Take Learning To The Next Level With Video Conferencing

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Due to the approach of Hurricane Sandy and the likelihood of a long-term power outage, we have decided to postpone this event.  Please register for the event to ensure you receive updates when a new date has been established.  Thank you! 

As we embark on another school year, many colleges and universities are working feverishly on an engaging curriculum that will prepare students for the fast paced and ever changing “real world” they will enter upon graduation.

Join IVCi at a webinar that demonstrates how learning institutions can utilize cloud video and other solutions to extend the reach of education beyond the classroom. 

In this webinar you will learn about:

  1. Distance Learning: Students and professors can connect to a virtual classroom or study group from any desktop video client including Skype, Google Video Chat and even their web browser!
  2. Guest Lectures: Allow professors and other distinguished leaders from all over the world to present to a group of students without costly and time consuming travel. 
  3. Research: Collaborate and share content with subject matter experts and research groups through an interactive forum.

Sign up today!

Take Learning To The Next Level With Video Conferencing
[Click here to Register]
Date: Postponed Until Further Notice
Time: 2:00 PM Eastern / 11:00 AM Pacific (US)

Cisco Collaboration Summit Review

This past week people from all over the world attended the Cisco Collaboration Summit for a variety of updates on Cisco’s strategy and product offerings. This year’s theme was Empower, Engage, Innovate. Empower people to make the best use of their workspaces and engage in today’s virtual work environment through mobility, cloud and video. The result is to innovate by discovering new relationships and ideas. Watch the powerful keynote speech along with a case study from Virgin Media here.

The highlight of the keynote speech was a demonstration of the major enhancements to WebEx resulting in a full-scale unified communications solution.

WebEx Meetings, the online meeting application we’ve used for years, still provides an interactive forum for groups to meet and exchange ideas. The major addition to the offering is WebEx Meetings Server. For the first time, an organization can choose to deploy the same WebEx Meetings functionality within their data center on a dedicated server. This allows for greater control and a private cloud implementation.

WebEx Telepresence (formerly Callway) enhances traditional WebEx Meetings with video capabilities. Features include point-to-point video chat or up to nine-way video calling, as well as, a private company directory.

WebEx Messenger provides instant messaging and presence capabilities which includes recommended methods of communications. For example, if a user is on a video call, it will suggest sending an email or leaving a voicemail.

WebEx Social (formerly Quad) provides a social hub within an organization and facilitates collaboration and knowledge sharing. For example, users can type in a project or a question and obtain a list of results. Furthermore, users can seamlessly connect to others within the application from a click of a button.

In a compelling case study, Virgin Media discussed how a combination of these solutions helped enhance both vertical and horizontal collaboration within their organization. Vertical collaboration is enhancing collaboration with the same people users already collaborate with. Horizontal collaboration, on the other hand, creates new opportunities for people to collaborate by expanding the network of people available to collaborate with.

Room based telepresence systems, along with WebEx UC solutions, create a more efficient means of collaboration by connecting a larger and more diverse group of people. The results include increased collaboration along with faster and more agile business decisions.

Additional Resources
Cisco Announces New Cloud Collaboration Capabilities

Integrating Video Conferencing Into Law Firms

Since most people have little to no understanding of legal jargon and legal processes they rely heavily on their attorney to handle things properly. Clients must place a significant amount of faith in their attorney; trusting that he knows what he is doing because it’s impossible to check over his shoulder. For example, at the grocery store you can double check your bill to ensure you were not double charged for items; but how do you know if your lawyer filed the correct paperwork?

Law firms rely heavily on building relationships by staying in touch with clients; and face-to-face communication is a key component. Unfortunately, due to busy schedules of both attorneys and clients it can be difficult to coordinate these meetings and status updates. As a result, many law firms are turning to video conferencing to meet with clients as these solutions provide the face time without the added travel expenses.

Plus, trends in new cloud services are making it easier than ever for clients to connect with law firms. Clients can join the video conference including Skype, Google Video Chat and even their web browser eliminating the need audio conferences or renting public telepresence rooms for clients. Furthermore, even when attorneys are traveling they can still attend critical meetings; such as important client updates or internal meetings to prepare for an upcoming case.

In addition to staying in touch with clients, video conferencing solutions can provide a number of other benefits for law firms. Here are a few more ways law firms can utilize this technology to provide better service to their clients while minimizing costs.

Video Depositions: Preparing for trial can be a lengthy process depending on the number and location of witnesses that need to be deposed. As long as they have a web cam, witnesses can connect to a video deposition without having to travel to the law firm’s office. Additionally, these calls can be recorded and archived so they can be played back as needed.

Subject Matter Expert Interviews: Expert witnesses play a significant role by providing credibility and backup for key evidence and claims. Unfortunately, these specialists can be difficult and costly to access; especially if they are located internationally. Video testimony allows specialists to provide expert opinions that corroborate evidence without the added expense and potential delays of travel.

Coordinate with State Agencies: Earlier this year Michigan Social Security Administration’s (SSA) real-time video conference system went live. Law firms who specialize in disability cases have to work with the SSA on a regular basis; video conferencing can help alleviate some of the redundancy by providing a more efficient processes for handling cases.

Video conferencing offers a wide variety of cost savings and business benefits to law firms; from reducing travel time to increase efficiency and interoffice communication. Firms can strengthen relationships with clients and gain a competitive advantage through superior client services.

Additional Resources
Growing Your Law Firm with Video Conferencing

Global IBM CEO Study: Leading Through Connections

IBM conducts a biannual study of global CEOs to determine the latest trends in global organizations.  In a HBR chat, Saul Berman and Stephen Hasselmann discuss some of the findings from their recent study. If you have an hour to invest, the recording is well worth the time; otherwise the highlights are available here.

The key takeaway from both the study and the chat is the value of connecting employees, partners and customers. Technology is changing rapidly and the advances that result are changing the business and economic landscape for most companies. We are more connected than ever and the most effective CEOs not only understand this but embrace it.

The study highlights three main beliefs of exceptional CEOs which are:

  • Organizational openness and collaboration
  • Engaging customers as individuals
  • Amplifying innovation with partnerships

Essentially, these CEOs understand that collaboration drives innovation and a shared purpose drives motivation. Providing quarterly updates on company performance, the mission and future goals helps drive an open culture where employees understand and support the company’s vision.  As a result, employees can become more empowered by making task related decisions; such as scheduling collaboration sessions or determining procedures. This results in job enrichment which can increase motivation.

Additionally, these CEOs understand the power of social media and tailoring products and services to individual needs. Engaging with customers allows organizations to improve response and accuracy to market needs. Nilofer Merchant wrote a great series on the Social Era stating that organization need to have conversations with customers; they should be sharing experiences, not telling customer what to think and how to act.

Finally, these CEOs understand that partnerships can push collaboration beyond traditional boundaries. Every organization has a set of core competencies, specific skills that they excel at, and the best CEOs form partnerships around these core competencies. Instead of trying to do everything in-house, they work with other organizations to generate new revenues sources or even create new industries.

However, understanding and embracing the value of connections is useless if an organization does not invest in the tools and resources needed to connect employees to colleagues, customers and business partners. Video conferencing and UC solutions are a critical component of any savvy organization’s IT strategy. These solutions allow people to connect effortlessly, as well as, develop trust and strengthen relationships through face-to-face communication and casual interactions.

A New Kind Of Study Group

It’s finally here, the Capstone class that completes the last semester of my MBA. In it, we break up into teams and play a computer simulated game where we compete against each other in a mock business world. At the beginning of the class our professor said, “I would suggest meeting in person, teams that meet over video historically haven’t done very well.”

This slightly upset me since I work at a video company and truly believe that teams meeting over video can be just as effective as teams meeting in person. I thought to myself, challenge accepted, and set out to prove my professor wrong.

Every Thursday night my team meets over video to review the previous quarter’s results and submit our sales/marketing, operations and financial decisions for the next quarter. Granted I have an unfair advantage over the rest of the teams since I have access to an interoperable cloud meeting room which allows us to join over different platforms. I use Cisco Jabber, our “CFO” uses Skype and our “COO,” who does not have a webcam, simply uses her browser.

During the meeting, I share my screen so the team can easily view the supporting data, follow along and focus on what decisions we need to make. We all take turns sharing our thoughts and opinions and, since it’s harder to interrupt over video, raise our finger to signal we would like to speak next. After each set of decisions are entered, we review to ensure the numbers are correct and then submit them.

It’s been four weeks since we started and, not only are we in first place, our stock price is more than double that of our closest competitor. Obviously a lot can change in the remaining weeks; all it takes is one bad decision to knock us out of position. Even so, I can’t help feel victorious in proving my professor wrong.

I simply love video and all of its uses. Last semester, one of my professors had to cancel class due to a business trip. Instead, he sent us the PowerPoint slides with audio clips to deliver that week’s lecture. It was the absolute, most boring hour of my life and nearly impossible to stay focused. I had to listen to each audio clip at least twice because my mind kept wandering.

Looking back, I wish we could have had the class over video. We all could have joined in a cloud meeting room and the professor could have delivered his lecture while we followed along with the PowerPoint slides. It’s amazing how easily video can bring together students and enhance the learning experience; I know I would have retained a lot more out of that class session.

Related Articles
The Impact of Video in Education

A Day in the Life of a Support Technician

Technology can be quite fickle; it’s amazing and life-saving when it works but frustrating and downright annoying when it doesn’t. Whether the unit isn’t powering on, sound isn’t coming out of the speakers or the display is flashing some cryptic message; a support technician is just a phone call away to troubleshoot and diagnose the issue.

The day of a help desk technician usually starts with a cup of coffee and a review of the ticketing queue. First up, are any new tickets that have been submitted and a quick review of the issues customers are having. Then, a review of previously open tickets and any action immediate items that need to be completed. For example, has tracking information been received and a replacement part been shipped out from the manufacturer? If so, details of when to except the shipment will be forwarded to the customer.

After any high priority issues have been addressed, it is time to outline a schedule for the day’s tasks. This includes initial troubleshooting for customers who have recently opened a ticket, providing status updates for previously opened tickets, as well as, scheduling test calls, coordinating onsite visits and partnering with manufacturers. Of course, the day doesn’t always go as planned since support calls come in throughout the day and require immediate attention.

During initial troubleshooting there are a few key items to check; while they may seem obvious they’re often overlooked. First, is the system plugged in and turned on. The cleaning crew could have easily knocked the plug out of the wall or an inexperienced video user could have turned the codec off not knowing any better. Second, shut down the system completely and then reboot. Many technical issues; from computers to smartphones to video conferencing equipment, can be resolved by a simple reboot. Sometimes a system just needs to reload its operating system.

If the technical issue is more advanced, a video test call may be scheduled to obtain more information about the issue. These calls help identify the issue by isolating the problem. For example, Vincent Carroll, Technical Support Representative, recalls a particular instance where a customer was reporting an echo in the room. During the video test call, he asked the customer to walk around the room to identify where the echo was coming from. It turns out that someone had turned up the speakers on the display in addition to the ceiling speakers creating the echo. The customer simply muted the display speakers and the echo was eliminated.

As with any technology, video conferencing and audio visual implementations need to be properly supported and maintained. It is important to work with a provider who has the expertise and resources to provide needed support no matter the day, time, or situation that occurs. The help desk technician is the first line of defense to ensure the ongoing successful usage of collaboration technology.

Tips for Making Meetings More Effective

We’ve all been there, in that meeting that just seems to drag. You can’t help but look at your phone and think of all the better things you could be doing with your time. The longer you sit, the most frustrated you become as people get off topic and nothing actually seems to get accomplished. Instead of getting annoyed, stop and think, is this dreadful meeting actually your fault?

While your initial response might be absolutely not, the more you think about it there’s a slight possibility. Here’s how:

You Assume All Meetings Are a Waste of Time
If you go into a meeting assuming it will be a waste of time, it most likely will be. Negativity can not only affect your attitude but the attitudes of everyone else around you. Drumming your fingers, fidgeting, sighing and constantly checking your phone or tablet can make even the most patient participant anxious. Before you go into a meeting, take a deep breath and clear out any preconceived notions of a dreadful meeting. The power of positive can have a dramatic effect on productivity.

You Accept Every Meeting Invite
Part of the reason people think all meetings are a waste of time is because they accept every meeting invite regardless of whether or not they can provide value. As a result, the meeting fails to keep their interest and their mind starts wandering to everything else they could be doing. This leads to the negative and anxious attitude that can poison even the best meeting. Prior to accepting a meeting invite, think about whether or not you can provide valuable insight on the topic being discussed. If not, politely recuse yourself.

You Have Video But Don’t Use It
It’s so easy, and tempting, to put yourself on mute and start multitasking on an audio call. However, full engagement is critical to meeting success as it allows you to provide valuable thoughts and insights. Following along on the sidelines may lead you to miss key opportunities to contribute. Video conferencing forces you to focus on the matters at hand which can lead to enhanced creativity and quicker decisions.

You Don’t Create an Agenda
Meetings are notorious for getting off track. One thing leads to another and the next think you know the meeting is over and not a single item got accomplished. If you are leading a meeting, take fifteen minutes to put together an agenda of what needs to be discussed and what decisions need to be made. Then, if the meeting starts to get off track you can direct discussion back to the matters at hand.

You Get Meeting Crazy
Contrary to popular belief; a meeting does not need to be scheduled for every single decision or update. Save meetings for when discussion is absolutely critical; such as brainstorming or training sessions. If you simply need a quick vote on option A or option B; or want to send/receive a status update, email works just as well.

So the next time you’re bored to tears in a meeting, think about all the things you could have done differently to make the meeting more successful.

Telemedicine Meets Friday Night Lights

Football reigns supreme in our nation; whether it’s the NFL, NCAA, High School or even little league. In many towns, Friday night games are the center of a town’s social activity; and anyone involved with the winning touchdown is considered a hero. It’s no wonder kids are gearing up to play almost as soon as they can walk.  In fact, my nephew has been playing since he was four years old!

Unfortunately, repeated hits to the head from high contact sports have spurred a concussion epidemic that spans from football, to hockey, to even wrestling. Multiple concussions can cause brain damage that leaves lasting effects. In an article, former professional wrestler Christopher Nowinski states “I can’t exercise without getting a headache and without feeling sick.”

With kids playing sports at earlier ages, it is even more important to properly diagnose concussions to prevent brain damage from cumulative injuries. As a result, Davidson County in North Carolina has introduced a new telemedicine program linking high school athletes who may have a concussion to specialists at the Lexington Medical Center for diagnosis.

A remotely operated telepresence robot allows doctors to look for symptoms and give brain and balance tests to determine whether or not an athlete has sustained a concussion. While diagnosing a concussion over video may seem lacking, Dr. Daryl Rosenbaum, Director of Wake Forest Baptist’s Sports Medicine Fellowship Program, said the contrary in a recent article.

“There’s not a lot of hands-on evaluation needed with concussions. Typically, you are making two big decisions: return to play or not to play, and go to the emergency room or go home.” – Dr. Daryl Rosenbaum

Telemedicine clinics can be especially valuable for rural areas where access to health care specialists typically requires a lengthy drive to the nearest metropolitan area. Instead of depending on local doctors or sports trainers, these athletes can have instant access to a concussion specialist who is trained to spot signs that might otherwise be missed.

Watch the video below for a quick demonstration!

 

Moving Unified Communications to the Conference Room

The proliferation of unified communications solutions, such as Microsoft Lync, Cisco Jabber and IBM Sametime, has extended collaboration to employees around the world. These solutions offer many advantages, including ease of use and enhanced mobility; however, they also present a few key challenges including moving the UC experience from the desktop into the conference room.

Trying to connect a team of local participants with remote participants can be difficult using a desktop video solution. Crowding around a colleague’s PC gets extremely uncomfortable, not to mention it deteriorates the audio and visual quality of the meeting. On the other hand, having each participant join individually can become overwhelming and push the limits of cloud video bridging solutions.

After hearing these issues, our engineering team created a unique solution to easily bring unified communications to the conference room. UC Group systems are configurable, PC-based solutions that allow an organization to extend their desktop video client into a conference room setting. Anything from screen sharing to video conferencing can be accomplished with the click of a button.

Video is obtained through a PC card located in the display or from a local laptop or PC connection and displayed on the screen. Essentially, end users would connect to a video call in the same way and with the same application they would use on their computer. Then participants partake in a video conference with audio and visual quality similar to that of a traditional video conference room.

Enhanced mobility features allow end-users to connect their laptop and wheel the cart between rooms. As a result, any conference room can become a video-enabled room! Plus, with easy content display options, UC Group systems can double as presentation rooms when video is not in use. Additional features include:

  • Power management capabilities that automatically turn the display on and off
  • Fixed or pan/tilt/zoom camera to accommodate smaller or larger groups
  • Table or ceiling microphones for enhanced audio
  • Cisco WebEx integration for webinars or other web conferences
  • Connect up to 25 software or hardware video systems with Multipoint Experience

The UC Room and UC Mobile are platform agnostic and can run on any software video client including Microsoft Lync, Cisco Jabber, Polycom CMA/m100, Skype and Google Video Chat. These solutions enhance an organization’s UC platform or consumer video solution by accommodating larger groups and allowing participants to reap the benefits of a traditional video conferencing room without significant upfront investments.

Overcome Visibility Challenges With Remote Teams

Video conferencing has made it easier for managers to lead remote employees as well as enhance team cohesion among remote members. However, simply holding video calls will not guarantee a successful remote team. It requires additional time and effort to develop relationships and motivate team members who are scattered around the globe. One of the biggest challenges remote leaders face is overcoming a lack of visibility.

Managers of remote teams can’t take a walk around the office to see how their team is doing nor can team members pop by for a quick chat or clarification. For example, consider a scenario where an employee is hung up on one aspect of the project. It’s nothing major, the numbers just aren’t adding up correctly or everything seems to be in place but the program just isn’t running properly.

A local team member might signal his boss when she walks by and ask for a second set of eyes. They can take a look together, quickly spot the issue and the employee can move along on the project. Unfortunately, remote team members and managers do not have this luxury. A fully deployed UC platform can help by allowing a team member to ping his boss over instant messaging and then shift to a video conference to resolve the issue. However, if their manager does not seem available or team members do not feel comfortable with their boss they might continue to work on the problem themselves.

Developing relationships through face-to-face interactions is absolutely critical for remote leaders. Managers should proactively reach out to their remote teams to check in, ask how things are going or if there is anything they have questions about. These informal interactions not only help put team members at ease but develop a sense of trust by increasing a manager’s viability. When an employee has a question or needs a second set of eyes on a project they feel comfortable quickly reaching out to the manager.

Additionally, due to limited visibility, it is critical for remote leaders to not only have a clear vision in place but ensure each team member fully understands and supports the vision. The vision is what gives employees direction when their managers are not around and can help them make decisions without constantly checking in for approval.

For example, when developing the product packaging and promotional messaging for a new product a team member might have a choice between a cost-effective option and a higher-quality option. If the manager has clearly articulated the vision for the product is high quality the team member can make the decision on their own by selecting the higher-quality packaging material.

When setting the vision it is important to engage all remote team members. Allowing them to be part of the vision creation helps develop team spirit and cohesion, as well as, inspire team members individually.