A couple of weeks ago, a juror summons made its way into our mail. Thankfully it was addressed to my husband because the thought of taking the New York City subway by myself gives me heart palpitations since I’m a bit of a germophobe and slightly claustrophobic when it comes to crowds.  This morning, I dropped my husband off at the train station and he joined the rush hour commute into Brooklyn – standing in a crowd the entire way. As he spends his day in court, I can’t help but think about the judicial system.

Budget cuts have had a significant impact on courts as state and local governments are having trouble keeping up with the day-to-day operations. In fact, budget cuts forced the closure of the Tulare County courthouse last month, as well as, three unpaid furlough days in Kentucky this year. Even worse, California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye warns that budget cuts are threatening the judicial system after a Sacramento father watched his “wife disappear out-of-state with their son after his child custody case was delayed because of court cutbacks.”

How can federal, state and local courts cut costs without crippling the judicial system?

Investing in video conferencing  is a good place to start. Video arraignments reduce the staff and resources needed to transport detainees to the courthouse which is especially beneficial for extremely dangerous or high-profile inmates that require escalated security detail to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Video arraignments also allow courthouses to speed up the arraignment process for non-violent detainees; minimizing their time and expense in jail.

Additionally, the City of San Antonio Municipal Court recently implemented video court services for traffic violation hearings. Not only does this allow the judge to hear the maximum possible cases per day; it allows citizens to easily fit a hearing in on their lunch break. A friend of mine recently received a ticket because the registration sticker on her license plates had either fallen off or been stolen. She had to take a half-day off work to go to the courthouse with all of her documentation to contest the ticket which was extremely frustrating.

With continued budget constraints federal, state and local government agencies are dealing with the need to handle their docket of court activities with fewer resources. Video conferencing solutions help cut costs and process cases in a more efficient manner. A Pennsylvania court reported saving taxpayers more than $21 million annually with its video deployment. Plus, cloud video services make implementation and operation easier than ever. Multipoint bridging services allow citizens to easily connect to the court’s video equipment via Skype or Google Video Chat without compromising the security of the network.

While jury duty is part of our civic duty, perhaps one day soon you can try to weasle your way out of a speeding ticket from the comfort of your own home.

 Whenever video is sold or even mentioned, travel reduction is one of the first thing that comes up. In fact, the promise of decreasing an organization’s travel costs with virtual meetings is as old as video technology itself. Green initiatives, such as reducing emissions and carbon footprints, and increasing employee productivity due to less business travel are other highly mentioned benefits. 

But, how do organizations track these savings and really prove the ROI of video?

Join Aberdeen Research Director Christopher Dwyer and IVCi on September 20th at 2 PM Eastern at a webinar that will show you how organizations are successfully reducing business travel (and proving it) as they leverage video and virtual meeting technology.

In this webinar you will learn:

  1. The value of integrating video conferencing and travel/expense management systems
  2. How best-in-class organizations have leveraged virtual technology to improve meetings and events management
  3. The level of savings achieved by actual organizations currently supplementing or replacing in-person events with video conferencing

Sign up today!

The Traveler’s Guide to Video Conferencing
[Click here to Register]
Date: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Time: 2:00 PM Eastern / 11:00 AM Pacific (US)

With the increase of BYOD, unified communications and video conferencing technologies, many more employees are choosing to work from home to accommodate their schedule or expand their job possibilities. Similarly, organizations are allowing more employees the flexibility to work from home to attract and retain top employees across the country. Unified communications tools have allowed organizations to expand their talent pool to the best and brightest around the world; rather than their city.

However, the prevalence of remote work teams has led to new challenges for managers who are now tasked with leading these virtual teams. While some remote teams provide stellar results; many fail to reach their full potential and some fail to even complete their assigned tasks. This leaves many managers asking the question, what makes the difference between success and failure? How can managers enhance the probability of a successful virtual work team?

In a MIT Sloan Management Review article, How to Manage Virtual Teams, Frank Siebdrat, Martin Hoegl and Holger Ernst assert that there a few key aspects for managers to focus on when building a virtual team. By carefully selecting team members and developing a global culture, managers can enhance the likelihood of success.

For example, when selecting remote team members, it is important to not only consider abilities and expertise but social skills as well. In order for virtual teams to be successful “members must first and foremost be able to establish a basis for the effective exchange of their varying capabilities” the authors state. Selecting employees who demonstrate high levels of emotional intelligence and the ability to work together with others is critical for success. Self-important or headstrong individuals can have the opposite effect on a virtual team.

In addition to social skills, team members must have self-leadership skills. Essentially, team members need to be more “self-sufficient in how they manage their own work because the team leader is less in a position to help.” Therefore, managers need to look for independent and motivated individuals who constantly push boundaries and look for new tasks to complete. Individuals who sit around and wait for someone to tell them what to do will have a difficult time succeeding in a virtual team environment.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of informal interactions and face-to-face communication. Informal interactions, such as happy hour, help develop relationships.  In addition to developing a sense of trust, team members get to know each other on a personal level. Since a traditional happy hour is likely out of the question; managers can put together a virtual social event, such as a virtual happy hour over video. Team members can bring their own glass of wine or beer and informally chat with one another. While it won’t be the exact same as a traditional happy hour, it can still help build camaraderie and team spirit.

Why Unify Your Communications - What's In The Box

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.

To understand what UC solutions can do for an organization it is important to understand what features and functions are included in the solutions available today. Some may think of UC as just video conferencing or web conferencing; however, it is a collection of many different technologies that are seamlessly integrated together.

Presence
Presence is a feature that is at the heart of a unified communications solution. It allows a user to communicate their availability (on the phone, away, in a meeting) while also allowing the system to provide location information (in the office, working from home, etc). How many times have you tried to reach a colleague only to learn that they are working remotely and only available on their mobile phone? Presence can provide the information need to connect to someone in the fastest manner possible.

Instant Messaging
Instant messaging makes communicating with a colleague as simple as a point and click. Clicking on a user can initiate a text conversation, similar to a text on your mobile phone that can allow for quick catch ups on key items and to also check availability for meetings down the road.

Audio Conferencing
With UC solutions it is incredibly easily to upgrade an instant messaging discussion to an audio conversation. Simply click on the users name, select the call feature and the application will dial the number stored. These calls can be a point-to-point audio discussion or include multiple audio participants in a session (similar to an audio bridge).  The connection can occur over standard phones or via the UC application directly on the user’s desktop.

Screen and Document Sharing
During an audio or IM conversation it might be necessary for parties involved to share a document or participate in a white boarding session. A UC application can upgrade the interaction by providing a visual content sharing session. Users can view each other’s screen and collaborate on a key document or deliverable together.

Video Conferencing
UC solutions offer the ability for users to meet face to face via video conferencing. All of the UC applications available offer some form of video conferencing. In some cases it may be calls limited to two participants, in other cases it can be large scale multi-party calls. In either case, the power of visual communication is enhanced as each participant can see each other while collaboration.

Mobility
The final major functionality of most UC applications is the ability to access some or all of the functions listed above via a mobile device. This could be a smartphone or a tablet such as the iPad. Either way the goal is to provide a seamless experience whether the user is on their computer or traveling with their mobile device.

It is clear that UC applications offer a robust feature set that can help organizations collaborate in new and exciting ways. Not all UC applications are created equal, so make sure to understand the entire breadth of feature set before moving forward with an implementation.

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

Part Two: What’s Out There?

The term “audio visual integration” is used quite a bit by organizations (including IVCi!) to describe the work that they do. The term is well known within the “industry” and customers may even use the term to describe a potential project, but what does it really mean?

When thinking about the term, one has to look at the application of the technology within a particular business or organization. What are you attempting to accomplish within the room? It might be as simple as wanting to have a display that you can hook your laptop up to and present slides. Or maybe it’s a bit more involved where video conferencing, presentations, cable TV, Blu-ray players, and overall lighting and shading control are desired. With that level of complexity, it’s time to think integration.

The truth of the matter is that there is not one company that makes of all of these different technologies. If there was, it might be as simple as connecting all of them together and creating the final room. But, since different vendors are providing the technology, the challenge comes down to a couple areas:

  • How to get all of these technologies to work together
  • How to enable seamless control of all devices from a single interface

The answer to both is audio visual integration! The process of integration involves creating the connections between these devices (usually through a series of switchers or matrix devices) and then programming software that connects the devices and enables that seamless switching.

Creating an audio visual integrated room is a meld of art and science. The art is in the design of the room itself; the lighting, furniture, and the selection of the right technologies that will eventually come together. The science comes in with the building of those technology connections and making each device work together as if they were one. – Tim Hennen, SVP Audio Visual Integration Services at IVCi

Beyond the technology, it’s important to understand what these types of environments truly do. They provide a specific set of technologies, with specific customizations, to meet unique customer and business needs.  It’s about creating an environment conducive for collaboration and addressing the business needs at hand.

So when you look to find the right integrator for you project consider two things:

  • Do they have the technological expertise to meet the needs of the project
  • Do they take the time to really understand the application of the room and how it will impact users and the business

If the answer to both is yes, then that integrator is poised to give you exactly what you need.

And, when the room is complete, a few buttons can trigger complex interactions between video conferencing systems, laptop computers, shade control and much more. To the end-user the experience is seamless; but to the integrator, the process to get there was quite involved.