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Governments around the world today are faced with more types of emergencies and situations to deal with than even before - natural disasters, health hazards, social unrest, border control and acts of terrorism. Public Safety and Security agencies along with Fire and Health departments’ emergency and tactical response teams have been tasked to provide an ever-widening array of services, while simultaneously reducing operating costs and improving cross-agency collaboration. To respond to these requirements, they have invested in technologies such as video conferencing and streaming to address such challenges. This is the case of Australia’s NSW Fire Service, Korea’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the US National Guard or NATO among many others. Today, Law Enforcement, Health and Emergency Services, Fire and Rescue, Paramilitary forces highly depend on such real-time audio and video communications tools at all stages of the emergency management process.

 

Preparedness

Risk mitigation, awareness and training programs are necessary to making sure responders and citizens alike are better prepared and know how to react in any situation. Video conferencing and streaming technologies are used to host daily briefings and meetings at a distance, discuss emergency plans, and educate staff and citizen with video-based learning and communications. It allows emergency teams to stay updated on the latest tools, techniques and procedures. This type of staff training, emergency planning meetings as well as briefings and debriefings, can be done at a distance, using video collaboration and/or immersive telepresence solutions. These measures save time and costs, improve knowledge transfer and retention resulting in higher levels of preparedness for responders and citizens.

 

Detection

Video surveillance allows the monitor and capture of any event or situation taking place simply by using stationary security cameras, in-vehicle cameras, wearable cameras as well as smart phone cameras. In the near fu­ture, emergency calls to dispatch centres will be made using video calling and other multi-media technologies. Citizens will be able to notify authorities about any crime or emergency in ac­tion. Law enforcement personnel will be able to see and determine, from a distance, if an intruder or suspect is armed. Emergency operators handling a fire call can see the precise location of a blaze to better direct firefighters and potentially save crucial seconds. Citizens who lack the ability to speak can still make the nature of their emergency known, by showing operators what is happening using their phone-cams. Streaming video will also be linked with GPS coordinates to help responders locate victims or offenders.

 

Response

Is a fire that has been called in merely a brush fire, or is it a chemical fire? What other types of agencies need to be called in to assist? Those who are equipped with the most up-to-date and detailed information are able to collaborate in a unified manner with others involved, to respond more effectively. Mobile video collaboration and immersive telepresence solutions help everyone involved better understand an emergency situa­tion while it is happening. When both time and accurate information are of the essence, video collaboration is a mission-critical tool to handling any crisis effectively. Emergency responders who can see for themselves what is happening — even if they aren’t physically present — are better armed with knowledge than those who are reporting from other sources. They can achieve situational awareness, which allows them to better plan and respond swiftly.

 

Recovery 

After an emergency, initial care and early triage can benefit from accurate communication in the field. It is made possible when all volunteers and professionals involved can collaborate in real time via video. Valuable evidence can be collected and preserved through video, which can help determine the cause of a crisis, methods for its possible prevention and ways to improve future response. Government officials armed with real-time information can better coordinate an ongoing response to any disaster or public security situation. This includes transporting victims to avail­able medical service providers, arranging for the rebuilding of damaged infrastructure or coordinating the re-establishment of public works. In the event of a lengthy pandemic or other major disaster, governments deploy video conferencing technology at all levels of their organisation to ensure Continuity of Operations or and provide essential services to communities in affected areas.

 

Conclusion

Natural and man-made disasters will not go away any time soon. Government agencies need to arm themselves with the right technology to be better prepared, detect, respond and recover from any situation more efficiently than ever before. Video conferencing and video content management solutions have been widely recognised by world-class emergency services teams. Polycom is proud to continuously contribute to the improvement of emergency and crisis management around the planet. Our innovation in voice and video technologies for the past 25 years, enable responders and rescue teams to enjoying the highest quality of voice and video communications at the lowest bandwidth whether on-base or in the field.  With Polycom at your side, you can enhance operational efficiency and sustainability as well as enable rapid and informed decision-making for greater mission success.

 

If you have any questions or would like more information, please reach out to industry.solutions@polycom.com or visit our website about collaborative solutions for government

 

This blog is part of a series of 25 blogs that take a look at how Polycom has transformed industries and business functions.These blogs are a variety of retrospective, current and visionary perspectives with the common thread of unleashing the power of human collaboration. Follow the hashtag #Polycom25 on Twitter for tweets about this significant anniversary in our history.

 

 

This year, Polycom’s CEO Peter Leav unveiled the company’s vision of the Workplace of the Future. But how is the workplace of the future different from any Smart Work approach we hear about today? Most importantly, what does it really mean for you, your colleagues and your friends?

 

Workplace of the Future

The Workplace of the Future is not a physical place you go to, to do work. It is about embracing business transformation to Marc1.jpgimprove performance, efficiencies and operations by integrating people, process and technology. Simply put, this is a new way of working which is relevant to all jobs, functions or industries.  

 

To enjoy such benefits, businesses, government  agencies, education and healthcare institutions must embed collaboration solutions into the DNA of their organisation to unleash the power of human collaboration. The Workplace of the Future has the potential of transforming not only the way we work, but also the way we learn and live today, tomorrow and in the future.

 

Workforce is changing

Bersin by Deloitte recently published the Global Human Capital Trends 2014 - Engaging the 21st-century workforce survey, which confirms key facts and trends affecting the new world of work today such as:

  • Barriers between work and life have been all but eliminated.
  • Employees are hyper connected to their jobs and always on.
  • Many employees work in global teams that operate on a 24/7 basis.
  • The balance of power in the employer-employee relationship has shifted.
  • Millennials are taking center stage and have vastly different expectations.
  • New cognitive technologies are displacing workers and reengineering work, forcing companies to redesign jobs to incorporate new technology solutions.

The same report suggests that this new world requires bold and innovative thinking. It challenges our existing people practices: how we evaluate and manage people and how we engage and develop teams; how we select leaders and how they operate. Organisations now face increasing demands to measure and monitor the larger organisational culture, simplify the work environment, and redesign work to help people adapt.

 

The Workforce of the Future

The workforce of the future, (not just millennials or Gen Y and X  but any high performing team in any country, department or sector) demands collaboration tools and services which help them successfully achieve their goal or mission faster -  not by working harder but smarter. Their workplace is not defined by a physical place they go to but by the way they work, communicate and collaborate regardless of location, network to device.

 

Business transformation requires a seamless integration between People, Technology and Process in order for organisations to enjoy new level of performance and innovation fuelled by new waves of agility, productivity and efficiency. The workplace of the future can only become a reality if the three key elements such as workspace, experience and workflows are tightly integrated and supported by a strong culture of collaboration.

 

My workplace, workspace and work style…

As a business executive based in Singapore, managing and leading a culturally diverse team of industry subject-matter experts spread around the world. The team is not just spread across cities but also across home offices. Collaborating regardless of location or time zone is a very enriching experience and exciting way to work. That said, my job would be extremely challenging without leveraging innovative communication technologies, collaborative workspaces and flexi-work initiatives available in the organisation.

 

From my personal workspace at home, I get to defy to defy distance daily. I can adjust my working hours and work Marc2.jpgstyle to perform at my best in all situations and time zones thanks to unified communication and collaboration tools. The picture shows my collaborative workspace in my home office with the devices I carry with me when I am on the move. This is quite a cutting-edge workspace compared to having a computer send emails and using a phone to make calls.

 

At the end of the day, regardless which device I have access to or no matter which network I can connect to, it is mission-critical in my role to be able to engage, communicate and collaborate with people in and outside of my organisation. Leveraging Polycom audio, video and content collaboration solutions, I host team meetings, manage projects, interview people, train partners or meet with customer. Distance, time and location have become irrelevant, but performance multiplied.

 

Conclusion

Inquisitive minds will find the workplace of the future an interesting approach to the way we work and how technology can help us achieve team goals and improve future performance. For me, it is about empowering and trusting people. The Workplace of the future unleashes the best of you. Whatever gets you to “work” every day, you can do it better, more efficiently and collaboratively, regardless of distance, location, device or network. So, what are you waiting for?

 

 

 

 

 

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I recently came across another press article explaining why companies are adding video communication to increase service differentiation and customer satisfaction. This is just another validation of how such a disruptive technology is transforming customer service across geographies and industries. What is your organisation doing about this? Will you lead the way or follow the herd? Here is what’s happening in the market…

 

Published in the Los Angeles Times, the article starts by telling the story of Veronica Vallejos who opted for the drive-through at Visterra Credit Union in Moreno Valley and how surprised she was to then interact with Regina, a video-enabled remote teller covering multiple branches. The reporter then explains that several other very well-known US companies are rolling out one-click access to help via video chat.

 

The same phenomenon is happening worldwide across industries. Video collaboration technology is now available on computers, tablets, smartphones, store kiosks and ATMs. Many banks have improved both their retail footprint and customer satisfaction by providing friendly help over video. This is the case, for example, of Ziraat Bank in Turkey and their unmanned banking booths. Visual customer service makes “cents” (sense) not only in Banking but in many other vertical markets such as Retail, Government, Manufacturing, High-Tech, Healthcare and even Education.

 

 

I invite you to listen above to my latest insights on the use of video for better customer service and read my previous post titled “Is Your Customer Service Human?” There I explain how video collaboration and video content management solutions reduce the distance that exists between organisations and customers as a result of process automation. It is high time to bridge this huge gap and bring back the “human touch” element to customer interactions. Be the change agent in your organisation! Start Now!

 

I’d welcome comments and suggestions for other topics you would like me to cover in future.

 

Follow me: @MarcRemond

LinkedIn: Marc-Alexis Remond

 

 

 

 

1912.jpgYou probably know roughly how old the portable computer is, but how old is the conference room?  Meeting rooms have been around probably since the invention of the type writer in 1860s. In the picture, you can see the members of the Board of Corona Typewriter Co. discussing strategy in the company’s conference room in 1912.

 

Technology in the Conference Room

 

SoundStation 1.jpgBy the end of the 1980s, word processors and personal computers had largely displaced typewriters, but the conference room had not changed much. The black board turned white and the iconic Polycom "spider" conference phone (the SoundStation) made its first appearance by crawling over the conference table. That was a revolution at the time because teams were able to communicate and collaborate with people located outside of the office.

 

Then, in the 1990s, the phone lines became digital allowing video conferences to take place in the meeting room using innovative pan-tilt-zoom cameras and monitors. At the beginning of the new millennium, the whiteboard got “smart” and interactive, monitors became flat, and both the spider phone and the video conferencing system in the meeting room got upgraded to support IP and High Definition audio and video. And again, the conference room still had not changed much back then…

 

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A PictureTel videoconferencing solution in a conference room in 1998

 

The need for a Change

 

Today, the pace of business is much faster. Time to market and product lifecycles are shorter than ever. The world is an increasingly complex and competitive place where productivity and innovation are vital. As a result we have become mobile, social, visual and analytical more than ever before. We are connected at home, at the office and on the go. We have turned into working nomads always on the move or teleworkers working from home offices. We are now part of virtual teams separated by distance whether geographic, cultural, linguistic or demographic even though many of us still have to commute daily to get to an office and waste precious hours in traffic.

 

Succeeding in this highly competitive world requires that people – everywhere – must work more collaboratively. And yet, most meeting room spaces today support leader-led presentations where information is controlled and shared by one person at a time. Such workspaces do not provide the technology allowing multiple types of digital information (images, videos, music, presentations, documents, etc...) to be shared and edited at the same time, and make it very hard for remote participants to easily contribute to the discussion.

 

What will the future be like?

 

StarTrek.JPGIn Star Trek, the NX-class Enterprise had a conference room.  A conference room was a location where meetings and similar gatherings were held. In 2366, Captain Jean-Luc Picard ordered the senior staff to the conference room to discuss a series of computer malfunctions (i.e. Star Trek, The Next Generation, Episode "Evolution" first aired on 25 September 1989). It looked very similar to the one used by the members of the Board of Corona Typewriter Co. in 1912.

 

With this in mind, shouldn’t we ask architects, designers, systems and AV integrators to bury the traditional meeting room as we know it today? Why not create together workspaces that are more intuitive, inclusive and more importantly, collaborative? As we approach 2020, shouldn’t we take into account much more the new ways of working and the needs of the business?

 

Collaborative Environments

 

Through the integration of innovative furniture design, video conferencing and content collaboration technologies, Polycom together with Steelcase and WOW Vision, have architected the next generation of collaborative workspaces which augment teamwork and productivity at a distance.

 

Collaborative Environments are the next generation of meeting and work spaces that reshape the way people collaborate in a connected world by allowing all participants to access, edit, share digital information equally, quickly and seamlessly regardless of distance. Collaborative Environments take into account the needs of multiple industries and comprise three main building blocks which integrate cutting-edge furniture and innovative technology:

 

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1.  Workspace Solutions: Steelcase media:scape is a family of products that brings together people, space, and information to boost collaboration and help teams excel. Participants can access and share their digital information equally, quickly, and seamlessly. Steelcase media tables come in various shapes and heights specifically developed to enhance collaboration. When integrated with Polycom’s high-quality audio and video collaboration solutions, media:scape connects virtual teams spread across the globe. Watch how media:scape enhances collaboration here.

 

2.  Video Collaboration: With Polycom RealPresence video solutions, you can extend the productivity and efficiency benefits of in-person meetings beyond fixed workspaces. The Polycom RealPresence Group Series brings a new wave of efficiency and productivity to room-based group collaboration by combining great video experiences with a new breakthrough simple interface. Supporting over 75,000 users on a single network, the Polycom RealPresence Platform allows participants to seamlessly connect to other remote participants regardless of device type, protocol, network type, or bandwidth. Click here to watch how it works.

 

3.  Content Collaboration: Integrated with Polycom RealPresence Group 500 and 700 HD video conferencing systems, WOW Vision Collab8 enables your teams to wirelessly present up to 6 different sources of content and collaborate from any device – PC, Mac, tablet, smartphone and more – to a display. Teams can create and edit a common document through their individual devices. Furthermore, documents can be shared and saved by all team participants. Learn more about WOW Vision Collab8 here.

 

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Collaborative Environment based on Steelcase Media:scape, Polycom RealPresence Group 500 and WOW Vision Collab8

 

Collaborative Environments enable virtual teams spread across multiple locations to efficiently meet face-to-face and share up to six streams of content wirelessly. While connected using high-quality video and audio, participants can use any device (laptops, tablets and smartphone) running any operating system (Windows, iOS, Android) to collaboratively present, discuss and annotate on any critical piece of information shared on the screen during the meeting. If there is a need to share non-digital content such as a contract, a piece of fabric or sample, a visualizer or document camera can be connected at the back of the WOW Vision Collab8 using the HDMI input. The example shown in the picture here is a medium-sized Collaborative Environment with two screens and a Steelcase Media:scape standing-height table integrated with both a Polycom RealPresence Group 500 HD Video Conferencing system with an intelligent EagleEye Director tracking camera, and the Collab8 solution by WOW Vision.

 

Collaborative Environments can be further enriched when adding Polycom RealPresence Media Manager which is software that lets you capture, manage, deliver and access video content - from any source to any device. Virtual meetings and collaboration sessions taking place in the room or across multiple locations can be streamed live, recorded, stored, indexed, distributed and shared as easily as any other content type.

 

The end is approaching, fast…

 

Employees want workspaces that evolve with time and meet their appetite for visual communication and rich content collaboration. Thanks to the Collaborative Environments offered by Polycom, Steelcase and WOW Vision, virtual teams are now fully empowered to defy distance when designing new products, managing complex cases, responding to a crisis, delivering health care, teaching or mentoring students. This is why the conference room as we know it is on its way out, slowly but surely. It is time to say goodbye and embrace Collaborative Environments in every industry. Let’s now put this blog in a time capsule and open it in 2366 to see who was right!

 

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Collaborative Environments in action in Polycom’s offices in Singapore and Melbourne, Australia

 

Working for a company which embraces the use of collaboration across its organisation greatly benefits its employees professionally and even personally. In my job, I use audio and visual communications to help enterprises and government agencies located around the world improve processes and optimise operations. But last weekend, using real-time collaboration technology, was much more personal and emotional. Let me share with you how I used Polycom to connect face-to-face with family members and colleagues from the hospital room.

 

On Saturday April 6th, 2014 my beloved wife was admitted at the maternity ward. At 6:46 AM, I happily posted on Facebook a picture of the clock in the delivery suite mentioning the imminent arrival of our second son, Olivier. I was very excited and eager to greet the additional family member.

 

However twenty seven hours later, and with my wife trying her very best, we were still waiting. Our family and friends, who had been waiting for the good news on social networks and messaging systems started to get very worried. This is when the doctor decided to opt for theatre and half an hour later, Olivier was out in this world, healthily crying his lungs out.

 

Soon after this, I took the opportunity to use video to communicate the good news to the family and share the first pictures of our baby boy. I took out my iPad mini, fired up the Polycom RealPresence Mobile application and established a HD video call with Olivier’s siblings and grand-parents using the Polycom HDX4000 located in my home office. Everybody was so excited, and yet so relieved to see me after the long wait. Talking to them face-to-face and sharing live the first few photos of our son, despite the distance that separated us, was truly a memorable moment for all. About 40 minutes later both mother and baby were back in the room with me.

 

The next day, after a well-deserved rest, it was time to introduce our little angel to my colleagues. Instead of waiting a month or two to introduce Olivier to those physically present in the Singapore office, on that day we organised an impromptu “baby defies distance session”, an ad-hoc video conference for all to join regardless of location. People joined over HD video from different locations using various types of systems, devices and networks (see picture below). We even recorded the virtual gathering using the company’s centralised Recording and Streaming Server for those who couldn’t make it.

 

While this example of “virtual visitation” was enabled because Polycom offers such collaboration options to its own employees, many healthcare institutions around the world today make such a service available to patients, families and healthcare professionals.

 

We are now at home and adjusting to life with our new family member. As a technology evangelist, I can proudly say that, at only one day old, our big boy has already mastered the art of collaboration and virtual meetings. But no matter how busy we get, how hard we work or how late we go to bed because of late conference calls, those are the little moments that last forever. Being able to share them face-to-face with your family and friends no matter where they are is even greater. With Polycom, we defy distance at work, at home and even in life.

 

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Recording of multi-party video visitation using standards-based mobile, desktop, room and phone video end points. 

 

Today, customers want personalised service, high quality interactions and first call resolution.

 

Voice is still the primary communication channel used for customer service. But increasingly-demanding customers expect much more from the organisations they deal with or buy from. With the increased adoption of mobile, social, video across demographics, leading organisations need to embrace new technologies or face the risk of losing customers to those offering new service options.

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In his Huffington Post blog post "Video will save your customer service department", Yaniv Masjedi talks about the merits of video and how companies use this technology. Just ask yourself, when was the last time you actually saw a customer service representative from your bank, insurance company, telecom provider or even travel agency?

 

With most organisations directing interactions to channels that are either self-service (phone, web, mobile) or text based (email, chat), which other technology is better positioned than video to bring back the human touch of customer service lost due to automation?

 

Kate Leggett, in her blog post "Forrester's Top 15 Trends For Customer Service In 2013", highlights the fact that organisations need to personalise customer service, empower agents for quality service and take advantage of maturing solutions. Enterprises and government agencies can defy distance and improve customer experience management by integrating enterprise-grade video capabilities into front and back office processes while delivering a consistent customer experience across all interaction channels.

 

Let me share with you how video can enable “Human 2 Human” customer service once again.

 

1. Video Chat

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When self-help is no longer an option, video calling enables face-to-face interactions between service representatives and customers. Chat sessions initiated from kiosk, mobile, web and social channels can instantly become a face-to-face interaction regardless of distance. Polycom RealPresence CloudAXIS includes the industry's first presence-aware global directory that integrates contacts from popular social applications such as Google Talk and Facebook enabling contact centre agents to invite contacts via IM into a secure impromptu live video meeting. Alternatively, meetings can be initiated by simply emailing customers a web URL to join. Leading companies can encourage executives and engineers to video chat with customers to learn what issues trouble them.

 

2. Video Experts

 

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When front office employees do not have the answer, customers tend to become impatient and upset. If you offer to call them back, then they get frustrated even more and walk away with a bad experience which lasts for a very long time.  By making video available on smartphones, tablets and laptops, contact centre agents, front desk staff, sales and service representatives can invite any remote expert available to join the meeting instantly regardless of location. High quality voice, video and content sharing solution enables face-to-face collaboration between customers and remote experts to ensure first call resolution. This is one of the top 10 customer contact centre trends for 2014. With Polycom, you can now easily connect loan specialists, specialist doctors, level 3 support engineers and other types of advisors with customers regardless of location, device or network.

 

3. Video Robots

 

Prior to Edward Snowden’s virtual appearance at TED2014, not many people had heard of Telepresence robots. Last February in Vancouver Canada, Polycom in partnership with Anybots and Vyopta showcased the most advanced video-enabled customer service robot you can find in the market today. The solution combines a remotely controlled robot (Anybots’ Q(X) Virtual Presence), a video conferencing system (Polycom RealPresence Group 500) and a service kiosk interface by Vyopta loaded on the integrated touch screen PC. The Q(X) model employs self-balancing technology with HD audio and video through the Polycom RealPresence Group 500 codec. The infrastructure needed to support the complete solution includes Anybots’s remotely controlled drive platform to guide the robot, Polycom RealPresence Platform  for secure multiparty video collaboration and recording, as well as Vyopta vAccess for video queuing, routing and feedback analysis.

 

An example of where this can transform customer service? Well this end-to-end solution can integrate video into a medical organisation’s processes to provide hospital visitors, patients and healthcare providers access to the correct people resources for improved care-team collaboration, patient care and organisational efficiency.

 Video Robot.jpg

 

4. Video of the Customer

 

Next-generation Voice of the customer (VoC) programmes will go far beyond surveying and voice analytics. Welcome to the era of ‘Video of Customer’ programmes!  Polycom solutions can help you organise B2B and B2C video meetings between anyone with a browser and web camera. Connect, listen and collaborate with consumers, partners or clients across multiple organisations. Capture and publish the Video of the Customer (VoC) meeting for those who couldn't attend. Find exactly what they said or need, because video recordings are as easy to search as a document using automated speech-to-text.

 

5. Video On DemandTablet.png

 

How-to-videos bring a friendly face to product and service FAQs online. Video on Demand libraries improve self-service, awareness and support for customers, citizens, patients, students or developers. With Polycom video content management solutions, capture presentations, slides, and Q&A sessions for live and on-demand training, and track who watched it. Allow, control and share user-generated videos to enrich a content library. Create a knowledge culture in and outside of your organisation by enabling people to share, search, and securely access video as easily as any other content type.

 

6. Video Recruitment

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With video, leading organisations can interview any candidate, securely and face-to-face, regardless of location. This is vitally important in customer service, where a full assessment of a potential recruit’s professionalism and manner with a customer can be assessed.

 

With video, recruitment is accelerated through shortened interview cycles and increased accuracy of assessment compared to telephone interviews. Costs and lost productivity are minimised by reducing travel for interviewers and interviewees. Human Resources professionals can also record, archive and playback video interviews for comparison, training or compliance purposes.

 

7. Video Training

 

With video you can deliver interactive training sessions to service representatives and support professionals without the planning, travel, and logistics issues associated with on-site courses. Polycom video content management solutions enable the capture, playback and distribution of training modules, so that participants undertake the program at a time of their choice and at their own pace. From service training, coaching sessions to development courses, organisations are more successful at building a service culture if they leverage synchronous and asynchronous video.

 

8. Video as a Service

 

Video is now available “as a Service” (Software as a Service and/or Cloud-based) just like many other contact centre and CRM applications today. Polycom works with service providers to deliver subscription-based video collaboration solutions to businesses of all sizes with Polycom RealPresence Cloud. It is a wholesale, carrier-ready offering that comprises carrier-grade infrastructure, endpoints, and services. Also, Polycom just announced a new virtualised, budget-friendly, subscription-based collaboration solution for enterprises and government agencies. Polycom RealPresence One is a comprehensive offering that combines infrastructure, software endpoints and optimised services all for a yearly subscription fee. James Brennan recently wrote a great blog post explaining that here.

 

Conclusion

 

In the past, videoconferencing technology was limited to the conference room, but now it has become mobile, social, browser-based, and available as a service or from the cloud. The increasing demand for video-based applications is evidenced by organisations and departments who have adopted it worldwide, and in a range of industries.

 

Video-Customer service is no exception. Consumers, citizens and businesses use this technology daily and expect video to be available across all channels: branch, web, mobile or social. Not only does video help your organisation to personalise customer service, but it also empowers agents for increased agility, and ensures quality and compliance while supporting new business models.

 

It is high time, you rethink your customer service strategy by bringing people together and collaborating over video. Just like you “Fedex” documents, “Google” information, you can now “Polycom” your customers.

 

We live in a world filled with distance. In every type of industry, distance – in all of its many manifestations – is a challenge that we face and need to adapt to. Voice and video collaboration solutions help the world defy distance in many unique ways. But defying distance is not just about the miles that stretch between meeting room A and conference room B, but also about the misunderstanding that lingers between a CEO and multiple stakeholders, service representatives and customers, a hiring manager and a candidate, a supply chain and partners.

 

Five years ago, I thought that it would be nearly impossible to work in a global marketing role in a technology firm headquartered in the US and remain based in Asia because of “distance”. But high-quality video collaboration technology has made it possible. French by birth, I am now responsible for Industry Solutions and Market Development worldwide for Polycom based in Singapore. My role partly consists of managing a virtual team of twelve subject-matter experts spread around the world, as well as helping customers to improve their operations and service through the adoption of unified communications and collaboration technology. As a team, we defy distance every day and bridge all kind of gaps: cultural, geographical, technical and more…

 

As a business function executive, you can also leverage technology to replace “being there” with a much more efficient and cost-effective alternative. Voice, video and content collaboration solutions allow you to improve operations and workflows while creating new career opportunities and building high performing teams. Collaboration benefits every organisation, function, department or role. Let me share with you how it directly supports your mission, based on my experience:

 

CEO: Create Value and Build Competitive Advantage

 

  • Manage greater scale to grow the company
  • Foster human capital and innovation to drive business value
  • Increase productivity and business agility while reducing costs
  • Improve engagement with stakeholders to ensure sustainable development

 

Customer Service: Improve Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty

 

  • Personalise service to improve customer relationships
  • Create a culture of innovation to meet customer expectations
  • Localise global service to scale resources
  • Clean up communication to manage cultural differences

 

Engineering: Create Market Differentiation through Products/Services Innovation

 

  • Innovate the development process for faster time to market
  • Integrate the supply chain to manage costs
  • Optimise R&D investments to improve competitiveness
  • Build a strong culture of sharing best practices to enable high performing teams

 

Facilities Management: Create a Workplace of the Future

 

  • Balance cost, productivity and flexibility to optimise workspaces
  • Streamline project management to increase time-to-completion
  • Manage remote stakeholders to launch and maintain facilities
  • Create flexible, collaborative workspaces to improve productivity

 

Finance: Meet Financial Objectives through Cost Control and Quality Investments

 

  • Integrate with the strategic planning process to support growth opportunities
  • Develop effective operational strategies to streamline financial close
  • Control costs and improve productivity to increase margins
  • Harness business intelligence to strengthen strategic decision-making

 

Human Resources: Attain ‘Best Employer’ Status through Effective Human Capital Management

 

  • Attract globally dispersed employees to expand the talent pool
  • Reduce recruitment time to secure talent
  • Utilise anytime, pre-recorded information to reduce onboarding time
  • Invest in developing and engaging employees to drive performance

 

IT: Improve Performance with Strategic Use of Technology

 

  • Merge the back office and front office to drive customer-centric innovation
  • Refresh and future-proof IT architecture to support growth-oriented projects
  • Manage initiatives on big data, mobility, social to increase business potential
  • Leverage new business and deployment models to optimise IT budgets

 

Marketing: Make Every Customer Brand Experience Consistent and Positive

 

  • Build compelling campaigns by developing customer-centric initiatives
  • Keep communications consistent to shape the company’s public profile
  • Coordinate launches across geographies and segments for successful localisation
  • Leverageon insights to develop profit-directed promotion programmes

 

Sales: Drive Growth through Strong Customer Relationships

 

  • Get face time with customers to reduce sales cycles
  • Gain access to critical stakeholders to upsell and cross sell
  • Move from a vendor to an advisor by building trust with customers
  • Use technology to gather and analyse information to increase sales effectiveness

 

In a world where expectations are growing, budgets are shrinking, competition is fiercer than ever and employees are increasingly on-the-go, voice and video solutions empower a level of collaboration that can help nearly any person in any role to defy distance. What began as futuristic technology is now a game-changer, and the most effective way to improve every aspect of a business. And like I always say, just like the way you “Fed-Ex” documents or “Google” information, you should now “Polycom” your meeting because video collaboration has become the new standard of consumer and enterprise communications.

 

If you happen to be at TEAM Polycom, in Vancouver on 11-13 Feb, 2014, look for me and my team at the Industry Solutions Showcase, booth 401.  If you are not at the event, feel free to contact me via marc-alexis.remond@polycom.com or on Twitter: @MarcRemond – but remember – meeting using standards-based video communications technology is always preferred!

 

Here are the further five ways that CEOs can use visual communication technology to build their competitive advantage. If you missed the first five ways, you can view them here first.

 

 

6) Enable Mobile and Social Collaboration to Boost Business Agility

 

When in-person meetings can happen anytime, anywhere, work moves forward quickly and is nimble enough to course-correct when markets, customers, or competitors change. Both front and back office employees should use social and mobile video collaboration technology to enhance client service, such as conducting meetings and other client work via video, to expedite cases and keep costs in check while maintaining robust person-to-person interaction.

 

For George Brandon, partnership development leader at Morris, Polich & Purdy LLP, this was a no brainer: “When a firm grows the way we have, it is necessary to be creative to support the needs of the business,” said George Brandon, partnership development leader at Morris, Polich & Purdy LLP. “Using Polycom for secure meetings, we increase our understanding and cohesiveness through visual connections in a way that is far richer than a basic phone call. Internally, our managing partner and other leaders in the firm can use Polycom’s mobile app to chair meetings from their tablets when they travel. Polycom helps us connect people wherever they are needed.” 

 

Just like MPP, your employees can download the Polycom RealPresence Mobile software app from iTunes or Google Play for their smartphones and tablets, giving them greater flexibility to participate in meetings from anywhere at any time. Find out more here.

 

7) Invest to Reduce Costs Across the Board

 

While most executives who are new to video collaboration assume all cost savings will come in the form of reduced travel, the bottom line improvements go far beyond lower airfare and lodging budgets.

 

A study by Wainhouse Research showed video collaboration can reduce wasted “downtime” costs by 27%, save training budgets by 25%, slash sales costs by 24%, and bring a 24% improvement in time-to-market budgets. This is not business as usual.

 

For many other customers, ROI is even faster. For example, at Verdasys, Inc., "the systems paid for themselves in a week," says Seth Birnbaum, Former CEO. "Polycom's ROI was so immediate that it made the purchase price irrelevant." Choosing the right technology vendors generates additional savings. For instance, users can get high definition video and audio quality at their home or work office using up to 50% less network bandwidth with Polycom, saving on capital-intensive network upgrades. Interoperability and multi-vendor integration reduce the total cost of ownership of video collaboration deployments in your organisation. 

 

 8) Mitigate the Risks Related to Outsourcing

 

Lauded as cost-effective, efficient, productive, and strategic, outsourcing is becoming a “have to have” instead of a “nice to have” for any business. The trend started in IT, but has moved to almost every other business area. Human Resources is an area companies would not have dreamed of outsourcing years ago, and now countless large businesses are entrusting these processes and operations to lower-wage nations to reduce costs.

 

Offshore locations and external parties need to be aligned with parent companies so they can work together as a single organisation. For businesses, Wainhouse cite the top videoconferencing benefit as increased efficiency/productivity (94%), followed by increased impact of discussions (88%), expedited decision making (87%), and reduced travel costs (87%).Video collaboration makes this possible by connecting virtual teams whenever they need to be in touch regardless of distance or culture.

 

9) Streamline Supply Chain Management

                                                         

As the global pace of business increases, companies have to ensure that they have the flexibility to go after the markets that are exhibiting growth. The traditional perspective of the supply chain as a cost centre has shifted. Now, the supply chain is where innovation takes place – and is sometimes even considered a profit centre. Sharing data drives supply chain innovation.

 

As mentioned by Bob Brilman, CEO of Boretti, “Video collaboration is a vital tool for the development and success of Boretti and has become the standard of communication throughout the organization. I am now asking my suppliers, resellers, and distributors based across Europe to use video conferencing for all our meetings. I prefer to communicate via video instead of over the phone or via emails, as I find video promotes honesty, trust, and efficiency.”  

 

Award-winningPolycom RealPresence CloudAXIS extends your existing video capabilities to logistics services and raw material suppliers who simply require just a web browser and a web camera. It leads to intimate procurement networks, lower costs, intelligent replenishment programmes, and sustainable manufacturing.

 

10) Engage Stakeholders and the Community

 

An organisation is no longer limited to a physical location; it is now only limited by its ability to connect employees and information to drive business. Connecting these internal stakeholders can be done via legacy systems and email, but they do not do much to build trust or allow individual conversations that could be valuable for the business as a whole. Effective communication leads to a committed workforce and successful change initiatives. Outside of a core business, additional external stakeholders (ranging from investors to industry associations and the public community) also thrive on communication. And they don’t want a representative – they want to hear what’s happening from the CEO. Video conferencing and streaming make both internal and external stakeholder engagement a reality with personal, face-to-face communications while reducing any organisation’s carbon footprint.  

 

Dr Jens Wichtermann, Director of Group Communication & Sustainability, shared with us the importance for Vaillant Group to be sustainable: "As an international company with headquarters in Germany, it is important for us to be in close communications and collaboration with our subsidiaries all over the world. The Polycom RealPresence Platform allows us to increase efficiency, reduce our travel cost, and improve internal communication. It allows us to be sustainable, which is very important to us."  Here is the full story if you are interested.

 

 

Conclusion

 

 

Business is about relationships – with sales forces, supply chains, employees, stakeholders, and more. And relationships thrive only when communication and collaboration are simple and effective, starting at the Chief Executive level. Enterprise-grade video collaboration solutions offer face-to-face discussions that are vital to resolving the most sensitive situations. This personal interaction with colleagues, vendors, and customers allows for better communication, more accurate assessments and solutions, and a clear competitive edge.

 

We, at Polycom, bring the enormous, globally dispersed world of business closer to home, driving anywhere and everywhere interaction that leads to success and growth. We help Fortune 100 companies push the boundaries of human collaboration daily. Video is the true enabler of business transformation in a globalised world, so, what are you waiting Mr or Ms. CEO?

 

Feel free to like, share, comment or contact me. I’d also welcome suggestions on what topic you would like me to address in my next blog. Thank you!

 

Marc

 

In my previous blog post, I touched on why the best performing companies “think outside of the room”. I highlighted the fact that business executives will soon start saying “It’s time to Polycom our customer or supplier”, just like they currently say “I need to Fed-Ex documents” or “Google information”. For this post, I've decided to dig deeper and spend some time sharing how collaboration technology supports the strategic objectives of the Chief Executive Officer.

 

Today’s CEO juggles countless opportunities and challenges, from operational discipline to global uncertainty. When it comes to success drivers, people, processes, and technology propel businesses forward. And no organisation can maintain successful people and operations without clear communication and collaboration. CEOs must rethink how to encourage collaboration, and how to defy the distance that currently exists between teams, partners and customers – to leverage the collective knowledge and intelligence of the entire business ecosystem. Video collaboration is a huge driver in supporting and enabling business success.

 

Here are the first five of the 10 ways CEOs can use visual communication technology to build their competitive advantage:

 

1) Extend Reach to Fuel Organic Growth

 

41% of U.S. CEOs see organic growth as their main opportunity in 2013, according to PWC’s 16th Annual Global CEO Survey 2013. Organic growth comes from finding new customer groups, adding sales channels, and building product line extensions. The key to growth, according to Seth Birnbaum, co-founder and former CEO of Verdasys (@verdasys_inc), is “to find ways to serve clients without growing budgets or increasing staff.”

 

He adds “Polycom allows me to extend the reach of our business, to get better leverage out of individuals. With video conferencing, you take someone who affects millions of dollars of business and multiply them by a factor of two. It’s a force multiplier”.

 

So, in this case, video collaboration complements traditional Customer Relationship Management solutions by enabling regular, visual contact with customers and expanded reach throughout each territory. In short, sales teams get face time more easily with anyone from anywhere.

 

2) Differentiate Through Product Innovation

 

While new product initiatives are meant to create market differentiation and generate returns, they also vastly increase operational complexity. When individual departments with distributed teams try to innovate and chase growth independently, large companies end up duplicating a lot of effort and investment.  They struggle with an increasingly incoherent portfolio of businesses, product lines, and capabilities.

 

For instance, Intelligent Energy (@intellenergy), has many teams and offices around the world. According to Julian Hughes, Group Business Development Director, there is no better way to defy distance than to have a face-to-face conversation using video conferencing. “It has allowed us to go to market faster and given us a clear competitive advantage, as demonstrated by the recent successful launch of UppTM, our game changing personal energy device", commented Hughes.

 

When teams are engaged in the development of revolutionary products and services, the quest for innovation demands instantaneous collaboration and content sharing. Discussing computer-aided design and technical documentation in real-time from any location has become mission-critical. You can read more about Intelligent Energy in this press release and follow @uppinspiration for more information.

 

 

3) Support Inorganic Growth Strategies to Grow Market Share

 

When it comes to building critical mass or looking for complementary products and services to boost portfolios, organisations often take the route of expanding through joint-venture, M&A, or strategic alliances.

 

However, research suggests that in only 36% of acquisitions do companies realise enough cost savings to cover the premium they’ve paid; in the other 64%, annual total shareholder returns are, on average, negative 2%. This unfortunate statistic is usually attributed to poor execution: insensitive management, lack of trust building and communication, slow rollouts and more.

 

Face-to-face meetings go a long way in blending people of different corporate cultures and even diverse nationalities into one company. They instill trust and humanise a challenging business process, reinforcing corporate values along the way. Video collaboration improves merger and acquisitions lifecycle management, from buy/build planning through acquisition screening, to post-acquisition integration.

 

4) Transform Customer Service to Increase Loyalty

 

Exceptional customer service can be a competitive edge, and nothing improves customer satisfaction as much as putting a human face to your company. Establishing a more personal connection with customers via a video contact center can be a game changer.

 

The use of video collaboration has helped make Buro Happold more competitive. If anyone in our 27 offices needs to offer a client their unique expertise, whether it’s a hotel or stadium development or the design for a new city, we can readily bring in the relevant people using Polycom HD video. And I can now join in meetings all over the world from my laptop, even from home, without worrying about interoperability issues – because it’s Polycom,” says Paul Westbury, CEO of Buro Happold (@burohappold).

 

Leveraging video technology to offer visual customer service not only improves customer’s satisfaction and loyalty, but also transforms the overall service delivery experience.

 

5) Grow Human Capital to Drive Business Value

 

Finding sufficiently skilled talent is getting more challenging by the day. Especially in emerging economies, the pools of qualified employees are increasingly shallow and becoming surprisingly cost-prohibitive. Companies need to invest in talent management, training, and development of their workforce; they also must adopt telework and flexible work policies to attract and retain talent. Management also needs to keep the talent they have effectively engaged and enabled.

 

Alan Hodgson, Telephony Manager at Exego Group says: “We have a very open and flexible work culture here at Exego, and our employees understand the value of video. It is now a vital component of our daily business life. As our video conferencing needs grew, we began to look at it not only from a cost perspective, but from a lifestyle one.” . (Read more about Exego in this case study).

 

Companies increasing employee engagement and enablement through video communication report significantly improved revenue growth, staff loyalty, and employee performance. I encourage you to read this post that provides a perfect example: “Why video is vital to me as a working mum”.

 

 

Click here for the further five ways CEOs can build competitive advantage by investing in collaboration technology.

 

 

When the global economic outlook is uncertain, businesses prepare themselves for a possible decrease in revenue by adopting strict cost control measures such as travel and budget cuts. The most extreme organisations literally turn into hibernation mode, freezing investments which ultimately results in leaving more space for the competition to make aggressive moves and gain market share.

 

Hoping that the days ahead will be brighter, others decide to invest in audio and video conferencing solutions in the hope of instantly reducing costs, time risk, and carbon emissions associated with travel. Unfortunately, this investment often becomes a waste of financial resource as once the storm has passed people resume previous travel habits. This is the result of a lack of an internal policy combined with the absence of technology adoption programmes for executives and staff.

 

So what do the best companies do?

 

Any executive looking at investing in video to cut down on travel ought to take into account the broader benefits and real business value of a culture of collaboration. While it may help you reduce travel expenses early on, bear in mind that market leaders and game changers continue to invest even more in visual communications. Gone is the time when collaboration technology was exclusively reserved to senior executives. Just like they increase marketing and advertising budgets, leading companies double down on technology investment to build competitive advantage, by making video collaboration available to all business functions, lines of business and hierarchy levels. And “Why is that?” you may ask me. The answer is competitiveness.

 

Competitive advantage occurs when an organisation acquires or develops a combination of attributes that allows it to outperform its competitors.  Market differentiation can come from the type of people you hire, the process you implement, the experience or product you create, the technology you invest in or a mix of the four. This is why leading companies continuously invest in people and technology, such as unified communication and collaboration tools, which transform the way they innovate, operate and serve their customers. Market leaders do not only look at top line revenue or cost avoidance. They use other key business metrics such as workflow and process optimisation, human capital management, innovation acceleration, customer satisfaction, service and product quality. These all ultimately contribute to sustainable development and the success of any organisation.

 

It is time to think outside of the box, or should I say to think outside of the room.

 

When video collaboration technology is deployed beyond the four walls of the conference room, it turns into a competitive weapon. Human capital – in other words, people – are the source of productivity and innovation. But connecting people and knowledge anytime, anywhere using any device is even more critical. People need to be able to try ideas, discuss theories and test concepts in order to break down boundaries in terms of innovation and creativity. This is why real-time video collaboration combined with content sharing and annotation capabilities is the true business enabler to greater competitiveness. In his book titled Good to Great, Jim Collins explains:  “When used right, technology becomes an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it” (Source: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001, p.152). If you enable geographically dispersed teams to collaborate face-to-face via video regardless of location, device or network, your organisation literally can defy distance, time and culture.

 

Companies and government agencies that have seen tremendous returns from this technology – beyond travel – have adopted it across all departments and at all levels. Video has become the way they operate daily, collaborate with suppliers, communicate with partners and interact with customers. I personally look forward to the day when business executives start saying “It’s time to Polycom our supplier or customer”, just like they would currently say “I need to Fed-Ex documents” or “Google information”. If not, they will surely meet their peers in the very same room full of laggards discussing how to cut more costs while the market leaders continue eating their market share thanks to collaboration technologies such as video. Just ask yourselves which room you want to be in.

 

Stay tuned for my next blog, as I will share how to build a solid business case for Unified Communication and Collaboration. Till then remember, start thinking beyond the room, lead the way and defy distance!

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