Category Archives: Operations
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Anyone thinking about implementing a video conference self-service should take note of the following five points:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
“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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Being productive is an interesting mix of making a list and holding yourself accountable!
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.
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.
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.
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.