The essence of effective project management lies in communication – conveying goals, updates, and other information among the many parties involved.  While the type of projects that need to be coordinated may vary across industries and company departments, all project managers must accomplish set goals within a specific timeframe. To accomplish this, project managers utilize the collaboration tools that are available to get the job done; these include email, instant messaging, and audio conferences.

While these communication devices can work well, projects that utilize video are more likely to be completed on time and on budget. Video is a valuable tool for project managers because it facilitates face-to-face communication among numerous remote parties, often simultaneously. When paired with a managed service that specializes in making video easy to use and reliable from any device, all members of the project team can check-in and meet from almost any location with internet access.

The following are some of the ways actual project managers say they use video to get a job completed on time:

Start the process:  In the beginning of a project, all remote parties join the kick-off call via video. The project manager goes through the proposal with all levels of project staff and stakeholders so that everyone understands and agrees upon the deliverables. In addition, the processes needed for achieving the deliverables can be established. Video helps all parties get better familiar with each other, and establish rapport from the beginning.

Meet with the client: Communication is not only important internally, it is vital to maintaining a good relationship with the client. Video delivers a face-to-face meeting experience, and provides the sense of control clients need to be assured that all is going according to plan. When any issues arise, video aids the discussion, as it can be used in place of an in-person meeting at a moment’s notice.

Access remote experts:  Remote experts and consultants that are needed for additional service, support, or consultation can be readily accessed without the time and expense of flying them to the company or client’s location. Video also facilitates connecting to outside vendors and agencies in multiple locations.

Training: At any point during a project additional training may be needed on equipment or software. Video provides the ability to deliver on-the-spot training to numerous participants at the same time, bypassing the usual scheduling conflicts that arise, and thereby keeping the project on schedule.

Video is a valuable collaboration tool that helps project managers streamline processes and get results.

Effective project management is the hallmark of any organization. Whether its implementation of internal or external projects, proper process and engagement must be followed. The Project Management Institute is an organization that exists solely to advocate for project management and project management professionals. To learn more about gaining certifications and the organization as a whole, visit www.pmi.org.

Norm here. I use video on a daily basis and absolutely love it; although, I seem to make a lot of mistakes which can be rather embarrassing at times. Out of the goodness of my heart, I’m sharing some of these instances so you can avoid making the same mistakes.

Well yesterday I had a little snafu during my presentation to a client. I got caught up chatting with a co-worker and was running a little late. I had just enough time to join the video call but figured it was okay since I could just connect my laptop and get the presentation set up during the first few minutes.

So, I’m in the middle of catching up with the client on their weekend plans and all of a sudden this ear-piercing noise starts coming from the table. I look down and, you know that little thing that pops out of the table so you can you can share content from your PC, it was possessed!!

It would rise up and then get stuck and start buzzing really loud. When I pushed it down the buzzing stopped but then the stupid thing started raising up again. It was a vicious cycle I tell you! I hit mute so the client’s ear drums wouldn’t blow out but I can only imagine what I looked like trying to fix this thing. Mute just doesn’t work on video like it works on audio.

Anyway, I finally gave up and “accidentally” disconnected the call. Then I called our helpdesk to come investigate the issue (because our entire office could hear it) while I located a free conference room to reconnect to the call. After that I was able to continue without a hitch, but the meeting started 15 minutes late. I apologized profusely but I could tell the client was a little agitated.

After the meeting I tracked down Rob to find out what happened. Apparently a paperclip got stuck in the laptop computer interface causing it to jam when it rose up and produce that obnoxious sound. I just looked at Rob with disbelief. A paper clip, seriously?!? I just don’t understand why this stuff has to happen to me.

At any rate, I learned a valuable lesson today. It’s called stop dilly-dallying and get yourself set up ahead of time!

Everywhere you look there are analysts, pundits, and pretty much anyone you can think of that are saying video conferencing has hit its stride and adoption is growing exponentially. While this is true in many cases, there are still some common misconceptions that seem to be getting in the way of true ubiquity. Let’s take a look at five of them:

Myth #1: Video conferencing is too costly for small to medium businesses.

Reality: While this was once the case, the cost of video conferencing has dropped significantly. Most of the major manufacturers of enterprise video have brought lower cost solutions to market, along with some creative bundling. The line between business and consumer technology has blurred and it is now possible to use video conferencing for almost no upfront investment. While the quality of these free solutions may not match those of a fully realized business system, it’s a way to get started.

Myth #2: It is difficult to connect consumer video (Skype/Google Video Chat) to business solutions (Cisco/Polycom/Lifesize).

Reality: A number of services and technologies have come to market that completely break down the barriers of video conferencing interoperability. When you are on an audio call, you don’t think about how people are connected. Is George on a cell phone with AT&T? Is Bob on his landline with service from Verizon? The technology simply works with any phone or service; as is the case with these new video services. Users can connect with the chosen platform and the service solves potential interoperability in the cloud. The result is each participant seeing everyone else, regardless of how they got there.

Myth #3: Video conferencing is too complicated for a non-technical person to use.

Reality: Video conferencing technology has gotten easier and easier to use. Connect to a colleague can be very straight forward thanks to streamlined interfaces and automation. It can get a bit more complicated when trying to connect large groups or people across different networks, but there are video management services available that can handle everything allowing end users to focus solely on the meeting at hand.

Myth #4: You need a dedicated video network.

Reality: If you are using an immersive telepresence system, you will most likely need dedicated network for the highest quality; however, many HD video calls are carried out over the public internet. With bandwidth becoming cheaper, faster, and more reliable, public internet calls are now more successful than ever.  Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict outages and other traffic that could interrupt your video call, so if quality is mission critical, dedicated networks still offer a great solution.

Myth #5: Video conferencing is not secure.

Reality: Recent news stories have painted video conferencing technology in a negative light from a security standpoint but the reality is video can be incredibly secure. As long as systems are properly configured and restricted, they will not automatically let anyone in to a boardroom. In addition, many available cloud services provide an extra level of protection through additional encryption and randomized meeting ids.

There are many more myths than can be debunked about video conferencing but the ones above are some of the most common. As with anything, it is important to do the research and understand all of the ins and outs of the technology. Talk to you trusted technology advisors to get the real facts!

Fourth of July is almost here. Bring on the fireworks, the barbeques, and the fun! Before we celebrate though, let’s take a moment to say thanks to all the men and women who have fought to preserve our freedom.

In honor of our military, let’s take a look at the evolution of technology that has allowed troops to keep in touch with their families back home.

My (now) husband was Army Infantry and deployed with one of first units sent to Iraq - back when instant messaging was all the rage. I remember waking up at four o’clock in the morning so I could get thirty precious minutes chatting online with him. We would constantly say can you imagine life before IM?

Back in the days of Vietnam or World War II, soldiers had to depend on snail mail to keep in touch. I had a hard enough time waiting two to three days to hear from my husband; I can’t even imagine having to wait weeks let alone months!

But now, less than ten years later, I see all of these families who are able to stay in touch with their deployed loved ones over video. It’s simply amazing, these men and women are thousands of miles away; and yet they can still interact with their family as if they were sitting right next to them. Even if it’s only every few weeks, deployed parents are able to look into their children’s eyes, smile and reconnect. It’s such a dramatic difference from simple email or instant messaging and I must admit I get a tiny bit jealous at times. But, then I remember I have the luxury of seeing my husband every single night and at least I had IM capabilities when he was deployed.

At any rate, when I get home tonight I am going to put my flag out and fly it proudly. Then I’ll thank my veteran and every other member of the military who lost or put their life on the line to protect the rights that many of us take for granted. I hope all of you will do the same.  Happy Fourth of July!

In a recent InfoWorld article, Adopt the Cloud Kill Your IT Career, Paul Vezina makes a handful of arguments. General ideas include adopting the cloud leads to integration issues, causes security concerns and most importantly, leaves organizations susceptible to a monstrous disaster that is waiting in the wings. While some of these arguments hold true in certain situations, many do not apply for visual collaboration and unified communications technologies.

More often than not, integrating the cloud does not produce more problems than it solves. As with anything, a lack of experience or expertise can cause major problems and organizations should do their research when selecting a cloud service provider. While there certainly may be cloud providers that do not have high levels of expertise, many distinguished service providers have highly trained, expertly certified engineering teams.

Of course, this does not lead to infallibility as there are always different challenges or unexpected events that can occur during implementation. It is like completely overhauling your bathroom or kitchen, you never know what to expect until you get behind the walls. However, the chances of a major integration issue, extended downtime or complete disaster is far less when left to specialized professionals.

The experience and expertise distinguished cloud service providers have obtained allows them to not only resolve potential issues quickly, but proactively address problems before they arise. Take major software revisions for example; several organizations will simply upgrade the software on their video conferencing unit or UC client not realizing the potential effects on the rest of their environment. Distinguished service provides will thoroughly test any new updates that are released to ensure compatibility and a seamless transition. Many IT departments within an organization simply do not have the time or resources to do this.

Organizations must find a balance between IT activities to keep in house and IT activities to outsource. For example, issues regarding an employee’s phone, email or computer would be handled by an in-house IT representative and not be directed to a highly specialized engineer. Similarly, point-to-point video conferencing calls can most likely be managed end users or local IT staff. However, multi-platform video bridging and firewall traversal are better left to specialized professionals because of the sheer volume of intricacies required.

Sure, there are some people who will be able to handle these situations but in the long run it’s going to pull them from other, more productive, activities. IT departments should be able to focus on what’s most important to their organization; developing and maintaining the systems to keep the operation running efficiently.

Even if an organization is budgeting video troubleshooting, management and support into their daily agenda they are pulling resources from the areas that they can have the most impact and drive the most effective outcomes.