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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.

Teaching airmen over the airwaves

January 14, 2010 at 5:33 pm PST

The TANDBERG team is currently in San Antonio, Texas, attending the Air Force Air Education and Training Command Symposium at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

Hosted by the Air Education Training Command (AETC), the symposium serves to educate senior leadership and airmen on the innovations, technologies and techniques available for training today’s Air Force. This is instrumental in the AETC’s mission of recruiting, training and educating all Air Force personnel worldwide.

In our conversations with some of the over 4,000 airmen and leaders in attendance, we continue to hear one major challenge facing the AETC today. With Air University, the Air Force Institute of Technology and the Air Force Academy all falling under the AETC’s umbrella, and a worldwide network of deployed airmen, officers and decision-makers, how can they bring the courses and training necessary to all of them in a more effective and efficient way?

In fact, with only a handful of expert instructors to serve thousands of potential students distributed across the globe, the cost of bringing students and instructors together was one of the single largest expenditures in the AETC’s budget.

This is why video teleconferencing (VTC) is becoming increasingly important to the AETC, and to professional development across government agencies and organizations today. By utilizing VTC solutions, the AETC can deliver the best knowledge and expertise to airmen, regardless of where they are.

This brings real-time, interactive training and educational content right to the student, significantly reducing the cost of mentoring and educating airmen in the field by taking away the need for travel. VTC also makes the most knowledgeable instructors more effective by expanding their reach and allowing them to mentor airmen thousands of miles away as if they were in the same room.

The mission of the United States Air Force is to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace. Without proper training, mentoring and instruction, there’s no way that our nation’s airmen could remain the best in an increasingly dangerous world. By delivering instruction and educational content via video, the AETC is breaking down the walls between the most knowledgeable instructors and airmen around the world and empowering a new way of teaching.

5 Tips for Hosting More Effective Video Meetings

January 13, 2010 at 1:51 pm PST

A video meeting is just like a live meeting — almost. If you’re used to conducting live presentations, you are already well on your way to becoming an effective video communicator. The techniques that ensure powerful live presentations and dynamic meetings also work for video communication.However, video meetings and presentations do require some minor adjustments. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Be more than a talking head. Your video system gives you the ability to share multimedia source materials such as video clips, Web sites, spreadsheets and other presentations. Taking advantage of this ability to communicate visual information will make your video meetings more engaging and effective.
  2. Look ‘em in the eye. Eye contact is important in any presentation. In a video environment, eye contact comes from looking toward the camera — not thedisplay. Make certain that your camera is positioned as close as possible to the top center of your video display. This will give the impression of strong eye contact,and help to build trust and understanding among your participants.
  3. Speak up. If you mumble and cannot be heard by the person seated next to you, the people on the other end will also have a problem hearing you.
  4. You’re in the spotlight. Cameras and video displays tend to make everything “bigger.” Nervous habits or little recurrent gestures will be magnified and a distraction to participants on the other end. Try not to rock, sway or fidget with paper or pens. Remember to relax. A video meeting is like any other meeting,except it includes people who are not physically present in your room.
  5. The camera is always paying attention. When you are connected in a video call, the camera and microphone will faithfully pick up all images and words. Smart remarks, quips and asides, or demeaning gestures such as rolling eyes, will be greatly amplified at the far end. You should assume that the other meeting participants can hear and see everything, even when the camera is not pointed in your direction.

These are just a few of the tips pulled from our Effective Video Meetings PDF that can be downloaded from our community VideoChampion.com.

Video answers the call for healthcare access

January 12, 2010 at 5:19 pm PST

Beneath political leanings, opinions on public options and discussions on whether the government should be involved in healthcare is a single, simple problem. Access. At the end of the day, can Americans receive the care they need, when they need it?

There are a handful of different roadblocks. The most obvious is the financial restriction. Even those who can afford insurance may face significant financial hardship from life’s broken limbs or chronic conditions.

Another roadblock is access. The logistics of getting to a specialist or doctor capable of treating a particular condition can be a challenge for many Americans.

This is particularly true of specialists such as neurologists or cardiologists. However, Video teleconferencing (VTC) is quickly becoming the answer for patients who may not have the access they want to the doctors they need. Through VTC, patients receive treatment regardless of where they are, and specialists in high demand see patients more quickly and efficiently, bringing the care that is needed to the patient who needs it, when they need it.

A great example of this is TANDBERG customer Specialist on Call (SOC), which recently delivered its 10,000th teleneurology consultation via VTC. Specialists On Call provides hospitals across the country with immediate, around-the-clock access to board certified neurologists via VTC.

Hospitals using SOC’s teleneurology service have been able to bring life-saving treatments to patients more quickly and efficiently than those not using the service. In fact, at hospitals using SOC’s service, the clot dissolving drug tPA has been delivered to 59% of patients presenting with Acute Ischemic Stroke within the 3-hour window. This is more than three times the national average delivery rate for hospitals treating similarly eligible stroke patients.

Specialists can help save lives, make chronic conditions more manageable and reduce the long-term effects of medical emergencies via video. By giving everyone access to quality care regardless of who they are or where they are, VTC is truly breaking down the walls between patients and doctors. Now that’s a new way of caring.

User Stories – Videoconferencing Professionals Group

Recently, an interesting discussion developed in the Videoconferencing Professionals LinkedIn group about the various ways people are using video conferencing. Below are a few of the user stories from the almost 50 comments featured that really illustrate the breadth of opportunities video conferencing holds for personal, health care and business use.

Thomas Purvis: “We have used it so a mother can see her baby in the NICU and for our troops to see children born in the US while they are at war. We also use it for telemedicine for stroke patients in rural hospitals.”

Jerry Dunn: “I have seen HD video used across continents in the fashion industry to discuss materials, patterns and designs. Instead of sending samples and drawings via FedEx -- the implementation allowed the users to collaborate in real time and helped move up their time to market by months.”

Karen J Sander: “Open Brain Surgery with Operation Smile at the Military Hospital in Bogotá, Colombia: We connected doctors from Houston Children’s Hospital, George Washington Hospital in DC and Bethesda Hospital in MD. Within the hospital we also connected the OR to an auditorium, where doctors, students and visitors could see the 17 hour surgery and interact with other doctors, students and nurses. What a rush that was!!!”

Dawn Meade: “This is really geeky, but gaming! We had a group of very close friends who played table-top RPG games (think D&D, but not that particular brand). Unfortunately, a couple of them had to move across the country for work and such. With some cleverly utilized VTC equipment, we were able to continue our weekly or biweekly ‘gaming dates’ and successfully finish the ‘campaign’ despite losing some of our key players.”

Jerry Connolly: “I was at a company that had their VTC connected to an electron microscope used to observe microscopic chemical reactions. Customers could dial in and watch the tests and comment on the success or needed changes. Greatly improved time to market.”

Do you have any interesting video conferencing stories? Share your experiences below.