IBM conducts a biannual study of global CEOs to determine the latest trends in global organizations.  In a HBR chat, Saul Berman and Stephen Hasselmann discuss some of the findings from their recent study. If you have an hour to invest, the recording is well worth the time; otherwise the highlights are available here.

The key takeaway from both the study and the chat is the value of connecting employees, partners and customers. Technology is changing rapidly and the advances that result are changing the business and economic landscape for most companies. We are more connected than ever and the most effective CEOs not only understand this but embrace it.

The study highlights three main beliefs of exceptional CEOs which are:

  • Organizational openness and collaboration
  • Engaging customers as individuals
  • Amplifying innovation with partnerships

Essentially, these CEOs understand that collaboration drives innovation and a shared purpose drives motivation. Providing quarterly updates on company performance, the mission and future goals helps drive an open culture where employees understand and support the company’s vision.  As a result, employees can become more empowered by making task related decisions; such as scheduling collaboration sessions or determining procedures. This results in job enrichment which can increase motivation.

Additionally, these CEOs understand the power of social media and tailoring products and services to individual needs. Engaging with customers allows organizations to improve response and accuracy to market needs. Nilofer Merchant wrote a great series on the Social Era stating that organization need to have conversations with customers; they should be sharing experiences, not telling customer what to think and how to act.

Finally, these CEOs understand that partnerships can push collaboration beyond traditional boundaries. Every organization has a set of core competencies, specific skills that they excel at, and the best CEOs form partnerships around these core competencies. Instead of trying to do everything in-house, they work with other organizations to generate new revenues sources or even create new industries.

However, understanding and embracing the value of connections is useless if an organization does not invest in the tools and resources needed to connect employees to colleagues, customers and business partners. Video conferencing and UC solutions are a critical component of any savvy organization’s IT strategy. These solutions allow people to connect effortlessly, as well as, develop trust and strengthen relationships through face-to-face communication and casual interactions.

Yesterday Polycom held a press event at NASDAQ to announce a bevy of products and offerings. This event was the culmination of several years of R&D and the announcements signaled Polycom’s strategic direction for the next several years. Specifically, the announcements surrounded room and personal based video conferencing systems, as well as, new software based solutions and cloud offerings. Specific announcements included:

Move to SVC
Polycom is moving to an open source version of SVC (Scalable Video Coding).  What is particular interesting about this is not only is Polycom gaining the feature benefits of SVC (1080p60, bandwidth scalability, etc), they are also offering up their SVC implementation free to the marketplace. Microsoft has already started working this into their next version of Lync (2013).

New Room Systems
The RealPresence Group Series is a new collection of room based video conferencing endpoints designed for the middle market. These solutions feature the new Polycom UX (User Experience) which is a redesigned interface for the systems that is shared across the entire product line. The new interface makes it easier to schedule and use the systems. In addition, these solutions will offer the SVC codec out of the box.

New Desktop Solution
The RealPresence Desktop solution is Polycom’s software based endpoint supporting both Windows and Mac based operating systems. This solution combines the best of Polycom’s m100 software and CMA managed solution into a single client. The application can run independent or as a part of Polycom’s management tools, enabling infinite scalability. In addition, this app has been enabled with the new SVC codec.

Updated Mobile Solution
Polycom’s RealPresence Mobile is being upgraded to version 2.0. This new release (for both Android and iOS Devices) brings several new features including SmartPairing (the ability for the device to control room systems as well as seamlessly transfer video calls from one device to another), as well as, support for SVC, the new interface introduced in the rest of Polycom’s offerings and compatibility with Polycom’s new Access Director software.

RealPresence Access Director
Access Director is Polycom’s new solution for enabling video within and beyond your firewall.
From Polycom: “RealPresence® Access Director™ is a software-based edge server that enables users within and beyond the firewall to securely access video services—whether at home, in the office, or on the go.”

RealPresence Collaboration Servers
Polycom introduced several key enhancements to their MCU (multipoint control unit) product line that enables SVC, 1080p60, and many other options. In addition, the 800s, Virtual Edition is designed to run purely as a software based solution on industry standard X86 processors.  This opens up an entire new world of virtualized delivery options.

RealPresence CloudAXIS Suite
CloudAXIS brings Polycom’s solution for enabling video connectivity between business level solutions and consumer applications such as Skype and Google Video Chat. The solution is built around a web browser that enables participants to join video calls with nothing more than a webcam. CloudAXIS interfaces with Skype and Google “buddy” lists allowing for easy drag and drop call setup. A user can simply grab a Skype friend, a business connection on a standards based video system, and a Google contact, drag them onto the screen and a call is immediately launched. Polycom is offering this solution to their partners who can then offer a cloud based, subscription model to sell to their customers.

Whew! There was a lot announced yesterday and there is a lot more to come. Over the next week few weeks we will focus on the different solutions, the benefits they offer and how they can impact organizations.

It’s finally here, the Capstone class that completes the last semester of my MBA. In it, we break up into teams and play a computer simulated game where we compete against each other in a mock business world. At the beginning of the class our professor said, “I would suggest meeting in person, teams that meet over video historically haven’t done very well.”

This slightly upset me since I work at a video company and truly believe that teams meeting over video can be just as effective as teams meeting in person. I thought to myself, challenge accepted, and set out to prove my professor wrong.

Every Thursday night my team meets over video to review the previous quarter’s results and submit our sales/marketing, operations and financial decisions for the next quarter. Granted I have an unfair advantage over the rest of the teams since I have access to an interoperable cloud meeting room which allows us to join over different platforms. I use Cisco Jabber, our “CFO” uses Skype and our “COO,” who does not have a webcam, simply uses her browser.

During the meeting, I share my screen so the team can easily view the supporting data, follow along and focus on what decisions we need to make. We all take turns sharing our thoughts and opinions and, since it’s harder to interrupt over video, raise our finger to signal we would like to speak next. After each set of decisions are entered, we review to ensure the numbers are correct and then submit them.

It’s been four weeks since we started and, not only are we in first place, our stock price is more than double that of our closest competitor. Obviously a lot can change in the remaining weeks; all it takes is one bad decision to knock us out of position. Even so, I can’t help feel victorious in proving my professor wrong.

I simply love video and all of its uses. Last semester, one of my professors had to cancel class due to a business trip. Instead, he sent us the PowerPoint slides with audio clips to deliver that week’s lecture. It was the absolute, most boring hour of my life and nearly impossible to stay focused. I had to listen to each audio clip at least twice because my mind kept wandering.

Looking back, I wish we could have had the class over video. We all could have joined in a cloud meeting room and the professor could have delivered his lecture while we followed along with the PowerPoint slides. It’s amazing how easily video can bring together students and enhance the learning experience; I know I would have retained a lot more out of that class session.

Related Articles
The Impact of Video in Education

Technology can be quite fickle; it’s amazing and life-saving when it works but frustrating and downright annoying when it doesn’t. Whether the unit isn’t powering on, sound isn’t coming out of the speakers or the display is flashing some cryptic message; a support technician is just a phone call away to troubleshoot and diagnose the issue.

The day of a help desk technician usually starts with a cup of coffee and a review of the ticketing queue. First up, are any new tickets that have been submitted and a quick review of the issues customers are having. Then, a review of previously open tickets and any action immediate items that need to be completed. For example, has tracking information been received and a replacement part been shipped out from the manufacturer? If so, details of when to except the shipment will be forwarded to the customer.

After any high priority issues have been addressed, it is time to outline a schedule for the day’s tasks. This includes initial troubleshooting for customers who have recently opened a ticket, providing status updates for previously opened tickets, as well as, scheduling test calls, coordinating onsite visits and partnering with manufacturers. Of course, the day doesn’t always go as planned since support calls come in throughout the day and require immediate attention.

During initial troubleshooting there are a few key items to check; while they may seem obvious they’re often overlooked. First, is the system plugged in and turned on. The cleaning crew could have easily knocked the plug out of the wall or an inexperienced video user could have turned the codec off not knowing any better. Second, shut down the system completely and then reboot. Many technical issues; from computers to smartphones to video conferencing equipment, can be resolved by a simple reboot. Sometimes a system just needs to reload its operating system.

If the technical issue is more advanced, a video test call may be scheduled to obtain more information about the issue. These calls help identify the issue by isolating the problem. For example, Vincent Carroll, Technical Support Representative, recalls a particular instance where a customer was reporting an echo in the room. During the video test call, he asked the customer to walk around the room to identify where the echo was coming from. It turns out that someone had turned up the speakers on the display in addition to the ceiling speakers creating the echo. The customer simply muted the display speakers and the echo was eliminated.

As with any technology, video conferencing and audio visual implementations need to be properly supported and maintained. It is important to work with a provider who has the expertise and resources to provide needed support no matter the day, time, or situation that occurs. The help desk technician is the first line of defense to ensure the ongoing successful usage of collaboration technology.

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