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Book Video Conferences Quickly & Easily – What Is Possible Today?

Today, many companies already use software solutions to manage the booking of meeting and conference rooms. But often the usage of such tools is limited to specific locations (corporate headquarters) or specific employee groups (assistants, secretaries).

Nevertheless, videoconference and Telepresence projects are usually subject to national and international requirements – and they are an enormous complex issue. Many companies experimented with Exchange/Outlook solutions in the past in order to realise the aspect of a “quick and easy booking“ for their employees – but generally without success.

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.

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!

Advantages of Managed Services in Videoconference Environments

“Hello, I am your Videoconference Operator. How can I help you?”

It is 9.30 am. The reception of the conference facility welcomes a group and accompanies them to their previously booked videoconference room. When coming to the room they see their colleagues have already arrived and started with the preparations. A colleague of the group cannot make it on time and has informed the other group members that he wants to participate via telephone. He is already dialed in and takes part in the preparations. A 30 minutes preparatory meeting takes place. Afterwards a signal is given and at 10 am sharp the business partners are connected as well. The negotiations can begin. In the background works the managed service.

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Everything is tested and on stand-by, you can start the conference. (Pic: Victor1558)

That is how daily business can look like with managed services. In the example we have chosen, a back-office videoconference operator prepared the videoconference. The preparations begin before the actual videoconference with the operator testing all videoconference rooms that will be dialed in. Thus a smooth running of the videoconference is ensured. Problems can be identified and solved beforehand. Special requirements or processes can be adequately tested and when in doubt be revised.

Also for the colleague who could not come to the conference room in person, a managed service has advantages. The responsible operator can quickly take action and change the infrastructure according to the new circumstances. He opens the dial in port for the telephone and immediately passes that information on to the participant.

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Focus on your conference, leave the setup to us (Photo: Victor1558)

The participants from the business partner also profit from the videoconference operator. While the preparatory meeting still goes on, he already has “taken care” of the “external” location. The location is connected in a sub-conference and audio and video quality are tested. After a successful check the room awaits the starting signal to enter the main conference. After the participants have given their “OK” the external location has been connected to the main conference and the meeting can begin.

These and others are the daily tasks of a managed service videoconference operator. Our example illustrated the preparation and testing in a pre-call, which allows the participants to completely focus on the videoconference itself. Technical functionality and completeness of the meeting are taken over by the operator.

Working according to time schedules also is a means of organizers to be able to draw up very complex videoconference settings and allows participants a high degree of flexibility.

Videoconference monitoring is another task that will be taken care by the operator. In case of technical problems the operator can react immediately. This however does not mean that the operator is able to follow the content of the conference. He rather monitors the endpoints and the infrastructure and thus is able to identify alarms or other abnormalities and quickly analyze and solve them. This guarantees a smooth and uninterrupted videoconference. The participant can focus a 100% on the meeting, because he is not distracted by operational details.

Managed services account for an increasing efficiency and reliability in videoconferences, which also presents new opportunities.

Do you have experiences with this topic? Have you ever been in a situation where you would have wanted an operator? I am looking forward to your stories and reactions!

Do You Need A Policy For Your Remote Workers?

After Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, has previously reaffirmed the ban on telecommuting, discussion spread across the social web. Not only potential remote workers and telecommuters are affected by such policies but als the employer. For those who cannot agree on her decision, we would like to give some pointers around the creation of a remote working policy and what you should consider.

A remote working arrangement can be a great way to increase your company’s perceived flexibility, and it’s particularly beneficial for parents of young children. Working from home makes it easier for employers to recruit globally, and to hire otherwise-qualified but physically disabled workers who wouldn’t be able to make it to the office. The arrangement that’s best depends on your company’s location, work type and culture; if you’re planning to allow some of your workers to operate remotely, you’ll need a sound policy. Below, you’ll learn more about remote working policies and the parts to be included.

Creating an Effective Policy

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to foster a productive environment. Making the switch to remote working can be difficult, because it requires that you give up some degree of control over that environment; after all, who’s to say that employees won’t game the system? How can you effectively supervise workers whom you don’t see each day? Before a remote working arrangement can be implemented, those questions need to be answered. The first step in implementation is to create a remote working policy, which is a set of guidelines for work-at-home employees. As you’re drafting your policy, keep the following ideas in mind.

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Telecommuting (Photo credit: jessamyn)

Will you Need Multiple Policies?

The first question you’ll need to answer is: Do you need two policies, or one umbrella policy? If at all possible, avoid having separate policies for in- and out-of-office workers. Separate policies can confuse workers and lead to unfairness and resentment. Put together a unified policy that amply covers the job’s basic requirements, but make it broad enough to allow workers to operate in the most efficient way.

Outline Your Expectations to Remote Workers

To ensure that your workers remain on-task, you’ll need to set forth some expectations. Employees like working from home because it offers greater flexibility, but you’ll still need to let them know that you expect work to be completed on a certain date. Allow employees to work from home, but establish deadlines and measure output so productivity stays high.

Assign Responsibility for Expenses

When drafting a work-from-home policy, you’ll need to assign responsibility for business expenses. With remote working, the boundaries between work and home life tend to blur. Do you buy employees’ office supplies if they work from home? Do you change your mileage-tracking method if employees begin their commute from home? Your company should already have a policy for in-office workers, but you should have guidelines in place for remote workers as well.

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Barry Mulcahy Makes His Point (Photo credit: topgold)

Technology Toolset and Unified Communications

To provide your remote workers with an environment close to or equal to what they have in the office, you need to consider the technology that they will require. You should liaise with the IT department around your unified communications solution that you have in place and make sure it can be utilised from a remote position as well. If you are planning unified communications strategy and roadmap, you should make sure to consider your remote workforce as well.

Data Security

One of the largest remote-working challenges is keeping sensitive data secure. Working from home allows for greater flexibility, but it also requires a certain degree of data vulnerability. If information security is an important part of your corporate philosophy, collaborate with the IT department to properly secure and access data, and give remote workers the security tools and training they need.

If your company allows for remote working, you should have a policy in place. Remote working policies protect both you and your employees, and they set forth clear expectations. When drafting your policy, be clear and consistent without taking away any of the flexibility that makes remote working such a popular option—and once the policy is completed, be sure everyone knows what’s expected.

Why ITIL is such a Crucial Criterion for Video Conference Managed Services

ITIL Standards everywhere – also relevant for AV services?

The ITIL Framework is the acronym for Information Technology Infrastructure Library and constitutes an important framework for professional IT Service Management in most IT departments. The ITIL framework is constantly developed further and at the moment the ITIL v3 Edition is on the market.

Why is ITIL so important for AV, Media Technology and Video Conference Managed Services?

This question is easy to answer, but more complex to implement. The technical development of Video Conference Services, Telepresence solutions and conference room technology progresses very fast. The probably most characteristic trait in this technical development of media technology is the fact that systems increasingly can be implemented in networks. The development from ISDN based video conferences to IP based video conferences had a big share in this. However, also other components of media technology are produced in an IP friendly way, such as media technology for signal management, Routing or Room Control. The idea is to establish easier management and monitoring of media technology, ideally from a remote location.

The development described above further leads to changing responsibilities within the sector of media technology in companies. Previously facility management was responsible for media and room technology, whereas today IT departments increasingly take over the responsibility for IP based media technology and video conferences.

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To master these new responsibilities IT departments also pose new challenges to suppliers and operators of media technology, so-called Video Conference Managed Services providers. Video Conference Managed Service providers should speak the same language as other IT sectors (network, firewall, security, etc.), but additionally should have expert knowledge about video conferences and media technology. The ITIL framework makes it easier to find a common language and makes it possible to implement and optimize cross-sector processes. External service providers are quite often asked to use internal tools and ITSM platforms, in doing so incident or problem management, but also knowledge management are portrayed according to standardized processes.

This development means a big investment in an ITIL certification for Video Conference Manages Services Providers, who often also have to adapt established processes internally. Many providers simply lack the experience in big ITIL environments.

Companies that look into the possibility of implementing  Video Conference Managed Services in order to operate video conference infrastructures, video conference systems or Video Conference Bridging Services, should take a close look at the potential providers’ technical capacities in IT processes and ITIL frameworks, next to technical expert knowledge and experience with video conferences of course.

Increased Productivity for You and Your Telecommuting Team


Being productive is an interesting mix of making a list and holding yourself accountable!

 


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Ways to increase productivity

To-do lists are a great way to keep your tasks straight. The problem is that they often become an unimaginable garbage can where you purge all of the things that you need or want to work on the coming century. If you make some very simple changes to how you manage that list of things to get done, you can increase productivity tenfold and stay motivated.

Create a Legitimate To-Do List

If you keep a long and bulleted list of the things you are working on, you’re not being as productive as you could. A good to-do list isn’t just about keeping running tabs on everything you need to complete today / in a week / in a month, a good to-do list will lay out those tasks in a manner that you can respond to. Your to-do list should be arranged in short lists of actionable items. This means that lists need to focus on not what you have to do, but what you can accomplish short term to reach those long term goals.

Find Better Ways to Communicate

Communication mediums like IM and email are great for interactions between one or two other people who need to speak briefly about a quick couple of changes. When it comes to assigning tasks and responsibilities, we’ve found that these are not effective ways to communicate to-do’s or updated files. Inevitable, someone will delete the message or will fail to work off the most updated spreadsheet of presentation. Sign up for a toll-free conference call provider and set up online project management services. You need to have a better way to share information and documents with your team, rather than using email as your storage system.

Have a Plan for Downtime

The fact of the matter is that technology is not completely failure proof. To make the assumption that you’ll never experience a problem with your internet connect, that your cell phone will always have service, or that you email provider will never have a server failure, is dangerous to your business. Ask yourself if you have a plan for communication when Murphy’s Law shows up. You need to consider all of the possibilities of a failure of communication services in order to minimize your collateral damage.

Getting more organized in the hopes of being productive is a great start, but if you just throw all the tasks in your head down onto pieces of paper, you’re just transferring your storage place and not taking steps to get these things done.