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Survey says — VTC the solution for slow telework adoption

March 18, 2010 at 4:49 pm PST

According to this year’s Where the Jobs Are Report by the Partnership for Public Service, the federal government is operating shorthanded, with as many as 10,000 vacancies in mission-critical positions. That is a lot of necessary positions at federal agencies and offices currently unfilled, and a lot of shoes to fill for existing government careerists. With so many jobs unfilled, the government can’t afford for its employees to miss a lot of work, or agencies can and will effectively grind to a halt. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happened this year.

First, there was the swine flu pandemic, which caused a mad scramble for continuity plans in government agencies and commercial enterprises alike. Next, a Metro accident that tragically took the lives of 9 passengers and injured close to 100 people disabled the Red Line and made it difficult, if not impossible, for Metro-dependant government employees to make it into their offices.

You would think the impact of these events alone would be catastrophic on productivity…but then the snow came. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, the lovingly named “snowpocalypse” brought the federal government to its knees by dropping enough snow to keep secondary roads unplowed for days, schools closed for over a week, and productivity in ruins.

Telework is the obvious answer to keeping the government functioning even when government employees are unable to make it to their offices. However, despite the events of the past year and the millions of dollars in lost productivity, a recent survey conducted by the Government Business Council showed that only one third of the responding government employees are allowed to telework.

The survey, which was given to a total of 419 GovernmentExecutive.com and Nextgov.com visitors from civilian and defense agencies, also exposed many reasons why telework has failed to gain broader adoption. The number one reason among eligible respondents was a lack of support from management.

The fact is, many managers in government agencies are not trained to manage teleworkers. The result is a fear of having distributed employees who are out of sight, and have work out of their minds. These managers fear that the employees they can’t see are not working. In addition, there’s a fear that communication and collaboration will suffer from a distributed workforce as well.

This is why video teleconferencing (VTC) is so important in the federal government today. VTC solutions allow managers at government agencies and organizations to see their employees and interact with them face-to-face. VTC also allows non-verbal communication such as body language, which other forms of communication such as telephone and instant message do not. This ensures natural conversations as if participants were in the same room. VTC also ensures that collaboration and communication stay strong between teammates by enabling simple and immediate conferences that rival herding everyone into a conference room.

Citizens need their government agencies to always be operating, and can’t afford to lose millions of taxpayer dollars in productivity. VTC can effectively remove the largest roadblock to more rapid and widespread adoption of telework. By breaking down the walls between government employees and telework, VTC is ensuring that the next pandemic or snowmaggedon doesn’t bring the government to a halt.

If you’d like to see the full report from the recent telework study conducted by the Government Business Council, visit our resource center. Although we do ask for readers to register, there is absolutely no cost to download the report, and other useful resources on telework and VTC.

Key Drivers Leading to Increased Adoption of Video Conferencing and Telepresence

March 18, 2010 at 2:45 pm PST

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According to Wainhouse Research, the main factors driving the adoption of video conferencing and telepresence are:

  1. Economic Pressures – increasing need to be more efficient, cut costs, and communicate with customers, partners and suppliers around the world.
  2. Globalization – not only are enterprises today managing trade across borders and outsourcing certain business functions, they also have dispersed management teams and skill sets, which lead to increased challenges for corporate culture and communication. With business flowing in all directions, enterprises have become globally integrated, stateless multinationals.
  3. Business Continuity – concern for threats such as global contagion, energy crises, and terrorism are on the rise, and business needs to be sure it can maintain operations.
  4. Better Equipment – technological advances in the industry have led to a better user experience with CD quality audio and HD quality video, as well as increased collaboration with dual streams, integration, and bridges and gatekeepers. Meanwhile prices have remained relatively flat and users benefit from a better price per performance.
  5. Unified Communications – integration between large unified communications players and video has driven awareness of conferencing and collaboration.
  6. Climate Change – social pressures and corporate responsibility policies are driving the need to reduce travel to lower carbon emissions. As government mandates and rewards for travel reduction grow, organizations will increasingly turn to video conferencing.

Do you agree? Are there any other reasons you think should be included?

Video Conferencing Holds Key to Treating Mental Health of Veterans

March 17, 2010 at 9:27 am PST
Veterans in the aftercare recovery group can discuss anything on their mind during group time with their psychiatrist via a TANDBERG 1700.

Veterans in the aftercare recovery group can discuss anything on their mind with their psychiatrist via a TANDBERG 1700 MXP.

The use of video conferencing is becoming common practice amongst world governments. A recent post discussed such uses by world leaders, but there is a new way governments are hoping to take advantage of the extended reach available with the use of video conferencing -- telehealth.

Video conferencing may hold the key to providing effective mental health care to the large number of troops who leave active duty and come home to rural or remote areas in the U.S. A recent article in Reuters Health reported on a study by the Veterans Administration (VA) which found that anger management group therapy can be just as effective over video as in person. Given that an estimated 40 percent of today’s U.S. combat veterans are from remote or rural areas and up to one in six of them return home from their tour of duty with combat-related post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), telepsychiatry is critical for treating their symptoms.

The study showed that anger management problems could be safely managed remotely. The researchers found that after six months of treatment over video, the study group demonstrated a reduction in anger symptoms similar to the in-person group, leading authors to conclude that group psychotherapy over video conferencing is not only feasible but also produces outcomes that are as good as in-person treatment.

For more information read the case study to see how The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Midwest Health Care Network is using telepsychiatry to treat veterans in the Midwest.

What are your thoughts on using video conferencing to deliver therapy sessions?

Welcome to the new Break Down the Walls

March 16, 2010 at 11:02 am PST

We originally started the TANDBERG Public Sector blog to keep government employees, thought-leaders and decision makers informed about the ways video teleconferencing was being implemented across government agencies and organizations.

We were looking to highlight the ways in which video makes the government run more effectively, efficiently and smoothly and discuss some innovative ways it answers the difficult questions in government today.

We expected some public servants to find our discussions about teleworking, collaboration and face-to-face communication interesting, but we never expected what happened next. You showed up. A lot of you.

Soon, our readers were demanding to hear more.

So, we expanded our editorial coverage to discuss the ways that video was improving the educational experience for America’s students, making lessons more interactive, and even helping teach teachers.

We added coverage of healthcare and the ways that video is helping to save lives and bring treatments to people who were too far away from the specialists who could provide them. We even began discussing how courts and police and rescue workers were utilizing the technologies to keep our streets safe and better serve American citizens. And it STILL wasn’t enough.

So we’ve taken another step. Much like how our video conferencing technologies break down walls between people and agencies and organizations, we’ve broken down the walls between the TANDBERG blog authors and you, the readers.

Let me be the first to welcome you to www.breakdownthewalls.com.

This redesigned site offers the same interesting content about video conferencing in the public sector in a much easier to navigate format, making it easier to find content that is of interest to you. But it also offers much more.

Here you will find all of TANDBERG Public Sector’s social media activities, from YouTube videos to Twitter streams. You will also have access to a library of white papers, case studies and other resources designed to further educate you about how video provides a new way of working, governing, and learning. We encourage you to not only read what we have to say, but interact with us. Tell us your thoughts. Let us know how the trends we’re discussing are influencing you.

We hope you like this new site and that you will be a part of its success. Please feel free to engage with us…ask us questions…and start a dialogue. Break down the walls separating us, and we’ll show you how video can enable a new way of working.

We can’t wait to connect with you.

On the Road – UC Expo

March 12, 2010 at 5:55 pm PST
ucexpo photo

TANDBERG booth at 2010 UC Expo

On March 10th I visited the UC Expo at London’s Kensington Olympia exhibition center  in order to experience the latest technologies in Unified Communications, Collaboration and VoIP. The event, although smaller than I imagined, was well attended by both exhibitors and end users. The TANDBERG booth was demonstrating various UC flavored offerings. Most popular amongst the exhibition attendees was Microsoft OCS integration, which enables connectivity between various unified communication environments via our VCS platform.

Microsoft OCS displayed a dominance amongst the exhibitor’s offerings on show. It seemed that nearly everyone who had technology, such as:  traditional phones, mobile phones, contact centers, and other VoIP paraphernalia, were all somehow linked back to Microsoft OCS. It appears Microsoft is definitely ahead in the battle to win over the hearts and minds of the UC vendors at the very least.

It was also very encouraging to see video and telepresence featured in nearly everybody’s UC scenarios. Vodafone gave a public presentation around how they use unified communications in their day-to-day activities and shared a funny story about how recently many of their staff were snowed in but they still managed to complete an important management meetings via video. They supplemented their presentation by showing screenshots of the employees sitting at home with heavy snow falling in the background! It seems the use cases for visual communications are limitless.