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Video Conferencing in Project Management

As technology keeps on progressing, industries are constantly adapting to a dynamic world. With the development of business at a faster rate, it is increasingly significant to execute improvements on projects. The fundamental key of effective project management lies in excellent communication specifically in conveying goals, updates and other information to the people/stakeholders involved.

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The Concept of Virtual Meeting Rooms and the Challenges

A recent report from Transparency Market Research indicates that the Video Conferencing Market  valued at US$ 3.31 Bn in 2013 is Expected to Reach US$ 6.40 Bn by 2020 Globally. The growth doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone involved in the industry, but the numbers are impressive nevertheless.

Driven by the savings in business travel and increased productivity through greater collaboration and utilizing remote workers, companies are reaping the benefits of Video Conferencing and deploying on-premise solutions on a large scale, offering both managed and self service  model to its clients.

The Video conference self-services have been particularly interesting as they lower operational costs but also tend to increase utilization as the technology becomes more easier to use. At the core of a self-service solution lies a so called “Virtual Meeting Room”.

 What is a Virtual Meeting Room?

A Virtual Meeting Room (VMR) is an online collaboration place where people can communicate over video. Participants usually join by dialling a specific number or an address with a simple name like John-VMR@company.com. Once created the Virtual Meeting Room is permanent and can receive calls at anytime, although the host usually controls access to the VMR with a host PIN.

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Rocketboard: All Purpose Remote Collaboration Whiteboard

When you work in a company and you are part of a team, one of the most important things is collaboration. Without actually collaborating with team members you simply can’t create the best product on the market. Collaboration works because each member brings his unique perspective and ideas in order to provide something helpful for the overall project.

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The Elephant in the Video Conferencing Room

The fundamental challenge of running enterprise-wide video conferencing (VC) is keeping users happy. Happy users feel empowered, not foolish when confronted with the challenge of setting up or running a VC meeting. If you keep users happy you have most likely cut support costs while increasing utilisation – both metrics critical to any AV service manager come review time.

However for some inexplicable reason the VC industry as a whole has done a very poor job of keeping users happy. Regardless of what the respective vendor marketing departments say, most VC users consider the experience to be at best annoying, at worst completely off-putting. Integrators try to put lipstick on the vendor-grown pig, but inevitably only add cost and introduce unneeded complexity.

New SaaS Offer: The Lifesize Cloud

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Lifesize, a division of Logitech

The revamped and refashioned logo of Lifesize indicates its desire to rebrand itself in the video collaboration circuit and bring in new innovations and technologies to better suit the needs of organizations and businesses today. Having brought in HD video conferencing nearly a decade ago, an introduction that changed the face of business communication, Lifesize has reinvented its video conferencing technologies to suit today’s need for easy, flexible and economical collaboration to ensure effective and efficient transfer of data and information within and among organizations. With “cloud” playing a predominant role in video collaborations in recent times, Lifesize has come up with the new “Lifesize Cloud” to bring the benefits of cloud into video conferencing.

Effective Communication with Clients and Colleagues

Business communication is defined by Wikipedia as “communication that promotes a product, service or organization; relays information within a business; or functions as an official statement from a company”. Topics communicated usually include marketing; brand management; customer relations; consumer relations and public relations. In each one of the above you are representing your company so you need to handle yourself in a professional manner.

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When you have to go speak on behalf of your company you need to determine what you are trying to communicate and to whom. Sometimes you have to communicate with your co workers and at other times with clients. If you need to show a presentation to one of your clients face to face, PowerPoint will always work best but you need to be able to communicate to present your presentation. You cannot prepare for this too much, and you need to be simple and to the point.

5 Things You Should Not Forget When Inviting To A Meeting

Today I would like to show you 5 things to consider when inviting others to a local meeting or video conference. These methods have developed throughout years of hosting and participating in meetings all over the world and I hope they will be of value to you. So without further ado don’t forget the coffee and … enjoy!

1 – Identify Participants

Meetings can be a nice way of bringing relevant people together on a table (or virtual table) to analyse the status quo and decide for the best way forward towards a common goal. However a meeting host, who is to send out the meeting invites, has to consider carefully who should participate and who does not add value. That might sound harsh but the reality is that even people often forget it, every person’s time costs money. Maybe they are not charged for it but at some point the time they were involved in this meeting could also have been used differently. That is especially a critical factor if meetings happen with more than just one organisation involved.

Conference Calls – Save Time and Money, and Get What You Want!

call-meThe mere mention of the word ‘meeting’ can make you let out a little inner groan. All that time spent sitting around tables discussing and debating things is frustrating and often a little bit pointless.

Unless the meeting is properly chaired and there’s a dedicated agenda and minutes, it’s just seen as a waste of time by many members of staff. Workplaces are stressful places to be in and it’s in no small measure to do with meetings. They have a habit of using up precious time with delegates leaving the room feeling no more clued up than when they arrived. Meetings are a drain on a company’s finances: expensive catering needs to be supplied and everyone’s travel expenses taken care of.

However, meetings do have their benefits. Organised properly they can focus people’s thinking, and there’s definitely a lot to be gained from getting a collective opinion on company strategy. There’s no getting away from it – meetings need to take place. There’s no valid reason however, for them requiring everyone to meet at the same venue. The obvious solution is to set up telephone or video conference calls, and here’s why:

What Is a Conference Call?

A conference call is a meeting that takes place over the phone using a dedicated conference App. This allows multiple people to dial in, listen and take part in conversations. It’s a great way for everybody to take part in the meeting without having to get to the same place. Whether they’re on the train using a Bluetooth headset, working from home, or even sitting on a beach in Spain, they can have their say!

The Technology Is No Longer A Barrier

Sometimes, mangers can forget that conference calling isn’t a difficult thing to set up. With the rise of Skype and the smartphone, you don’t need to pay for extra IT Services to schedule remote meetings. Services like Google Hangouts allow you to conduct a visual meeting or “webinar” with no costs for setting up the service at all.

Conference Call Etiquette

As with all meetings there is a certain etiquette applied to conference calls. One person needs to chair the meeting so that everybody gets a chance to have their say. The chair will invite everyone to voice their opinion. Quite often, in a voice only call, the person speaking will say their name before they make a comment just so everybody is clear on who has said what. This is also helpful to the person taking the minutes of the meeting.

Who Can Take Part?

Anybody with a phone can take part! It just takes one person to organise it. They will send out an email to everyone stating what date and time the meeting will take place and people will confirm their ‘attendance’.

For video conferences nowadays you may utilise your organisation’s facilities or just do a video conference with a software solution right from your desktop.

Conference calls are a fuss-free way of conducting meetings without all the hassle that goes alongside them. Expenses will be lower and people will find themselves with a lot more time on their hands to follow up the actions from the meeting. It’s becoming a more and more popular way of communicating across offices.

Do you like conference calls? Or don’t? Why not share your experiences with us in the comment section below.

About the Author

Harry Price is a guest blogger and entrepreneur. He is a personal trainer and an animal right’s activist.

3 Secrets to Motivate Distributed Teams

The expansion of the distributed workforce is on the rise. If you do not already work with a fully- or partially-distributed team, you might find your situation changing soon. In the recent survey of Wrike, popular provider of task management software, 66% of respondents believed that their office might go fully virtual by 2017. With that incredible statistic in mind, we need to prepare the knowledge now on how to keep our teams motivated and driven when they’re geographically apart.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, a brand famous for its positive company culture, says, “You can’t deliver good service from unhappy employees.” Motivating and ensuring the happiness of your staff must be a priority in order to succeed.

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In line with Hsieh’s beliefs, Wrike’s productivity survey found that the top productivity boosters are (in order): a sense of responsibility, a good mood, and a possible reward. And below, we forge these ideas into 3 best management practices that you can use today or in the future to inspire your team even when it’s spread all over the globe.

Give Your Employees a Sense of Responsibility

To encourage this in your employees, work ownership is key. Make your employees accountable for a project’s success and see how it affects their results. Harvard Business Review agrees that the best way to empower your employees is by giving them responsibility and autonomy. This idea founded a new “managerial” (or lack thereof) style: self-organizing teams, which are popular in agile software development. For example, a dynamic software company /ut7 dared to try it and gave full ownership to their employees, i.e. no more managers. And as a result, they always deliver their work on time. Treehouse similarly adopted a flat org chart, and it has kept everyone accountable because there is no place to hide if a project falls flat – the responsibility is on your shoulders. When you trust your employees to create bright, innovative work without micromanagement, it creates an incentive for hard work and dedication to projects.

One more powerful method of empowerment is encouraging peer review. It will create a culture of responsibility between your employees. This way, managers share some leadership and control over quality with their team members.

Create a Good Mood

How do you create a good mood for your employees when you can’t see them? You build a relationship. Thanks to the advent of video and instant messaging tools, you can easily set up virtual bonding activities. Establish a venue for the “virtual water cooler” to share personal photos, talk about your weekend, or just have simple fun. Volvo IT, an organization with a global workforce of over 60,000 employees, would have one office order food for an office in a different country, thus creating a fun, impromptu office party. If you create an enjoyable distributed-office environment and meet your employees on a personal level, it creates the opportunity for them to feel more connected to the company and your cause.

Another way to create a good mood and also motivate diligence for your employees is to establish open lines of communication. If you provide consistent feedback, and allow them to provide feedback too, it will foster a culture of trust – an environment every employee craves. Furthermore, when you think your employee is having problems, talk to them about their roadblocks, identify the cause of their loss in motivation, and create a solution together.

Reward Them

As an extension of creating a good mood, it is important to reward your employees by showing your appreciation for their work. Ensure that you celebrate the achievement of both short-term goals and long-term goals. Forbes cites a study which found that providing substantial employee recognition shows a 31% decrease in employee turnover rates. With a distributed team it isn’t possible to shake hands or give pats on the back, but you can send encouraging messages or “Employee of the Week/Month” awards through email and chat platforms.

You can also reward your employees for their success through great benefits. In addition to benefits, a well-developed incentive program will encourage your employees to push harder and pass benchmarks of success. Inc. published a list of perks you can afford, such as reimbursement for work-related outings, free food and drinks in the office, and paid volunteer time. Global accommodation-booker Airbnb, which has offices in 12 countries, gives their employees $2,000 a year to travel anywhere on the globe. There is a never-ending list of ideas for what you can provide your employees.

While motivating a distributed team may be difficult, it isn’t impossible. If you understand key productivity motivators, then you can take these ideas and implement them in your virtual workspace.

Have you tried any of these motivation methods before? What has worked for your team?

Top 5 Video Conference Self-Service Pointers

What you should take into account while introducing video conference self-services

The deployment of video conferencing booms in many companies. This way they can save costs and increase productivity. In earlier days video conferencing was reserved for top management but this has changed fundamentally. Today video conferences are used by all employees for their daily communication.

Today many companies own 500+ video conference rooms and 10thousands of desktop video conference users. The demand for professional video conferences is growing further and has been up to 30% a year.

The company’s structure used to be set up in a way to correspond to the needs of top management as a strictly controlled managed service. This strictly controlled managed services offers a high security standard for the company, however accounts for a big amount of the budget at the same time.

A remedy can be found in video conference self-services. The big advantage here is the high scalability and the reduced costs compared to the encompassing managed service. The video conference self-service should generally serve as an addition to the existing managed service structures.

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Photo: Interop Events

Anyone thinking about implementing a video conference self-service should take note of the following five points:

1. User expectations

In case you use a high quality managed service already, it will not be an option to not use this service in the future. It is important to manage the user expectations and clearly state for which purposes the self-service is intended. A self-service should predominantly be accessible for all employees. The managed service still makes sense for important meetings of the top management, etc. It can be helpful to communicate the costs of the managed service transparently to the users – a measure which might change their mind rather quickly.

2. Video conference infrastructure

Be aware that existing video conference infrastructure often is not tailored to the needs of the video conference self-service. Ordinary video conference infrastructures only enable low scalability, which means that video conference ports are not unlimited. It might make sense to use a software based video conference structure. These allow for high scalability and low operation costs. Initially it might make sense to use a cloud video conference service.

3. Planning business as usual

Video conference self-service does not mean that normal business can be compromised and the solution automatically works – to the contrary! For high user satisfaction the video conference infrastructure has to be stable, questions of users have to be answered timely and competent and the administration of accounts and virtual video conference rooms has to be managed.

4. Offer trainings

If you offer a video conference self-service, you also have to educate the users in a way that they are able to use the service right. Training is important. That can be seminars, booklets, eLearning training videos and intranet pages.

5. Manage growth

The introduction of a video conference self-service can lead to an enormous demand. Some companies measured the double demand within a year. Pay attention to the impact on your network and on your video conference infrastructure as well as on the daily business. The budget planning should grow too, because financial resources are especially scarce during the year.

I hope these are some good pointers for all our readers considering to look into add a self-service to their portfolio. If you have made any experiences yet around this or just want to share your thoughts, please feel invited to do so in the comments box below. Many thanks!