Managing a team is one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences you can have at work.  It’s widely known that employees often choose to stay with a company based on their experience with their direct manager.  The way you form a team, share goals and work together through challenges creates a culture that out-lives deadlines. But what happens when a team takes on a new challenge – the experience of working together remotely?  

Here’s our top tips on effectively managing a remote team: 

Lead by example 

If your team is new to remote work – they may have questions and nervously look to you to set the new cultural norms.  “Is it ok if my team sees my home in my background?  What if there’s unexpected interruptions like a dog barking?”  As a leader, you set the tone for the transition. 

1. Sharing video is the new face to face.   Seeing you on video regularly is reassuring and gives you the chance to use your full communication skills – your gestures, tone and message are better received when your team can see the full picture.  

2. When messaging, remember that your team can’t see your reactions. Give your team more context on the intent behind a message by choosing from thousands of Gifs in Webex Teams to express yourself.

3. Share moments that matter.  In the office, colleagues regularly spend time celebrating birthdays, family news and personal moments that matter.  When remote – your role as leader is critical to maintaining the connections – by creating time in existing meetings to connect on non-work news or scheduling entire sessions to celebrate team news, like this virtual baby/bridal shower

Stay connected 

In an office environment, you interact with your team in–between your weekly scheduled meetings and 1:1’s – for example, when you arrive in the morning, get coffee or go to lunch.  There’s no reason the water-cooler conversations need to stop when you’re working remotely.  

1. Let’s get social!  In Webex Teams, create a space under your team for social interaction, like sharing family news, team member adventures or whatever becomes the topic of the day.

2. During 1:1 team calls, make sure you and your team member both turn on video.  Whether it’s a project update, milestone or a more difficult coaching session – seeing you face to face makes all the difference. 

Remote control your project  

Your team may be concerned about moving away from an in-person experience, where they could talk on the fly, share an idea on a whiteboard and access you for help whenever needed.  However, In many ways, working virtually on a project provides many new ways of working for your team and much more accountability, and visibility in to work in progress for you.  

1. Kick off with a bang!  During your project kick off meeting, leave time for open ideation – just like you would in an office.  Leave space in the agenda for using a virtual whiteboard to brainstorm on ideas.   anyone can contribute from their device and best of all – you can feel confident your ideas won’t be erased as they are saved and can be reopened whenever you need them.

2. Create space to catch up.  Bringing together content, with messages, links and real time meetings in a Webex Teams space is a project game-changer.  Even if you step away to deal with other priorities – you can check back into the project space at any time and catch up on the background conversations you missed – something that’s not even possible in a live office. 

3. Being available in one click is invaluable when working remotely.  Even when you’re in a meeting – your team can still reach out to message you 1:1 and you can view it and reply when you have a moment. If they need to escalate – share your personal meeting room (PMR).  For your team – Knowing you’re available on video on any device and can easily add others to the call will leave them confident they can rely on you, even when remote.  

Stay connected

Working remotely doesn’t mean that your team should feel remote.  Stay connected through celebrations, deadlines and water-cooler conversations – on any device.   Your leadership, support and use of Webex Meetings and Teams means your team can be set up for success from wherever they may be.   

Our partners at Cisco discuss the benefits of Cisco Webex in an academic environment. With the increased need for remote lectures and online classrooms, Webex is a helpful tool to keep students engaged and classes productive.

Classroom supplies and Webex

Every school year, teachers create a sacred list of school supplies they need for the year. Mine typically included tissues, hand sanitizer, sticky notes, whiteboard markers, and other standard supplies. As a former teacher—Mrs. Hamill—I always started my school year off telling parents to review “The List” and thanked them for their support. While I always appreciated any help I could get, I just recently realized what had been missing from my list: technology.

Webex collaboration tools

Ever seen Webex on a teacher’s wish list? I sure haven’t, but I wish someone would have shared the need to eliminate the endless bullets (or stars if you’re fancy) and replace them with one request: Cisco Webex Meetings and Teams. I wish I knew how much time, money, and valuable teaching time I could have saved by requesting Webex collaboration tools. I’ve saved you the time and written the list for you today—you’re welcome.

Fostering healthy, safe, and supportive learning

We’ve all seen a teacher’s wish list before: as a parent looking at a take-home folder, in the store shopping, or broadcast over TV and online advertisements. Educators prioritize keeping students healthy, safe, and cared for while teaching. The tissues, hand sanitizers, and markers are a good start, but they do run out, need resupplying (insert begging over many emails), and do not support significant classroom needs.

“How do I help the student who didn’t use the hand sanitizer and is out for the next week?”

“How can I revolutionize the use of sticky notes when we’re striving to be a green school?”

“How do I host an important study session when the state just closed down for a snow day?” 

Importance of technology in education

At all levels of education, technology is not only a wish but a necessity. Had I known this when I was teaching, I could have shortened my list and added Cisco Collaboration tools, Webex Meetings, and Teams to the top of my classroom and school’s priorities. Unfortunately (an understatement), I didn’t know the answer was Cisco Webex collaboration solutions. Before exiting education, I had the opportunity to adopt and deploy Webex in an education environment. This is where the list started to shrink. Sticky notes, whiteboards, and markers are built right into the product. Connecting with kids, parents, and colleagues remotely with just one button to push? Check! Where were these amazing tools when I was teaching only two years ago? It doesn’t matter, because what I didn’t know then, I do know now.

I wish I had Webex Meetings

Webex Meetings offers teachers a way to connect easily with students anywhere, anytime. Teachers never stop teaching. The bell may have rung, and the students have gone home, but there is still loads of work and planning that will go on into the night, bleeding right into the next day. Teaching remote is not an issue for an educator. I would have loved to host office hours or answer a student’s question in real-time from the comfort of my couch.

If the school called a snow day, I would have been able to keep the momentum going, not having to play catch up upon my return. Webex Meetings allows you to play video and enable audio, use chat, and share screens. It’s so simple and a great way to stay productive.

Parent or student can’t make it to a school conference to discuss academic progress? Say hello to Webex Meetings. It allows for more flexibility and personalized attention whenever needed.

Large scale? I know, first-hand, administrators, board office personnel, superintendents, content coaches, and more don’t have the bandwidth to attend every professional development session, curriculum gathering, or state-wide initiative meeting in person. With Webex, however, I can include all those parties. Everyone is where they need to be. You truly can be in two places at once.

And I’m just getting started.

Workflow, working in a group, and collaboration- peace of mind

Webex Teams is the epitome of collaboration. The integrations are endless, and there is no disruption or pause in the workflow when working on Teams.

One of education’s best practices is “group work,” as the facilitator roves the classroom to check in on table talk that nurtures productive discussion. Webex Teams allows leaders to use Team spaces as breakouts, which allows for even more focused, quiet conversations, and personal teacher attention. I would bop in and out of spaces to check in on my students and their shared efforts.

Gone are the days of leaving the classroom (a big no-no) and running down the hall (also a demerit) to quickly collaborate with a colleague. With Webex Teams, all of my peers are at-the-ready. I juggled being the basketball coach, literacy chair, social committee member, and bus duty scheduler, which meant I talked to a lot of people throughout the day. That’s a lot of emails and way too many forbidden hallway trips. Webex Teams was where my communication and collaboration should have (remember this is a wish list) lived.

Final thoughts

All in all, my wish list looks different these days, and that’s because I have been able to cross off the majority of the list items previously mentioned with one solution: Cisco Webex Teams and Meetings.

Today, I still teach and train others, but I do it remotely, from home. I connect with people across the world, and there is no time lost. I have only invested in one box of tissues in five months, and my germs are my own, so a travel-sized sanitizer fits the bill. I still utilize sticky notes, markers, and whiteboards as they’re available in-product.

Before, when I was confined to one room all day (except for those quick escapes), I never dreamed that teaching remote would be possible. Now, I know and believe anything is possible with Webex.

Consider adding Cisco Webex to your wish list, because the school year isn’t over yet! Who doesn’t love crossing off more than one list item at a time?

Picture this: you’re all set to give a presentation to a potential client that could be the biggest sale your company has ever seen. You remember reserving Meeting Room A, so you go in early to set up with all of your adapters, cables, and audio equipment (since there will be people joining remotely too).

As you go to enter Meeting Room A, you see people are in it. That’s when you remember that the HR department reserved that room because they needed to fit more people, and asked you to switch to Meeting Room B. No big deal, you bring your stuff to Meeting Room B…

…and none of your equipment works in that room. The AV technology set-up is completely different. And the senior executives from your potential client will be calling into the meeting any minute.

The Importance of AV Standardization

The above scenario is unfortunately all too common. It’s also one of the biggest reasons why the standardization of AV tech and tools is so important.

Standardizing your AV tech and tools is twofold. On one hand, you want to be standardized across your organization. That means that systems and equipment are consistent throughout all of your workstations, huddle rooms, offices, and mobile devices.

It also means aligning your technology with your business goals. When you operate from one set of standards and a unified mission, it’s easier to see the value in AV and technology upgrades. When you have the latest technology within your organization, your business will become more efficient and you’ll be able to accomplish key initiatives more quickly.

Putting these two together, it’s clear that AV standardization is mission critical.

Benefits of AV Standardization

“But our organization has been operating just fine as is, so why would we want to spend time, effort, and money standardizing?”

This is a common question. And we get it, justifying a technology investment is never easy. But there are so many benefits of AV standardization that even businesses that have been operating just fine should pay attention to. They include:

  • Increased mobility. When your AV systems are standard across all of your devices and offices, your teams can work at any location without interruptions or compatibility issues. This allows them to work where they need to when they need to, yielding optimal results.
  • Easier adoption and troubleshooting. Each type of AV equipment requires training, buy-in, and troubleshooting efforts. When there’s only one system to learn, the burden here is decreased.
  • Centralizing AV. Standardization and centralization go hand in hand. Having all AV efforts operate on one system increases visibility and gives greater control over costs.
  • Avoiding compatibility issues. When introducing any new hardware, it’s a hassle to have to check that it’s compatible with multiple systems. Standardization ensures you only have to do one compatibility check.

Maintaining the Standard with Evolve AVaaS

While it’s important to standardize AV tech and tools, it’s also important to understand that AV is always evolving. So how do you maintain standard if it’s always evolving?

There is a way. Our Evolve AV as a Service, or Evolve AVaaS, helps maintain AV standards in your organization. Rather than spending money on pieces of tech that work together for now, and having to replace them ad hoc, Evolve AVaaS offers a seamless integration with software and technology that’s user friendly and cost efficient.

By utilizing a subscription, you’ll get all the equipment you need, full servicing and on-call help, and the ability to upgrade at any time. So not only will you be able to standardize across your organization, you’ll be able to keep the standard while always knowing you’re using the most advanced technology.

The best AVaaS offerings allow you to change your terms at any time. Scale up, scale down, upgrade, go in a different direction… whatever your goals are, Evolve AVaaS supports them.

So, don’t ever get stuck in a situation like we mentioned before. Instead, standardize your AV and create a more efficient work environment.

As the U.S. braces for the coronavirus to spread, businesses have moved to both protect employee health and avoid disruption of their operations by taking steps to support staff to work from home. Though the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. remains low compared to other parts of the world, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned last week that the virus is likely to spread further in the coming months. 

Remote work has surged in China as a result of restrictions set forth by health officials. In a conference call last week, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, Director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, advised U.S. Companies to start making similar preparations. 

However, businesses that have not invested in developing and onboarding the tools for broad remote-work strategy and enablement,may be at risk for serious disruptions in operations and bottom-line drops that are made worse by the slumping stock market. So, what can IT teams do quickly to adapt?

IT Teams Need to Act Now
If businesses have yet to commit to a remote strategy and invest in enablement and adoption, it’s not too late to do so, but it will have to be done seamlessly and in a lot less time than originally planned. To make matters worse, a 2017 survey by Poly found that 62% of respondents didn’t believe the video conferencing tools they had in place were adequate and wanted their employers to provide better technology that’s both easy to use and help them stay connected. So even if businesses have made some effort to roll out video conferencing, employees aren’t using it effectively because of gaps in adequacy.  

Considering the problems associated with timing and adoption and utilization, IT teams are best suited to work with integrators that can offer them a strategy that’s scalable, delivering fast deployments and helping employees adopt and utilize any new or existing platforms that are available to them.

IT Needs to Consider AVaaS
The speed in which businesses will have to adapt also makes a compelling case to consider AVaaS options, for both short-term and long-term benefits.

In the short term, AVaaS allows companies to invest in AV design, deployment, integration, adoption and support at a significantly lower upfront cost; it’s the easiest way for IT teams to gain budget approval and deploy much faster than the traditional method of upfront capital expenditure.

In the long-term, AVaaS offers SRG’s (solutions replacement guarantees) that allow for upgrades or the ability to migrate to new tech if the solutions no longer fit within the organization; if decision-makers are hesitant to act quickly, they’ll at least have flexibility to change later on if the business needs adjust in the absence of a threat like Coronavirus.

Where to Go From Here?
The prospect of cancelled events and the need to keep workers productive provides the right time for companies to revisit collaboration tools and work-from-home policies, but more than anything it prioritizes the health of employees and mitigates the spread of the virus.

In response, many companies in the video conference industry are doing everything they can to support those affected by the outbreak. For example – video conferencing software provider Zoom scheduled several on-demand resources and tutorials to help new adopters learn how to use the platform in China. Networking hardware and software company Cisco has also expanded capabilities of their free Webex offering, allowing unlimited usage, support for up to 100 participants and toll dial-in. We can likely expect more offerings from providers as officials restrict areas, making it even easier to act quickly and reduce the chances of disruption.

For IT teams looking to quickly roll out remote work environments or get insight into what AV companies are offering while restrictions are enacted, IVCi is providing additional staffing to accommodate project deployment inquiries to ease the impact. Contact us here.  

By now, most businesses understand that equipping your workplace with cutting-edge AV technology is the best way to streamline and futureproof processes. But with a lot of moving parts — knowing what technologies to invest in, when to upgrade, how to manage maintenance and repairs — doing so can be a challenge for a lot of organizations.

With those challenges in mind, we’re rolling out Evolve, our user-inspired AV as a service program. With one single subscription, you can have everything you need for modern productivity.

You’ll never have to worry about your systems becoming obsolete, or unpredictable business changes drastically altering your technology needs. From strategy and design to deployment and service, you’ll be backed by a team of experts who can help bring the power of collaborative environments to your business.

Benefits of Audio Video as a Service

Audio video as a service (AVaaS) subscriptions has a substantial advantage over traditional AV implementation and maintenance processes. AVaaS allows businesses to:

  • Know what new technologies to invest in and upgrade at any time.
  • Re-set term options at any point to protect against changes to your business.
  • Get an in-room QR code that connects to a MVE team for on-demand support and learning.
  • Plan and achieve goals set for the future.
  • Have break-fix services for the entire lifecycle.

Regardless of industry, company size, or business goals, all organizations can benefit from more advanced technology and more collaborative workspaces. These benefits that are only available on a subscription basis will allow your teams to work together more efficiently and effectively.

Key Features of Evolve

Evolve has some key features that you just won’t find anywhere else:

  • The IVCi Portal which gives users full visibility into projects and quotes, with a helpdesk and all relevant documentation.
  • In-room QR Code Support for the most comprehensive adoption and utilization program.
  • Full, in-person QBRs so you can trace the impact of AV environment on your business goals.
  • Hardware and software that’s monitored by an in-house team ready to quickly resolve any issues that may arise.

Sound too good to be true? That just might be because your current AV environment isn’t measuring up. But with modern productivity evolving rapidly, it’s time to embrace the future by looking at AV in an entirely new way.

With Evolve AVaaS, you’ll be able to get there first, go with confidence, become the experts, and achieve your goals. In other words, you’ll be charging ahead and setting the pace in your industry, allowing you to achieve things you never could before.

Ready to Embrace the Future of AV?

The future of AV is here, and it’s yours for the taking. Interested in learning more or getting started in future-proofing your AV capabilities? Contact us and start speaking with an Evolve expert today!

There’s a lot of technology that goes on behind the scenes of video conferencing in order to make it a seamless experience for the user. One of these processes that video conferencing endpoints perform is video encoding, or the compression of digital audio and video signals, for transmission across networks in an efficient and effective manner. Then, another video endpoint decodes, or decompresses that signal, where video is displayed on a screen and audio is produced from a speaker. Today, there are two major video encoding and decoding implementations that are in use by industry leading manufacturers – Scalable Video Coding (SVC) and Advanced Video Coding (AVC).

Advanced Video Coding (AVC) was introduced in 2003 and is currently one of the most commonly used formats for audio/video compression. A core concept in AVC compression is the use of a specified resolution and frame rate in every call. The specific call quality (SD, 720pHD, or 1080pHD to name a few) which is used in a particular call is based on a negotiation between endpoints or bridges in a call about the capabilities which they can support. One downside is that the endpoints in many cases can support qualities that the network between them may not be able to support. In this situation the endpoints agree to connect at the best quality they are capable of, but when the network cannot accommodate all of that digital data, packets are dropped and video can become choppy or completely freeze.

Scalable Video Coding (SVC) is a newer form of video compression which dynamically adjusts the frame rateor resolution in real-time based on varying network conditions. For example, if one participant’s network becomes congested by other applications on their network (file downloads, system backups, and internet streaming are common bandwidth “hogs”) the call rate (and resolution or frame rate) will automatically decrease in order to preserve call integrity at the cost of slightly lower call quality. One downside to SVC is that there may be increased processing required at the endpoint to support the constant monitoring of packet loss and there may be increased bandwidth compared to AVC to support similar resolutions.

Determining which option is right for your organization depends on your business needs and requirements, how you plan on using video, and what your network constraints are. For example, SVC may be a better option for an organization looking to deploy a soft video client to their entire organization on a shared network that is shared by many other applications. However, AVC may be a better option for a more controlled network environment where QoS can be implemented to ensure a time-sensitive data such as real-time conferencing data does not compete with other data which may not be time-sensitive (such as co-workers watching YouTube).

What is an AV Room? A place to collaborate? A place to meet with remote team members? A place to present PowerPoint slides? While the correct answer may be all of the above; none of these functions would happen without the proper design and configuration of the space. Technology integration and the actual room environment  are essential considerations when designing an optimal meeting space. As stated by Tim Hennen, SVP of Engineering at IVCi, “An audio visual integrated room is a meld of art and science. The art is in the design of the room itself; the lighting, furniture, and the selection of the right technologies that will eventually come together. The science comes in with the building of those technology connections and making each device work together as if they were one.” That being said, there are 4 core design and technology components that are imperative when creating an effective collaboration environment. Understanding these will also help with determining what you would like to accomplish within the room.

Video “What do you want to see?” Video in an AV room is about the display of content, how you see meeting participants on the other side of the video call,  and how remote participants see you. The equipment associated with video includes cameras, displays, a matrix switcher, a digital video processor, and a codec.

Audio “How do you want to hear/be heard?” Audio in an AV room is about how audio is projected in the room, how sound is sent to remote participants, and how you are heard to remote participants. Equipment for audio includes speakers, microphones, acoustic panels, and an audio control system.

Control “How do you want to control the room?” Control in an AV room is about managing what you display, where you display it, and who is heard. The equipment involved includes a control processor and the control panel.

Lighting “How will the room be lit properly?” Lighting in an AV room is about where the lighting is placed, where current natural light sources are located, and where you want your furniture and equipment placed. Lights, shades, and lighting placement are the essentials associated with lighting in an AV room.

Understanding how these components affect the collaboration space is as important as selecting the the technology itself. Poor lighting or acoustics impact the collaboration experience just as much as not having the right video conferencing or presentation equipment. Download a copy of our AV Buyers guide for detailed explanations of each core component in addition to some handy tips and tricks.