Collaborative Justice Technology: a compounding investment in the pandemic era (and beyond)
By Ketan Kulkarni – Linkedin
In 2021, technology is not only fundamentally changing how industries function, but also the ecosystems they are a part of, in no small part due to the global pandemic. An organization can choose the degree to which they will embrace the purposeful evolution of their ecosystem in uncertain times. The organizations with the strongest embrace will see the other side while also leading the innovation of their industry. Such innovation is the domain of teams of highly collaborative teams versus the great insight of an individual innovator.
Transforming a Traditional Ecosystem
The Justice system is a traditional ecosystem with hardened processes (laws are about as hardened a process as you can get) and well-established training initiatives. Is it possible to apply new technology tools to realize drastic benefits?
The opportunity to improve communication lies in the application of technology, precisely because the processes are hardened and the training is well-ingrained into the traditional culture of Justice systems, wherever you look.
With this backdrop let’s see how the four categories below can be applied to the Justice ecosystem, transform it with collaborative technology and compound the ROI of the initial business case.
- Operational Savings
- Productivity Improvements
- Strategic Transformation
The lowest hanging fruits in any ecosystem are operational savings. Operational savings are when you either stop doing something you used to do, or do it differently in a way that allows you get the same result but with less cost. Let’s take the remand process as an example.
Remanded inmates are individuals who do not qualify for bail and who instead are being held in pre-detention facilities, waiting to have their trial. When they are required to appear in front of a judge it is referred to as a remand appearance. Remand appearances require a lot of people and activity to conduct. Accused individuals typically need to spend an entire day being moved from the detention facility to the courtroom and then back. This requires accompanying guards (at least 2, sometimes up to 4), specialized vehicles for transport, all the costs of being away from the facility for the day – food, gas, etc., facilities at the courthouse to hold the prisoners until it is time for their hearing, and the risk of moving prisoners around is inherent in the undertaking.
Applying video conferencing technology to facilitate remand appearances is a perfect example of how substantial cost can be taken out of the ecosystem, maintaining the same end result.
The Operational Savings = Cost avoided / Cost of video conferencing technology
While it is difficult to obtain costs for all the components involved, here is a high level estimate of the costs that could be avoided:
|1) Guards (avg. of 3) for a day = 3 x 8 hours x burdened hourly rate of Guards = 3 x 8 x $50 = $1,200 day|
|2) Cost of transportation: specialized vehicle + expenses = $750/day|
|3) Facilities requirements to handle prisoners in courthouse = $300/day|
So, one remand appearance is probably costing taxpayers at best about $2,000. Multiplied by the number of appearances in a year that could be delivered via technology ~ 14,000 x $2,000 = $28,000,000 / year. Over a 10-year period, that is $280,000,000. Even if the estimate for the cost of one remand appearance is 50% above actual costs, there is still significant opportunity to realize operational savings.
Investing in the infrastructure required to facilitate these hearings would be significantly less than the 10-year cost of doing it without technology. One of the key investments in this process is the technology in the courtroom that allows the remand appearances to be conducted remotely.
In any organizational ecosystem there are always rooms where people from different parts of the ecosystem come together to meet. In the judicial system, these are the courtrooms in the various courthouses across the country.
A courtroom is where the 4 different constituents (Judicial, Legal, Law Enforcement and Corrections) come together to conduct their trials and is the focal point for moving the judicial process forward. To enable new communications tools to change the processes, the courtrooms must be equipped with the technology required to conduct electronic communication, which are rich experiences – just like being there.
Courtrooms that have been enabled in this way can now be much more productive in processing the courtroom workflow (the proceedings) – a must given the backlog created by the shutdown of physical locations as a result of the pandemic. A judge in court can hold remand appearances sequentially, connecting with prisoners who appear, via video, from various correctional facilities – one after another. The physical scheduling and logistics that used to be a key component of the “old method” suddenly becomes vastly simpler and less costly. The simplified scheduling and logistics of remand appearances through the use of video conferencing technology also increases the number of appearances processed. The beneficial results of doing this:
- Less facilities required for remand prisoners = less time required in remand facilities
- Greater use of the judge’s time, as well as other court personnel, and their ability to handle cases (therefore less judges and court personnel required)
- Less backlog of cases to be heard
The opportunity for greater productivity in the Justice ecosystem can be found in many other processes. Many jurisdictions have learned that leveraging video can reduce — or eliminate — many of the hidden delays and costs of the Justice system associated with logistics such as travel time for a variety of participants including witnesses, interpreters, attorneys and inmates. In an ecosystem where everyone wants to talk to the inmate (prosecutors, probation officers, public defenders, judges, etc.) easier access via video can accelerate workflow.
- Judges can hold sessions across a wide variety of locations one after the other all from the courtroom or chambers
- Cases get processed faster – no delay waiting for critical mass of cases in remote locations
- Bail hearings can be enabled by video
- Plea bargains can be implemented much faster (don’t need a 2 hour process to get into the jail to see prisoner), which means less time in jail for visitors and less requirements for facilities
- Access to justice – inmates can access attorneys and other legal aid remotely, which includes the benefit of upholding social distancing guidelines
- Video testimony – expert witness (can greatly reduce cost),
- Vulnerable witness – appearing in court is dangerous, disruptive and disturbing but their testimony can be critical; video makes it easier
- Interpreters – can handle multiple sessions just minutes apart in different locations. Therefore overall need goes down because of the tremendous compression of time.
- Telemedicine and educational programs in prisons
Clearly these productivity improvements, which were not planned for as part of the initial business case, would likely add even more financial benefits. Often, the productivity benefits that are realized in an ecosystem will quickly outweigh the operational savings provided.
As new communications infrastructure and endpoints have been put in place over recent years – a process accelerated by the pandemic – the Justice ecosystem is being unintentionally transformed with far greater capability than was initially envisioned. The people who are using the new communications tools will start to apply the same tools to situations that were never envisioned at the start of the ecosystem’s transformation.
Let’s look at three real life examples of strategic transformation in the Justice ecosystem:
1) International Trials
With the globalization of business, there are now occasions where the globalization of court communications could greatly help the operation and productivity of trials that happen where multiple countries are involved. Our company, ET Group, facilitated a trial like this where two courtrooms in two different countries were in a single combined session at exactly the same time. The benefits were substantial:
- Air travel was substantially reduced
- Lawyer’s monetary and timespend costs for that travel were eliminated
- The proceedings were able to progress faster because both courtrooms in both countries were connected to each other in real time.
One court session brought together two different jurisdictions simultaneously.
2) Virtual Meeting Rooms (VMRs)
The use of VMRs in a collaborative ecosystem typically happens at a later stage in the development of the ecosystem. VMRs are very powerful because they can:
- Drastically reduce costs
- Drastically accelerate the workflow (the velocity of collaboration) of both existing processes and re-engineered processes
In the Justice ecosystem a perfect example of using VMRs would be to allow the general public to pay their traffic tickets with a hearing in a VMR. When you use a VMR you don’t need a courtroom (massive cost savings), and you allow a person who received the traffic ticket to call into the VMR for their trial. The judge, the officer, the lawyer (if required) and the defendant would all be participants in the VMR. The result is significant savings in travel costs for all involved.
Using VMRs as described in the traffic ticket scenario above would also require software which would would mimic the workflow of the traffic court. People would need to check in online, be held in a queue waiting to see the judge in the VMR with the other participants. But over time this additional expense stands to be minimal compared to what could be saved through the strategic use of VMRs within the Justice collaborative ecosystem.
3) Collaborative Portals
With technology infrastructure in place, new functionalities can be implemented that were not possible before. With software, recordings of the courtroom proceedings can now be captured in a way that was not previously possible. Video and audio streams can be recorded simultaneously from the different cameras and microphones in the courtroom and can be captured as the record of the court. These court records can be:
- Instantly archived in the courtroom, with two layers of back-up (courthouse and datacenter)
- Instantly retrieved whenever required by authorized personnel
- Transcripted instantly
- Distributed with different pieces redacted in the recording, depending on who needs to review the record
- Used as evidence in a court of law and have the veracity to stand up to any challenges
- Be used in an online secure portal for authorized personnel to collaborate by reviewing and commenting on the record
Extending capabilities leverages the initial investment in technology already in place and further accelerates the velocity of collaboration in the Justice ecosystem, thus compounding the initial investment.
There are more than just these three strategic transformation examples which stand to further influence the business case for investment in a new collaborative technology platform. Being able to continue to conduct business and enable access to justice for citizens using VMRs in the face of a global pandemic – in some cases more than ever before – is a prime example.
The natural evolution of a collaborative ecosystem is to capture operational savings first, then to realize productivity gains as a by-product through the extension of the technology to new processes, and finally, hit the home runs through the strategic transformation of the ecosystem.
It takes considerable fortitude by those steering the ecosystem to make the investment without truly understanding how the ecosystem will function when the collaborative technology is fully implemented and enabled. They must resist the temptation to cut corners and compromise on the building of the platform that will become the foundation for transformation for years (if not decades) to come.
All its woes aside, COVID-19 helped accelerate a fundamental systemic change that was already occurring – one that has now proven itself here to stay. The technology stakeholders in Justice systems around the globe would do well to take notice.
Building a virtual culture
How do you maintain and build a strong virtual culture in a pandemic?
By T. Smitten
Creating a Culture That Thrives
Over the last year a vast majority of organizations have transitioned to some form of a hybrid workspace, where team members have the flexibility to work remotely for most, if not all of the time.
Mark Bystrek is the head of ET Group’s People Development. He works to maintain an enriched company culture of human connection, co-creation and collaboration while using virtual technology. Through our expertise in virtual technology, ET Group has built an effective hybrid work environment and developed a company culture that thrives in it.
The Importance of Company Culture
Mark admits maintaining company culture isn’t easy, but he highlights the importance of it , “It’s going to be a challenge for all organizations, how do you connect and keep that team spirit together? Remotely? It’s something we can never let go of. We always have to keep that in paramount, no matter how busy we are. “
Mark and the ET Group leadership team have worked to find the right balance of technology, and collaboration to create a well-connected agile work environment for team members within virtual space. But how did ET Group do this?
Mark has has found the keys to successfully maintaining company culture are:
- Sharing Your Culture
- Open Communication
Define Your Team Culture
At ET Group Mark and the leadership team have outlined the ET Group way, this is a document that is posted with the details of the company’s values, code of conduct and best practices. You want to make sure your company values are clearly outlined and easily accessible.
Share Your Team Culture
Post, post, post! Mark post videos, links, and announcements in the company’s web messenger channels for all staff to easily access. You want to make sure you are continuously sharing items the highlight, support and outline your company culture.
Open Communication is the Foundation
Communication is the foundation of a successful virtual team. Company culture should encourage communication and welcome feedback. ET Group has found using web messenger channels for announcements, surveys and to share info has been an effective for team members to share their ideas, reactions, and responses easily and openly. You want to create and allow for dialogue around your company culture posts and messages.
Ideas for Staying Connected
Communicating workplace culture in a virtual environment can seem a daunting task but it can be done using the technology we have today. It can take a little strategizing and some tech savvy but once that work is done, organizations can easily maintain organizational culture and real human connection amongst their members. Mark often will use WebEx (A web conference and message application) to share company updates. ET Group schedules company wide video conference meetings for all to attend. As part of the company culture the team is encouraged to use “video first” to hold “face to face” conversations to help maintain connection.
Mark is continually finding ways to develop virtual teams. He’s found the company to be far ahead of other companies working virtually in 2020 citing the various creative ways they have brought the team together. “We did weekly townhall meetings, we have a water cooler chat, – we were far ahead of a lot of organizations as such and that was keeping us connected.”
Mark also schedules virtual Team building events for the team such as:
- Virtual Team Lunches
- Virtual Escape Rooms/ Games Nights
- Virtual Company Townhalls / Team Connect Meetings
- Company Message Boards/ Communications Channels
Please see our company handbook where we share open information about how our company works together. This includes unique approaches, processes, and practices such as self-set salaries and decentralized decision making.
The workplace is going Hybrid
Exploring the new reality of a hybrid workplace. One which allows the flexibility of employees working between home, office, and remote locations.
When asked how he would describe 2020, David Kerr, ET Group’s Unified Communications and Collaboration Specialist replies “exceptional and unprecedented.”
On any given workday in 2019, David would be designing and implementing Unified Communications solutions for a variety of large Canadian organizations. Fast forward to present day and his workday remains fairly unchanged. While most organizations found the requirements of social distancing a major challenge to their continued daily operations, ET Group did not. In his five years with the company, David has been a part of the ET Group team that works on designing, integrating, and optimizing clients unified communications and collaboration environments. The kind of hybrid environments that allow working from anywhere, whether at home, in the office, or completely remote.
Work is no longer about where you do it, it’s about what you do and how it gets done.
Hybrid is the future workspace
Organizations have mobilized work from home infrastructure and policies that have forever shaped the way we approach work. Now that the dust has begun to settle, they are collectively looking to the future once again. As companies explore shifting their workers back to the office. They are also envisioning what a flexible workplace might mean to their long-term workplace strategies.
- How will our workplace strategies and technology strategies need to change?
- How will our office evolve to integrate and include the remote workers?
- What technologies will support flexible working between the office, home, and remote locations?
- How will we enable our people to convene for group work?
David is part of the HybridX innovation team at ET Group. He has witnessed and assisted in the architecture of workplace communications firsthand. He is proud to share that, “We’re not afraid of doing remote work and using remote technologies. We’ve been demonstrating it for years. It works, I mean, we’re thriving.”
Workplace and tech strategies are changing
Having worked with many clients to implement their technology strategies to transition to an integrated modern-day workspace. David reflects on the success in leading others to their ideal connected and collaborative work environment, both physically and virtually. “We’re (ET Group) currently experiencing what we’ve been already living for the past few years. Covid has forced us (society) to put it into place now to some degree. By living it, it gives us great advantages in terms of being able to share the experience with others and see what the potential could be.”
“73% of employees want their company to embrace flexibility (working both remotely and in office) post COVID-19.”Mckinsey Report – June 2020
David has noted the required changes that companies have begun making to their workplace strategies:
- Increased prioritization of workplace technology within business. Organizations need to have a technology strategy that can evolve for the future.
- Intuitive tools; Organizations should be able to define their desired user experience with the technology they are choosing.
- Reliable and user-friendly video communications. Organizations are now in a video first culture that requires high quality audio and visual performance along with an easy to use platform.
Prioritizing flexible, collaborative technology
David has also witnessed some setbacks for companies who did not prioritize flexible and collaborative technology tools within their operations. He remarks at the number of companies who were unprepared to work remotely this year. “It was really quite surprising to me but it’s not all that uncommon. It seems that some companies are still kind of slow to change and Covid has really exposed that.”
David listed some fundamentals items every organization will need for a hybrid workspace:
- Laptops – Companies should ensure their teams have laptops for mobility vs. desktops. HD built in cameras are critical.
- Webcams – Companies should ensure team members have working high resolution video tools for home offies.
- Secure Communications – Companies should invest in secure software and platforms to maintain privacy.
- Remote work connections like a VPN – Companies should invest in a virtual private network.
- Headsets or Audio Boxes – Quality sound and audio for meetings. Forget the basic headphones.
- Data Sovereignty -Companies should be familiar with the location of their servers and data and be aware of any privacy laws relating to the storage of their information.
Challenges of going to a hybrid workplace
As part of ET Group’s HybridX innovation team, David works on identifying and resolving the human challenges of collaboration, communication, and connection using technology. “There were a lot of users that weren’t ready for this. From the standpoint of some users – technology kind of makes them afraid.” Increasing team adoption, training, and comfort levels with technology is critical to overall success when transitioning to working flexible between the office and at home.
When implementing new technology into a hybrid environment, David notes some things to consider are:
- Get feedback from your team on their desired user experience and ease of use. What do they need from the technology to get their work done?
- Ensure you fully understand what the technology will allow you to do and not do. Research your options and assess reliability.
- Find a good consultant to work with your leadership team and determine the technology roadmap that works for your business. ET Group offers a human-centric approach to visioning, strategizing, designing, implementing, and evolving your technology roadmap as part of our HybridX offering.
David offers his take on additional challenges he has seen this year, “What I think is happening is a couple of things, one, sometimes whoever is making the decision makes it a challenge. It could be making the decision on the technology platform that we should move forward with, but there was really no consultation with the users in terms of what we really need. Which can definitely be a challenge and wreck user adoption or hinder user adoption. The other element is personal bias at times that gets in the way. So, it’s like, ‘Hey, I’m a Microsoft guy’ and that’s all I want to deal with’. I don’t really care about whatever else is out there, even if there are better tools. Other challenges are a lack of information around what technology you need to work better, which is what we’ve been trying to do at ET Group, share that info. “
Preparing your company for the transition
David shares valuable words of wisdom when it comes to integrating new technology into your business. “Organizations must lose the fear of failure”. This can cripple the ability to discover new things. He recommends keeping an open mind when it comes to trying new technology and stresses the need to consider your users when implementing new technology.
“I had the opportunity to work with my church, for example. There’s a lot of users there that just aren’t into this remote working space at all,” says David. “A proper understanding of the users (i.e. accessibility requirements, sights impaired vs hearing impaired, etc.) is crucial to seamless user adoption within an organization.”
Many businesses are still unprepared to implement work from home programs although we are at a time in history when technology makes it more possible than ever. With companies starting to reintroduce their teams back into the physical workspace amidst and post-pandemic, they are experiencing unique operational challenges within their industries. “ET Group is really taking the time to hone in on what we have not only experienced but kind of referring back to what we’ve heard from our customers.”
Work isn’t about where, it’s about what
HybridX (Hybrid Workplace Experience) makes it possible and beneficial to every team, organization or business that thrives on communicating, collaborating, and connecting anywhere in the world.
Work is no longer about where you do it, it’s about what you do and how it gets done.
ET Group has invested years into studying and fine tuning the design for the workplace of the future. ET Group’s strategies for collaborative work environments have kept people together even when apart. “What HybridX is really saying is there’s a new work experience, we want to hone in on what that experience is for you and what makes the best sense,” says David.
ET Group takes a strategic approach to designing innovative hybrid workspaces solutions. By applying human-centric design processes, we create seamless and powerful connections between the office, the home, and the remote worker.
Transitioning your organization to a hybrid work environment can seem overwhelming and costly. With the right tools and design process, your organization can experience a new level of communication, collaboration and connection while increasing your ROI (Return on investment) in the long term.
5 Tips for hosting effective large video conferences
If your team has been hosting large group video conference meetings because of COVID-19, here are some key insights to maximize your meeting potential.
By Tracy Smitten
Article based on our Webinar: Hosting Large Group Video Conferences Effectively. Download the webinar.
Amid the COVID-19 public health emergency and for the first time in our history, society has committed to maintaining physical distancing with a strong need to work together to find new ways to communicate, collaborate, and connect with each other.
For the last 4 years, ET Group has grown as a productive, self-managed, collaborative unit, while working almost entirely remotely. Our team’s operate regularly in large group video meetings. We host virtual team connects that run up to 5 hours in length, host large group town hall meetings with over 40 people, and collaborate daily in large group virtual settings. We continue to explore new tools and practices that can enrich our team’s virtual experience. Technology strategy and design help increase productivity, but it’s not all you need.
Here are 5 key tips we have learned to make your next meeting more effective.
1. Identify the technology you will need
What are the technology platforms, tools, and equipment will need to use. Make sure to choose a video conferencing platform like Zoom or Webex that can take advantage of large groups using settings like gallery view. Equipping all of your team’s participants with the best audio and video equipment available will maximize everyone’s experience. This will ensure that everyone is on the same playing field, limiting technology issues and creating a more engaging experience for all.
2. Define your meeting roles
It is critical to establish a few base roles to ensure you create clarity and the ability to run a smooth meeting. Who will be the meeting hosting? Who will be facilitator to guide and hold space for the conversation? Who will be scribing and taking notes? Who will be responsible to manage the technology?
It may sound like a lot of roles but they are key to your success!
Host: Establishes the meeting context and the meeting objectives
Facilitator: Guides the conversation, keeps the meeting in check and on-time, while allowing the group to focus on the content.
Scribe: Takes notes and documents the meeting.
Technology Manager (Optional): Ensures the meeting is set-up, handles tech issues, and records the call if necessary.
3. Put together the structure for your meeting
What is the purpose of your meeting? What do you want to get out of it? What do you want people to experience?
Establish a structure for your meeting to make effective use of time and increase the clarity and expectations for participants. Create your meeting objectives, meeting milestones, determining meeting length, and choosing your facilitation style.
4. Choose your meeting practices and processes
Determine the level of engagement you plan to invite from your participants.
Check-in’s are a fantastic way to establish everyone’s place in the meeting. Asking a question such as, how are you arriving and what do you expect out of today’s meeting. It helps people feel engaged and not lost in such a large virtual group.
However, in a large group setting it can be tough to manage this in a timely manner. Instead, ask your participants to write their check-in via the chat window or using a collaboration platform like Webex Teams or Slack.
Use practices that maintain involvement and engagement from your participants. Send out periodic meeting polls or pose questions that participants can answer in the chat window, rather than out loud. This can also help manage time in a large group while involving everyone.
It is important that you use practices and processes that create an environment that invites everyone to participate. So that it is not the One-to-Many experience that so often plagues large group settings. This is one person speaking to a large group.
5. Understand the mindset of your participants
Understanding the mindset of your participants is key to an effective meeting. What mindset are participants potentially arriving into the meeting with?
Are they arriving with confusion surrounding the meeting? Are they unclear of why they are invited? Are they feeling excited or down?
As a host or facilitator, it is your job to gauge the room and ensure you can manage the group, shift gears if required, and draw the best out of everyone.
We would love to hear about your experience in the comments
We have sought and found virtual meeting techniques that enhance human connection. We have found video conferencing can be extremely productive! We thrive when we can bring harmony to our work and workplace with technology.
We would love to hear about your experience with remote working and how the 5 core elements of Effective Video Conferencing have worked for you. Contact us and let us know how you do!
Register for our upcoming webinar series
In an effort to help organizations and individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are launching a series of webinars to offer our expertise.
Video communications growth accelerating quickly
Is your organization prepared?
Video conferencing, live event streaming, Video On Demand, digital signage, security camera systems and video chat are all different forms of video communications. By video communications, I mean a communication that is watched and heard. According to Cisco’s data, video is the biggest and fastest growing segment of all Internet traffic. Does your organization have the infrastructure to adapt?
Video traffic used by Consumers in 2015 is already more than 60% of all Internet traffic and by 2019 Cisco predicts it will grow by 2.5 times, accounting for almost 70% of all Internet traffic. See Figure 1.
Business video is the fastest growing segment in the enterprise use of the Internet. In 2015 it accounts for just under 8% of the global IP traffic, the 4th largest category, but by 2019, it will become the 2nd largest global IP traffic category accounting for 11% of global IP traffic.
Growing by more than 3 times between 2015 and 2019, Business video will be the fastest growing segment of global IP traffic. Business global IP video traffic will grow from 5,711 Petabytes in 2015 to 18,618 Petabytes in 2019.
Why is business video usage growing so much?
Video is, by-far, the most compelling communications method to engage customers and employees. It is also the most effective method for disseminating company-wide information.
Business video communications, in all its forms, should be something that is important to every CEO and CIO. Unlike the consumer video traffic segment, business video is not dominated by the streaming of entertainment such as movies and TV shows. The business video segment of global IP traffic is made up of the following primary categories of video usage (in no particular order):
- Video Conferencing
- Live Event Streaming
- Video on Demand (VoD)
- Digital Signage
- Security Camera (streaming and VoD)
- Video chat
Each of these segments can be considered as a market on its own, but more and more there will be relationships between these segments, and businesses that are able to easily connect them together will realize advantages over their peers.
Enterprise class capabilities
When an enterprise deploys a new technical capability, they need to make sure that the solutions are up to snuff in order to fit into the enterprise IT world. Security is always the primary concern but it is certainly not the only criterion that a new IT solution will have to pass the test on. Here are some items to consider:
- Deployment requirements
- Enterprise directory integration
- Recording capabilities
- Archiving and retrieval
- Tools to manage the deployment of new infrastructure
- Serviceability of the new technology
- And more ….
Each one of the categories above has a consumer solution(s) which could be used in an enterprise. These consumer solutions are not enterprise hardened technology solutions because they don’t address the list of items above. Here are some examples:
|Technology||Consumer Solution||Enterprise Hardened Solution|
|Video Conferencing||Skype; Facetime||Cisco (H.323); Skype for Business; Vidyo|
|Video on Demand (VoD)||YouTube||Kaltura; VBrick; Qumu|
The data tells us that business video will be bigger than the business use of the Internet for ‘Web & Other Data’ in 2019. That means that enterprises who have not already done so, need to be ready to provide and manage IT solutions in each of the business video categories. They will need to ask some questions on behalf of their organization:
- Do we have a solution or platform for each of the business video categories?
- Are each of these islands of technology or will they integrate with each other?
- Do we need an in house solution or a fully managed cloud solution?
- Does the solution meet our enterprise technology requirements?
- Who will use the solutions and how will we deploy the technology and train the users?
These are just some of the questions, but some important ones.
Enterprises are already seeing the value of video. According to Wainhouse, 4 out of 5 enterprises say that video use improves productivity and efficiencies in their organizations. Further, 73% want their organizations to expand the usage of video. But as video technology becomes more pervasive, its uses will expand into applications that most people have never heard of. For example, video magnification will provide new capabilities to organizations.
By magnifying recorded or live video:
- A Doctor can take the pulse of a patient they are talking to over video while their normal conversation is going on by automatically magnifying the skin of the patient until the pulse can be seen and measured.
- Security personnel can reproduce entire conversations, even if the people being viewed have their backs turned away from the camera. The conversation the people are having is causing objects all around them to vibrate and that vibration when focused on and magnified can re-create the conversation.
These are just a couple of examples of how one small niche video capability will provide new uses few people ever imagined.
With the explosion of video communications, there will also be a corresponding increase in the requirement to record, archive and retrieve video communications. Some of these capabilities are already in place and sometimes the services of product specialists are needed.
Over the next few blogs I am going to delve deeper into some of the video communications categories other than video conferencing.
We have written many blogs on video conferencing and I personally use the technology so much that when I have a call that doesn’t have video, it’s uncomfortable because something is missing. I feel like I am driving a car without my seatbelt on. Here is a partial list of some of our prior blogs related to video conferencing.
- The 5 Biggest Mistakes Made in Determining Screen Real Estate in a Video Conferencing Room
- Screen Real Estate – a Critical Factor in Making Video Calls As Good As “Being There”
- Pros and Cons of Using Skype for Business Video Conferencing Calls
- 5 Myths of Telepresence and what they mean to your business
- What Conferencing Technologies Should be Available in Our Meeting Rooms?
- Honey – They Seriously Shrunk the Cost of Telepresence!
- What is your Organization’s Attitude to Video?
- Has video conferencing crossed “The Chasm” to the mainstream market?
- The Rise of the Virtual Meeting Room
- Video in the Cloud
- Transforming the Healthcare Collaborative Ecosystem
Contact us at ET Group if you have any questions about our collaboration technologies and how we implement them.
Transforming the healthcare collaborative ecosystem
The “Catch 22” of focusing on cost reduction
We see thousands of ads everyday, the sheer number can be overwhelming. But this ad immediately grabbed my attention because it was so different.
At first I had to stop and take in what was happening.
I was initially reeled in by the play on words, “Lose Wait” – very clever. Was this a new way to lose weight? It wasn’t – but it was!!! Just a different kind.
Then the statistic hit me … 82% is pretty compelling, and what was even more compelling was what people were saving – time. Time spent waiting in a line, one of the most universally disliked time wasters.
But what really struck me was what LiveHealth Online had done. They had transformed a key part of the healthcare system as we know it. They did not just tweak it by automating a few things or adding new functionality, they changed the entire game.
Roy Schoenberg, President and CEO of American Well Systems stated, “In-home telehealth services and urgent care consultations are growing at a rapid pace and American Well is prepared to meet rising provider and patient needs for live, on-demand care.”
When I put what American Well did through my test of “The Five Guiding Principles for Accelerated Collaboration”, they hit a home run:
- Real time communication tools – ✔
- Built rich communication between people – ✔
- Targeted high ROI collaboration benefits – ✔
- Compressed timeframes – ✔
- Enabled small teams (of Healthcare workers) – ✔
The requirement for high quality, cost effective healthcare for all has been driving health care organizations to explore how technology can enable telehealth possibilities for many years.
Video conferencing has always been a key technology enabler for telehealth, which is currently undergoing a shift to software based video/collaboration solutions that run on people’s personal technology – PCs, Macs, tablets and mobile devices. This shift is enabling new possibilities and changing the landscape of how things are done with video.
American Well is not alone; I see the healthcare industry collaborative ecosystem being transformed in groundbreaking ways by many integrated healthcare delivery networks.
Other industries should take note of what can be done.
Cost cutting approach
The type of transformation that is happening in the healthcare industry cannot be achieved with a “cost saving” approach. The biggest mistake organizations make while enabling their ecosystem with better collaboration tools is to focus on cost avoidance.
Making changes with cost avoidance as the primary focus, e.g. the costs of the technology, is like focusing on the trees (costs) and not realizing that you are in the middle of a forest (the long term benefits). The trees (costs) are in the way and are preventing you from seeing the bigger picture.
It’s not that the wise use of dollars isn’t important. It is, but if the five guiding principles mentioned above are used to affect transformational change, you will save a lot more money than can be realized by focusing largely on change driven by cost savings.
A cost savings approach often starts with a mandate from higher up in the organization for immediate cost reductions to improve the bottom line. This is an operational ROI approach – the low hanging fruit. Operational savings are when you either stop doing something you used to do, or do it differently, in a way that allows you to get a similar result with less cost.
Sometimes achieving an operational savings, can actually have compounded benefits with productivity gains, e.g. using video conferencing to avoid travel costs has an added and significant benefit in that it provides productivity benefits and can speed execution of business. But these are usually what I call “side effect” benefits or unplanned benefits.
Is cost cutting going to have a negative impact on the collaborative ecosystem?
Saving money in implementation often simply transfers the costs to the ongoing operation of the ecosystem. The dollars spent on the operation of the ecosystem which is sub-optimized, will far outweigh any saved implementation dollars. I don’t have an exact formula but it would be something like $1 cut in implementation will cost you $3-$6 in ongoing operation. And an ongoing operation like a collaborative ecosystem is meant to be in place for a very long time.
There are savings to be had with an operational approach, but by focusing on productivity and strategic ROI, an organization can perform 3-6 times better than it would otherwise.
If I look at what American Well is doing the operational, productivity and strategic benefits all compound to give you 3-6 times the performance compared to the old way of doing things. Here are some of the benefits:
- Saving people’s time – on average 2 hours according to the survey. This is massive.
- Saving the patients the cost of traveling back and forth for an appointment – gas, vehicle wear and tear …
- The doctors and specialists can actually make the calls from their homes or offices. No need to come into a clinic or hospital.
- The requirement for medical buildings is reduced – huge infrastructure savings over time.
- Patients can be processed quicker and the output of the entire system has been increased – huge benefits.
- If there is a need to cancel, the patient and doctor can easily do so without a major impact to either.
- Reducing greenhouse emissions.
- And there are many more implications …
Trying to save money by cutting costs when there is an opportunity to transform an ecosystem through greater collaboration is going to work against what is possible in transforming a business or industry. That is the “Catch 22″ of focusing on cost reduction. Using the 5 guiding principles of greater collaboration will help increase the velocity of collaboration and supercharge the performance of the ecosystem.
Transform the ecosystem in a way that works well and will get adopted; hearing better, seeing clearly, usability of the system, recording interactions, managing the real time interactions and recordings, enabling new ways of working.
Use the five principles to transform your collaborative ecosystem.
Invest in transforming your Collaborative ecosystem = Technology + Process enhancements + Training
The benefits of a truly transformative collaborative change will continue to ripple through your ecosystem in ways you cannot even imagine. Contact us at ET Group if you like to learn more about our strategies to implement technology to increase collaboration.
The rise of the virtual meeting room
I was struck by just how powerful a virtual meeting room (VMR) had become for me when I was in the office with two co-workers and we wanted to connect with someone in our Montreal office for a discussion.
Instead of looking for an open meeting room and using technology to connect our colleague in Montreal into the room, we all went back to our desks and called into a video VMR. Not because there wasn’t a room available, but because it would be a better experience for everyone. We could:
- See each other better
- Hear each other better and;
- Each share the content on our computers with each other easily
I have heard similar stories from other companies as well. Sitting at their desks people can join virtual meeting rooms instead of going into real meeting rooms – even when they are on the same office floor.
On the surface this may not seem very significant, but the impact of the increased use of VMRs in your company can be dramatic.
Lets take a step back first and review the four types of meetings that can be enabled using real-time collaborative communications tools:
- A Meeting Room connected to another Meeting Room(s)
- A Meeting Room with Remote Participants connected into it
- Person to Person connections
- Virtual Meeting Rooms (VMRs)
While the first three types of meetings are probably familiar to everyone, VMRs might not be, so let me explain.
A VMR is a room in the cloud. It replaces the requirement for a physical meeting room and it only exists temporarily when technology creates a connection between people. Participants call into a technical address with a simple name like “Paul’s Room”. When they call into Paul’s Room, the images from the cameras on their PC are combined into a single image shared by all the participants. So if there are 4 participants in the VMR the image will look like this.
In a VMR everyone can see each other clearly. There is no “Boardroom Bowling Alley” view of the people in the room where participants are so far away from the camera that you can’t really see their faces. You can hear each other well, assuming your PC audio is set up properly, and it is easy for people to share content with each other right from the computer they are using to make the call.
Everything you need for a VMR call is right there on your PC or Mac. And you can make the call from anywhere as long as you have your PC and it is connected to the Internet. A broadband, quality Internet connection is pretty standard and a lack of this type of connection is really the only thing that can prevent people from participating fully in a rich collaborative VMR experience. A virtual meeting that has video as part of it eliminates a lot of the shortcomings a virtual “audio only” call has, as explained here in this blog.
VMRs – better than being in a real meeting?
I often prefer to have a virtual meeting instead of an in person meeting.
This may seem odd, but there are some real advantages to virtual meetings that just make it easier to collaborate and it delivers a better experience for everyone. Here are some of the advantages for the meeting participants of using a VMR to conduct a meeting:
- You can hold the meeting anytime, as long as everyone is available for the meeting. There is no need to look for an available meeting room. Everyone can connect from their desks, their homes, on the road, wherever they are.
- Everyone can share the content on his or her PC or Mac computer.* The meeting is not limited to the content of whoever is connected to the room system. These problems with content sharing in a room are being eliminated with some of the new in-room content sharing technologies which I covered in this blog.
- Each participant can manipulate their own view of the content being shared, e.g. they can make it bigger and more legible to suit their needs
- Each person can focus on the people in the room or the content being shared as it suits them. Just like in a live meeting.
- There tends to be less distraction in the meeting because everyone is using their technology to participate in the meeting, versus doing other things on their technology in a live meeting.
*Some collaborative communications tools allow multiple participant sharing, others do not.
VMRs can drive a very good business case
Not only can VMRs become a preferred way to conduct some meetings, but there are also some very good economic reasons for using them.
- Savings on real estate: The more your organization uses VMRs the less the requirement for physical meeting rooms. Real Estate costs are still one of the most expensive costs for organizations. See this blog for more on how People-Place-Technology are coming together. And meeting rooms are still scarce in most organizations. Enabling everyone in the organization with his or her own virtual room will drastically cut down on the demand for physical meeting space in the office.
- Enable more meetings: Because people can enable a meeting on demand from wherever they are, you can make your workers more productive. The VMR eliminates the constraint of requiring a meeting room to be available in order to conduct a meeting. In addition, the time it takes to find and book a meeting room is eliminated.
- Speeds up execution: Saving cost on meeting rooms is an operational savings, but even more dramatic returns are realized as an organization moves to greater collaborative optimization. Eliminating constraints to workflow will speed up the execution within your organization. The organization will be collaborating better, which means the organization will perform better than its peers. And organizations that collaborate better outperform their peers by 2 to 6 times.
Personal technology required
To be able to use a VMR your personal technology accessories needs to be easy to use and provide a quality, consistent experience. You need:
- A good unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) tool set, like Jabber or Skype for business; or good Meeting facilitation software like WebEx
- Good audio quality
- A second screen display screen for content viewing
- A camera on your PC that provides a good image of you and proper lighting
I talk about these in a bit more detail in the second part of this blog but I will write a separate blog on personal technology accessories for better communication in the future.
You should get started using VMRs for more of your meetings. They can be a very powerful collaborative enabler for your organization. The easiest way to get started is to buy the capability through a cloud service provider (click here for a blog about Video in the Cloud), or by signing up for your own WebEx account.
If you have a story about using VMRs, we would love to hear it. Please share it in the comment section below. If you want to learn more about creative technology solutions contact us to learn more about our HybridX solutions.
Boost collaboration in between your “Most Important Meetings”
Part II: Moving the needle of collaboration in your organization
In the first part of this blog, I talked about the “Most Important Meeting” and how you can:
- Incrementally improve the meeting by taking small steps to collaborate better – some incremental things are foolproof and cost nothing
- Make a bigger change by adding something that you aren’t doing today. Don’t be afraid of bigger steps – the benefits certainly outweigh the costs.
- Plan to learn from every step you take
Those activities were collectively the first step to better collaboration in your department or business.
If we dial back the time machine a little, the majority of “Most Important Meetings” which had remote participants were audio conference calls.
When conferencing tools like WebEx, and GoToMeeting came to market, meeting participants from different locations were able to share content parallel to the audio conference. These conferencing tools have continued to evolve by adding voice (instead of a parallel call) as well as video and some interactive annotation. They have allowed the “Most Important Meeting” to evolve from a “voice only” conference, to a “voice + content + video + annotation” meeting.
The increased conferencing technologies capability leads to a richer meeting experience for all participants – see this blog for more on increasing the richness of experience.
But I also stated that, even though it is important to have better collaboration in your “Most Important Meeting,” you can increase collaboration much more significantly by injecting a higher level of collaboration into the team activities that happen in between the “Most Important Meetings”.
Step 2: Team activities between the most important meetings
A lot more time and work effort is spent in between “Most Important Meetings” than having “Most Important Meetings”. So it stands to reason that if you can enable greater collaboration during the interaction between your team members for the work they do between meetings, you will be significantly accelerating collaboration in your organization.
Going from a collaborative crawl to a walk – remember the Crawl-Walk-Run (C-W-R) analogy from the last blog.
But, WebEx or GoToMeeting, as good as they are for meetings, are not the ideal tools for day-to-day collaboration between team members.
Because they are tools that are designed for meetings. That is the strength of these tools – to facilitate meetings. All different kinds of meetings in WebEx’s case.
Meeting tools are:
- Oriented to a “One to Many” type meeting, where the owner of the meeting has most of the control of the meeting
- Are schedule driven events – book the meeting then hold the meeting
To move collaboration to the day-to-day interactions of your team members, you need to move from tools that are designed for meetings, to tools that are designed for ad hoc collaboration, i.e. Unified Communication (UC) tools.
GoToMeeting and WebEx don’t allow for ad hoc collaboration. They don’t have Presence, IM (Instant Messaging – outside of the chat function they enable in a meeting) or ad hoc voice or video calling. WebEx/GoToMeeting technology is designed for a meeting, not as a communication platform that supports day-to-day business.
A good UC platform like Jabber or Lync incorporates technology within it to facilitate meetings. It is one platform for all the real-time collaboration done within the organization. UC is the central piece of any Corporate Communications Framework, but if you are trying to move from a collaborative Crawl to a Walk, then don’t let the architecting of a framework slow you down. You are better off getting to a Walk by trying to walk versus planning on walking.
If you have a phone system already (a PBX), one way to move forward is to build on the phone system. But this will typically mean an upgrade of some sort if your phone system is more than a couple years old and it will mean you have to get more people involved in the decision. It is harder to start walking that way. The other thing that is noteworthy about the PBX is that with all the other tools available for real-time communications, the PBX just isn’t as important anymore and you shouldn’t continue to invest in it unless it ties in with your overall communications framework. See this blog by Marty Parker of UC Strategies – “How to Carve a PBX”.
Many people use Skype or other free consumer products for person-to-person interaction and they can work well – see this blog. But sometimes Skype is not reliable enough or scalable enough for your organization. Most people realize that when they start spending too much time managing the technology and not enough time focused on the business at hand, they aren’t saving anything by using free tools. When that happens you have to move up to higher quality UC tools that can provide a richer collaborative experience, e.g. Cisco’s Jabber, Microsoft’s Lync or another commercial UC solution.
The key to person-to-person collaboration
Whether you are using Skype or a more robust UC solution, to accelerate person-to-person collaboration, the most important piece to get right is the personal technology that plugs into the call.
What do I mean by that? Personal technology that enhances the audio and video experience by:
- Eliminating audio feedback / interference and provide good audio quality so people can hear and be heard. How?
- Use your iPhone/iPad or other ear buds plugged into your PC, tablet or mobile
- Add a USB personal audio device if you are working from a quiet place and don’t want to be tethered to a device. Cost ~ $100 to $150
- Enhancing the visual experience by making the video and content BIG
- All you need is a 2nd screen connected to your laptop or desktop which costs around $120
- Maintaining a good connection for quality and continuity of the call. Although a good connection is not “personal technology”, nothing disrupts a call more than fading in or out, or dropping the call and having to reconnect. You need a stable connection. This one is harder to put a price tag on, but there are different ways to come at the issue:
- Make sure you have lots of bandwidth and that normal bandwidth use by others on the same network isn’t choking your connection
- Use technology that is bandwidth friendly, e.g. uses less or is adaptable to bandwidth fluctuations
A personal audio device and a 2nd screen are the best investments you can make to significantly enhance person-to-person communication in your organization. Make the experience richer and people will be able to collaborate better.
If you can enable the person-to-person collaboration in between the “Most Important Meeting” you will have taken your organization from a collaborative crawl to a strong walk. And that is significant progress! I have experienced this in our own organization and seen it in others.
The next 2 steps to get to a Run are:
- Step 3: Extend Collaboration to Partners
- Step 4: Extend Collaboration to Customers
I’ll talk more about these in my next blog.
Accelerating your real-time collaboration capabilities
I was in Las Vegas for the InfoComm 2014 trade show in late June. InfoComm is traditionally an AV industry trade show, but just like all things technology, it has been changing to reflect the current tech trends. One of the biggest changes at InfoComm in the last couple of years has been to embrace and advance real-time collaboration. Their focus is primarily on the room systems that are a part of the overall collaborative ecosystem. They are starting to understand that room systems play an integral part in the UC collaborative technology ecosystem.
One of the under-current themes that came through for me at InfoComm, was the new technologies that could advance an organization’s collaborative capabilities. These are technologies for organizations that are already using room systems as part of their real-time collaboration ecosystem, but want to advance the experience.
Why would they want to do that? It’s because they see the payoff that they are getting from collaboration already and they want to continue cashing in.
How can they do that?
- By advancing the collaborative experience to make it more “like being there”
- By making it easier to collaborate
- By making the experience richer (sometimes better than being there)
These technologies are for the 28% of companies that are beyond the first 2 stages of real-time collaborative evolution. Reminder – most companies (72%) have a collaborative environment that is either ‘Unsupported’ or ‘Not Integrated’.
To continue your journey to becoming a more advanced collaborative organization, you need to move your real-time collaboration from being a 4-6, out of 10, to say a 7-8, out of 10. Here are a couple of technologies that can help you do that.
High End Telepresence rooms can cost in the range of $300K to $750K. Telepresence is the name used for the most life-like video conferencing implementations; the implementations that are closest to “being there” – see this blog for more info.
Array gives you a similar Telepresence experience for about $15K per room (to take full advantage of this technology it is ideal to have this system installed at both ends of the call).
One of the biggest problems with video conferencing implementations in typical corporate meeting rooms is what I call the “Boardroom Bowling Alley” effect. I wrote one of my first blogs on this topic, featuring a dual camera solution from Polycom that helped eliminate this effect. I think Array’s solution is more effective because it turns the “Boardroom Bowling Alley” into a Telepresence room vs the Polycom Eagle-Eye dual camera solution or Cisco’s Speaker track solution. With Array’s solution you get to see everyone in the room at anytime, close up – just like a Telepresence experience, while the Polycom or Cisco camera experience focuses the camera on the active speaker. By doing that it makes the active speaker a large image on your screen on the far end, but you can’t see the rest of the people and what they are doing or how they are reacting.
Ironically, 1) they are all camera solutions to the same Boardroom Bowling Alley problem, with different approaches, and; 2) the Array solution was developed by the same guys that built Polycom’s RealPresence, high-end Telepresence systems.
The same guys who built the $750K high-end experience, just shrunk their solution to $15K per room That is cool!
Here is an image from the Array website that shows how their camera technology can transform an ordinary boardroom.
The two key components of the solution are the camera and the Array Equal-i 2S Image Improvement Processor. You can see from the second image above that everyone in the room looks like they are sitting around a Telepresence table – but they are not, it is the same table from the first photo.
One of the big improvements in the two images is that the video is now displayed on both screens making everyone bigger. This uses one of my 5 Technology Deployment Principles (upcoming blog) – maximize screen real estate to make things bigger. In order to free up the second screen to be used as a part of the video image, Array has taken the content sharing feature and put it onto the boardroom tabletop, which is a principle used in high Telepresence rooms. There would be an extra cost (in addition to the $15K) to put a few small monitors on the table to see the content. With an Array Telepresence system installed in two separate rooms on a call, the experience would be that of a full immersive system where both rooms would be able to see a dual screen improved view of the far end. There is no additional codec purchase required for this system, it will work with existing Cisco, Polycom or Lifesize codec equipment. The Array box encodes and decodes the expanded view at either end of the call.
To summarize what Array’s technology does:
- Brings farthest participants up close and personal
- Improves eye line and meeting format
- Powers dual displays using a single video codec
- Conceals camera(s) and brings wide format display
Early indications are that the highest interest for this technology is coming from companies that have already deployed and are using video conferencing for day-to-day business. Companies who are making a marginal, additional investment in technology to upgrade the collaborative experience for their users go from say a 4 out of 10, to a 7 or 8, out of 10.
For those companies who have already made an investment in room systems throughout their organization and are making good use of these systems, an extra $15K per room is not a very big additional investment to amp up the experience by 30-100%. Considering all the investments in equipment, network and user adoption, another $15K to significantly enhance the experience will breath a longer life into many of these rooms versus doing a total technology refresh of some kind.
Note: “Companies that have already deployed and are using video conferencing.” This is a critical phrase. I would not recommend this technology for deployments that would ‘hope’ to drive adoption, simply by upgrading the technology.
We at ET Group are getting on board to offer and support this technology in the Canadian marketplace. If you are interested in exploring the possible deployment in your video conferencing room systems, send an email to us through our contact page and we will get back to you.
More from InfoComm on advancing collaboration in your organization in Part 2 of this blog. Stay tuned!
Why I Choose Videoconferencing to Collaborate
In the early days of videoconferencing system, most vendors focused on the ROI of replacing expensive travel. It was easy to justify the expense of a videoconferencing system by eliminating a few executive trips, but as a user of video on a daily basis, I believe that the real value of videoconferencing lies in replacing phone calls and intra-city travel.
A person-to-person video call is much closer to a face to face meeting, than a phone call is – closer to being there. To make the experience as close to “being there” it is important to enhance the richness of the call with a large monitor and good audio quality. I use the CHAT 50 from ClearOne, it’s a USB powered speakerphone with built-in echo and noise cancellation, and it eliminates the need for me to wear headphones or ear buds, making the call feel more natural.
If you are solely focused on the ROI of replacing phone calls, it is more difficult to sell the value of videoconferencing. But if you shift the focus to include the soft benefits, videoconferencing can be a powerful tool to enhance communications and collaboration.
Video Is More Likely to Be Used in Place of a Phone Call, than as an Alternative to Travel
In our bi-weekly sales meeting the team assembles in our main boardroom, one of the participants (RD) is remote, so he participates via videoconference. We have two 80” displays and since RD is using a desktop video client (Vidyo), he appears larger than life on one of the displays; the other display is used to share content. Typically this works very well, everyone in the room can interact with RD as if he was in the room, we even tease him about his shirt selection.
Recently, due to logistics, RD was only able to join using a phone. We often have a roundtable discussion where each of us to raise issues and share experiences; after going around the table we were about to wrap up when RD spoke up and I realized that we had all forgotten that RD was part of the meeting – this never happens on a videoconference.
Videoconferencing Adds to a Rich Meeting Experience
In my work life, I have spent countless hours on audio conferences, both as a remote participant and in the meeting rooms. Audio conferencing enables remote participation but it has many shortcomings:
- Forgetting about people on the phone, is very common
- Sometimes as the remote participant we get frustrated, we can’t seem to break into the conversation
- There are side bar discussions happening we can’t hear
- Other times, as the remote participant, we welcome the opportunity to hide and get “real work” done during the meeting
It takes a very effective meeting facilitator to make sure everyone is engaged and heard in audio conferences.
Webconferencing tools help with this problem because they show a list of participants and often show who is speaking. But, it’s easy to lose track of this feature when you are focussed on the content being shared.
My experience with video calls is quite different. With effectively enabled video, you can have eye to eye contact and it’s much easier for all participants to remain engaged. It’s difficult for remote participants to hide or check email, as it’s apparent that they aren’t focussed on the discussion. My perception is that video conferencing leads to shorter more engaged calls, I haven’t seen any studies to back this up, but as video calls become more ubiquitous I’m sure we will see more research done.
We have all heard the statistics, according to a UCLA study 93% of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues. Anyone who was tried video calls understands how it’s a richer experience than audio only.
A few weeks ago I had scheduled a face to face meeting in our office with one of our suppliers and two other colleagues. At the last minute we had to postpone the meeting and due to scheduling we ended up having the call via a videoconference. We had 5 participants, each using a desktop videoconferencing client. I was at home and could clearly see all 4 remote participants in a “Hollywood Squares” configuration on my 20” monitor. It worked wonderfully; I don’t think it would have been any better if we had all been in the same room. We could have all driven to our office for the meeting, but by doing it via videoconferencing we collectively saved approximately 10 hours of driving time, not to mention the environmental benefits. Had we done the same meeting using a web conference and audio only, we would have lost a lot of the communications richness. It would not have been as close to “being there”.
When Does Audio Conferencing/Web Conferencing Fit?
I’m not saying that audio conferences aren’t still relevant, there are times when video communication isn’t practical or when many of the participants don’t have access to the technology. And web conferencing adds an important layer of richness to an audio conference. It is not an either or discussion, the more conferencing elements that can be effectively combined, the richer the experience.
I use videoconferencing in place of phone calls regularly with my colleagues and prefer it in most instances, but there are times when audio and/or web conferencing are a better fit:
- When video isn’t available (participants are mobile)
- When you have a large number of participants (you can still use video but only see active speakers)
- One to Many calls (video of the host still enhances the call)
Earlier this year I participated in webcast hosted by a videoconferencing vendor. This was for a product announcement and there were over 200 people globally connected via the vendor’s videoconferencing technology. The technology worked well but we were able to see several of the remote participants, including a person driving down the highway while enjoying a coffee! As you can imagine watching the other participants became quite distracting and in this case an audio only conference with web conferencing might have worked better. Just like a audio conference call, certain protocols must be observed by participants. If you are going to do a videoconference for a one to many scenario, then I suggest setting it up so participants can only see the presenter.
I Always Choose Video Calls over Audio Calls
It seems we are living in a time of unlimited communications tools and new choices seem to pop up every day. From my experience and, if given the choice, I find a video call provides a much richer, focussed communications experience than voice only and I choose to use it whenever possible.
If you are interested in learning more about the unrealized benefits of videoconferencing don’t hesitate to Contact Us.