Best Practices in Migrating to UC
November 29, 2013 @ 01:05 PM | By Bob Wise

Deck

Sometimes the difference between a successful Unified Communications deployment and a truly transformative change to the organization lies in the use of just a few best practices. We’ve seen how many different organizations tackle this migration and I’d like to share 3 practices that stack the deck in your favor.

  • A comprehensive UC strategy incorporates real-time collaboration applications that advance productivity while minimizing communication costs. So from the beginning, include voice, video, data, mobile integration and IM as well as audio/video/web conferencing in your solution. The usage of any one tool tends to go up when presented as part of a larger suite of tools.
  • A high impact UC strategy considers business process improvement to be a key objective from the outset, not as something to tackle later, if at all. High performing clients leverage the huge opportunity to review the ways in which alternative communications channels can positively impact their business-critical processes. That includes both internal processes and those directly impacting customers as well. In either case, you’ll have an opportunity to providing your organization with a source of significant, lasting competitive advantage.
  • Once IT is done “kicking the tires”, consider deploying UC to members of the organization and/or those business units that have the greatest opportunity for productivity gains. The desire for employees to use this technology will often spread organically throughout the organization. Also, don’t neglect the need for training and communication as to how the user most effectively uses the technology in their daily worklife.

These are just three of the best practices that I’ve seen clients use of the years. Certainly there are more. One of the advantages our clients have when working with us is that we have been intimately involved with so many high achieving organizations and we can help your team adopt the practices that make the most sense for your team too.

Robert WiseAs EVP for West IP Communications, Bob is responsible for guiding long term business strategy, partner relationships and day to day management and operations, ultimately helping the company maintain its position as the leading hosted IP Communications and UC company in the industry. West IP Communications was recently recognized by Gartner as a Leader in their magic quadrant for UCaaS for its strong vision to transform the ways in which businesses communicate, its innovation, agility and, most importantly, its unwavering focus of delivering results for its clients. Prior to his current role, Bob was Vice President of Business Development and UC for InterCall, the leading global conferencing provider in the market and part of West Corporation and led West Corporation’s acquisitions of Smoothstone IP Communications, a leading IP telephony and hosted network provider, SKT Business Communications Solutions, a UC professional services provider, and PostCTI, a leading provider of UC components, systems, professional services and hosted services in Europe. His skills and leadership have been instrumental in building services, solutions and strategic partnerships that continue to advance the firm’s position as a leader in the Unified Communications industry. A law graduate of Loyola University, Bob joined the company in 1998 and served as General Counsel for several years before becoming Vice President of Marketing. Additionally, he served as President of Genesys SA, a global conferencing service provider acquired by InterCall in 2008. Before joining InterCall, Bob practiced corporate law and was Vice President of Imagination Entertainment Corporation.

This Winter, Stay Off the Road and Walk to Your Conference
November 29, 2013 @ 10:33 AM | By Christina Todisco

It’s about 300 below zero outside. There is so much snow, you can’t even find your car, let alone plow your driveway. You glance up and down your street and see your poor neighbors committing Herculean efforts just to plow their driveways before having to work even harder at the office. And, to make matters worse, it’s not even done snowing yet.

You laugh as you sip your coffee and head back inside. Luckily for you, there is nothing blocking the way to your home office. And since you recently invested in a reliable conference call service for your mobile device, your 9 a.m. conference call with your most important client will be able to proceed smoothly.

When it comes down to it, there are a million things that can prevent you from communicating with the people you need to. Inclement weather, traffic jams and disconnected phone lines could all arise at the last minute and disrupt your meeting plans. Therefore, as a solution, it is imperative that you have access to the latest conference call technology right from your cell phone. With a full suite of conferencing services made easily accessible and at any given time, it’s like carrying your desk phone in your pocket 24x7.

These features include frequently used conferencing numbers and codes so that you never have to worry about finding them, as well as the ability to break out into small groups directly from the conference. Likewise, you can gain complete visibility into who is on your conference call, as well as who is speaking.

We want to know, what is the most ridiculous weather that you have held a conference call in? Tornados? Hurricanes? Earthquakes? Tell us below!

Christina TodiscoChristina Todisco is a marketing manager at InterCall and has been in the conferencing industry since 2002. Christina currently provides product marketing support for InterCall’s audio services, reporting and invoice solutions and InterCall Online. When not working, Christina enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter, family and friends.

This Thanksgiving, Be Thankful for Conference Calls
November 27, 2013 @ 12:54 PM | By Jill Huselton

Thankful

This year as you enjoy the office potluck to celebrate Thanksgiving with your “work husband or wife”, take a few moments to think about what makes you thankful about the place where you spend 40+ hours per week. Maybe it’s the new coffee machine in the break room or the earbuds a cubemate recently purchased so you no longer have to listen to his music selections. Perhaps it is the little things like the new pens the office manager recently ordered or something bigger, like the fact that you are employed.

How about your workplace technology that helps your day just a little bit easier? Maybe you should give a nod to the old standby that makes your whole job tick: your conference call system.

Granting you the ability to connect with clients or coworkers and make critical business decisions despite great geographical disparities, tight budgets and time restrictions, conference calls are like the glue that keeps your team together and in constant communication. And, let’s not forget that conference calls and online meetings might have enabled you to still have that important client meeting without the need to travel, which made it possible for you to be home for your son’s championship basketball game or even be in the office for this potluck.

We might get tired of the 9-5 office routine, but take a moment to look on the bright side and appreciate the things that make your job just a little easier or more enjoyable. Whether it is the office supplies, beverage selections or even conference calls, we all have something to be thankful for.

Now that you’ve thought about it, have conference call technologies improved your work life? What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

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.

Disruption, Doom and Disaster Recovery for IT
November 26, 2013 @ 10:15 AM | By James Whitemore

IT Fail

NASDAQ recently experienced a 3-hour disruption in trading due to a network failure. If that doesn’t highlight the critical need for a disaster recovery plan, I’m not sure what would.  Can you imagine the organizational turmoil that resulted from this?  When NASDAQ isn’t trading, that results in millions of dollars of lost revenue.  Even if your organization isn’t trading millions, a disruption in your organization’s communications is a critical factor that has far-reaching implications.  What if your employees couldn’t access critical business communications?  Imagine the phone calls you’d (eventually) receive. Or even worse yet, imagine the customers that just faded away, along with their business and good will.

One of the most compelling factors that drives consideration of a hosted UC solution is its disaster recovery capabilities.  Continuity of communications is critical to the lifeblood of any enterprise organization.  Losing communications could mean losing customers and revenue, and ultimately damaging your company’s reputation.  Although redundancy built into your network architecture is a viable solution, not every enterprise organization has the IT budget (in dollars, human capacity, or time) to support this.  For those organizations that don’t have a blank checkbook, a cloud-based solution can ensure access to voice, video, data, IM/presence, email and audio/video/web conferencing as well as communications integrated within your business processes in a more cost-effective way.  Whether the employee is in the corporate headquarters or working remotely, your company’s communications are maintained due to the fact that your IT infrastructure is in the cloud which, when structured properly by your partner, automatically provides high availability and disaster recovery.

NASDAQ’s failure will continue to be analyzed and questions will be asked as to how to ensure similar failures don’t recur.  Consider cloud-based UCaaS from West IP Communications as a cost-effective way to prevent disaster and remove one more significant potential threat from your competitive landscape.

James WhitemoreJames Whitemore is senior vice president of sales and marketing at West IP Communications, the team that delivers InterCall’s unified communication services. InterCall and West IP Communications are both a part of West Corporation. James holds a B.A. (Hons) degree in Business from Newcastle University in the U.K. and currently resides in Boulder, CO. In his downtime, James is an avid skier with an enthusiasm for traveling and car collecting.

Conference Calls Can Be Your “Gravity”
November 25, 2013 @ 04:01 PM | By Christina Todisco

Gravity

There is a horrifying scene in the recently released film “Gravity” where Sandra Bullock’s character is stranded in outer space, trying to reach mission control back on Earth. Unfortunately, she can’t get through to the team back home. It makes you wonder: Would you rather be stranded on a deserted island like Tom Hanks in ‘Castaway’ or stuck in outer space?

While you might not be heading into space any time soon, chances are you and your teammates frequently hit the road for important meetings and conferences. As “Gravity” shows us, there are many perils that come from failed technology. Business depends heavily on strong communication and, without it, a mission critical situation stands a good chance of flopping. So you’d best have a reliable communication device that you can utilize whenever you need.

InterCall’s conference call technology is advanced enough so that if you are sitting in a hotel lobby in Tucson, you’ll have access to the same services you’d find at you desk in Boston. This includes a reliable application that grants complete visibility into a conference call directly from the interface of a mobile device. In the past, there was no way to see other callers on the same line. Now, this is possible by using the proper web conferencing tools.

Additionally, mobile conference users gain the ability to store numbers in the directory for frequently used conferences. This reduces the need to write information down on paper, which provides increased security measurements, not to mention ease of use. There is also no chance of losing a conference telephone number before an important meeting.

InterCall’s services include support for multiple phone types, including Android®, BlackBerry® and iPhone®as well as Android tablets and iPads. For more information on InterCall’s mobile solutions, please click here.

Christina TodiscoChristina Todisco is a marketing manager at InterCall and has been in the conferencing industry since 2002. Christina currently provides product marketing support for InterCall’s audio services, reporting and invoice solutions and InterCall Online. When not working, Christina enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter, family and friends.

To Travel, or Not to Travel?
November 25, 2013 @ 09:31 AM | By Jill Huselton

Twenty years ago, meeting with your important Tokyo-based client would have meant packing several days in advance before embarking on a long, overseas voyage. It would have meant missing time at the office, as well as your family. Not anymore.

 

Save on travel expenses. Utilize business conferencing.

 

Communication technology gives you options

Today, the trip to Tokyo has gotten a lot shorter. In fact, you can now easily get to Japan by walking down the hallway and sitting right in your own conference room—and you can still be home by 6. That’s because more and more businesses are choosing to do away with traditional business trips in favor of working out deals over conference calls.

Conferencing features make online meetings more productive

When you choose to engage in a conference call, you will gain all of the necessary features for conducting a productive real-time meeting, without the headache of having to spend thousands of dollars for an expedited trip across the world.

These features include operator assistance, as well as the ability to break out into smaller groups to discuss important ideas. Just remember to consider your participants’ time zones when you are scheduling the meeting (What’s Your Conferencing Curfew?).

Once the talking is done and it’s time to get down to the real business of signing important contracts or leveraging critical documents, you can simply log into a unified, online meeting. Here, documents can be shared and edited in real-time over a single web interface.

Conference calls are one example of a business practice that is constantly evolving. What was impossible twenty years ago is now effortless, and costs a fraction of the price that traveling to a destination would.

Have you had any success connecting with a client overseas using a conference call? Please tell us in the comments section below.

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.

Do You Get Nervous During Audio Conferences? Write a Script!
November 22, 2013 @ 02:00 PM | By Christina Todisco

Script

Picture this: you have been pouring over your notes all afternoon. You are well versed and prepared to speak. Then, you chime into the conference call to address your audience and—

…what was that key point you were going to make?

Let’s face it: we all blank out sometimes and forget what we are supposed to be talking about during conference calls. If this describes you, or if you struggle to remain on task, a simple solution is to spend some time before the call outlining exactly what you want to say. That way, you will stay relaxed and will be able to focus on elaborating on specific points of interest.

This strategy will help people who have a tendency to get excited about certain issues and stray from topics on whim. For this type of conference caller, a story will turn into a tangent and pretty soon a 15 minute phone call will turn into a 45 minute lecture. While there is a time and a place for rambling, a script will help you navigate your way successfully through a call without wasting anyone’s time.

This is also a good idea if you are in an open office environment. When there are lots of people around, distractions—laughter, an enthusiastic conversation or even a door slam—can easily throw the most focused person off track. Having an outline or script you can refer to helps you stay on point.

Another reason why you should consider writing a script is so that you will be able to handle random questions when they arise. This is the Payton Manning philosophy. Prepare ahead of time and know exactly what you will do in any situation. Spend some time before the call thinking of random questions that might arise that will require improvising and how you will handle them so that you never appear flustered or off-guard.

An easy way to prevent completely random questions from arising is to send out an agenda ahead of time to those who will be on the conference. This way, everyone will be on the same page and the conference will run smoothly.

Do you have an agenda template that works for your meetings? Share it below.

Christina TodiscoChristina Todisco is a marketing manager at InterCall and has been in the conferencing industry since 2002. Christina currently provides product marketing support for InterCall’s audio services, reporting and invoice solutions and InterCall Online. When not working, Christina enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter, family and friends.

Execution of a UC Strategy Requires Partnership
November 22, 2013 @ 11:18 AM | By James Whitemore

UC

The successful deployment of a unified communications solution requires a true partnership. An effective partnership leverages the expertise and knowledge of both parties focused on a shared objective. At West IP Communications, we have enjoyed a long history of client relationships based on trust and mutual respect. Because continued communications is essential to a business, it is imperative that you identify a technology partner that you can entrust with the future enablement of your company’s business communications and operations.

One recent client that has come to see West IP Communications as a partner had been researching the benefits associated with a UC strategy to enable better communications between its U.S. location and its offices across the Atlantic. The need for more efficient collaboration between employee locations plus the opportunity to consolidate the company’s data and voice networks and enable key applications like IM/presence were the primary drivers. And yet, this was an enterprise IT organization that didn’t have a history of outsourcing. However, this was a fantastic example of how we were able to leverage each other’s knowledge and expertise to produce a solution that significantly increased collaboration and efficiency while addressing the necessary regulatory issues required.

The client was extremely knowledgeable in managing their data networks to address their industry’s regulatory requirements and yet the client’s existing in-house knowledge of specific telephony and application management solutions was not as strong. Enter West IP Communications. This combination of the client’s knowledge in combination with West IPC’s expertise in deploying a UC solution that integrates enterprise communications via an application-aware network provided the solution required. It truly was a sharing of information to get to the best possible outcome.

When you evaluate UC vendors as potential partners, keep this notion of true partnership in mind. Ask yourself:

  • Is this company all about a single proprietary solution or can they work with us to create options that are right for our business?
  • How much time do they spend getting to understand our infrastructure, our processes, and our goals?
  • Do they have a history of strong client retention?
  • Are they willing to share their knowledge with us freely and without reservation – or are they relying on a ‘black box’ approach that shields information from us?

If you are anything less than satisfied with the answers you get, then maybe a true partnership isn’t what this vendor is looking for. And if that’s true, what is it they are looking for?

James WhitemoreJames Whitemore is senior vice president of sales and marketing at West IP Communications, the team that delivers InterCall’s unified communication services. InterCall and West IP Communications are both a part of West Corporation. James holds a B.A. (Hons) degree in Business from Newcastle University in the U.K. and currently resides in Boulder, CO. In his downtime, James is an avid skier with an enthusiasm for traveling and car collecting.

What’s Your Conferencing Curfew?
November 21, 2013 @ 09:41 AM | By Sarah Murphy

Online meetings

Imagine it is 7 pm on the East Coast. You are just sitting down to dinner after a long day when you get a call from your client in California asking to jump on an online meeting with your team. Do you pick up the call, politely decline or follow up with an email?

There is no right or wrong answer in this situation. Each client will come with different needs and will therefore have to be handled uniquely. Unfortunately, since we are living in an ultra-connected era of instant communication, we often forget about basic etiquette when it comes to setting up impromptu meetings. Just because a business partner has the ability to engage in online meetings at any point over his or her cell phone Bringing Your Business On-the-Go doesn’t mean it is always polite to ask that individual to do it. It is important to remember that this is a privilege that should not be abused so that when key players are needed, they will be available. The last thing you want to do is have people start to screen your calls.

Some organizations, however, are taking a different approach to customer service. In the Philippines, for instance call center agents operate under a Western time zone and celebrate American holidays so that they can work during hours when contacts who are on a different schedule can access them. While this is an extreme case, it shows that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to customer service.

The most important thing you can do is to remain consistent with your availability. Establish appropriate call times with clients and co-workers in different time zones early on so that there are ground rules in place for calling and meeting hours. That way, when someone has to make a call after hours, it will not be a recurring instance and the recipient will know that it is important. Otherwise, email communication should suffice.

 How late are you willing to join a meeting with a client? And how do you set expectations accordingly? Please let us know in the comments section below!

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.

’Tis the Season for Increased Staff – and Training Logistics
November 18, 2013 @ 09:47 AM | By Jill Huselton

Blackfriday

When you think of holiday shopping, you might envision a trembling employee standing in front of a set of locked doors while legions of crazed consumers pound on the glass demanding to be let inside. It’s not a pretty picture, and a company that is understaffed or underprepared will have a hard time competing during the holiday rush.

Therefore, companies are well aware that they need to step up their game during the holiday season to accommodate hordes of shoppers. Online giant Amazon, for example, has reportedly hired 70,000 more workers to prepare for its expected increase in sales. But acquainting 70,000 additional employees with the protocol of an international behemoth will not be an easy task.

To make matters worse, there is not much time to accomplish this task. Managers are busy during the holiday season and, understandably, lack the ability to allocate a large amount of time for training new or temporary employees. Still, it is necessary to prevent pitfalls related to the quality of customer service – especially when workers are spread out all across the globe.

This is where a conference call solution can put organizations of any size ahead of the game. Using audio, video or the web, seasonal employees can participate in training sessions from multiple locations (even the comfort of their own homes). With web conferencing and video streaming, managers need not sacrifice their organization’s pre-holiday reputation in order to oversee dozens of training sessions. Instead, they can reach thousands of employees at the same time. Suddenly, the obstacles of time, travel and venue have been removed – allowing you to focus on decorating those windows or touting the steals and deals that will send consumers flocking.

Have you had success training a large amount of employees with a conference call?Please describe your experience in the comments section below.

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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