It’s here, Friday the 13th, and I have a huge meeting today. I woke up in a panic last night because I had a nightmare that I completely bombed the presentation and then got fired. I don’t understand why they had to schedule this meeting today – do they not understand I have the worst luck ever?

Then I’m walking to my car this morning and a black cat crawled right in front of me and gave me the stare down. This is a bad omen, something is going to go wrong, I just know it. As I’m driving, I start making a list of everything that I need to do to ensure this presentation goes well.

I checked with our receptionist to make sure the conference room was booked and then scheduled a pre-test with the client to ensure we could connect easily and push content without any issues. While I was in the conference room I straightened up to make sure everything looked nice as well.

After that, I went back to my desk and put together an outline of what I wanted to cover. Then I went through my PowerPoint slides to ensure I wasn’t missing anything. With about a half hour before the meeting, I decided to just get to the conference room so I could get set up. Everything seems to be in place, but you just never know.

I connected my laptop, got the presentation ready and decided to do a quick test run with Barry just to be sure everything was working properly. He said the content was crystal clear and everything looked good.

Time for the call, here goes nothing!

Wow the call connected perfectly and I’m speaking to the CEO about his weekend plans. Everyone else has joined the call so it’s time to begin. The presentation is displayed and it looks great. This is going too well something is bound to happen.

Next thing I know, it’s time for questions which I answered quickly. Now everyone is saying goodbye and have a great weekend. I disconnected the call and just sat there for a minute. Wow, everything went perfectly, a little planning goes a long way I guess.

As I was strutting my stuff back to my desk I tripped over the carpet and went flying. Not exactly sure how I managed to save my laptop from getting crushed but whew that would’ve been embarrassing!

Ah well happy Friday the 13th!

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 third post in a series discussing the benefits of social collaboration. For part one click here.

Today’s global environment is moving at a faster pace than ever. New products and services are continuously being created and modified to adapt to changing consumer and business needs. As a result, organizations need to find renewed effectiveness and efficiency in their business model; a balance between doing the right things and doing things right.

Many organizations are turning to business partnerships to create new avenues for innovation in a variety of different ways. From new products and services to new processes and procedures that can enhance a firm’s productivity while inspiring ingenuity. Wal-Mart, for example, was a pioneer with supplier collaboration by implementing technology that provided real-time, point of sale information to their suppliers. This not only decreased stock-outs but increased sales and customer satisfaction by ensuring products were always available for purchase. Similarly, Apple has created valuable partnerships with manufacturing companies to produce their products; allowing them to focus on their core competencies of technology design and innovation.

The most successful business partnerships are built on a strong foundation of trust which is established through open and honest communications and face-to-face interaction. Two-way data sharing and peer-to-peer collaboration can provide new insights for partners on how to make their relationship more effective and ultimately improve their bottom line.

Vendors, suppliers, joint ventures and other forms of business partners can not only meet face-to-face through video but collaborate through interactive whiteboards. Additionally social networking helps expand an organization’s network providing access to thought leadership, top talent and other potential business partners.

Geographical diversity presents a major challenge in developing meaningful relationships as most business partners located in different countries, if not continents. However, collaboration technologies are continuously evolving to create an effective means of communication. One of the biggest roadblocks for partner or B2B collaboration has been the disparate nature of networks and network providers.

For many organizations that choose to move their video communication to a dedicated network, there can be a “walled garden” created where they are unable to connect to other systems outside of the network. Service providers have been providing so-called B2B exchanges for many years as a way to combat this. Recent trends towards cloud services and carrier interoperability relationships have helped make this type of collaboration easier to achieve.

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

Part One: The Rise of Social Collaboration
Part Two: Unified Communications, Unified People
Part Four: Using Collaboration to Increase Customer Lifetime Value

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!