Category AVI-SPL

What Qualities Should You Look for in a Managed Services Provider?

User experience is the key to a successful meeting space investment.  It is only through managing  the user experience that today’s meeting rooms, both physical and virtual, will realize a return on their initial investment and ongoing operating expense.

If your collaboration service – regardless of which flavor you choose – is available always and everywhere, providing a consistent operating interface and a rich communication medium, it will be embraced by end users and highly utilized. Conversely, an unreliable, difficult, and limited meeting service will be bypassed in favor of other means of communication, often sacrificing productivity for convenience.

Delivering all the operational requirements of a meeting service is a challenge.  These include typical technology management processes such as:

  • Proactive Monitoring
  • Lifecycle Management
  • Incident and Change Management
  • Asset Management
  • Security and Patch Management
  • Service Level reporting

 

Adding to the challenge, both physical and virtual meeting spaces require ongoing user adoption services and event support, sometimes known as concierge services.  When evaluating the full set of requirements for a successful user experience within meeting spaces, organizations often look to service providers for a managed meeting service.

Many service providers can supply components of a managed meeting service, often with a focus on technology management.  Typical managed services are designed to address basic monitoring and incident management, indicating their legacy of technology infrastructure support.  A qualified meeting service provider should be able to demonstrate experience and success in three key areas:

 

Service Delivery Capability and Scope

When evaluating a service provider for meeting spaces, some significant questions need to be asked, including:

  • How many managed service centers does the provider have, and where? Do they match my organization’s locations and hours?
  • What is the range of certifications held by the managed service staff? Does the provider have any kind of continuing education plans or incentives?
  • What are the limits to the managed service? How many additional charges could apply per year?
  • Can it assist end users with meeting events? Do they add value with a variety of service capabilities?

Look for a service provider with multiple service centers, able to provide services around the world, at any time of day.  Their engineers should hold a diverse set of manufacturer certifications, to avoid technology lock-in.  Meeting support is time-critical, so service providers must be able to provide a direct line of support to end users as well as to IT departments.

 

Ability to Improve the User Experience

Your service provider should be able to provide advice and actions to monitor and improve the meeting experience. 

  • Their plan to measure the meeting experience of end users
  • Their experience in improving a meeting service
  • The metrics for success. Review examples of regular reporting done for other customers and test their knowledge of how they added value to the service improvement process.

 

Successfully Raising Meeting Technology Adoption and Utilization

If a service provider focuses exclusively on service availability and response/repair time metrics, they are missing a key value driver for organizations today – the adoption and utilization of meeting technology.  Service providers must be able to demonstrate their ability to help users adapt new meeting technologies, through training as well as ongoing support.

Tracking the utilization of meeting technology is only a beginning. A service provider should be able to demonstrate their track record for providing onboarding services for their customer’s new employees.  Monitoring usage and reaching out to users who are not utilizing the technology can help identify dissatisfied users or licenses that can be reclaimed for deployment elsewhere.

 

A service provider should also be able to show flexibility and creativity in this area.  Recently, AVI-SPL assisted a variety of clients in quickly moving to entirely work-from-home solutions.  For one such client, we were able to rapidly shift end users to a new meeting platform that supports their work-from-home efforts, conducting over 4,500 end user support sessions in the first four weeks of pandemic response, including concierge support for dozens of VIP calls during that timeframe.  By deploying end user support documentation links and conducting new user outreach sessions, AVI-SPL enabled the customer to increase their virtual meeting space utilization while reducing the number of support requests over the subsequent weeks – two key measures of a successful user experience management program.

 

Want to experience a better user experience through managed services?  Contact us today.

 

 

Today’s post comes from Mike Bakanas, service account manager for the northeastern region.  With a strong track record of experience providing technical services to a variety of organizations, Mike designs service solutions that unlock business value.

 

 

 

 

How Hand Sanitizer Drives Safety and Connectivity in the Workplace

As we return to the workplace, we are looking at new technologies that help us achieve the goal of keeping our employees healthy and safe while engaging those still working from home.  Achieving that goal is assisted by cleaning our hands and having accurate, up-to-date information to prevent the spread of rumors or panic.

Keeping our hands clean is one of the best things we can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  We have all come to realize just how many items we touch in a day, so sanitizing common workspace high-touch elements is important.  Individual hand washing or hand sanitizer usage adds another layer of protection and safety to this goal.   Ditch the giant communal jug with a safer, touch-free option – one that can remind employees to use the sanitizer.

The Novatizer comes equipped with a 21.5” digital signage display, enabling you to broadcast your corporate message and important reminders to those in the office.  The device can be wall-mounted or placed on a floor stand for portability and can be wrapped to match your corporate brand. With policies changing faster than ever before, the Novatizer combines a valuable resource with the information your workforce needs. 

While hand sanitizer is among the most valuable resources of 2020, it’s possible that information is even more valuable.  With policies that can change faster than you can order a pizza, tools to distribute that information are critical.  Not that I have ever completely ignored any emails from HR, but let’s say that blast emails are… slightly less than perfect at getting information comprehended by most employee populations. 

With the Digital Notification Suite, you can combine the messaging on your digital signage with a closer-to-home (quite literally, for employees working remotely) delivery method.  DNS is a desktop solution that can keep remote-working staff aware of all company announcements, news, and other live information in real time.  With the ability to push messages out to specific users, teams, or the entire organization, DNS keeps employees on the same page.  Scheduled messaging enables you to keep employees engaged with company activities while emergency notifications can be used to widely broadcast crucial alerts.  This solution ties in with larger 22Miles digital signage solutions, making it easy to reach your office and work-from-home populations.

It’s fair to say that 2020 hasn’t turned out like anyone expected.  Rise to the challenge with some germ-killing information and stay healthy.

The Top 10 Reasons Why I Think AVI-SPL Symphony Is the Best

Over the past few years, I have seen the benefit that AVI-SPL Symphony has provided to my clients.  While I am convinced that Symphony is the best thing to happen to collaboration technology since the Bluetooth headset, I am often having conversations where people ask me about the one, singular reason why they should choose Symphony.  This is a hard question, because there are just so many ways that Symphony can provide real benefit to their organization.  Rather than select one, I have decided that there are 10:

  1. Gain enterprise-wide insight into rooms and technology usage with analytics. The heat map of the most popular days and times, along with most popular spaces and technologies always catches my eye.
  2. Automate daily room sweeps to proactively see technology issues before they become end-user complaints and thus avoid meeting impact.
  3. Integrate with your existing ticketing and scheduling – it’s your solutions talking to each other
  4. Provide your users a concierge experience, with VIP features and conference producers providing meet & greet and live meeting monitoring.
  5. Customize meeting, device, and incident reporting, providing data- driven continuous service improvement plans with the ability to compare locations, dates, and technologies.
  6. See all of your devices in one portal. Track and report software versions, warranty, lease and service expiration dates, and other relevant info to improve lifecycle management.
  7. The Symphony Adapter Marketplace enables native monitoring and control of any device or application, enabling any device or application to become part of the Symphony environment.
  8. Proactively find and fix trouble spots. Monitor for developing issues, remotely troubleshoot current issues, and create reports to show improved ticket closures.
  9. Room-based subscription models make it easy to scale Symphony. Management is simple with your team or ours.
  10. Never run into a question you cannot answer. Customized reporting with graphical views make it easy to find and interpret the information you need.

Interested in getting a demo of the application that does all of these?  Contact AVI-SPL today.

 

Today’s post comes from Christina Murgo, the service account manager for the central region.  With a wide background in the AV and UCC industries, Christina designs service applications to enable any organization to meet and exceed their business goals.

 

 

 

 

 

Updating Your Higher Ed Campus for the New Normal

For higher education — as with many organizations — the story of COVID-19 has been about disruption, quick thinking, and adaption. During the last few months, the pandemic and its responses have placed major obstacles to continuing the business of education.  Teachers, students, and administrators have adapted to long stretches of closed campuses, distance learning, and remote work for faculty and staff. As guidelines relax, they’re entering a new phase, one that can include a modified arrangement for classroom learning. 

Enrollment numbers are expected to decline as millions of people who’ve lost their jobs due to the pandemic may not have the resources to attend college. Fewer students are filling out the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid, a sign that they may be unwilling to take on loans in this economy or are forced to give up schooling for the time being to help out at home. Declining enrollments lead to declining revenue, forcing some schools to face the possibility that they may have to close permanently.  

Amidst this disruption, higher education institutions have been planning on ways to safely reopen their campuses. Even if your school already had the infrastructure and culture for remote work, teaching, and learning, you’ve seen firsthand just how much people rely on each other when they can’t be in the same physical spaces. Routines change and are challenged when you’re not just a few feet away from asking a question, giving an answer, or providing an update. 

Schools will figure out a lot over the coming months: how students are guided through the system and what role technology will play in those changes. How higher education will build a model that grows enrollment numbers while providing an experience that builds a positive reputation. 

The past few months have emphasized the value of collaboration tools that bring teachers and students together from remote locations. When campuses reopen, teachers may lead classes from the classroom while students are remote, they may gather together in the same classroom while practicing social distancing, and they may broadcast instruction to other classrooms. That means they’ll need the technology and guidance to safely conduct and participate in classes while providing a high-quality experience. 

The new normal on campus will be influenced by technology solutions and practices that include:

Video collaboration: Remote learning — whether it’s from home or a separate location on campus — requires a high-quality, engaging experience for students and instructors. For university staff to productively and efficiently work from home and on site, they need reliable, simple-to-use collaboration solutions that integrate with their school’s network and applications. Here are some areas to consider as you incorporate video collaboration into the teaching and administrative processes:

  • Look at which courses can be taught online. Some schools are already experimenting with online learning.
  • Use unified communications tools that support active learning and engage students in the material.
  • In situations where classroom teaching returns, focus on connecting on-site and off-site students through collaboration technology. 
  • Increase video conferencing among staff and reduce travel between campuses for in-person meetings. As collaboration takes on a more prominent role and is an opportunity for problem-solving, we can expect a greater reliance on video collaboration and unified communications solutions like Microsoft Teams. 

Well-being: Schools are in the process of addressing their campus safety: pushing back the opening of their fall semester, temperature screenings, quarantine facilities, requiring masks to be worn, and COVID-19 testing. Consider taking action in the following areas to promote the well-being of your students, staff, and faculty:

  • Create social distancing guidelines that extend into the classroom. Limit the number of students in classrooms. Social distancing may change the dynamic of classroom interaction: Instead of leaving her seat to address content on an interactive display, a student can interact with it from a personal device.
  • Equip rooms with collaboration technology to bring together learners from different locations. Expect the quality of that interaction to guide the value that universities can promise to students.

Automation: Across campuses, staff and instructors book common classrooms and use a variety of control and collaboration devices that are also being used by their colleagues. By automating functions like scheduling and room control, you can improve the collaboration experience while also minimizing health risks by reducing the number of touch points. Some ideas for incorporating automation technology in your workplace include:

  • Help your instructors become comfortable teaching classes that are interactive by way of technology. These interactive solutions will allow them to connect with those learning from their homes, as well as with those attending class from different areas on campus.
  • Include classroom solutions like lecture capture and interactive displays that respond via wireless connection to a student’s smart phone or laptop. Automating the functions of these devices will allow for a largely touch-free experience that supports the health of faculty, staff, and students. 
  • Bring together distance learners with in-class students. The technology that connects them and that records these sessions must be reliable and easy to use, and it must deliver a high-quality experience.

Intelligent buildings: Intelligent buildings can anticipate and respond to the ways that teachers and students use a variety of on-campus spaces: classrooms, labs, libraries, common areas. These systems give insight into how spaces are being used so that you can use the analytics to decide if your university or college needs to reconfigure spaces and/or build new ones.

  • See which devices are being used most often, by whom, and in what ways. That intelligence will shape how automation tools provide an efficient, sometimes touch-free experience for teachers and students.
  • Use intelligent building technology to schedule spaces and limit how many people can gather in one room at the same time.
  • Identify campus hot spots — those areas where too many people are congregating to abide by social distancing guidelines.

Security: Providing for the health and well-being of students and staff will affect the design and user experience of collaboration tools and meeting spaces. Even as the effects of COVID-19 are mitigated on campus, remote learning and remote work will continue.

  • Focus on the security of video collaboration and UC applications, which may share sensitive content. Look for UC solutions with built-in encryption, authentication, user permissions.
  • Review the security of the applications themselves, as well as the security of your ecosystem of solutions, including application interfaces, the network, hosting capacity, room and personal devices, and end-user protocols.
  • Collaborate with IT to plan and build secure access to the campus LAN for your staff. Even as campuses reopen, remote work will continue.
  • Provide for secure access to the network and applications.  Classes will bring together off-site learners with classroom-based teachers, and they’ll connect different rooms on campus for socially distanced learning. Schools will also work to limit campus visits with a shift to more online recruiting and admissions. Universities will need the technology, infrastructure, and support to do this on a much wider scale than they have.

AVI-SPL is helping schools like yours create the new normal by sharing the knowledge that will help your faculty, students, and staff collaborate across campuses, rooms, offices and remote locations. Contact AVI-SPL and let’s start the conversation about preparing your higher ed campus for a bold, flexible learning and operational experience.

Improve Your Higher Ed Disaster Collaboration Plan

We recently looked at items you should consider when evaluating your disaster plans for your collaboration environment. Higher education faces unique needs and challenges in collaboration and requires some additional thought and consideration when evaluating your current response and planning for the future.

When evaluating your current response, consider such questions as:

  • Were technology hand-out programs (such as laptops) adequate to meet demand? Did students utilize the devices they were given? Were there any hardware limitations or requirements for some programs?
    • While Chromebooks or other mini-notebooks may meet very basic requirements, students whose programs demand CPU-intensive programs may find it impossible to complete their coursework without a better-equipped device.
  • Which community resources were engaged by students?
    • Did local libraries provide internet access outdoors? Did ISP’s provide free home access or free Wi-Fi locations?  Consider coalition-building with local resources (both near your college or university, and across your state) to learn about their abilities to offer services during disasters, and design collaboration solutions that can cope with these bottlenecks.
  • Were standard university emergency notification channels used during the crisis? How can we expand visibility to these notifications via collaboration elements, such as digital signage?
    • Ensure your emergency notification system is set up to push content into your digital signage.

Accessibility for All

Each student comes to higher education with a unique background, needs, and goals. While many students are lucky enough to be able to move to a fully remote experience without much hassle, others face serious challenges in continuing their education. It is crucial that collaboration technology and resources be made available and utilized in ways that enable these students to continue their educations. 

ADA compliance should be more than a checkbox that is met with each project. Meet with your campus office of accessibility services to learn more about the unique needs and challenges that were met, and those that were not, during the recent crisis. Ensure features that are even more important as classes move remotely, such as captioning, are more than adequate for students to continue their education.

Tech developed for ADA compliance can be re-purposed to meet social distancing guidelines. Assisted listening systems can be re-purposed to meet current social distancing needs.  Rather than voice lift systems that could be complicated and expensive to retrofit to large spaces, products like the Biamp CrowdMics, Listen Tech’s ListenEVERYWHERE, and Williams Sound’s WaveCAST enable students to receive audio and communicate back to instructors and their classmates with questions. These systems are simple to deploy while utilizing a participant’s own devices – protecting them and simplifying your sanitizing requirements.

In many areas, broadband speed and cellular signal can be dramatically limited – if available at all.  Video streaming and conferencing can consume large amounts of bandwidth, making it impossible for students to participate fully. Consider making videos downloadable, and provide audio-only options, enabling students who may only be able to access the internet on a sporadic or limited basis the ability to receive material. 

Hybrids, Everywhere

While instructors scrambled to meet the challenge of quickly transitioning classes from in-person formats to online, courses for 2020/2021 are being developed with the understanding that a quick pivot back to fully remote courses may be necessary. 

While strategies vary as far as whether classes will be fully remote and led from a classroom or a home office, held in person in a socially-distanced manner or broadcast to classrooms on campus, it’s important to ensure your networks are ready for this traffic. While the Spring 2020 semester often relied on from-home recordings, hybrid models will bring new demands. 

With instructors back in classrooms, the recorded video may be of higher quality – and requiring more processing power and bandwidth – than those recorded from home. Comparing previous utilization of lecture capture and the amount of time for videos to be prepared with forecasted 100% utilization will enable you to provide realistic guidelines to instructors.

Streaming video can utilize a large amount of bandwidth. Look for options on your content platform to downscale simple videos of lectures to ensure you are not taxing your networks unnecessarily. Additional WAP’s (such as the Luxul XAP-810) may be required in areas with a heavy student presence. With students and parents already wary of online learning, sufficient bandwidth may be one of the easiest ways to ease the challenges of the Fall 2020 semester.

Define a Pivot Plan

While no one is looking forward to a second round of lockdowns and quarantines, it is crucial to be prepared to move back to fully online status within 24 hours.  Where businesses strive to maintain business continuity, higher education needs to maintain educational continuity while also maintaining channels of communication to anxious students, parents, and wider community.

Create a plan for utilizing existing tech, such as your digital signage platforms, to distribute information quickly and widely. AVI-SPL can work with you to develop a comprehensive digital signage strategy, ensuring your investment distributes information effectively. Your digital signage platform should tie in your emergency notification system, allowing emergency status information to be distributed quickly and widely.

Don’t Forget Your Standards

Many colleges and universities are currently scrambling to complete their usual summer technology upgrades while also equipping new spaces with video conferencing and content-sharing capabilities to aid in social distancing. While equipment can be in short supply, it’s important to ensure your dollars are still invested in ways that will be productive and compliant with your existing standards. 

Existing standards may need to be flexed, but they should not be completely abandoned. AVI-SPL is available as your trusted advisor to provide consulting and engineering teams to assist you in selecting equipment that is both available, high quality, and will be compatible with campus technology standards.

High quality is one of the most important aspects of online learning.  Poor video quality will contribute to the student impression that distance learning is lower quality (and thus, not of the quality deserving of their tuition). Maintaining the classroom-like experience will positively impact student satisfaction.

AVI-SPL has partnered with several manufacturers to design high quality, turn-key systems that can quickly be deployed anywhere around campus.  The All In One Classroom Bundle provides high quality from Newline Interactive’s display, Logitech’s MeetUp, and Bose speakers.  Without permanent installation, this bundle allows any space to be used for distance learning while being re-configurable to meet future needs post-crisis.

Use Your Community

While we can’t come together in person this summer, there are many virtual resources that will help you learn from colleagues about ideas that have been proven to work – and some that have been proven not to work. The Higher Education Technology Managers Alliance will be presenting their all-virtual (and free!) Technology Conference 2020 from June 8-10. This conference will include a variety of expert panels and sessions to exchange ideas with colleagues from a wide variety of geographic, socioeconomic, and institutional backgrounds.

This is also a great time to work on your own knowledge, utilizing free manufacturer trainings such as those from Crestron, Extron, Biamp, Shure, and more.

As always, your AVI-SPL team will be here to provide any support and products you may need to meet your developing requirements. If you run into a challenge, just contact us.