A key part of my role at Polycom is working closely with our customers and supporting them in addressing their business issues. I have learned that many people I meet are often curious about how our technology can help solve these issues, and perhaps all the capabilities of great collaboration in an organisation are still being discovered. I am lucky to work with solutions and innovations that truly can help various industries with their specific challenges such as providing better healthcare, extending the reach of education, assisting customers with personalised services, improving operating margin, enabling flexible working, and keeping the cost of real estate down.
Every industry, business unit, business process, and organisational function has their own specific challenges to address. Let me highlight some scenarios of how collaboration tools can help solve business issues for a variety of industries and functions.
1. Industry: Healthcare
Business issue: Head Doctor of Neurology and Stroke faces a shortage of specialists “I need to provide specialist care and training to remote primary health care centres”
Doctors and specialists can overcome resource shortages through the adoption of telemedicine solutions, and collaborate with patients and peers across any distance. In this scenario, there are several ways in which collaboration tools supporting the workflow of specialist care and training help the Head Doctor of Neurology and Stroke to address the shortage of specialists issue by leveraging his current expertise more efficiently.
Collaboration technology can help provide consultative care to their patients where it is needed and liaise with colleagues at primary care centres by using integrated telemedicine solutions. Connecting medical devices such as medical cameras and scopes, vital signs monitoring equipment, electronic stethoscopes with High Definition video and voice solutions at the primary care centre can assist the specialist during the consultation. Further, an integrated telemedicine solution would also support the primary care centre to schedule appointments with a specialist. Before, during and after the consultation, the specialist, patient and the primary health care doctor have access to the patients’ health records including images such as X-rays supported by two-way annotation capabilities. For training of staff at the primary care centre, collaboration solutions also support recording and streaming of the video and content.
Business issue: Dean of a University needs to increase student intake “I need to attract more students with an education offering that stand out in this competitive market, yet keep my current headcount for professors and teachers where it is today”
A university can enhance their education offering and attract more students and make the best use of their education experts using collaboration solutions providing more accessibility to lessons before, during and after a lecture. Before a lecture, ‘flipped learning’ can be facilitated by recording lectures or assignments from the teacher so students can access these files in their own time. In addition, students can form study groups working at dedicated training stations collaborating with students at home or other locations. Content can be easily shared for discussions alongside annotation capabilities for the students, while recordings from previous lectures can be accessed for reviews and discussions.
During a lecture, collaboration technology can facilitate students from multiple universities to participate. Students also have the ability to join the class from home yet experience what the students in the classroom experiences with the same possibilities for interaction with the teacher. Professors and experts from other universities, the business community or from other parts of the society can be brought in as guest lectures without the need for costly and time consuming travels, hence providing access to top expertise that the student require from a leading university.
After class the students can view the recording or search the part of the lecture that they need to focus more on for discussing in their study groups preparing for a task or an exam. Collaborative technology can also enable the Dean of the university to design a flexible and competitive education programme to attract new students, by leveraging existing expertise within the university as well as their eco-systems of academic partners.
3. Industry: Financial services Business issue: Providing faster and more personalised services to high net worth clients “We need to provide faster and more personalised services to our high net worth clients”
In the financial and investment area there is a constant and rapid flow of information and factors that influence investments decisions for a bank’s customers. High net worth clients in particular request the best expertise and analysis from their banks with a personalised service. Having the capability to provide visual communication services where high net worth clients have access to their personal client manager with the ability to consult other experts immediately, will substantially increase service offerings from the bank in order to serve their clients better. Today, banks can provide this service instantly to the high net worth clients over a secure, high quality browser-based video solution, with abilities to share and discuss content and bring in multiple experts into the discussion regardless of location.
In addition, the bank can record personalised messages and provide updates to their clients to be viewed in their own time.
By using visual communication, the bank can provide clients with personal and interactive customer service to differentiate themselves from the competition and develop a long-standing relationship with the client.
4. Industry: Retail Business issue: operating margin
“We have multiple new products, new suppliers and promotions every quarter and it is essential that we provide training to our sales staff in more than 100 stores. Our management has asked us to lower the cost for this training as the company need to improve our operating margin.”
Video solutions which connect all the stores with headquarters and suppliers can substantially improve the ability for all retail staff to learn about products and promotions directly from the suppliers themselves, or from their corporate representatives. Conducting training programmes to multiple stores simultaneously does not only save time and cost but also promotes a collaborative environment between employees, the headquarters and the suppliers.
In addition, customer support from the suppliers directly to the shop will be improved as the shop can connect over video to discuss issues with product experts.
5. Industry: Corporate enterprise Business issue: HR executives for a global IT company need to attract new talent and keep attrition costs down
“We are growing and hiring people at a rapid pace and it is difficult, costly and time consuming to find and attract the right talent. In addition the cost for attrition is high and we need to focus more on retaining our top talents in the company”
Interviewing candidates for a job via video collaboration is increasing in use today. The cost savings are obvious especially for a geographically dispersed company where a candidate has to meet with multiple stakeholders from different teams and locations. Not only do video interviews save time and cost, but it is also important for evaluating and choosing the right candidate as their communication skills, expressions and body language can be seen by the interviewer.
Collaboration tools are also playing a major part in retaining talent as flexible working options for many employees are an important factor for joining a new company or for staying in their current role. In many organisations, their top talent work from home, on the road, or in small branch offices. Further, working irregular hours is common in most international businesses of today to ensure you can be online at the same time as colleagues in different time zones. More employees are choosing to work from home to save time commuting and spend this time being more productive, thereby improving their work/life balance.
It is still very important however, that these flexible workers still feel that they are a part of a team. A study by Wainhouse and Polycom showed that 87% of companies found video collaboration helps employees work remotely without feeling disconnected from their colleagues.
With collaboration tools the HR Executive at this organisation can also shorten the hiring time and cost. By offering a flexible working environment where the employees will have a better work-life balance will contribute to lower the cost for attrition.
Innovative and reliable technology is an enabler for improving processes and business issues. However it is how the businesses apply those technologies that really makes a difference in solving the fundamental business issue which individuals, teams and organisations are facing.
If you are facing similar business issues, now’s the time to ask the question: How can collaboration tools help your organisation?
For many years, technology has played a major role in enabling people and teams to collaborate regardless if they sit in the same office, work from home, or in a different country. Now, technology innovation has taken this location liberation even further with a video-enabled cart – the Polycom RealPresence Utility Cart 500 – designed specifically to make collaboration easier from locations where it is most needed. This innovation allows users to easily bring High Definition room-based video and content sharing to a variety of locations outside of a conference room. What this type of mobile collaboration technology means for a manufacturing company in particular is a direct link to the production floor, for everything from quality inspections to immediate troubleshooting.
Here are a few scenarios that demonstrate how this enhanced communication capability can improve the manufacturing process:
1. Reduce downtime
- Remote repair Any manufacturing company knows all too well the repercussions of a machine breaking down or a faulty assembly line. Such issues are not only a major cost to any manufacturer but can cause disruption to the whole production process and supply chain. Often, if it is a complex problem, the technician or repair expert from the machine vendor may be hours or even days away. For service technicians in the production plant it is of utmost importance to quickly get in contact with one or several remote expert(s) who can assess the damage and identify the repairs and spare parts needed in order to keep the downtime to a minimum. A video-enabled utility cart in the factory on an occasion like this can be proven to be a very good investment. Being able to quickly move the utility cart to where the broken down machine is located will enable production staff to immediately connect and collaborate via video with the remote expert from the machine vendor for a diagnosis. The remote expert can share and annotate on schematics to indicate where the local technician shall survey and look for errors or broken parts.
In addition, the technician can connect an external camera that can examine the machine in areas difficult to reach.
How does a remote expert connect with the factory? They can have connect to a video conference via an open standardsconference room, desktop, mobile or tablet device. Additionally, the service technician team can just send a link to the expert for him or her to quickly join a conference directly from a browser with the click of a button.
- Preventive maintenance In similar fashion as above, the service technicians in the plant can use the utility cart to collaborate with the remote expert for periodic maintenance and checks to reduce the risk of downtime.
2. Corporate training
Training is another area where the availability of a moveable video-enabled cart brings great benefits to a manufacturing company. With this technology the corporate training department can easily transform any training room, conference room, or a product showroom into a virtual classroom bringing consultants, educators, experts, and students across the company into the class for an interactive learning experience. Attendees can join training sessions from video conferencing rooms, their work desk or from their laptops, tablets and smartphones if they are working from home or are on the go. With content sharing, recording and streaming capabilities, the corporate training department can save both time and cost, thus making efficient use of company resources, facilities budgets, travel time and travel cost – yet providing a highly interactive level of training that meets their objectives.
3. Shorten time-to-market
Geographically-dispersed Research and Development (R&D) teams that need to collaborate closely with a workshop or lab that is building their prototypes can be a time-consuming process. Imagine if the R&D team can visually experience and collaborate with the workshop and the engineer creating the prototype to discuss design changes, saving time and energy! A utility cart can easily be deployed in a workshop and moved around to best display the prototype or its parts. Remote R&D teams can be as much a part of a product’s design process, as its development creating more collaboration and joint efforts for success in an organisation.
These are just a few examples of how video conferencing and collaboration have moved far beyond the conference room in the manufacturing industry, and can today play a vital role in improving business processes from the shop floor up.
Business and professional services companies are being challenged by two seemingly competing goals - clients want more engagement and personalisation, while their own companies are calling for cost control and improved process efficiencies. Thankfully, technology is playing a critical role in helping business service professionals achieve both objectives at once. With video collaboration, consultants can connect more regularly with clients while also being fully hooked into the requirements of their company.
Video collaboration has become a valuable asset to leading suppliers of business, legal, accounting, marketing, IT and other consulting services. These businesses are utilising the technology to build stronger relationships with their customers, offer improved access to experts and executives, reduce travel costs and increase employee satisfaction through more manageable schedules. They are operating like the global businesses they must become, and are succeeding because of it.
Here are five ways video collaboration is helping business and professional-services organisations thrive by saving costs and servicing clients better:
1. Virtual Teamwork
The virtual team that combines the client and the service company is at the heart of any engagement. For a period of weeks or months, clients and service professionals must work as one, building trust and creating the efficiencies that come when a relationship is right. That’s why many business professionals practically “live” where their clients are. However, communicating with peer consultants, managers, and subject experts located in-house at a consulting company is crucial, too. Video collaboration solutions, both at the company and at the client site, enable all of this (see the example included here, from an interior design services consultancy). From connecting onsite consultants with their home team, to connecting the virtual team when consultants are not co-located, video collaboration ensures nobody is ever out of reach.
2. Remote Expertise
Achieving success with a client usually involves creative problem-solving and innovative thinking. Often, the best way to fuel these activities is by bringing in experts and advisors who are not a part of the core team. Again, video collaboration solutions bring these subject matter experts and additional resources “to the field” at the touch of a button–without slowing down the process or increasing travel time and budgets. Best of all for services businesses, these experts can support multiple projects around the globe at once, creating efficiencies while giving every client the best available support.
3. Executive Communications
In service businesses, employees are often scattered in a country, regions and the globe. For executives, this leads to a unique set of challenges. Leaders must define corporate strategy, manage an entire organisation to execute according to goals, and remain flexible to shift priorities as necessary. Distance collaboration is crucial for these tasks. High performance workplaces with immersive, room, desktop, and mobile video collaboration systems allow executives to communicate with the entire organisation, regardless of location, all at once. The impact of this timely, face-to-face and personal communication is noticeable, keeping everyone on board for what’s next.
4.Employee Development and Recruiting
Top service professionals are at the heart of any service organisation, which means that retaining these people is crucial to success. Video collaboration solutions ease this challenge considerably. Offering mentorship programmes, access to subject matter experts, company trainers, video collaboration solutions can dramatically improve employee morale, growth, and as a result, retention. All employees in need of specific training can attend a session together regardless of location, and those unable to attend live sessions can play them back at a more convenient time using playback features.
When searching for new talent, video can be used to reduce recruiting timeframes and budgets. Video communication solutions are useful for finding and interviewing geographically dispersed candidates. They also improve accuracy when selecting the right person as it facilitates for multiple stakeholders to interview the candidate. Furthermore, seeing the person, the expressions, and the way he/she communicates is of utmost important when evaluation candidates and selecting the right person for the job.
In a business where strong relationships and client satisfaction are the foundations for success, High Definition video collaboration solutions bring partners, consultants, experts, from all over the world together to provide their knowledge and services at the touch of a button. Along with the benefits that come with face-to-face client communication, team members can instantly share crucial business documents such as market reports, industry research, commercial proposals, business processes, new policies, project timelines, and more. Video collaboration solutions improve critical corporate processes, shorten project cycles, and reduce expenses—leading to a higher likelihood of success on every front. Polycom is leading the way to remove the barriers for borderless communication with an open standards-based approach. The company is also achieving these goals with innovative solutions such as the browser-based Polycom RealPresence CloudAXIS Suite.
Leading business service organisations are already using video collaboration to transform the way corporate clients are served, experts are leveraged, and projects are executed. And the return on investment of these company-wide video collaboration solutions is no longer just about travel cost. By integrating video communication into business processes, organisations and departments are growing revenue, increasing productivity, and reducing costs across many fronts. The efficiency, access, and ability to connect anywhere, anytime is creating competitive advantages throughout business and professional services companies, promising to be a game-changer in the field.
Video Collaboration for Interior Design Services An interior designer having a meeting with the supplier, contractor, and hotel management client for a hotel room renovation project. Even though the stakeholders are geographically dispersed, the team can still collaborate, plan and make decisions together and in a timely manner. The visual experience, supported by content and annotation tools, helps the interior design services company to understand and meet the client’s brief, while saving valuable time and cost for the client, suppliers, and contractors.
When it comes to manufacturing and innovation, teamwork and collaboration are essential in bringing people, processes, and products together. For the design of a new product it is vital that requests, feedback and ideas from all parts of the Research and Development (R&D) value chain are considered for both product development and for success throughout the product lifecycle.
Most mid-size and large manufacturing companies have R&D centres, plants, partners, suppliers, customers, and service and repair units, all spread out in countries and across regions around the world. When designing a new product, this means having a huge pool of talent and experience geographically and organisationally dispersed. Yet, all the parts of the R&D value chain are involved in the same integrated process with the same overall objectives: to innovate and produce high quality products, that meet customer demands with a shorter time-to-market, and at a lower cost than their competitors.
In a series of blog posts, I will give my view on various industries, comparing processes and activities and consider the impact of video collaboration on them. In this first post, I will start by looking into innovation management for manufacturing – with and without the use of video and collaboration tools – and highlight some key considerations in the process.
Without video and collaboration tools – Impact on innovation, time-to-market and cost
1. Often the R&D leadership team has a huge talent pool at its disposal – within its own organisation, other parts of the company, as well as from customers, partners and suppliers. This pool of talent sits on a wealth of expertise that can make or break the success of a new product. Is the R&D leadership team making the best use of this talent pool?
2. Face-to-face meetings drive innovation and collaboration. Key personnel involved in the R&D value chain need to spend countless hours travelling to participate in meetings with other stakeholders. Not to mention the time lost for making travel scheduling fit into everyone’s busy calendars. Could this time be spent on other more productive activities? What impact does this have on the time to market?
3. Customer, partner and marketing and sales teams’ feedback and ideas are often the most important input for any R&D team. How much time and cost are spent to gather this input and is it a speedy, interactive and a collaborative process? Does the customer have direct instant access to R&D expertise?
4. Misunderstandings can easily occur when dispersed teams from different parts of the world and from various companies need to discuss and comment on product schematics/concepts via emails and over the phone. How much time and cost does the R&D team spend on corrective actions deriving from errors due to misunderstandings or lack of availability of real time collaboration tools?
5. Prototypes need to be sent across the world to geographically dispersed stakeholders for testing and reviews, as well as to the plant for preparing the production process. How much time is consumed and how much cost occurs from sending multiple revisions of prototypes back and forth to various locations throughout the design process? Can the production time be accelerated by having plant and assembly expertise deeper engaged in the early parts of the design process?
6. Having service and repair expertise involved in the design process is important for any R&D team. Innovative design considerations that are made to facilitate a speedy and easy repair, have a great impact on profitability from after-market maintenance as well as on customer satisfaction once the product is released. Are ideas for innovation and design changes gathered from the people that are actually performing the service and repair?
7. Best practices and intellectual property. How does new talent coming into an R&D team get up to speed on a current project? How is best practice and intellectual property which benefits all technicians, shared and stored?
With video and collaboration tools – Fosters innovation, shortens time-to-market, saves cost, and reduces errors
1. With video and collaboration tools the company can make best use of their experts and talents at any time and from anywhere.
2. R&D team members can collaborate easily in the comfort of their home office, having instant access to expertise throughout the company and even with suppliers, partners and customers.
3. In the R&D world, collaborating live over content is critical. For example, the ability to share CAD drawings with all members while critical discussion are taking place, creates a much deeper understanding of issues and builds consensus faster. Often it is necessary for design groups to see the customer’s applications first-hand or the production environment over video to make more informed decisions.
4. The ability for all the various teams involved in R&D process to have real time visual communication supported by tools such as content sharing, annotation, recording and streaming helps the company to reduce unnecessary travel time, avoid costly corrections due to misunderstandings or due to lack of collaboration tools.
5. Prototypes can be visually reviewed and discussed reducing time and cost for shipment of prototypes. Not to mention the benefits of recording key meetings for intellectual property purposes as well as for new team member do get up to speed if in case expertise leaves the company.
6. It is easy for experts or teams such as service and repair personnel to be an integrated part of the R&D process.
7. Recording capability allows a company to capture best practices and use these videos to accelerate the capability of all technicians. This is intellectual property that is seldom captured in companies, and video collaboration networks allow this to be recorded easily.
The manufacturing company with integrated video and collaboration tools can defy distance, working as one innovative team. By embedding video and collaboration tools as an inherent part of the innovation process, making collective decisions across any boundaries enables the company to design and produce high quality products. As a result, meeting customer demands, lowering production costs, and reducing time-to-market could almost always ensure an edge over the competition.
In my next blog posts, I will take a look at these perspectives and consider the benefits of video for different industries.