Collaboration, team work, relationships and communication; these are some of the latest buzzwords in business today. Companies are not only embracing the collaboration era but looking for ways to enhance communication and strengthen relationships between colleagues, business partners and even customers.

The result: video enabled organizations.

The benefits of video conferencing are undeniable and technological innovations have made video more accessible and easier to use than ever. As a result, organizations are adopting visual collaboration solutions at a rapid rate. However, while some organizations are creating a competitive advantage with stellar results; others see the equipment slowly collect dust.

So, what makes the difference between the two outcomes? How can an organization ensure a successful video implementation?

Simple, effectively manage the implementation and build a video culture.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done as organizations tend to underestimate the amount of time and planning required to effectively manage a video implementation. A company must consider the impact the technology has on the interrelated subsystems within an organization; including the behavioral subsystem (the people), the structural subsystem (the process), and the technological subsystem (the equipment).

An integrated approach to adoption must be used as the impact of a new technology reaches beyond the equipment, affecting the people and the process within an organization. Failure to consider these inter-dependencies can result in significant resistance and even abandonment of the solution.

To dig deeper into this trend and understand some of the best practices and key areas to consider, download our new white paper.

Conference rooms play a major role in any organization. They’re where presentations are made, ideas are formed and innovation happens. Management teams go to discuss business strategy, work teams go to collaborate on projects, business partners go to discuss relationships, and sales representatives go to court clients. The bottom line is conference rooms are where business happens. Therefore, it is very important to consider the factors that make a space conducive to meetings.

Before designing and implementing an audio/visual integrated room it is important to take some time to consider the meeting space itself, where the room will be located in your building, and some of the key components of the room:

Location: Conference rooms should be located in low-traffic areas to minimize background distractions and maintain confidentiality. Soundproofing or speech privacy solutions can be used in busy areas to mitigate unwanted noise and preserve privacy.

Acoustics: A conference room’s acoustics ensure an optimal audio experience for both in-room and remote participants. The room’s size and shape, as well as, surface materials (walls/floor/ceiling) can lead to reverberations or echo. In some cases, noise cancellation devices may be needed to improve audio quality.

Doors & Windows: Too much direct sunlight can become uncomfortable, not to mention blinding, for participants. Additionally, glass windows and doors tend to let in more outside noise which can disrupt a meeting. Blackout shades and solid doors can be used to minimize light and background noise.

Furniture: Proper seating arrangements must be designed to provide optimal viewing and comfort for each participant. If video conferencing will be integrated, furniture should be chosen that minimizes the glare on cameras.

Power: A conference room should have a few dedicated circuits to power all equipment (displays, projectors, video conferencing, etc) along with convenient ports for participants to plug in personal devices.  There should also be enough power to handle any HVAC systems that will need to be added to the room to support larger numbers of participants.

Many of these areas of concern can be adjusted in the selected room space, However, selecting a room space that meets many of the above criteria can help to reduce costly room remediation and provide an environment that will be far more conducive to meetings.

Learn more about creating an optimal collaboration environment from our Audio Visual Buyers Guide.

Related Articles:
Can You Hear Me Now?
Let There Be Light

Social collaboration, a combination of social media, visual collaboration and unified communications, is becoming a significant trend in business today. When used together, these technologies can improve products or processes and ultimately drive true innovation which has a direct impact on a firm’s bottom line. This is the second post in a series discussing the benefits of social collaboration. For part one click here.

Collaboration technologies are continuously evolving and creating new ways for employees to interact with each other; both formally through WebEx and telepresence meetings and informally though IM or video chat. When employees interact with each other, they not only catch up on their personal lives but discuss different ideas or share tips and tricks. This type of social collaboration results in a type of knowledge sharing that can not only increase productivity but increase employee satisfaction.

The most effective organizations have a variety of employees with a wide range of expertise; from marketing and finance to information technology and operations management. Sometimes the best ideas are created through the most informal interactions, when employees are merely catching up with one another. Social collaboration, and the subsequent knowledge sharing, can assist with problem solving or create a more efficient process by simply providing a different point of view.

For example, a few weeks ago I was catching up with one of my colleagues and she began saying how frustrated she was with this new project. Essentially, she was completing a manual process in Excel which was not only time consuming but rather boring. Having a slight obsession with Excel, I offered to take a look to see if there was a way to make it easier. A few minutes later, I showed her a simple formula that allowed her to automate part of the process. Not only did this save her several hours of time over the course of the project, it saved her sanity by allowing her to focus on more engaging activities.

Additionally, social collaboration can spark a creative moment that leads to a product improvement or a new way to position and differentiate a service. Garnering information from people with different backgrounds or expertise can give employees the fresh perspective they need for a breakthrough idea. This can enhance both the employee and the firm’s effectiveness by ensuring they are engaged in the right activities.

Finally, allowing employees to easily interact over instant messaging and chat; then effortlessly switch to web or video conferencing helps increase employee satisfaction. By nature, humans are social creatures and crave interaction with others. Spending five minutes to discuss the weekend or the latest sports win allows employees to relax and ultimately recharge their batteries. As a result, they are more focused during meetings or when completing their individual tasks which leads to better ideas, better products and a more efficient organization.

This post is part of a series covering the benefits of social collaboration within an organization.

Part One: The Rise of Social Collaboration
Part Three: The Power of Business Partnerships
Part Four: Using Collaboration to Increase Customer Lifetime Value

The last year has been quite interesting with a constantly shifting landscape of social media, visual collaboration and unified communications. Social collaboration, a combination of these, is becoming a significant trend and driving the behavior of key manufacturers and software companies. At the same time, businesses of all sizes are beginning to see social collaboration as a key component of their communications strategy.

Point in case, Cisco announced Cisco WebEx Social earlier this week. Originally marketed under the Cisco Quad brand, WebEx Social is an attempt at 2 key things: 1) Expand the incredibly well known Webex brand into the social enterprise space and 2) Create a “hub” for an organization’s collaboration efforts. At the same time, there are rumors of Microsoft looking to acquire Yammer, another provider of social enterprise software.

Cisco and Microsoft are following suit behind Salesforce.com’s continued expansion of their Chatter social platform, Jive Software’s IPO and popularity (another social software company), and about a dozen or so smaller companies vying for a company’s social business.

The key trend emerging is about interaction and communication. As organizations continue to explore social collaboration, they have to ask themselves a key question. What kind of interactions do we want to foster? Organizations can either focus on internal communications by making sure employees can collaborate in the most effective way possible. Or, they can expand those interactions outside the company, making collaboration with partners, vendors and customers possible.

With those questions answered, a company can look to implement the aforementioned “hub.” With this in place, employees have a single starting point for all of their interactions; they can interact with people through IM, chat, and ultimately launch a web conferencing session, voice call, or video conference. This level of integration provides a seamless way for employees to move from one form of collaboration to another. It provides a new meaning for unified communications and will help drive adoption of the technology in addition to foster a team environment.

At the end of the day, all of these technologies are pretty amazing. But, what are the true business benefits? How do employee interactions increase productivity and aid the bottom line?

For one, the cliché “two minds are better than one” holds true; employee interactions with partners, customers and other employees increase productivity through knowledge sharing. As employees interact, they share different tips, think creatively and produce ideas that can improve products or processes and ultimately drive true innovation. All of these aspects have a direct, and dramatic, impact on a firm’s bottom line.

In the coming weeks we will explore in more detail how these different types of interactions can improve an organization’s performance.  Stay tuned!

This post is part of a series covering the benefits of social collaboration within an organization.

Part Two: Unified Communications, Unified People
Part Three: The Power of Business Partnerships
Part Four: Using Collaboration to Increase Customer Lifetime Value

A few weeks ago we discussed the characteristics of high performance teams; ranging from member diversity to conflict resolution skills. But how do you ensure the success of a team? Unfortunately, achieving the level of cohesion required to have a high performance team seems to depend more on luck than anything else.

Well, maybe not. A new study from Alex “Sandy” Pentland suggests that building great teams is more of a science than an art. In his HBR webinar, The New Science of Building Great Teams, he discusses several points; including how different communication patterns enhance team creativity and productivity. If you have an hour to invest, this video is well worth the time.

The key take away is how we communicate is more important that what we communicate.

Pentland states that communication patterns; or the manner in which teams communicate, are actually the most important predictor of a team’s success. The best teams produce a “buzz” that is noticeable but indefinable. So what constitutes as a “buzz-worthy” communication pattern?

Participants have high energy, they continually converse with each other and there is little to no dead space between conversations. Side bar conversations coincide with, but do not detract from, the main group discussion. All participants are actively engaged in discussions; this is shown through both verbal and nonverbal cues, such as nodding along or interjecting short thoughts like really or tell me more. There is an equal contribution rate from all members of the team. Every team member communicates with every other team member; there is not one or two people who dominate conversation.

Finally, team members have a high social intelligence. Essentially, they think about what other people are thinking and are able to successfully navigate complex social situations and environments. This also means that team members have high exploration tendencies; meaning they frequently interact with others outside of their immediate team or work group.

What does this mean for remote work teams?

According to Pentland, “The most valuable form of communication is face-to-face. E-mail and texting are the least valuable.” Therefore, organizations that rely heavily on remote work teams should invest in some type of visual collaboration or unified communications platform. Video helps remote teams establish the trust factor required for high energy, high engagement conversations. Communicating over email or virtual discussion boards can get complicated and frustrating for participants; thereby limiting their creativity and productivity.

What’s even better is that cloud solutions make visual collaboration even more attainable. Gone are the days where organizations have to invest heavily in hardware or software. UC solutions allow organizations to simply purchase a license and users can be up and running in a matter of minutes.

Building a great team can be incredibly challenging. However, when the right team does come together it can accomplish things far greater than ever imagined.