How do I determine ROI on Video Conferencing?
October 29, 2008 @ 11:45 AM | By Brian Trampler & Sara O'Rourke

Oct28videoconferencingrWhen your company is thinking about purchasing video conferencing equipment and services, you may have a hard time justifying the cost associated with this kind of investment. There are a few things you need to look at when determining your return on investment for this product.  Cutting down on travel expenses, reducing your carbon footprint and enhancing the effectiveness of communication are some of the factors to think about.

We all know that the corporate world spends a lot of time and money on a daily, weekly and monthly basis traveling across the country and the world.  What are your reasons for traveling? Most companies feel that the face-to-face communication is more important and effective to build relationships.  With that said, conducting a video conference is an easy and cost effective way to have that meeting without spending the money on air, hotel, food etc. If you take a look at how much your company spends on a yearly basis in travel, you can get a better idea of the ROI in purchasing your own equipment. With video conferencing technology today, you can have that face to face meeting and share documents with other participants as if they were in the same room. You may not use video conferencing for every meeting, but there are a number of ways you can see a return on your video conferencing investment.

Let’s use InterCall as an example. InterCall just acquired Genesys, who is another conferencing company headquarted in France. In order to build the relationship and discuss the acquisition it’s important for our executives like Bob Wise, EVP of Marketing and Business Development, to have face to face meetings with Genesys. It can cost InterCall thousands of dollars in airfare, hotel, and car rentals for Bob to travel to France.  Bob may only need to meet with Genesys for a couple hours a day, but he has to spend a week at a time traveling. Instead, Bob chooses to video conference with Genesys.

Some things to consider when calculating your travel expenses:

1. Number of attendees traveling via airplane
2. Number of nights in a hotel
3. Rental Car(s)

Conference Details:

1. How long would your meeting last?
2. How many participants?

To calculate your savings check out our travel calculator.

Video conferencing hardware  can vary from $150 to $20,000 depending on the conference room requirements you have. If you setup 5 video locations at $50,000 total, you could gain your investment back in less than a year (depending on how much you spend in travel).

InterCall can help you figure out what type of equipment and services will best fit your needs and budget. For example, if you are new to video conferencing and not sure if you want to make the investment, InterCall has 10,000 public rooms available globally to rent out on a per hour basis. The rooms are all equipped with video equipment and will help you decide how effectively you can communicate with traveling no more than a few miles from your office or home. 

If you decide to purchase your own hardware, InterCall will make sure that your employees are using the equipment to the fullest capacity. As we roll-out your company with video endpoints and services, we will make sure the experience is easy and effective for every meeting. We have everything from training classes, web scheduling and branded reservation material to help facilitate the proper use of video conferencing.  Internally you can set a policy that states employees must check their video conference room availability before booking travel.

Think about it, would you rather spend 3 days traveling across the country for a 1 hour meeting or be home in time for dinner with your kids?  If you have questions or comments about your video conferencing ROI, please comment below!

Sara_2 Sara O'Rourke is the Associate Product Manager for Strategic Video Solutions and will be a contributor to "Video News". She has been with Intercall for over 4 years and has specialized in the video product for the majority of those years, starting in sales. She is not only an accomplished professional of the video industry, but a fine singer as well.

The Future of Teleworkers
October 21, 2008 @ 01:15 PM | By Cambria Vaccaro

Oct21futureofteleworker There are those who work strictly from a home office and those who have space in their company’s building but choose to work remotely part of the week.  Either way, more and more people are giving up their commutes and using technology to be productive. 

  • Today there are over 28 million teleworkers, according to a recent survey by the International Telework Association and Council. 
  • Telework grew considerably in the U.S., from 30 percent of organizations saying they offered it to employees in 2007 to 42 percent in 2008, according to WorldatWork.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that by 2012, the population of teleworkers (full and part time) will grow to up to 100 million.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, $78 billion in productivity is lost in commuting each year. This may be why the majority (84%) of Fortune’s top 100 companies to work for allow employees to telecommute or work from home at least 20% of the time.  Cisco helps 12,000 workers strike a work/life balance by allowing them to skip their commute three days a week.  Smaller companies are not being left out.  A new resource, Chief Home Officer, which can include anyone who works from a small office or home office (SOHO), has added a new niche to the SMB community. 

The interesting thing about telework is companies of all sizes are offering it as an employee perk.  With so many great companies expanding their telecommuting workforce, it’s obvious that employers are seeing the benefit of telecommuting.  Not only does telecommuting create a greater work/life balance for employees, it allows companies to cut costs by needing less available real estate and increased employee retention. A 2004 Flexible Working Survey, by Netilla Networks, found 67% of commuters said telework would make them more loyal to their employer.

Additionally, telecommuters have proven to be more productive at home as well.  A recent study by Computer Technology Association found that two-thirds of the respondents experienced greater productivity from employees working full-time or part-time from home.  The study cites other benefits like less stress and healthier employees as well. 

Only time will tell what the future will look like for teleworkers.  But InterCall is happy to be in the mix of the technology and tools that help people stay connected when they telecommute.  With conference calls, web conferencing and video conferencing, we hope to help today and tomorrow's telecommuters strike a productive work/life balance.  Do you currently work from home? Is there a piece of technology (either real or imagined) that would make your day easier? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Cam_2Cambria Vaccaro is Director of Marketing, Corporate Communications and our “Industry News” blogger.  Cambria has been in the conferencing industry for nearly fifteen years, and has seen it evolve from a traditional video bridging service to include cool web features and remote communication services.  She is an avid runner, cook, wife and mother of two gorgeous girls.

Unified Communications Glossary of Terms
October 14, 2008 @ 12:41 PM | By Ken Kurz

Oct14ucglossary_2 Our sales team brought me along to talk with a customer to assist their Unified Communications (UC) strategy and budget for next year. As customary for meetings about UC, the meeting assembled several cross-functional department heads–  the desktop application management team, telecom and data networking group, the person that manages the messaging systems, the individual responsible for conferencing and collaboration, senior management, and representatives from the finance team. You get the idea.  It was a typical IS-meets-business- strategy planning session.

With this group in the room, before you know it I’m saying things like “this UC-EIM system utilizes SIP and has a standards-based codec supporting VoIP click-2-call by integrating with your PBX”.  And in concern to the non-IS folks in the room, I was becoming very aware of the amount of jargon and TLAs (three-letter acronyms) that were being thrown about during our discussion. As the meeting progressed, my concerns of the effect of “jargon-overload” on the finance guy was diminished - he was keeping up and he made several great points that let you know he was completely engaged.

But it got me thinking. We use tech terms everyday and it has a way of actually decreasing understanding and making what we’re talking about seem like it has less relevance to everyday workers in their business life.  The meeting inspired me to write this blog entry. Here are a few terms you are likely to encounter as you navigate the world of Unified Communications.

Unified Communications (UC) – I like the way Frost and Sullivan defines this term in our free Unified Communications Whitepapers.  In its most fully realized form, unified communications offers users a single application interface from which users can access a range of communications tools, including voice calls, IM chat, e-mail, faxes, voice messaging and conferencing—audio, video and web.

I’d like to add that UC is a system, and not a single-vendor product. Additional to the technologies that define the system, a UC framework includes deployment considerations (hosted, on-premise, hybrid) and system management and end-user training considerations.

Unified Conferencing and Collaboration (UCC) – also from our Whitepapers, UCC is defined as integrated audio, video and web conferencing in a single interface.

InterCall likes to call this “Unified Meetings” – whereby a single URL or shortcut can be clicked and you are joined to a rich virtual meeting environment with no complex effort to enjoy seamless audio, video, web collaboration.

Enterprise Instant Messaging (EIM) – a system that delivers secure, auditable, corporate, instant messaging on private servers that can be deployed on-premise on in “hosted” environments.

The top suppliers of EIM are Microsoft, IBM, and Jabber (recently acquired by Cisco). When designing a UC system, you will want to do some planning around federating your UC-EIM system to partners and suppliers outside of your internal networks.

Unified Messaging (UM) – a system that routes (so users can store and retrieve) different types of messages (voicemails, email, faxes, etc) from a single, “unified” inbox – which is accessible from a variety of devices and applications – like your email inbox on your laptop, or a handheld smart device, or even the ability to take a standard phone and dial-into a text-to-voice converter.

Whew! UM products are available from telephony hardware vendors (I won’t list them all, here are products briefs for Cisco and Avaya) and there are systems from InterCall partners Microsoft and IBM.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) – a telephony networking solution that allows you to transmit voice telephone calls across an IP network as an alternative to the public switched telephone network (PSTN). Ha! I threw that last one in for free… ;-)

Softphone (IP Softphone) - a software application (that runs on your laptop or smartdevice) for making and receiving telephone calls on a computer using VoIP.

A softphone should ot to be confused with an IP telephone handset device. A “soft” phone provides an on-screen interface for outbound dialing and must interoperate with the computer’s sound card and microphone or accessories that plug into the computer’s USB port. There are business-grade and consumer-grade softphones. The term “click-to-call” refers to mouse-clicking on a contact or phone number using your softphone in order to “dial” the connection.

Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) – an Internet standard (see RFC 3261) used for session establishment and teardown for voice communications and video conferencing over an IP network.

At InterCall, we utilize SIP on our audio conferencing platform to effectively manage media stream (audio) sessions to deliver robust conferencing as efficiently as technically possible.

If this glossary of terms has been helpful, respond in the comments section below, and I’ll continue this topic on my next posting.

Ken_6 Ken Kurz, Director of Unified Communications. Kurz is responsible for the end-user success of Unified Communications deployments; ensuring businesses have a more efficient, easier-to-use communications environment.

Chief Learning Officer Symposium
October 7, 2008 @ 06:00 AM | By Nicole Scheel

Oct7closymposium_2Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the CLO Magazine Symposium.  It was an amazing experience…I was surrounded by some of Training’s best and brightest!.  There were fabulous keynote speakers, round table discussions and workshops.  I wouldn’t do those sessions justice by trying to summarize them; however I do encourage you to visit the website as they archived quite a few of the presentations. 

I walked away with a new appreciation for learning, new contacts of fellow learning colleagues and a binder full of notes and new ideas for my training team.  Some of my most important take away’s include:

1. Measurement of training programs is a MUST – Whether you’re just getting started with collecting feedback for measurement or if you’ve mastered all of Kirkpatrick’s levels, as training professionals it is our responsibility to measure the effectiveness of our programs.  If you don’t have a measurement strategy in place yet, that’s fine there is nothing to worry about.  I would spend some time researching training ROI and measurement and start out small.   

2. Training is rapidly moving online – Even though the economy is fluctuating and things like travel and budgets are being reduced, the expectations on training teams are still the same.  Trainers are having to find new and innovative ways of getting their programs out.  Many of my training peers were amazed when I told them about the advances that were being made in web conferencing.  As we started discussing features such as break out groups, whiteboards and application sharing, other colleagues offered up their ideas on how they creatively use the tools.  It was a fantastic discussion that lead to many new ideas!

3. Learning Management Systems (LMS) or learning portals are key – Most web conferencing tools today can be integrated into an LMS.  Just this year my team rolled out an LMS within our company, and honestly I don’t know what we did before that.  To have all of your learning, reporting, administrative and other functions happen in one place, not only saves time – but is much more productive for employees, their managers and the training staff.   

Even though the face of business is changing, it’s clear that training will always be an important part of any company’s success.  While we may be moving away from traditional classrooms, training will not end.  Technologies such as web conferencing, computer based training and elearning will shape the future of training. 

If you have specific tools that you use that you find helpful, please share them by posting a comment below.  As always if you need any clarification, have comments and/or questions, please post a comment and I will be sure to get back to you!

Nicole Nicole Scheel is the Director of Training, and the “Tips & Training Blogger”. Nicole has been in training with InterCall for nine years and currently manages our internal and customer training departments, also known as InterCall University. When she's not training someone, you can find Nicole volunteering in her community or finishing her Masters in Training & Development at Roosevelt University.

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