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Video Conferencing Reaches New Heights

See how video conferencing played an integral role in monitoring the health of climbers during an expedition of the Himalayas.

What we have here is, a failure of preparedness

January 26, 2010 at 6:55 pm PST

The past 10 years have seen their fill of disasters, including terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and devastating earthquakes in Haiti this year. Impossible to predict and unpreventable, these events are examples of why disaster preparedness is so important. Crisis situations arise quickly and with little or no notice, and the speed of which we can provide necessary aid and assistance can often mean the difference between life and death.

Even with all these disasters, CNN reported today that a commission established to assess national security measures gave the U.S. government a failing grade in improving response time, especially response to biothreats. The commission found that despite improvements to identifying and preventing incidents, the past three administrations had failed to improve preparedness and response.

The failure to implement video teleconferencing (VTC) for delivery of healthcare during crisis situations is an incredible example of missed opportunities to improve disaster response.

Video teleconferencing (VTC) has seen rapid adoption in the healthcare arena as one way to deliver medical care quickly to those who need it. VTC has incredible potential in disaster response for increasing access to specialized health and medical services, enabling remote monitoring to control disease outbreaks and by providing back-up surge capacity for local healthcare providers.

Unfortunately, even with a wide array of implementation where VTC is helping to save lives and provide medical care to those in need, the wide-spread infrastructure and equipment investments and installations needed to bring VTC to mass disaster-relief operations have yet to be made. In fact, the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) has grown frustrated by the sheer amount of recommendations that they’ve made to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for use of VTC solutions in disaster recovery that have been ignored.

VTC solutions are capable of bringing care to victims of disasters. By enabling VTC in disaster response, the American government can break down the walls between skilled specialists and the victims who need care and empower a new way of responding.

5 Tips for Measuring a Successful Video Conferencing Program

January 25, 2010 at 6:02 pm PST

Whether or not your video program is deemed successful depends on your goals. By starting out with concrete goals in mind, you will be better able to track and prove your success over time — and be a true video champion.

Ideally, you’ll have some baseline data at hand when you begin. This will enable you to track your progress right from the start. Plan to work with an interdepartmental team to calculate the time and resources your organization is currently spending on the activities you’d like to replace with video.

Below are some of the most common ways organizations measure increased productivity.

Reduce travel: Cost savings. Many organizations find that video enables them to reduce travel by 30 percent or more. Encouraging employees to replace unnecessary business travel for meetings, trainings or other engagements with video conferencing can reap significant cost savings and productivity gains. When measuring travel reduction don’t stop with just airplane or train fares; calculate all travel-related costs — such as hotels, taxis, meals, per diems, etc. Also, consider the cost of time that business travelers spend away from productive work.

Shorten time to market: Find out the average current time-to-market for a typical product, as well as the average development cost per product, selling price and margin. How many days can you eliminate by introducing video into the equation? If you can learn the annual average
return on investment per product, you can measure the impact video has on money earned, not just costs saved.

Improve access to remote experts: Consider using remote experts over video for repair and maintenance. Whether these experts are internal to your organization or external, their value is in diagnosing a problem and finding a solution quickly. The quicker you resolve an issue, the less downtime your organization experiences. That means cost savings and higher revenue.

Encourage telework: Thanks to the proliferation of desktop video, video VoIP phones, and PC video solutions, many organizations that didn’t previously consider telework are now converting employees to video-based home workers. You can measure the success of a video telework program by estimating the amount of real estate per converted employee. You’ll reduce the annual cost of maintaining the office space (per square foot/meter), including rent, utilities and maintenance.

Enrich employee work/life balance: Finding, hiring and training new employees is time consuming and costly to any organization. The more satisfied employees are with their work/life balance, the more likely they are to stay with the organization. By reducing employee turnover, you can measure the impact of video on your organization’s bottom line. Video communication can also reduce unplanned sick time.

This is just a summary of the Measure Your Success PDF that can be downloaded from VideoChampion.com. Visit the site for more information and tips. Got any others to add?

Break down the (great) walls: video connects government officials in Qinghai

January 21, 2010 at 5:27 pm PST

We’ve talked extensively in the past about how video teleconferencing (VTC) technologies help government agencies and organizations run more effectively and efficiently. We’ve also discussed the ways that healthcare and education installations of VTC solutions help bring resources to remote and geographically isolated areas.

A recent article in FutureGov Magazine, which focuses on the modernization and use of new technologies in government, healthcare and education, contains an incredible example of VTC solutions making government work better and leveling the playing field for remote and geographically isolated regions.

The article discusses China’s largest province Qinghai, which stretches across the northeastern Tibetan Plateau. Despite its size, Qinghai is one of the least populated provinces, with approximately two-thirds of its 5.2 million people living in the countryside and outside of cities.

With a majority of people scattered amongst the region’s mountains, deserts and grasslands, the local government offices are spread out. Some district offices are up to 1000 kilometers from the provincial capital of Xi’ning. With inclement weather common in the province, travel for government officials is expensive and difficult, if not impossible.

Last year, a VTC network connecting 42 county government and 13 provincial party committee offices was installed. The network has already hosted more than 600 meetings, some of which were between more than 100,000 government officials in Qinghai at the same time.

The system has already saved an estimated $3 million in travel expenses alone. The VTC system has also allowed individuals who may never have met in person before to have face-to-face conversation.

By allowing government officials to collaborate and communicate regardless of the distance between them, VTC is ushering in a new way of working in China. How can VTC help your agency work better?

Interoperability key for meeting federal mandates

January 19, 2010 at 6:33 pm PST

The Obama administration is pushing agencies to begin insourcing jobs by bringing them back to government employees and relying less on outside vendors. The OMB is reaching out to agencies to help them appropriately understand and handle a directive that appears at face-value to be a complete about-face from the previous administration.

The administration is pushing for insourcing for many reasons. First, there is a perception, warranted or not, that outsourcing jobs is wasteful and expensive, and that agencies can be handling governmental tasks at a savings to the American taxpayer. Insourcing is also being heralded as a way of increasing collaboration among agencies and creating a tighter-knit and interconnected system where government employees work closely together.

However , there are some issues arising from this new directive for insourcing. One is the misinterpretation among agencies that they’re being asked to stop outsourcing altogether and bring all jobs in house. Another problem is directly tied to human resources and hiring. Insourcing will bring many jobs back to government agencies who are already missing tens of thousands employees in mission-critical positions, according to this year’s Where the Jobs Are report from the Partnership for Public Service.

The other problem lies in the directive for agencies to work closer together and collaborate across the board. Unfortunately, with agencies making their own purchasing decisions, the networks across agencies are disparate and disconnected. The video teleconferencing (VTC) systems that agencies have been turning to as a way to increase communication and collaboration internally could go a long way towards doing the same for interagency collaboration, but the lack of connected systems remain a roadblock.

This is why interoperability of VTC solutions is so important. Interoperability is essential for allowing disparate networks and VTC solutions to work together. Also, with cyber attack and network security on the minds of all agencies, firewalls and other security measures are often put in place with little to no consideration for video networks. This makes the ability to traverse firewalls essential for both network security and interagency collaboration.

VTC solutions are becoming increasingly popular in federal agencies, and with this directive to insource jobs, they will become even more essential. With the government already straining to fill mission-critical jobs at agencies, and with the government workforce graying and near retirement, flexibility and telework are going to continue to be job benefits necessary to keep aging government employees working and attracting the best talent into public service.

TANDBERG equipment has been the choice of many government agencies in large part for its ability to interoperate with other networks and equipment. By breaking down the walls between government agencies and giving them the means to increase flexibility and retain top talent, TANDBERG is providing a new way of working within the federal government.