Tips for Leading a Virtual Team Effectively

Remote teams are quickly growing in popularity with the acceptance and growing use of telework programs. However, leading a remote team and managing remote team members is far different from traditional teams. There are many things that we take for granted being in an office, especially face time, that need to be specifically addressed for remote teams.

In a recent HBR article, Keith Ferrazzi mentions three tips to managing virtual teams. Here are a few others to ensure your remote team members function as well as local team members.

  1. Be Available:  Formal weekly status meetings are a must but don’t forget to informally check-in throughout the week. In the office, most mangers stop by and say hi to their teams and many have an open door policy. Fostering this atmosphere is just as important for remote managers. Take the time to just say hi and make yourself available for when your team has questions, needs assistance with a task, or just wants to bounce a few ideas around is very important.
  2. Trust Your Team: The majority of the time, your team will accomplish their tasks and put their 40 hours of work in, if not more. Yes, there may be a few bad apples that don’t do what they’re supposed to but micromanaging and constantly checking up on your entire team is a surefire way to disrupt productivity and frustrate your team. If you suspect one person is not putting in their hours, address it with them directly or sporadically ask them to show you what they are working on.
  3. Define Objectives:  Remote team members can’t simply walk into your office and ask what to do next. Therefore, it is extremely important to define long term goals and objectives for these employees. Consistently managing to short and long term goals will not only keep remote team members productivity but it will also make them feel that their work is contributing to the great goals of the department and the organization.
  4. Encourage Collaboration: It’s easy for remote team members to feel isolated as they don’t have the face time with colleagues that corporate employees do. Assign projects that require team members to collaborate and work on together. This will help develop relationships between remote members and allow them to feel a part of the team instead of an individual contributor.
  5. Communicate Corporate Messaging: Again, it’s easy for remote members to feel isolated from the company as they can miss out on corporate messaging as well the corporate culture. Remote managers must take the time to communicate all corporate messages and Executive teams should think about sending monthly video updates to all employees updating them on what is happening within the company as well as what to look forward to in the future.

Taking the extra time to focus on these objectives can help remote team members feel more comfortable and less isolated from the company. Additionally, it can help increase their productivity by ensuring giving them the space they need to accomplish tasks while being available to assist or answer questions.

Polycom Telehealth Solutions With IBM Care Manager

Polycom’s Ted Colton demonstrates the company’s telehealth solutions along with their integration to IBM’s Care Manager. This truly shows the power of visual collaboration when integrated into healthcare applications. One click within the Care Manager application can initiate a video conference with patients or other healthcare providers who can be on a PC, tablet or smartphone.

Video is the New Arraignment

Ever wondered what a video arraignment looks like?

Well now you can watch as Penelope Soto of Miami, Florida attends her video hearing with Eleventh Judicial Circuit Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat.

Video arraignments have been growing in popularity as they present numerous benefits and cost savings for state and local governments. Not only do video arraignments eliminate the need to transport detainees to the courthouse they can speed up the process for traffic violations and other hearings. Municipal courts can utilize video conferencing solutions to help spread out heavy case loads and resolve more tickets in less time.

A word of advice though, just because you’re not in the same room as the Judge doesn’t mean you can mouth off. Soto ended up with a 30 day sentence for flipping off the Judge in the video below. She later apologized and hopefully learned her lesson.

Corporate New Year’s Resolutions For 2014

It’s that time of year again, for New Year’s Resolutions. While individuals resolve to eat healthier and stay in touch more with family and friends, organizations can also take this time to establish new company-wide initiatives that not only affect the bottom line but can also motivate and inspire their teams. Here are a few resolutions companies can drive for 2014:

Reinforce Green Behavior
This can be accomplished is numerous ways such as reducing travel, replacing paper with digital documents or encouraging carpooling among coworkers. It helps to set specific goals such as replacing 10% of business travel with video conferencing or visual collaboration sessions. Additionally, companies can introduce week or month long initiatives to promote recycling, carpooling or reducing the use of paper. For example, a company can declare March carpool month and encourage colleagues who live close to each other to carpool twice a week during the month.

Increase Collaboration Across Teams
Many organizations and teams suffer from information silos; people concentrate on their own tasks instead of the team’s overarching goals or the roles of their colleagues. Companies can help improve collaboration by implementing a company newsletter or deploying unified communications technologies. Newsletters help improve company-wide communication while UC technologies give colleagues the opportunity to connect in both formal (video and web conferences) and informal (IM and video chat) ways. Increased communication and collaboration can help drive productivity through faster decision making and more efficient processes.

Implement Corporate Wellness Programs
The benefits of exercise are enormous and include increased energy, improved moods, reduced stress levels and better sleep. This can translate into happier and more productive employees which can significantly impact a company’s bottom line. Companies can implement a corporate wellness program by providing employees an activity tracker like Fitbit then encourage colleagues to be more active with daily goals and weekly challenges. “Combining collaborative and competitive elements helped motivate employees to walk more and encourage each other. Our staff has been happier and more productive [in the office]” said Maggie Utgoff from Hack Reactor, an organization that recently implemented a similar program.

These are just a few initiatives companies can resolve implement in 2014 to help motivate and inspire their teams. As with any resolution though, have a firm plan in place so resolutions don’t fall by the wayside come February!

Why Video Calls Are So Much Better Than Audio Calls

The below video resonates with many people as most of us have been on one of those poorly run audio calls. Never knowing who is or isn’t on the call, the constant interruptions, and not knowing who is typing in the background distracting the rest of the group.

The good news is replacing these audio calls with video can solve a lot of those challenges.  Here’s how:

  • The Role Call:  Since everyone is on video you can easily see who is currently on the call, who just joined and who is missing. No more distracting bloop bloops!
  • The Annoying Background Noise:  The active speaker is automatically displayed in the bigger window so you’ll be easily able to see (and call out) who is distracting the group with their incessant typing or barking dog.
  • The Lack of Direction: Video allows you share content, like a nifty little agenda, so can quickly and easily see what has already been discussed and what still needs to be discussed.
  • The Sleeper: Some people think conference calls are a great time to catch up on lost sleep; while you can get away with this on audio those sheeps jumping over your head are a bit more noticeable on video.
  • The Exploder:  Ever have that one person who all of a sudden freaks out and starts yelling about something that was said? Well with video you can see when one of your colleague’s is starting to get antsy then you can either work to placate him or prepare yourself for said explosion.

So start switching your audio calls to video and enjoy being able to see your colleagues instead of just hear them!

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2013

As another year comes to an end it’s time to reflect on the previous year and create new goals for the coming year. Video conferencing has become ever present, cloud services are continuing to grow and collaboration technology is becoming even cooler.  Here is a look at some of our top blog posts from 2013. We hope you enjoyed reading them as much as we enjoyed writing them!

Have a wonderful and safe New Year and we’ll see you in 2014!

What is Audio Visual Integration?
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?

Collaboration for Supply Chain Management
A look into the development of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and how different visual collaboration technologies could have helped with their supply chain management.

Overcoming Obstacles to Telepsychiatry
With the technology used in telepsychiatry becoming more reliable, inexpensive, and ubiquitous, there has been a corresponding increase in mental health professionals who are turning to remote treatments.  However, here are five potential obstacles to telepsychiatry adoption.

What is Collaboration Infographic
We created the below infographic to highlight the many forms that collaboration can take, what some of the benefits are, where collaboration happens and the tools available.

5 Best Practices for Conducting a Video Call
Video conferencing has proven to be a great way to enhance collaboration and increase productivity. However, there are important user elements to keep in mind to ensure a successful video call. Here are 5 best practices to keep in mind.

How to Create Effective Collaborations
Collaboration is now considered an integral part of corporate innovation and success. Here are some tips to create a healthy and productive collaboration structure.

Huddle Up and Collaborate
Huddle spaces or teaming rooms are being implemented in more and more organizations. The make-up of a huddle space varies significantly across organizations, but here are a few examples of solutions we have seen.

Top 10 Video Conferencing Terms
With the rise of video conferencing popularity understanding some of these terms is imperative in choosing the right solution.  Here are 10 of the most common terms and their definitions.

Battle of the Displays: Projector vs. Flat Panel
Selecting the correct display plays an integral role in the effectiveness of a collaboration environment as the wrong type of display can provide a poor user experience.  Here is a look at some of the most popular options.

The Yahoo! Fall-Out
Ever since Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo! issued her memo calling back remote workers into the office countless stories and commentaries have been written. To understand this decision; let’s take a look at the different types of collaboration that occurs within an organization on a daily basis.

Why Is Interoperability So Important?

Interoperability almost always comes up anytime video conferencing is discussed. But what exactly is interoperability and why is it so important?

The definition of interoperability is the ability to make systems and organizations work together (inter-operate). In the video world, it is the ability for two video conferencing systems to connect with each other. For example, a Polycom system is interoperable with any other Polycom system. Or, a standards-based video system is interoperable with any other standards-based video system. However, standards-based video systems do not natively interoperate with consumer desktop clients like Skype or Google Video Chat.

So why is interoperability so important?

Let’s look at two different video conferencing scenarios.  Apple FaceTime and H.323 Standards-Based Systems (Polycom/Cisco Endpoints).

FaceTime is an extremely easy to use video client that is available on all Apple devices. Simply open the application, click on a name in your contacts list, and you’re automatically connected over video when that person picks up. However, FaceTime is only available on Apple devices. If I want to call my mother with it, she has to have an iPhone, iPad or Mac computer. If she does not own one of these devices, I simply cannot call her on FaceTime.  While the application may be a terrific way to video conference, it’s only as great as the people who have these devices.

H.323 on the other hand, is a standard video protocol that manufacturers use to allow their systems to speak the same language. Essentially, any system that is based on H.323 standards can communicate with any other system that is based on H.323. As a result, people can video conference anyone on this platform instead of only being able to connect with people who have a device from the same manufacturer.

This is why interoperability is so important – because of the network effect. The value of video conferencing is dependent upon the number of others using it. Or, in other words, the number of different users and systems people can connect to.  If Cisco systems could only connect to Cisco systems the value of video would be extremely limited. What happens if a company with Cisco equipment wants to video conference with one of its suppliers but the supplier has a Polycom video system?  However, if a Cisco endpoint can connect to Polycom, LifeSize, desktop computers, smartphones and tablets – the value rises exponentially.

Another example is desktop unified communications clients such as Microsoft Lync. These clients handle voice, screen sharing, and video all in one application. In many cases, organizations will deploy Lync to thousands of desktop, enabling video conferencing for nearly all its users. With interoperability those users can participate in meetings that are held in conference rooms and with users on different systems. In the case of Lync, native interoperability is becoming more ubiquitous as Lync continues to grow in popularity.

It is important for organizations to ensure whatever solution they implement is truly interoperable and not built as a “walled garden” that can prevent true collaboration from occurring.

Video Conferencing Makes Christmas Wishes Come True

Canadian airline WestJet used video conferencing to plan a “Christmas Miracle” for 250 of its passengers this holiday season. They set up Santa chat boxes in terminals at Hamilton and Toronto airports and when passengers scanned their boarding pass they were connected via video conference to Santa Claus. From there, they rattled off their wish list ranging anywhere from socks and underwear to a big screen TV. When their flights took off, WestJet volunteers in Calgary worked with Best Buy and CrossIron Mills to gather the gifts.

Watch the heartwarming video below as these passengers get the shock of their lives when their Christmas wishes come true.

This Month in Telemedicine – November 2013

American Telemedicine Association’s policy duo Jonathan Linkous, CEO and Gary Capistrant, Senior Director of Public Policy, return with updates and new information regarding telemedicine.

Congress
There are currently 30 plus proposed bills before Congress and 2013 has been one of the biggest years for telehealth legislation. The most notable is the Harper Bill which has been previously discussed; the biggest emphasis is getting this bill to the Congressional Budget Office so they can provide their estimate as to the cost savings this bill provides.

Telestroke is a major component which Linkous says can help revolutionize stroke care. Last year over 100,000 people who had a stroke were seen in an ER remotely by a neurologist. While he can’t be sure how many lives were saved, he guesses it was a significant percentage. Unfortunately, the savings associated with telestroke are not necessarily while patients are in the hospital. They come after patients have been discharged since they don’t have to go to rehab or go to the nursing home as much. This presents a challenge for the Congressional Budget Office to quantify the savings of the Harper Bill.

Another bill introduced is Peters H.R. 3507 for TRICARE and all of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA). Essentially, it will establish parity coverage for teleheath and it will also make one state license all that’s necessary for physicians to practice via telehealth. Other bills include the Step Act (H.R. 1832), VETS Act, H.R. 2001 and the TELE-MED Act, H.R. 3077 which also support the requirement for only one state license necessary to practice telehealth.

State Activity
A major topic is dealing with internet prescriptions or the ability to prescribe medication without actually seeing a patient in person. There are several state professional regulations and state medical boards that have different rules regarding licensing, standard of care and scope of practice. Since there are so many different ways states are handling this topic the ATA is working on developing a set of guidelines.

Guidelines
ATA is currently working on a series of guidelines and telehealth best practices for remote ICU, burns and wounds, and primary and urgent care. They are currently awaiting review and approval from the Board and should be available in the next few months.

Is Video Right For Your Company?

The use of video conferencing continues to grow as many companies note the numerous benefits that the technology provides. However, making the initial decision to invest in video can be a difficult one. Many executives wonder whether video is truly a necessity or if it’s just a nice to have communications platform. Do the benefits of the technology really outweigh the cost of the technology?

While there are several things to remember when incorporating video conferencing into a business, here are a few key questions to ask when getting started.

Do I really need this technology?
Many companies initially question the idea of implementing video conferencing. Why change what isn’t broken; especially in well established companies that have proven processes in place. Video conferencing can augment many of those proven processes and connect internal members of the organization to suppliers and customers. Increased communication can provide numerous efficiencies and cost reductions along with higher customer satisfaction and retention. Therefore, while video conferencing may not initially seem necessary, it can quickly become an invaluable tool within an organization.

Does it affect my company in a positive way?
While it’s necessary to look at how video conferencing will impact the entire organization, it is also important to first look at how it will impact the work of the individuals who will be using it most often. The goal of visual collaboration is to allow for easier communication among team members. If everyone is two steps away from each other in an office, video may not that important. However, there are many different ways video can be integrated into an organization including conducting initial interviews and providing customer support over video instead of the phone.

Am I going to benefit financially?
Video collaboration has allowed companies to hold meetings and discuss ideas remotely while significantly reducing travel costs and other unnecessary expenditures. For organizations that have several offices, video can increase productivity by reducing the need for travel.  Instead of spending hours flying across several states or even 20-30 minutes driving across town, teams can get down to business and make decisions faster than ever before. All of this translates into reduced costs and a solid ROI for video conferencing.

How do I select the right technology?
After you’ve made the decision to invest in video, sifting through the different technology options can be overwhelming. A VAR or systems integrator can help determine your organizations needs then offer recommendations as to which technology best fits the organization’s overarching goals and budgetary requirements. It is important to select a partner that has experience and expertise in designing and implementing different visual collaboration solutions and environments.

Is everyone on board with using video?
If the executive team isn’t using video, then how important is the technology to the company? Management needs to believe in the technology otherwise driving usage and adoption throughout the organization is going to be extremely difficult. Additionally, it is important to communicate the reason for the investment, as well as, the expected benefits to individuals who will be using the technology.

Every company is unique and similar decisions can produce different results across organizations. Video conferencing however, seems to be a common factor among highly successful companies and the continued use of the technology provides many efficiencies that increase the bottom line. So if your company doesn’t have video conferencing yet, go ahead and take a leap of faith, the results may surprise you!