Category Unified Communications

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Updating Your Digital Workplace for the New Normal

During this time of remote work, many companies have continued their business operations by  giving their employees the technology tools that keep them collaborating. 

As we gradually get back to business as usual, what we call “as usual” may have changed as well. The last few months have shut down businesses or hindered their efforts to keep up their operations. Even if your organization was one of those that was already on board with collaboration technology, you’ve seen firsthand just how much people rely on each other when they can’t be in the same office, where they’re just a few feet away from asking a question, giving an answer, or providing an update. 

Our post-COVID-19 era, if we may optimistically call it that, is one that will find thousands of organizations wanting to improve their collaboration environment for those working on-site and off. The following factors will impact and shape the new normal in the workplace: 

Well-being: The offices you return to won’t be like the offices you left before the shutdown. Here are some ways you’ll maintain social connections while also providing for your employees’ well-being through recommended best practices and guidelines they must follow:

  • Support monitored social distancing throughout the workplace, including collaboration spaces. A conference room that was designed to hold 10 people might now only have chairs for five participants at a time. 
  • Share safety protocols like frequent hand washing, social distancing, contact tracing, and the frequent cleaning of common devices and furniture. 
  • Create new spaces and redevelop existing ones to include touchless control and BYOD (bring your own device) capabilities.

Video collaboration: For people to work from home and on site, they need reliable, simple-to-use collaboration technology that integrates with their company’s network and applications. Having that high-quality, user-friendly technology also improves the experience for those connecting with them from various locations. Here are some areas to consider as you address a digital workplace equipped with video collaboration:

  • Look at the ways your staff has used collaboration spaces and how those use cases are expected to change. Prepare for more activity-based workspaces while keeping in mind they might not follow the design you had in mind before COVID-19. Even with enhanced cleaning measures in place, people may not want to use the touch-enabled devices that book rooms, start meetings, or engage video.
  • Provide a consistent user experience for those working from home. Standardize on a UCC solution that is easy to use and has the features that will accommodate your different user types.
  • Consider non-traditional spaces like manufacturing floors as candidates for video collaboration.

Security: The expansion of the work environment to off-site locations, including the home, means that cybersecurity must also expand to include remote workers on a much larger scale than you may have previously anticipated. However, on-site work continues to be a mainstay of company operations. As your business transitions back to the offices, you’ll need to help your talent interact with on-site technology in a way that keeps information secure.

Consider these areas as your IT team focuses on your company’s information security:

  • As you add UCC solutions for in-room and remote collaboration, review the cybersecurity features of those providers. Understand the built-in permissions and privacy protocols of their solutions so you know what steps to take to keep your information secure.
  • Prepare for a resurgence of BYOD. Expect your staff to prefer using their own devices to interact with and control collaboration room technology.
  • As you give access to company services to remote workers, consider how that access affects the security of those on-premise or cloud-based services.
  • Address the home LAN with cybersecurity measures that protect company information, including documents and chat files.

Automation: In the workplace, many employees are booking common rooms and using a variety of control and collaboration devices that are also being used by their colleagues.

By automating in-office 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:

  • Deploy virtual digital assistants like Alexa for Business to create a touch-free experience in collaboration spaces. Through voice activation, people can start their meetings and the devices that allow them to connect with remote colleagues, share documents from their personal devices, and wirelessly connect their devices to room displays.
  • Offer personalized wayfinding employees and visitors through a combination of mobile apps and digital signage. This minimizes foot traffic by efficiently guiding people to their destinations.
  • Automate workspace assignments so that employees know when and where they are scheduled to be on site. These assignments can be based on each person’s need to use on-site resources as well as their work preferences.
  • Use remote concierge services to schedule, launch meetings, and monitor meetings. User management applications like AVI-SPL Symphony can do this, as well as remotely monitor and manage rooms, devices, the network, and the conference infrastructure.

Intelligent buildings: Intelligent building technology anticipates and responds to the way people work, and it streamlines their interactions with spaces and the kind of technology they need to use. These systems give insight into how spaces are being used so that a company can use the analytics to decide if it needs to reconfigure spaces and/or build new ones.

  • Design responsive environments driven by AI and ambient computing. These rooms anticipate what devices and applications will be needed based on who schedules them, who is using the room, and the meeting purpose. Facial recognition tells system how you like the temperature and lighting in a room, and the preferred way of starting a meeting.
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) and occupancy sensors, thermal cameras, and Wi-Fi tracking show the density of people gathered in various areas throughout the workplace. They provide alerts when they anticipate collaboration sessions will go over the approved number of participants. That information can be used to provide intelligent space scheduling that shows available rooms for supporting the required number of in-person participants while also maintaining social distancing.
  • Integrated workplace management systems do the heavy lifting by monitoring spaces, down to the device level. This ensures that only rooms with functioning technology are available to schedule, and it lets the support team know when an issue needs a resolution. These systems help staff resolve these issues before an end user experiences any difficulty during a meeting. 

AVI-SPL is helping organizations like yours determine what your “new normal” work experience will look like as you  collaborate across offices and remote locations. If you have any questions about the issues shared in this post, or would like to discuss your organization’s collaboration strategy, contact us.