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

We’ve all been there, in that meeting that just seems to drag. You can’t help but look at your phone and think of all the better things you could be doing with your time. The longer you sit, the most frustrated you become as people get off topic and nothing actually seems to get accomplished. Instead of getting annoyed, stop and think, is this dreadful meeting actually your fault?

While your initial response might be absolutely not, the more you think about it there’s a slight possibility. Here’s how:

You Assume All Meetings Are a Waste of Time
If you go into a meeting assuming it will be a waste of time, it most likely will be. Negativity can not only affect your attitude but the attitudes of everyone else around you. Drumming your fingers, fidgeting, sighing and constantly checking your phone or tablet can make even the most patient participant anxious. Before you go into a meeting, take a deep breath and clear out any preconceived notions of a dreadful meeting. The power of positive can have a dramatic effect on productivity.

You Accept Every Meeting Invite
Part of the reason people think all meetings are a waste of time is because they accept every meeting invite regardless of whether or not they can provide value. As a result, the meeting fails to keep their interest and their mind starts wandering to everything else they could be doing. This leads to the negative and anxious attitude that can poison even the best meeting. Prior to accepting a meeting invite, think about whether or not you can provide valuable insight on the topic being discussed. If not, politely recuse yourself.

You Have Video But Don’t Use It
It’s so easy, and tempting, to put yourself on mute and start multitasking on an audio call. However, full engagement is critical to meeting success as it allows you to provide valuable thoughts and insights. Following along on the sidelines may lead you to miss key opportunities to contribute. Video conferencing forces you to focus on the matters at hand which can lead to enhanced creativity and quicker decisions.

You Don’t Create an Agenda
Meetings are notorious for getting off track. One thing leads to another and the next think you know the meeting is over and not a single item got accomplished. If you are leading a meeting, take fifteen minutes to put together an agenda of what needs to be discussed and what decisions need to be made. Then, if the meeting starts to get off track you can direct discussion back to the matters at hand.

You Get Meeting Crazy
Contrary to popular belief; a meeting does not need to be scheduled for every single decision or update. Save meetings for when discussion is absolutely critical; such as brainstorming or training sessions. If you simply need a quick vote on option A or option B; or want to send/receive a status update, email works just as well.

So the next time you’re bored to tears in a meeting, think about all the things you could have done differently to make the meeting more successful.

Football reigns supreme in our nation; whether it’s the NFL, NCAA, High School or even little league. In many towns, Friday night games are the center of a town’s social activity; and anyone involved with the winning touchdown is considered a hero. It’s no wonder kids are gearing up to play almost as soon as they can walk.  In fact, my nephew has been playing since he was four years old!

Unfortunately, repeated hits to the head from high contact sports have spurred a concussion epidemic that spans from football, to hockey, to even wrestling. Multiple concussions can cause brain damage that leaves lasting effects. In an article, former professional wrestler Christopher Nowinski states “I can’t exercise without getting a headache and without feeling sick.”

With kids playing sports at earlier ages, it is even more important to properly diagnose concussions to prevent brain damage from cumulative injuries. As a result, Davidson County in North Carolina has introduced a new telemedicine program linking high school athletes who may have a concussion to specialists at the Lexington Medical Center for diagnosis.

A remotely operated telepresence robot allows doctors to look for symptoms and give brain and balance tests to determine whether or not an athlete has sustained a concussion. While diagnosing a concussion over video may seem lacking, Dr. Daryl Rosenbaum, Director of Wake Forest Baptist’s Sports Medicine Fellowship Program, said the contrary in a recent article.

“There’s not a lot of hands-on evaluation needed with concussions. Typically, you are making two big decisions: return to play or not to play, and go to the emergency room or go home.” – Dr. Daryl Rosenbaum

Telemedicine clinics can be especially valuable for rural areas where access to health care specialists typically requires a lengthy drive to the nearest metropolitan area. Instead of depending on local doctors or sports trainers, these athletes can have instant access to a concussion specialist who is trained to spot signs that might otherwise be missed.

Watch the video below for a quick demonstration!

 

With all the buzz around unified communications including new product releases, features, acquisitions and more, it’s easy to forget the why of UC and how it can benefit an organization. In this series of posts we will examine some of the key areas of UC and what the business benefit can be. For part one click here.

Now that we have examined what some of the key features of UC solutions are, it’s important to understand who are the major players in the market and what solutions they offer. While many of these solutions have been on the market for some time; others are new and constantly evolving.

Microsoft
Microsoft has been providing UC solutions in some form for over ten years. Microsoft’s Exchange platform (which powers around 65% of corporate email systems) has had messaging capabilities since the early versions. In 2003, Microsoft released Office Communications Server which has since evolved into Microsoft Lync. Lync has shown strong growth and interest from customers, and Microsoft recently announced that the Lync business unit has seen 40%+ growth. The solution offers what you would expect from a UC platform: presence, instant messaging, screen sharing and conferencing, video, voice, and more. In addition, Lync integrates closely with Outlook and Exchange to allow for unified messaging. Essentially email, voicemail, chat, and other communications all live within your Outlook desktop.

As part of Microsoft’s video strategy, Lync is heavily integrated with the Polycom video conferencing portfolio. From the Lync client, a user can seamlessly connect to a Polycom video system or join a multi-party conference via a Polycom bridge.

Cisco
Cisco has been offering unified communications solutions for quite some time. Jabber is the most recent and robust UC offering and integrates technology from WebEx, its voice products, Cisco Unified Presence and more. As with other offerings in the marketplace, Jabber has functionality around instant messaging and presence, voice, video conferencing and more. Of particular note with Jabber is that Cisco offers clients across multiple devices, including PC and Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Android devices.

For customers who previously used Movi video conferencing from Cisco, this product has been renamed Cisco Jabber Video for TelePresence.

IBM
IBM offers Sametime as its UC offering. Sametime provides the same features previously mentioned in other solutions: instant messaging, presence, online meetings (think WebEx), mobile, and voice. Sametime makes the UC experience more social by integrating with IBM’s social collaboration tools such as IBM WebSpere and IBM Connections. With this integration, users are able to initiate collaboration sessions within the context of their current project or assignment. For example, when reviewing documents hosted on an IBM social product for a particular project, a user can initiate a chat with an assigned team member to discuss that particular deliverable.

Avaya
Avaya offers multiple UC solutions including best-of-breed solutions that integrate with many of the tools currently available in the marketplace. Avaya’s most integrated option is Avaya Flare. Flare integrates conferencing, web collaboration, social media, presence, IM, video and more into a single interface. Perhaps one of the most compelling features of Flare is that the interface is identical across PCs, iPads, or even an Avaya Desktop Video Device (a result of Avaya’s acquisition of video conferencing manufacturer Radvision).

The Unified Communications market continues to grow and evolve at a rapid pace. There are clearly a number of strong offerings available for any size organization. When evaluating these solutions it is important to look not only at the key features but also how it can integrate into your current environment.

 This post is part of a series on unified communications solutions.

Part One: What’s in the Box?