Video conferencing is slowly emerging in the retail banking sector as a way to meet growing customer expectations and combat declining foot traffic in branch locations. There are so many things customers can now do online that they don’t even need to go to a bank. Checking account balances, transferring money between accounts and even paying bills can be done with a few simple clicks on a bank’s website.

As a result, banks need to find new ways to interact with their customers. International financial research and consulting firm, Celent, recently released the report Video Banking: Lights, Camera, Transactions?, discussing how video solutions can be used along with the benefits they provide.

The most practical application is connecting customers to bank tellers and subject matter experts via video at lobbies, vestibules and even at home. Customers can ask questions about their finances, consult with a financial advisor or begin the loan application process with an online advisor. For example, instead of driving to the bank to fill out a mortgage application, a customer can meet face-to-face over video with a loan specialist who can answer questions and begin the application process.

Video banking not only provides increased customer interaction, it can provide significant cost benefit as well. Customers expect a lot from their banks and video conferencing allows banks to keep up with customer demand while reducing expensive branch investments. They can use video solutions to maintain strong customer relationships without having to staff subject matter experts at each retail location.

The Bank of Montreal has implemented Cisco videoconferencing workstations to serve as a customer assistance tool rather than a “do-it-yourself” system. The technology still has a few issues, but they are being worked out. For example, in some instances a customer may require paperwork and paper cannot be transferred through this system. However, the digital teller can help the customer obtain the necessary paperwork and provide instructions as to where it needs to be delivered.

Bank of America had a different idea for the technology and implemented ATM with Teller Assist. This allows customers to experience the convenience of an ATM but still be able to speak to a Bank of America teller in real time via video. These ATMs allow customers to cash checks for the exact amount and receive change, as well as receive cash withdrawals. Eventually, the ATM will allow customers to deposit checks with cash back, split a deposit into two or more accounts and make a credit card or loan payment. With the probable success of these implemented technologies, it won’t be long before other banks begin the process of changing to video banking.

These are just two examples of how banks are using video. Several other establishments have either deployed video solutions or are currently testing the viability. Eventually as technology advances, users will be able to take video banking mobile, and use video conferencing to talk to tellers and bankers through tablets and mobile devices. By using apps, texting, voice conversations and two-way video, banking can eventually go completely virtual. In fact, we might look back one day and say I remember when you actually had to go to the bank to cash a check!

When it comes to understanding how collaboration services are delivered, there is much discussion surrounding cloud-based options versus on-premise and everything in between. The language used to describe the design of these services can be somewhat confusing and many of the terms are often used in the wrong way to make understanding them every more challenging!

Let’s start by discussing cloud services themselves.

What is a Cloud Service?

A cloud service is basically any service or resource that is delivered via the internet or other remote network. There are several classifications of cloud services, including:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS): These services deliver software applications to customers; think Salesforce.com (Customer Relationship Management) or NetSuite (ERP software). The customer is not required to purchase hardware or servers and generally pays for access to the software based on a monthly subscription.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): In PaaS, operating systems and other connected services are delivered without the need to download or install components. These types of solutions include things like Windows Azure and Amazon Web Services.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): With IaaS, service providers purchase hardware (storage, services, bridges, etc.) and allow customers to utilize portions of the hardware on a monthly or pay-per-use basis.

The interesting thing about collaboration cloud services, and specifically video collaboration, is that the solutions offered are a mix of the different models mentioned above. In some cases, a service provider will offer access to hardware video conferencing bridges (MCUs), firewall traversal devices, and more for a monthly fee. In these cases, the provider has purchased the equipment and is maintaining it for multiple customers.

Other collaboration services are purely software that is then delivered via a SaaS model. Blue Jeans Network, for example, is entirely software based and delivered to customers throughout the world via their data centers. The hardware involved is off-the-shelf Intel based servers.

What is Virtualization?

When discussing cloud services, the topic of virtualization will almost always come up. Virtualization itself is not a cloud based service. Instead, virtualization technology enables service provides to deliver cloud services.

In a virtualized model, multiple instances of operating systems can sit on one physical server. Therefore, a provider can own one large-scale, hardware based server then effectively chop the computing power up into multiple instances that can then be delivered to customers. A software application must be designed to work with these virtual instances.

The real power of virtualization, however, is the ability to easily scale up or down based upon user needs. Since hardware resources are allocated via software, it is very easy to spin-up additional physical processing power and then have it immediately add to the power of a particular instance. This can even happen automatically. If a virtualized application detects the need for additional power, it can call for additional processor power to be allocated.

How does this translate into a real world situation? If an organization is having a special video event and requires access for 20 additional users who don’t normally connect, the needed processor power can be added, the application will dynamically adjust, and the meeting can go off without a hitch. When the event is over, the added processing power can just be turned off.

Cloud services and computing are the biggest trend in technology and collaboration services. Understanding the differences in the ways the services are delivered and what technology is involved can help make the evaluation process a little bit easier.

This Week in Collaboration

September 27th, 2013 | Posted by Danielle Downs in Industry News - (0 Comments)

This-week-in-collaboration

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

1. Polycom Video Solutions help keep NATO personnel ready for the next crisis, diplomatic mission or humanitarian effort

Announcement around NATO’s decision to use Polycom’s RealPresence Platform as the backbone of their video collaboration environment. By utilizing video conferencing, NATO is hoping to streamline decision making and communication as well as reducing travel costs.

2. SPAR saves time and money with video conferencing

This post showcases UK based grocery chain SPAR, and how deploying video has saved the company both time and money. Their main use case was around their multiple executive meetings that they hold and how winter weather was consistently disrupting those meetings.

3. Videoconferencing Options Expand

Analysis around the growth of video conferencing and the wide range of options now available. It details options including the videoconference room, software-only model, and cloud based options.

4. Businesses look to collaborate with UC

This piece focuses on how collaboration, specifically document and screen sharing, helps to significantly increase efficiency. It speaks to both screen sharing with audio conference calls as well as collaboration with video conferencing.

5. Video Conferencing in the 21st century classroom

Video conferencing in the classroom is opening up a plethora of possibilities around collaboration. This article outlines some of those possibilities and use cases including guest lectures, professional development workshops, and virtual field trips.

For companies looking to dive in to this mobile video craze, having a solid plan of attack is very important. Not only will it help determine the technology requirements, it ensures a consistent user experience for all participants involved.

The first step in developing a mobile video strategy is to define the organization’s video environment. This focuses on determining the following key areas:

  • End users
  • Video devices & applications
  • Meeting types
  • Current video equipment
  • Goals & objectives

Essentially, this means organizations should outline who will be using mobile video, what devices these participants will be connecting with, what types of meetings will be conducted, and the objectives mobile video is looking to accomplish.

For example, it is essential to ensure that the mobile devices being used can integrate with any room systems or infrastructure that is currently in place. If employees plan to use consumer applications, such as Skype or Google Video, then an additional outside bridging service will be necessary to provide interoperability to standards-based systems. Determining those use cases and goals will help to define what is necessary for effective implementation.

Read Part II of Developing a Mobile Video Strategy here.

Download the worksheet below to get started with planning your mobile video strategy.

I saw a news clip about the rise in telecommuting on CBS the other day and I echoed many of the sentiments from my fellow telecommuters. I also have a confession to make, what I looked forward to the most was the ability to wear sweatpants to the “office.” The first week or two I would go to my closet each morning grinning as I bi-passed my slacks and skirts en route to my sweatpants drawer.

However, I quickly learned that getting ready in the same way I would when going in to an office, was very important for my “workday” mindset. Now being fair, I can’t say that I put those nice slacks and skirts on everyday, but blouses paired with yoga pants was a definite step up.

That was just one lesson I have learned about effective telecommuting. Here are a few others:

Location Is Key:
Having a designated office, or at the very least a designated office area is imperative for productivity. Having a place that I can go to and close the door, is an effective way to keep outside distractions at bay. Creating a professional work environment also helps increase my self-discipline during office hours.

Visibility:
Being online and available during work hours is another component that is very important when telecommuting. Since I work for a collaboration company that means being online and available for instant messaging, phone, and video calls. This visibility and ability to have spontaneous or informal conversations also creates the feeling of being in an office.

Regular Communication:
Along with visibility, comes regular communication. Routinely speaking to colleagues on video mitigates the “social isolation” challenge that some remote employees feel. Communicating often, particularly via video conferencing, increases productivity by allowing me to brainstorm and collaborate face-to-face.

Earning Trust:
Regular communication, increased productivity, and consistent office hours all help in earning and maintaining my manager and coworkers’ trust. Mutual expectations between both a manager and remote employee, along with other team members, are essential for successful telecommuting.

Taking Breaks:
Another important lesson I have learned while telecommuting is the importance of taking breaks. Although I am not very good at putting this piece in to practice, getting out of the “office” and taking a lunch break or running an errand helps increase productivity by giving your brain a chance to relax. Plus, it helps reduce the feeling of never leaving your home.

These lessons have all helped me create a successful telecommuting strategy. Although working from home is not for everyone; many folks, including myself, have found increased productivity and an improved quality of life by being able to telecommute.