Many people take for granted the ease of which they collaborate in a conference room.  With the touch of a button participants can switch between content from a PC, projector or interactive whiteboard; mute and unmute microphones; and pan, tilt, or zoom the camera on a video conferencing system.  The technology simply fades into the background while meeting participants focus on the business matters at hand.  Thinking about all of the different components required for effective collaboration can be exhausting; so, how is it that collaboration can be so easy and so effortless?

Simple:  the room’s control system programming.  The backbone of any audio visual integrated room, the control system provides an easy to use interface to manage the room’s functionality.   Instead of having one remote to operate the telepresence system, one to operate the plasma display and yet another remote to operate the projector or interactive whiteboard; organizations can simply invest in a Crestron or AMX Control System.

Gone are the days where participants have to spend fifteen minutes prior to a meeting figuring out how everything works.  With the help of expert programmers, organizations can create a standardized user interface to operate all of their conference rooms in all of their locations.  From a small room with a projector to an immersive telepresence room with three cameras and five displays; the control system ensures participants can collaborate effortlessly.

Advanced programming also allows organizations to push technology boundaries by customizing the video experience to fit their unique requirements.   A custom control program can be designed to display content from multiple different sources, arrange participants in a particular order on screen or manage the speaking privileges of numerous participants.   Essentially, an organization can use a control system to create a visual collaboration solution that is perfectly aligned with its needs.

So, the next time you have an effective collaboration session; give your control system a slight nod, a high five or even a fist bump – just show the little guy some love, he deserves it.

P is for Process, that’s good enough for me

In a world where instant messaging, email and online audio meetings reign supreme; shifting an organization’s culture to adopt visual collaboration or unified communication solutions can be extremely challenging.  Implementing a new technology is a significant organizational change that, if underestimated, can produce disappointing results.  There are several key steps an organization must take in order to effectively drive adoption throughout the organization – including properly defining processes. This is the third post in a five-part series covering the successful development of a video culture within an organization.  Read part one here.

Implementing a new technology has a dramatic effect on the way employees do their job.  Visual collaboration sessions shift from scheduling a conference call to scheduling video conference which is far more complex in nature. To join a conference call, users simply dial a phone number and connect to an audio bridge; however, with a video call, participants have to worry about firewalls, network exchanges and more.  Learning all of these new processes can be extremely challenging; especially when users are unfamiliar with the technology.

Therefore, it is important to define and structure the processes required for effective collaboration in an easy to use and repeatable manner. Prior to implementation, stakeholders should work with video professionals to develop the necessary processes and procedures end users need to utilize visual collaboration solutions.  This includes how to connect to a video conference, displaying different types of content, changing audio and zoom settings and who to contact in the event of an issue. Documentation should be disseminated to all end users and a reference guide should be located in each conference room.

When designing processes and procedures it is important to define both the required steps and the expected outcomes. Users are more apt to follow a process when they understand the desired outcomes.  For example, pre-testing the video connection of a system on a different network can help prevent connectivity delays at the start of a meeting.  If users understand the role of pre-testing a network connection they are more likely to do so before an important meeting thereby increasing the likelihood of a successful collaboration session.

Properly defined and structured processes also need to be repeatable in order to be effective. Consistently having a new step or a new challenge creates a sense of frustration among users as it highlights their lack of expertise. Users should be able to replicate the process effortlessly; regardless of their background or expertise. This provides end users with a sense of familiarity which can help them overcome the fear and frustration associated with learning something new.

This post is part of a five-part series covering the successful development of a video culture within an organization.

Part One: Because the boss said so is not enough!
Part Two: It’s more than just bits and bytes
Part Four: Power to the People
Part Five: Driving Usage & Adoption

The Center for Digital Government has issued a brief detailing the use of cloud-based video collaboration in the public sector.  Many organizations are switching to the cloud not only for the cost savings, but for the realistic and efficient interactions video conferencing provides.  In fact, “about a quarter of government institutions in North America, Europe and Asia are already using the cloud, with another 36 percent investigating its use.”

The cloud offers an open a platform in which users can connect anytime, anywhere, with anyone, on any device.  Organizations no longer have to worry about differences in equipment; or the various platforms and networks citizens or other agencies are using. Cloud services allow for successful visual collaboration in a secure, reliable, consistent and easy to use manner; providing endless applications and benefits.

As a result, educators can easily bring engaging activities to the classroom; military personnel can report time-sensitive situations from the field so decisions can be made in real-time and healthcare experts can consult with patients thousands of miles away.  Cloud video extends an organization’s reach beyond previous geographical barriers allowing users to collaborate and make decisions quickly.

By utilizing video-as-a-service, public sector organizations can also avoid the upfront capital expenditures and management challenges associated with visual collaboration technologies.  Agencies can begin collaborating with colleagues, citizens and other agencies immediately; creating value and ROI almost instantaneously.   For example, Oakland County, Michigan’s judicial video program uses video conduct attorney-client meetings, arraignment hearings and telemedicine services.  This program has saved the county an estimated $38.4 million since its implementation four years ago.

Cloud video services provide an effective alternative; especially in a time where cost savings and increased communication are at a premium.

Additional Resources:
Video Collaboration Cloud

The New Nonprofit

April 20th, 2012 | Posted by Adam Kaiser in Use Cases | Video Conferencing - (0 Comments)

Nonprofit organizations are essential to the U.S. economy, contributing 5.4% to the GDP. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations based in the United States, each with its own unique mission. Like publicly traded or for-profit entities, the bottom line for nonprofits is the same: the organization must operate with optimal efficiency and achieve its stated goals with the highest return to the stakeholders.

To achieve its goals, a nonprofit must address the following challenges that are often present:

  • Locating sources of funding.
  • Marketing the mission and what the nonprofit stands for.
  • Unifying geographically dispersed stakeholders within the organization.
  • Reducing travel related time and costs.

One way to effectively address these issues is with unified communications (UC) and visual collaboration solutions. UC technology combined with cloud-based services can provide nonprofits with the tools they need to communicate effectively, increase the productivity of the staff, and get their message out to more people, all while reducing travel related time and expenses.

Now that the benefits of UC solutions can be enjoyed without the upfront capital expenditures that had been prohibitive for many nonprofit organizations in the past, there has never been a better time for nonprofits to implement these systems to help reach their mission and further their cause.

Top sales people know the secret to success lies in building relationships with their clients. However, in today’s competitive business environment, customers have the ability to research and learn about almost any solution, often before a sales person has a chance to start a conversation. So what is the value that sales professionals can bring to the customer’s buying cycle, and how do they get the opportunity to demonstrate this value in the information age?
The answer lies in the role a sales professional must now play – the role of consultant, trusted adviser, and industry expert. By truly understanding the client’s unique needs – identifying their goals, objectives, and processes, a sales person may begin the process of relationship building. This process requires time, persistence, and many face-to-face discussions.

Video Conferencing Delivers Efficient Face-to-Face Communication
Since relationships can only flourish with personal, one-to-one communication, sales professionals may face certain challenges when attempting to meet in-person with their customers. For example, a sales territory may span the length of several states. How does the sales person efficiently meet face-to-face with multiple clients who may be miles away, without investing heavily in time and money on travel? In addition, to assist with technical and other questions that may lie outside of a sales person’s area of expertise, a subject matter expert may be called in to talk with the client. How can this be easily accomplished when the expert is located in another part of the country or overseas?

Successful sales professionals address these challenges with video conferencing and unified communications (UC) technology. Visual collaboration, when supported by a cloud-based managed service, produces measurable results that can be realized almost immediately with travel saved and increased productivity. It allows sales people to more easily meet in-person with customers, maintain relationships with sales managers and vendors, and attend manufacturer or sales related training sessions. It is an efficient way for sales professionals to reach sales goals each quarter, while also making time for family and friends amidst a hectic schedule.