client. I got caught up chatting with a co-worker and was running a little late. I had just enough time to join the video call but figured it was okay since I could just connect my laptop and get the presentation set up during the first few minutes.

So, I’m in the middle of catching up with the client on their weekend plans and all of a sudden this ear-piercing noise starts coming from the table. I look down and, you know that little thing that pops out of the table so you can you can share content from your PC, it was possessed!!

It would rise up and then get stuck and start buzzing really loud. When I pushed it down the buzzing stopped but then the stupid thing started raising up again. It was a vicious cycle I tell you! I hit mute so the client’s ear drums wouldn’t blow out but I can only imagine what I looked like trying to fix this thing. Mute just doesn’t work on video like it works on audio.

Anyway, I finally gave up and “accidentally” disconnected the call. Then I called our helpdesk to come investigate the issue (because our entire office could hear it) while I located a free conference room to reconnect to the call. After that I was able to continue without a hitch, but the meeting started 15 minutes late. I apologized profusely but I could tell the client was a little agitated.

After the meeting I tracked down Rob to find out what happened. Apparently a paperclip got stuck in the laptop computer interface causing it to jam when it rose up and produce that obnoxious sound. I just looked at Rob with disbelief. A paper clip, seriously?!? I just don’t understand why this stuff has to happen to me.

At any rate, I learned a valuable lesson today. It’s called stop dilly-dallying and get yourself set up ahead of time!