Ready Parents? It’s BTS Time!
August 31, 2011 @ 08:49 AM | By Sarah Murphy

I think it was mid-July when I got my first back to school (BTS) sales flyer in the Sunday paper. Now every store I go into has a dedicated BTS aisle lined with pencils, paper, rulers, notebooks, glue sticks and lunchboxes. Gathering supplies for the big first day is one thing, but getting back into the school day routine is another—and that routine includes the afterschool activity shuffle.

BlackBerry

From the time that school bell rings until after dinner time, kids are going here and there from one activity to the next. For some parents, carpooling is a well choreographed performance. For others, it takes a bit of time to get the schedule smoothed out.

If you think about it, many of us spend our days hopping from one meeting to the next. At least with online meetings there is no getting up and physically going somewhere (which takes up a lot of time), but if you need to be on the move, we’ve got you covered. Now joining a meeting with your mobile device is even easier with InterCall Unified Meeting.

HTC

We’ve recently updated our meeting invitation so iPhone and Android users can simply tap into the audio portion of a meeting. No dialing, just tap. Got a BlackBerry? Now you can click the Join Now button on your device from calendar invites to instantly join your conference.

For a while, as a host, you have been able to use your iPad to conduct better meetings with InterCall Unified Meeting to manage your audio conferences. You can host your meeting AND show PowerPoint® slides to your audience using your iPad (or iPhone). Before you hit the carpool, upload your slides to your InterCall Unified Meeting Conference Manager and you are ready to meet. No lengthy set up, application download or app store purchased required! Keep that meeting going while waiting for the after school dance class to finish.

Participants can also use an iPad or iPhone to view your presentation. Again, no download or app store purchased required. One less item for that BTS shopping list.

So parents, as you are picking up those BTS supplies, what will you put on your list to help you get back into the school year routine?

Sarah MurphySarah Murphy is a marketing manager at InterCall. With over ten years of experience in the conferencing industry, Sarah has worked with customers and products that cover all segments of conferencing, including traditional operator attended services, video and online meeting solutions.

Tips for Managing a Virtual Workforce
August 24, 2011 @ 12:30 PM | By Cambria Vaccaro

As the economy and our marketplace become more global, having a distributed workforce is a normal part of business. Not only are offices spread around the world, but a growing number of people work either full- or part-time from their homes. If you are managing remote employees, a whole new set of challenges develop in these situations; you may rarely see, never have met or not even speak the same language as the people who you are supposed to coach and hold accountable for getting a job done.

Right now, approximately 34 million workers in the United States work from home or a remote location at least one day a week. That number is expected to almost double to 63 million by 2016, which represents a staggering 43% of the U.S. workforce. On a larger scale, according to IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Worker Population 2009–2013 Forecast, more than one third of the global workforce will be mobile by 2013.

There are many reasons to have a remote workforce, such as saving office/real estate costs, meeting customer requirements, offering a better work/life balance and having access to a larger talent pool. No matter what’s behind your decision, if you’re managing employees who aren’t in your office, you have to engage in a different management style if you want to make everyone successful.

The days of popping your head into someone’s office to check in or get a status update are long gone for many people. I experience this firsthand; for my marketing team at InterCall, half of them work from a home office. Below are some tips I've found from the Society of Human Resource Management and the National Federation of Independent Businesses that you can use to keep productivity and morale up for your virtual workforce. You can also get more information from our February webinar, Managing Blind: Redefining Management in a Global Virtual World. I've applied many of these in my own situation and found them to be quite helpful, particularly the unified communications tools.

  • Take the time to train virtual employees and managers on the company’s mission, in addition to telecommuting policies and expectations, such as:
    • Values and goals
    • Expected business hours
    • Not substituting working from home for childcare
  • Make sure workers have appropriate and reliable equipment that is required to do their jobs
  • Set up remote communication tools, like audio conference calls, web conferencing or video conferencing solutions, mobile apps and instant messaging, so remote employees can easily be reached and reach other employees, as well as collaborate on team discussions and projects
  • Schedule regular meetings with all team members to get updates on projects and hold workers accountable for their deadlines
  • Don’t micromanage; if your expectations are being met, then trust your employees to do their jobs
  • Take time to understand the culture where your remote employees are located, particularly if they are located in another country
  • Make sure to spread the workload among all employees so that those in the office don't feel like they are unfairly taking on a larger burden of the responsibilities compared to those working remotely
  • Create spaces in your office so remote workers can periodically come to ‘plug in’ or provide them with a location where they can collaborate with other remote co-workers/professionals

Remember, it takes self-disciplined and motivated people to work outside of an office, and those people usually work harder and longer hours. To avoid burn out and feelings of isolation, find ways to make them feel included. Using web conferencing with web cams or video conferencing solutions gives your team that face-to-face feeling they’d have sitting around a conference table together. And if you can get it in your budget, bringing everyone together in the office or another off-site location can go a long way to fostering team spirit.

What have you done in your company or work environment to put these practices to use? Do you have other tips to share?

Cam_blog Cambria Vaccaro is the Senior Director, Marketing 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 and mother of two gorgeous girls.

InterCall Takes On the Windy City!
August 22, 2011 @ 12:34 PM | By Sara Steele

This week, InterCall is headed to the Fall 2011 Channel Partners Conference & Expo in our own backyard – Chicago!

InterCall kicks off the event on Wednesday afternoon with an exclusive agent partner presentation highlighting our Unified Communications services. Later that evening, we’re celebrating the HOT combination of Smoothstone and InterCall at the Chicago Firehouse for an evening of appetizers, cocktails and a drawing for an Apple iPad. The excitement continues on Thursday as InterCall’s Joe Berger participates in the What’s Next in Collaboration: Virtual Meetings, UC-Style  panel presentation at 10:00 AM, followed by a Smoothstone vendor presentation  at 2:00 PM.

Be sure to stop by InterCall’s booth #1331 to learn about our industry-leading channel program offering:

  • Broad product portfolio
  • Quick implementations
  • Competitive commission plans

To schedule time with InterCall while at the show or to attend any of our InterCall sponsored events, please contact your channel manager or email us at wsinfo@intercall.com.

If you are interested in becoming a channel partner, visit www.intercall.com/wholesale.

Sara SteeleSara Steele is an associate marketing manager at InterCall responsible for various corporate communication initiatives; including social media and channel marketing efforts. Sara began working with InterCall after graduating from the University of Colorado in 2006. In her free time, she enjoys running, skiing, and spending time with family and friends.

Hello, Who Just Joined?
August 19, 2011 @ 10:54 AM | By Sarah Murphy

If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time in meetings every day. Have you ever stopped to think about how much time is lost due to meeting management mishaps? We’ve all experienced them—background noise from the participant who forgot to mute their line, the barking dog, the loud downtown traffic, the clamor at the airport. It never fails that once the audio conference call gets started, there are the interruptions to ask who just joined as you hear the entry tone or to ask if a specific participant is on the call to answer a question. Something like “Is Dan on to answer that one?” probably sounds familiar. All this lost time adds up pretty quickly.

So how can you host better meetings? Watch this short video to find out!

With online tools that integrate audio and web conferences, you and your participants can meet in an interactive environment, at any time, from anywhere. Using web conferencing services, you can:

  • Visualize and manage your audio calls from your computer with simple point and click commands so you can mute that participant with the barking dog, see who has joined the meeting and know who to call on for answers.
  • Take your meetings to the next level of interactivity by sharing and showing materials from your computer. You and your participants can easily and seamlessly collaborate online with documents, share PowerPoint slides or conduct a web tour at a moment’s notice.
  • Add desktop video to your meeting to give it more impact. With a webcam and a high-speed connection, you and your presenters can broadcast live images to meeting participants. All it takes is a click of your mouse.

Have you tried using the web to enhance your audio conference calls yet? Noticed any improvements in your meetings?

Sarah MurphySarah Murphy is a marketing manager at InterCall. With over ten years of experience in the conferencing industry, Sarah has worked with customers and products that cover all segments of conferencing, including traditional operator attended services, video and online meeting solutions.

What Would Zack Morris Do with a Mobile Phone?
August 16, 2011 @ 10:12 AM | By Charlie Connor

What is the first thing you do when you wake up each morning? Ok, after you go to the bathroom. You check your mobile phone.

For some people this actually might be what wakes them up in the morning. There are catch phrases now like “There's an app for that” or “Droid does” that would make no sense to Zack Morris when he had his mobile phone. How many times do you see an iReport story on CNN, breaking news sent in by someone who just happened to catch something interesting and shot it with their mobile device?

There’s no denying that mobile has permeated our lives. It has almost gotten to the point where you'd rather lose your wallet than your mobile phone because it serves as a camera, photo album, TV remote, home phone and diary. We don’t just watch TV anymore—we use our mobile devices while doing so. Nielsen’s research in fact found that 70% of tablet owners use their tablet while watching TV. Check out this chart of Nielsen’s findings on when users “enjoy” their new mobile gadgets. Who would have thought that the bathroom would make the top of the list?

Nielsen2

Typically after consumers adopt a new tool, the business world is not far behind. Just look what Microsoft is going to start doing with Skype, which has moved from an easy way to show the grandparents how big the kids are getting to becoming a fairly widespread business tool.

InterCall recognizes the way mobile has become a critical tool in our communications and workplace productivity. We believe that if we are going to continue to provide you with the ideal way to collaborate with your colleagues and customers, we must address your mobile needs. This means integrating mobile solutions into our conference call and online meeting services.

Our strategy for mobile conferencing solutions is being built around making it easier for you to schedule, invite, host, join and see who is with you on your conference calls. We have recently partnered with top developers and award-winning designers to help bring our application to groundbreaking standards. Over the next six months you'll start to see an industry-leading application evolve that will become a part of your everyday interaction.

Zack Morris could have really used InterCall’s mobile solutions to put together his plans to skip class or get Slater and Screech to help him manage three dates in one night. By the way, have you checked out the newly released Facebook Messenger app yet? Imagine what would have happened at Bayside High with that!

How do you use these mobile tools in your business or personal life?

Cynthia Welch imageAs director of InterCall’s core services, Charlie is responsible for the product management of InterCall’s proprietary day-to-day collaboration services. Charlie joined InterCall after completing his business degree from the Kelly School of Business at Indiana University. Originally starting in sales, Charlie worked in InterCall’s business development team to help drive and support InterCall’s global sales efforts. In 2007, Charlie had the opportunity to spend a year in Singapore where he supported the restructuring of the office there and improving localization. Now back in Chicago, Charlie plays a key role in developing and improving InterCall’s core products. When not saving the world through collaboration services, Charlie enjoys spending time with his wife, Katie, and daughter, Annie.

The Battle of Silicon Valley
August 11, 2011 @ 09:00 AM | By Ashley Davies

You may have been lucky enough to miss the back-and-forth happening between Google and Microsoft during the last couple of weeks in regard to the increasingly heated tension rising around a patent dispute between the two tech giants.

From keeping tabs on this as it unfolds, the bottom line is that Microsoft offered Google the chance to work with them to purchase patents from Novell, but Google declined.

Microsoft and Google are seasoned veterans when it comes to having head-to-head battles. Not only are they competing in the online search market (Bing.com vs. Google.com) and the operating system market (Windows vs. ChromeOS), but they are direct competitors within the Unified Communication (UC) space: Google with their Google Apps and Microsoft with Office 365.

SockEm

The last month has seen a torrent of abuse fired back and forth between the two companies, sometimes in a light hearted approach like ‘The G Man’ and Google’s own video response.

Google have had it easy in the early ‘00’s but have pushed Microsoft too far. After consistently chipping away at Microsoft’s Crown Jewels, Microsoft have had enough and are fighting back. Hard.

Microsoft have been known as the ‘king of software’ but have invested countless millions of dollars in online development into cloud communication. The end result is revolutionising the UC space and the product has been dubbed ‘The PBX Killer’.

These products that I am talking about, of course, are Microsoft Lync™ Online and Office 365. They are enterprise-grade, online applications which serve as an upgrade to your existing Office suite. Not only do you not have to worry about updating to the new version, there is also no capex spend as companies can pay per month on a licensed model.

Microsoft Lync offers enterprise workers the ability to work remotely, whilst still being visible and able to be contacted within the organisation. Not only does this increase productivity within the workplace, but it is proving to be an invaluable tool as employees look to address their work-life balance and opt to work from home.

So, it’s easy to see how Microsoft are ruffling Google’s feathers. After years of Google taking away market share, Microsoft are beginning to claw it back, offering superior security features, zero-advertising and applications that are being adopted globally by organisations big and small.

One thing is for sure: It’s going to be an interesting year seeing which Silicon Valley giant takes the crown.

Ashley DaviesAshley Davies is the small and medium sized business (SMB) manager in InterCall’s UK and European (EMEA) division and is responsible for managing the suite of services InterCall offers that are specifically designed for SMB customers. Before joining InterCall, Ashley worked as the sales manager for a free publication and studied for a degree in entrepreneurship and small business. In his spare time, Ashley likes to surf and work on his house.

Just What Are Virtual Learning Environments
August 9, 2011 @ 08:31 AM | By Eric Vidal

Welcome to the Virtual Learning Blog, a place where we'll share and collaborate on virtual learning trends and technologies. This will be a forum for sharing best practices, trying to solve problems, providing tips and hearing directly from learning and development leaders that are utilizing these platforms. The technologies we will focus on will cover everything from virtual classrooms to virtual learning environments—and everything in between.

With that said, let’s start with virtual learning environments. Just what are they? According to the research arm of CLO Magazine, a high-level definition is the following:

An interactive platform designed to deliver training and allow instant access to content, subject matter experts and peers. These virtual learning environments can be customized, with multiple rooms, classrooms, resource libraries, forums, networking rooms and integration with social media.

Based on InterCall Virtual Environments and how I've seen customers use these types tools over the years, I would agree with this definition as it is intended—a broad overview of a technology that serves a variety of purposes. I do feel virtual learning environments can, and will, be more than this. What do you think? I would like to hear how you would add to or edit this description.

Eric VidalEric Vidal is considered a leading voice and expert in virtual business, which expands from marketing to collaboration to learning. He has more than 15 years experience in developing, implementing and optimizing strategies in these areas for numerous organizations and Global 2000 companies. As the director of product marketing for InterCall’s event services, Eric manages the strategy and initiatives for the virtual technologies that include virtual environments, streaming, event management services and operator assisted services. Previously from WebEx, Eric managed the virtual classroom product, as well as brand advertising and new media. Over the last several years, Eric has held management positions at Cisco, WebEx, IBM, BBDO Worldwide and Macromedia.

Ho-Hum August Doldrums?
August 3, 2011 @ 11:09 AM | By Jill Huselton

It’s the third day of August. Have you noticed a slow-down at work yet? Are your co-workers squeezing in one more vacation before the kids go back to school or have your European counterparts shut down for a month long holiday?

Keep Looking Busy Sleeping

With news that the economy is really not getting any better (increased debt ceiling or not), you might not want to let on to anyone that you have a little extra free time. I found a good article on MSNBC that lists some great ways to make it look like you are busy. (And of course, I found this post while I was waiting on hold for my audio conference call to start, not because I had nothing to do but surf the web.)

  • Typing a lot (what you type doesn’t matter)
  • Creating a busywork-type project
  • Sending emails at odd times
  • Pretending to be walking busily toward nonexistent meetings
  • Complaining that you’re totally swamped whenever possible
  • Scheduling meetings with friends in other parts of the organization
  • Keeping your desk messy so people think you’ve got lots going on

Interestingly enough, the survey at the bottom of the article shows 66% of the readers say they are actually working hard in August. So, either they are telling the truth or, in spite of their anonymity, they still want everyone to think they’re busy.

How’s the end of summer shaping up for you? Are you crazy busy, just like every month of the year, or are you experiencing the summer slow-down? Have you tried to employ any of these tactics above?

Jill HuseltonJill Huselton is a senior marketing manager at InterCall. She's been in the conferencing industry for nearly 15 years, working in operations, account management and marketing, mainly based in Colorado. Before leaving the Mile-High City, she hiked a 14er, one of her top accomplishments. Now she's traded the mountains for the beach and works from a home office in North Carolina.

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