On September 20th, IVCi hosted a webinar presented by the Aberdeen Group that focused on travel expense management and the power of video conferencing to significantly reduce expenses. Christopher Dwyer, analyst, offered some compelling data about how best-in-class organizations have been able to reduce travel and meeting spend by incredible amounts.
The proliferation of unified communications solutions, such as Microsoft Lync, Cisco Jabber and IBM Sametime, has extended collaboration to employees around the world. These solutions offer many advantages, including ease of use and enhanced mobility; however, they also present a few key challenges including moving the UC experience from the desktop into the conference room.
Trying to connect a team of local participants with remote participants can be difficult using a desktop video solution. Crowding around a colleague’s PC gets extremely uncomfortable, not to mention it deteriorates the audio and visual quality of the meeting. On the other hand, having each participant join individually can become overwhelming and push the limits of cloud video bridging solutions.
After hearing these issues, our engineering team created a unique solution to easily bring unified communications to the conference room. UC Group systems are configurable, PC-based solutions that allow an organization to extend their desktop video client into a conference room setting. Anything from screen sharing to video conferencing can be accomplished with the click of a button.
Video is obtained through a PC card located in the display or from a local laptop or PC connection and displayed on the screen. Essentially, end users would connect to a video call in the same way and with the same application they would use on their computer. Then participants partake in a video conference with audio and visual quality similar to that of a traditional video conference room.
Enhanced mobility features allow end-users to connect their laptop and wheel the cart between rooms. As a result, any conference room can become a video-enabled room! Plus, with easy content display options, UC Group systems can double as presentation rooms when video is not in use. Additional features include:
Power management capabilities that automatically turn the display on and off
Fixed or pan/tilt/zoom camera to accommodate smaller or larger groups
Table or ceiling microphones for enhanced audio
Cisco WebEx integration for webinars or other web conferences
The UC Room and UC Mobile are platform agnostic and can run on any software video client including Microsoft Lync, Cisco Jabber, Polycom CMA/m100, Skype and Google Video Chat. These solutions enhance an organization’s UC platform or consumer video solution by accommodating larger groups and allowing participants to reap the benefits of a traditional video conferencing room without significant upfront investments.
Video conferencing has made it easier for managers to lead remote employees as well as enhance team cohesion among remote members. However, simply holding video calls will not guarantee a successful remote team. It requires additional time and effort to develop relationships and motivate team members who are scattered around the globe. One of the biggest challenges remote leaders face is overcoming a lack of visibility.
Managers of remote teams can’t take a walk around the office to see how their team is doing nor can team members pop by for a quick chat or clarification. For example, consider a scenario where an employee is hung up on one aspect of the project. It’s nothing major, the numbers just aren’t adding up correctly or everything seems to be in place but the program just isn’t running properly.
A local team member might signal his boss when she walks by and ask for a second set of eyes. They can take a look together, quickly spot the issue and the employee can move along on the project. Unfortunately, remote team members and managers do not have this luxury. A fully deployed UC platform can help by allowing a team member to ping his boss over instant messaging and then shift to a video conference to resolve the issue. However, if their manager does not seem available or team members do not feel comfortable with their boss they might continue to work on the problem themselves.
Developing relationships through face-to-face interactions is absolutely critical for remote leaders. Managers should proactively reach out to their remote teams to check in, ask how things are going or if there is anything they have questions about. These informal interactions not only help put team members at ease but develop a sense of trust by increasing a manager’s viability. When an employee has a question or needs a second set of eyes on a project they feel comfortable quickly reaching out to the manager.
Additionally, due to limited visibility, it is critical for remote leaders to not only have a clear vision in place but ensure each team member fully understands and supports the vision. The vision is what gives employees direction when their managers are not around and can help them make decisions without constantly checking in for approval.
For example, when developing the product packaging and promotional messaging for a new product a team member might have a choice between a cost-effective option and a higher-quality option. If the manager has clearly articulated the vision for the product is high quality the team member can make the decision on their own by selecting the higher-quality packaging material.
When setting the vision it is important to engage all remote team members. Allowing them to be part of the vision creation helps develop team spirit and cohesion, as well as, inspire team members individually.
Fashion is considered an art form to many people and New York City’s semi-annual Fashion Week is the event of the season. More than 500 fashion shows attract over 230,000 attendees as people gather from around the world to view the latest creations from New York’s top designers. In fact, according to a statement from NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Fashion Week generates an economic impact of $865 million annually.
The pressure to produce and present high-quality, unique garments is felt by everyone from the designers to seamstresses, fabric providers, models and modeling agencies, and more. Fashion changes faster than almost any other industry; therefore, the ability to produce the right designs with the right quality at the right time is critical for success.
It’s no wonder that design houses, like Tommy Hilfiger, are turning to video conferencing solutions to support their operations. Communicating with seamstresses and sending fabrics and designs back and forth can become cumbersome; not to mention expensive, when using an international courier. Telepresence solutions eliminate many of these challenges by allowing designers to stay in contact with suppliers all over the world.
With high definition systems, designers can see the quality of fabrics and clothing samples down to the actual stitch. They can browse fabric rolls and choose prints as if they were walking through the warehouse resulting in a quicker selection process. Since the feel of fabric is of utmost importance, samples of selected fabrics can then be sent to the designer for final selection and approval.
After fabrics have been selected, samples of the clothing designs must be created by seamstresses. Telepresence allows designers to give directions while seamstresses pin alterations in real-time to ensure the garments align perfectly with their vision. The misinterpretation of comments and alterations from communication or cultural barriers can be avoided. Plus, it significantly reduces the cost and time of sending samples back and forth reducing the time required to finalize designs and get them into production.
While clothing collections are the spotlight of Fashion Week, there is just as much to do when planning a show. Selecting the right models is critical to ensure the collection is displayed properly. In addition to proper fit, skin tone must accent garment colors for optimal impact. Design houses can use video to pre-screen models in the same way corporations use it to screen job applicants. As a result, designers can easily approve model selection while finishing the last minute details of their collection.
In the fast-paced and ever changing fashion world; designers must find new ways to stay in touch with consumer needs and create collections in an efficient and effective manner.
Video is making its way through organizations large and small as it becomes easier and more effective to use. The proliferation of tablets, smartphones and mobile video applications are allowing end users to connect from anywhere they have a Wi-Fi connection. The increased demand, however, is putting significant pressure on Wi-Fi networks. How can organizations make sure their network is video ready?
The majority of video users within an office location will connect to video via their PC or a room system if available. However, some users may opt to video conference on their tablet; either because a desktop video application continues to crash their PC or they need access to their computer screen while on video. It is important to have a grasp on the percentage of users who use video on their tablets in addition to their call concurrency.
Proper Infrastructure in Place
Video conferencing can place a strain on Wi-Fi networks; therefore, organizations should ensure they have the necessary infrastructure elements and access points. Most Wi-Fi networks were not designed with mobile video in mind; resulting in latency and packet loss if the demand for mobile video exceeds network capacity. Organizations should put policies in place to limit the use of Wi-Fi or limit per-call bandwidth. For example, dual desktop computer screens allow managers to view information on their computer while still using video on their PC.
Control Video Traffic
As video traffic continues to grow on your Wi-Fi network, it is important to employ devices that allow for segregation of this traffic (via Quality of Service – QoS) controls. This is incredibly important as video is bandwidth intensive and could potentially cause serious slowdowns within your infrastructure, potentially interrupting mission critical applications running wirelessly.
Don’t Open the Floodgates
With so many devices being introduced, employees will want to make use of every kind of video chat imaginable. Using firewalls to help block some of the unwanted services will be key. As an example, do you want employees using Facetime to communicate with their friends all day long? Blocking that activity can help mitigate strain on the network.
Clearly there is much to consider with your wireless network and video conferencing. The items above are a good start. Constantly monitoring and performance tweaking will be essentially to ensure that the entire operation is not brought to its knees by video traffic.