The use of video in work place communication and productivity
Joining Cisco has been transformative in the way I work, and the use of video for work place communication has played a large part in that transformation. All around me, I hear the top leaders within Cisco constantly talking about Cisco 3.0, the Human Network and most interestingly, organizational transformation through embracing video. That constant theme of video that has been coming from our leadership has started to influence me and change the way I utilize video in my day-to-day work at Cisco. From conducting voice only meetings when I first joined Cisco, I am now a devoted believer in video and the way it can transform how a company conducts business both internally and externally. In this blog entry, I wanted to share my experiences of how I use video at Cisco and write about its advantages and challenges.Cisco Unified Personal CommunicatorEasily access voice, video, instant messaging, web conferencing, voicemail, and presence information from a single, multimedia interface on your PC or Mac. An integral component of the Cisco Unified Communications family of products, Cisco Unified Personal Communicator (CUPC) is a powerful desktop computer application that integrates your most frequently used communications applications and services.It was around late 2008 when Cisco released an alpha version of the CUPC software for the Mac platform and I swiftly became an early adopter of it. There has been a Microsoft Windows version of CUPC available for quite some time now and I was running it through VMWare Fusion on my Mac. In the initial months of using the CUPC software, I merely used it to make and receive voice calls, but recently I’ve been on a mission to utilize the video capability of CUPC coupled with the built-in webcam on my Mac laptop a whole lot more. The nice thing about the CUPC software today is that a Mac user can use the software to initiate a video or voice call to a Windows PC user who is also running the CUPC software. CUPC is one of the key tools for me as I work remotely and so it enables me to take me office with me where-ever I travel and work from. There are a number of challenges for unified collaboration software solutions such as CUPC that will effect organizations today. For example, not all computers have built in web cams. This means you would have to hook up an external USB or Firewire web cam to your system and have the technical know-how to get through driver installation and software configuration to get the camera up and running on your system and software.As more businesses begin to equip their employees with computers that have built in webcams, the usage of video for work place communication will become easier. This is certainly true within Cisco where over the last two month I have started to actually have video chats with colleagues, internally and externally, instead of the standard voice only conversation. For me and from the feedback I’ve got from colleague, video seems to change the dynamics of most meetings I have today. I find that video is an enabler of better understanding. Being able to see facial expressions, perceive body language and observe arm gestures when speaking to colleagues lends a lot towards the understand and interpretation of a conversation. This is especially important because of the cultural diversity that exists amongst the global Cisco team when it comes to internal communication and this also reflects in the clients we have across the world. Some cultures speak in a manner that may be perceived by other cultures as guarded, down beat, overtly brash or any number of other emotional buckets but by being able to see the person on the other side of the call, these perceptions can be completely transformed from something misunderstood to something that’s more humanly understandable, something you and I can truly connect with and see.Cisco TelePresenceCisco TelePresence™ creates a live, face-to-face communication experience over the network that empowers you to collaborate like never before. Cisco TelePresence helps people meet, share content, create high-quality video recordings and events, consult with experts and deliver powerful personalized services, all using the power of the network for an immersive in-person experience.Where I do see video really working well within Cisco is with our Cisco TelePresence (TP) technology. TP works well because it’s a plugged in, integrated and ready to go facility. No wires to plug in, no software drivers to set up, no camera or microphones to manually adjust and point in the right direction. You book a TelePresence meeting in Microsoft Outlook (or Lotus Notes) and wait for the automated meeting confirmation. Once accepted, both parties walk in to the TP room at their locations, tap the screen on the IP phone that’s sitting on the desk which is already aware of your meeting and displaying it on the phone screen and away you go. You’re up and running with the minimum fuss and what’s more, you don’t require any special technical knowledge, short of using email to set up the video conference. TP is capable of conducting multi-point video conferencing sessions where you have colleagues in different office locations all in front of their own TP system. During these multipoint meetings, I love the way the audio system can tell who is talking and where in the room they’re positioned, thus enabling the system to seamlessly switch the screen to that person in near real time. It feels natural and it works brilliantly. It’s almost as if your colleagues are in the same room. TP is so adaptable that even if you cannot physically get yourself to a TP room, you can dial in to a TP session via Webex, another Cisco collaboration technology, and not miss out on all the fun. WebexWebEx is an easy way to exchange ideas and information with anyone, anywhere. It combines real-time desktop sharing with phone conferencing so everyone sees the same thing as you talk. It’s far more productive than emailing files then struggling to get everyone on the same page in a phone conference. And, many times it eliminates the need for people to travel and meet on site.Webex is another technology where work place video communication can be utilized. If all your colleagues who are dialed in to a Webex session have a webcam connected to their PC or Mac you can enable the video option during a Webex session and see all your colleagues as well as hear them and follow their documents on-screen. My experience to date has shown me that the use of video during Webex is modestly low. This might be attributed to the application not making it obvious to the end-user on how to activate video or perhaps it’s simply down to lack of awareness or perhaps more commonly the fact that not everyone in the organization has a webcam readily at their disposal or built in to their system. I’d love to see more people embracing video during Webex meetings. I try to encourage clients and colleagues whenever possible to turn on their webcam during a Webex call because a video is so much more transformational in aiding clearer communication. ConclusionsTo wrap things up, those are some of the ways in which I use video at Cisco. For me, the use of video during work place communication has enabled me to connect with my colleagues and clients on a much deeper level when meeting in person has not been a viable option. Video enables me to connect with body language and it allows me to better understand the subtle nuances of a conversation compared to a voice-only conversation. In today’s economic climate where travel expenses are being rained in across the board in almost every industry sector I believe the role of video in work place communication can be a real enabler to maintaining and improving productivity.I’d love to hear how you use video at your work place. I’m especially interested to hear from those who have access to video at work but rarely use it. I want to know why that is and how you perceive the situation being improved. Finally, I’d love to hear from all those who have started to embrace video in the work place and how that has brought about organization transformation in your company.