Collaboration Technologies

CONTACT ATC TODAY

Keep up with rapidly emerging and evolving collaboration technologies as the Millennial workforce expands. Solutions span cloud, on-premises and hybrid deployment options

UCC Collaboration Technologies Resource Library for End Users

UCC Collaboration Technologies Resource Library for End Users

How Integrated Communications Strengthens Collaboration in the Workplace

Unified communications (UC) and communications-enabled business process automation (CBPA) technologies are creating an opportunity for enterprises to reduce costs, improve productivity, and communicate effectively in real time. Integrating communications into all aspects of a business results in a higher level of collaboration, which improves teamwork, breaks down communication silos, and advances connectivity, creating organizational success.  Some examples of the impact of integrated communications on collaboration in the workplace follow:Patient CareWith integrated communications like video conferencing, email, and instant messaging, medical professionals can treat patients remotely, including those who live far from medical facilities or are unable to be moved in order to attend appointments. Improved collaboration between doctors and patients can help save lives, improve the ability to monitor patient conditions, and better coordinate care. By using online document-sharing solutions, doctors can access medical records easily from anywhere, reducing travel for all involved.Doctor-to-Doctor RelationshipsDoctors can collaborate with each other quickly and effectively using UC and CBPA tools. Consultations, specialist involvement, and intra-specialty education can be elevated using video conferencing, instant messaging, and document sharing, improving overall patient care and satisfaction. By creating a connected, collaborative network, important decisions can be made expediently, and knowledge transfer and learning can be enhanced significantly. Internal Business CollaborationIntegrating different forms of communication into a business can have a positive, productive effect on internal collaboration. Instead of relying on time-consuming face-to-face meetings or distracted phone calls, colleagues can quickly communicate when needed via instant messaging. Important meetings can be conducted from anywhere using video conferencing so that colleagues can see each other’s facial and nonverbal cues, making sessions more productive and meaningful. UC tools that are integrated with other communications tools create easy access for employees to collaborate whenever and wherever they are.Customer Sales and ServiceCustomers expect excellent service from organizations that sell and service products and solutions. Improving customer collaboration through UC and CBPA tools can ensure a higher level of service, reduced errors, and a more fluent sales cycle. For companies that use contact centers, integrating Web chat, email, mobile access, and other methods of client contact gives customers a choice on how they would like to conduct business with a company. By adding a customer relationship management (CRM) system to a sales or service organization, client information is readily available, making contact professional and timely. Records can be easily updated in order to add comments and contact information and to track the sales cycle. By elevating CRM systems with screen pop and IVR tools, employees will know exactly who is calling when the phone rings and the record pops up on the screen, and calls can be routed based on customer needs or importance. When sales and service departments can collaborate easily and effectively with customers, sales are increased, and service becomes the best it can be.Technology is making companies more productive, reducing costs, and improving customer service for organizations that integrate communications tools within their overall business functions and processes. UC and CBPA tools can improve collaboration using technology in order to gain the benefits they need in order to remain competitive in today’s environment. Value-added resellers that help their customers transition to these models stand to benefit right along with their clients.Does your company sell tools that improve business collaboration? Please comment below.

How Interactive Displays Can Strengthen Workplace Collaboration

Interactivity is one of those new trends in the audio-visual space that is expected to really explode in the next few years. From interactive whiteboards to digital signage, 3-D displays and even iBeacons, the opportunity for users to closely engage with technology is popping up everywhere. No wonder customers in retail, hospitality, healthcare and the business world are clamoring for more interactivity—now.For value-added resellers (VARs) who work in the pro AV space, a close understanding of new interactive display technology will help to differentiate your business from all the others that are starting to offer similar devices.Of course, it’s important to be able to “sell” the many benefits of interactive displays. While customer engagement is a clear advantage of interactivity in the retail and hospitality verticals, the role of these devices in the workplace might be a bit harder to define. With interactivity, it’s all about workplace collaboration—bringing employees together through technology to be more efficient and more effective.Let’s take a look at the three ways in which interactive displays can strengthen workplace collaboration:1. By letting workers use their own devices. The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend is here to stay, and a growing number of workplaces are embracing the use of their employees’ own smart phones, tablets and laptops. By integrating BYOD capabilities into devices like interactive whiteboards, projection systems and digital displays, you can help your customers more easily leverage the possibilities of BYOD, which has been shown to improve collaboration.How? The vast majority of the corporate workforce already has their own smart phone, tablet or laptop. In fact, many people have several of these mobile devices. (A recent Cisco study found that we’re currently averaging about 1.4 devices per person.)Rather than going to work and using an entirely new set of devices, a growing number of employees prefer to use their own technology for work functions such as email, texting, video chat and other collaborative functions. By embracing this natural inclination, businesses will make workplace collaboration more seamless—both within the office and for their remote and mobile employees.2. By providing entirely new ways to collaborate.Emerging interactive technologies, such as touchscreens, interactive whiteboards and kiosks, have created entirely new ways in which workers can collaborate, significantly improving the effectiveness of teamwork and meetings. These tools can now be used for training (and re-training), in daily departmental briefings and board meetings, to gather confidential feedback and more—all of which improve workplace collaboration and enable better management.3. By automating processes in order to free up resources. Employees who are less crunched by tight deadlines and the drudgery of repetitive tasks are free to better collaborate and communicate. Interactive displays help by automating certain processes, such as helping visitors get to where they’re going or training new employees. A virtual receptionist, wayfinding kiosk or other interactive display can eliminate these tasks, enabling employees to focus on other work and maximize workplace collaboration—while also helping companies to realize operational savings.4. By ensuring that everyone participates. As InfoComm International points out, “interactivity is a human instinct.” And thanks to the proliferation of “smart” and touchscreen devices around the world, people simply expect to encounter interactivity in their day-to-day lives.Any meeting that uses interactive technology is naturally more engaging and interesting than, for example, a lecture in which the audience listens passively. Devices such as interactive whiteboards and touchscreen displays help corporations capture and maintain listeners’ interest, making them more of a collaborator than traditional AV technology can.Has your company experienced an increase in interest for interactive displays? How are your corporate customers using interactivity in their everyday tasks?

How the Mobile Workforce Is Changing Enterprise Collaboration Solutions

With the proliferation of mobile devices being used in business today, the landscape of enterprise collaboration solutions is changing in order to keep up. Legacy collaboration solutions no longer fit the modern, mobile, and connected workforce’s needs and expectations. Employees are looking for ways to make collaboration instantaneous, effective, and interactive. According to Collaboration 2.0: Death of the Web Conference (As We Know It), 73% of workers are using a laptop, smartphone, tablet, or combination of these devices during in-person meetings. In order for businesses to have powerful mobile workforces, value-added resellers (VARs) will need to work with their customers in order to modernize collaboration tools, starting with understanding what mobile workers need.Companies today generally do no more than provide their employees the ability to access email, calendars, and contact lists via mobile devices. Workers, especially Millennials, want more—they want the ability to have instant face-to-face video meetings at any time and from anywhere. They want to be able to check specific news feeds from their mobile devices without having to scour the Internet in order to find what they are looking for. They often want to use one device for both personal and business requirements. They want to send and receive instant messages to co-workers, partners, and suppliers without the disruption of a phone call. As a result, enterprises need to move ahead of basic mobile collaboration tools and invest in advanced internal and external mobile collaboration initiatives that support important business functions like reporting, project management, and real-time collaboration on documents. Other tools that need to be considered by businesses for their remote workforces include mobile access to Microsoft Office applications, travel and expense management tools, CRM systems, HR business systems, and other business systems required on a company-wide or departmental basis. Mobile collaboration applications should be rolled out in alignment with corporate goals.Another major issue for business is the level of mobile security being offered. Typically, if an employee does not have access to the mobile applications necessary for effective collaboration, they will install an app on their own, a phenomenon known as Bring Your Own Application (BYOA). Security can be severely compromised when this happens, so it is important for companies to understand what their mobile workers need, how it will be provisioned, and how security will be maintained.Before the application and security decisions can be made, however, companies will have to decide if they will provide mobile devices to employees or have workers provide their own. Companies that provide devices will have more control over what can be downloaded to a device, security levels, and billing parameters. Once this decision is made, security can be provided in several ways:Virtual Private Network (VPN), which is currently the most prevalent method for securing mobile applicationsMaster Device Management (MDM)Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)VARs can play a major role in educating companies and their IT staffs about how to improve mobile enterprise collaboration. Once a decision is made, VARs can help IT play a central role in educating mobile employees on the tools available, including offering consulting and change management support.How does your business view enterprise collaboration changing due to the increasing mobile workforce? Please comment below.

Collaboration in the Workplace Is More than Just Talking

Remember when you had to pick up the phone and make a call in order to work on a project with others? Collaboration has come a long way since then. While employees still use phones, there are so many better ways to collaborate. Enterprise Social Media; document sharing/collaborative workspace; and web, video and audio conferencing all enhance the process of communication. In fact, only 6% of U.S. businesses have no plans to implement a form of collaboration, leaving a huge market for sales of collaboration tools and services. In a recent IDC survey, 79% of the 700 responding companies said that they currently use one or more internal social networking tools..New business designs, conceived in part by globalization, are just one of several challenges to organizations, calling for a new approach to information sharing and collaboration. Employees are facing fragmentation of teams due to outsourcing, multiple locations, offshoring and telecommuting. Collaboration efforts are designed to save organizations time and money. However, if not implemented, and implemented incorrectly, the resulting lack of communication across business units can culminate in duplication of effort, the decreased ability to repurpose the company’s internal intellectual property and time loss in pinpointing the right experts and information. While it is doubtful most workers could do completely without talking to others on a business phone, many would prefer to use a more collaborative method, and for good reason:Employees can communicate using audio conferencing where several parties can talk to each other at once. This increases productivity by saving time.Video conferencing can be used from desk-to-desk or among multiple conference rooms. This enhances any voice conversation with the ability to see other parties, gauge reactions and meet new people. Video conference calls can also be a requirement in some legal situations, like union hearings.Web conferencing can be used to join a few to thousands of employees in viewing a common document like a PowerPoint presentation. This is a powerful enhancement to voice calls that increases accuracy and efficiency. Many applications allow for feedback from the audience, making it even more valuable.Document sharing allows workers to keep track of modifications made to files, regardless of location, in a collaborative environment. Versions of the files can be tracked showing who modified them and when. When multiple copies of a document are floating around, loss of valuable data can occur. Document sharing services and platforms help prevent that loss.Enterprise social networks allow employees to communicate, share and be apprised of information quickly and easily whether working from home or in another country. Many enterprise social network solutions incorporate a form of document sharing and storage to improve agility and document security.VARs should talk with clients to determine how they collaborate today and how they want to collaborate in the future. It is highly unlikely that one type of technology or one tool will solve collaboration challenges. It is far more likely that all of the technology that supports collaboration will become more splintered and harder for companies to control. However, collaboration challenges can be fixed or abated through good practices and technology. There are so many ways to collaborate with advanced technology today – and most of them don’t even involve a phone.Did we miss any other collaboration options? Please tell us in the comments below.

How Whiteboard Collaboration Boosts Team Performance

Companies face many challenges as they try to compete in an increasingly global marketplace, including how to reduce expenses and boost productivity across geographical boundaries. Because of this, more employees are working from remote sites and home offices to save money on operational costs and to deliver better customer service to their customers and business partners around the world. Companies are realizing the key to the strategy is to implement enterprise communication technology that can increase virtual collaboration. This is especially crucial for the latest generation of employees who are comfortable using various communications technologies in their home lives, and who now expect to use those same tools at work.As companies look to deploy new unified communications and collaboration (UCC) technologies, they are considering the importance of visual collaboration applications, such as streaming video, in their enterprise strategies. More advanced collaboration capabilities such as interactive whiteboarding and integration with other UCC technologies can help companies make their video conferencing more effective and improve their overall ROI. By providing all employees access to tools that support and encourage true collaboration, companies will see a clear competitive advantage. Some examples of the benefits of how whiteboard collaboration can benefit team performance include:Clear communication – Video conferencing is known as a valuable replacement for in-person meetings because it lets team members meet face to face, without the need for lengthy and expensive travel. It also lets participants see one another and react to facial expressions and body language. Video conferencing allows users to interact as if they were in the same room, thus making it easier to understand exactly what’s being said and heard. In addition, by incorporating interactive whiteboarding and other collaboration features into the experience, enterprises can make video meetings even more effective because attendees can work on and mark up documents in real time, with results captured and stored for future use. This has uses across industries and companies of all sizes, including education, manufacturing, and healthcare. For example, medical professionals across the country, or even across continents, can collaborate on a case by commenting and whiteboarding on a patient’s records, X-ray images, and surgical procedures to provide better patient care in less time and at much lower cost. Improved customer interaction – Many companies cannot afford to send employees to customer premises on a frequent basis, yet getting face time with key clients is crucial to maintaining loyalty and improving business. With visual collaboration and whiteboarding, salespeople can get in front of prospects and customers more often during the sales process. Video sessions will likely never replace all in-person meetings, but the contacts in between client visits can become significantly more meaningful. Visual collaboration can deepen the strategic relationship between customers and employees, which leads to better service and greater satisfaction.Maintaining corporate culture – When employees are spread out across offices, geographic locations, and cultures, the idea of a single corporate identity is difficult to sustain. This can cause employees to lose a sense of belonging to the larger enterprise, which can affect performance, retention rates and even the perception of the organization to the wider world. With video collaboration, home-based workers stay connected without having to commute regularly into the office. Collaboration is not just beneficial for employees; working closely with customers to address their needs improves the value of the relationship and deepens their connection to the company.The best way to boost team performance in today’s economy requires the use of video collaboration and whiteboarding. Teams can perform better, stay involved easier, and feel like part of the team regardless of their location. VARs should show these benefits to businesses with home workers, remote offices, and global locations, and demonstrate ways to cost-justify the value of these tools. Once VARs become familiar with video collaboration and whiteboarding, it will be a cinch to pick and sell to the customers that need it most.Do you have questions or comments about video collaboration and whiteboarding you would like to see addressed in this forum? Please comment below.

How Collaboration Solutions Can Increase Productivity

Collaboration is the art of working on a task with others and achieving a common goal. Collaboration tools include everything from social networks, document, data/content and desktop sharing,instant messaging or chat, presence information, audio, video and web conferencing including interactive whiteboards, right down to voice calls, mobile phone applications and unified messaging.  Many analyst firms emphasize the significant growth of this market segment over the next several years, in fact over $22M worth of opportunity.  Business collaboration issues should be identified in a business before solutions are deployed.Collaboration initiatives provide companies the benefit of improved communication between employees, departments and companies. Collaboration tools are not necessarily one product, but often a set of solutions that provide a homogeneous user-interface and experience over multiple device types and media. These tools and services offer businesses huge opportunities to increase productivity with improved business processes, faster execution and powerful teamwork.Improved Business Processes – As businesses become more global and mobile, business processes are changing to allow incorporation of collaboration in the enterprise. Collaboration solutions can significantly enhance business processes by improving communication between departments like manufacturing, sales, marketing, purchasing and technical support in a people-centric manner. Document sharing can be used to share and comment on changes to policy, programs, promotions, scheduling, budgets, and much more.Conferencing allows employees to discuss business issues in real time, expediting decisions and eliminating misunderstandings. Knowledge workers can gain real-time access to information whenever and wherever it is located with data sharing with content management solutions. Mobile workers can access collaboration tools that look and work the same as their desktop applications, making them easier to use. As business processes evolve, collaboration tools enrich business value and competitive positioning.Faster Execution– Because employees can communicate more effectively, they can execute faster. Prior to conferencing, several calls had to be made to discuss a project. With conferencing, document sharing and enterprise social media platforms, information can be shared much more quickly and concisely. Examples of improvements to execution time include:Improved time to marketIncreased speed of upgrades and software fixesMomentum in addressing competitive challengesAgility in answering questionsOptimal utilization of distributed resources to improve productivity and profitsTeam Problem Solving – Problem solving among team members can be problematic when employees are not all in the same location. Cultural, language and time zone barriers can also contribute to this issue. In the past, if a team was working on a document together, each member would have to add their part then email the document to the next team member. With collaboration tools like enterprise social media, conferencing, content management and document sharing, teams can meet, discuss, and make decisions with agility and accuracy in a secure environment. Examples include:Teams can be seamlessly connected via virtual and physical silos, align goals and contribute their collective knowledge.Innovation is improved through the sharing of new ideas among teams, vital to the growth and competitive advantage of any business.Collaboration tools can provide real-time organizational recognition of opportunities for innovation; reduce the cycle time for idea conception and design; and tap participation to drive expansion of ideas.  Collaboration improves teamwork between internal and external customers including suppliers, customers and business partners who can then effectively connect with relevant subject matter experts, improving relationships.When speaking with enterprise managers, find out how employees are collaborating today and what could improve effectiveness. Discuss productivity issues, business pains and determine the costs associated with these problems to show return on investment. Stress productivity improved through collaborative, people-centric business processes, speedier execution and innovative teamwork and you will find a valuable customer for collaboration solutions today and future solutions for tomorrow.

5 Benefits of Collaboration in the Workplace

Collaboration in the workplace has long been heralded as a sign of an effective, high-functioning team. Not long ago, achieving collaboration meant breaking down cubical and office walls and pushing employees to work together 24/7. Although this approach worked for many employees, others felt stifled.Today, companies are placing more of an emphasis on balance: enabling employees to collaborate when and where they need to, but also letting them take advantage of alone time to brainstorm and complete individual tasks. Unified communication and collaboration (UCC) technology is helping to achieve that balance, by enabling real-time communication, information sharing and collaboration between employees, when it makes sense and no matter where they are located.For value-added resellers (VARs), UCC is an exciting new area to grow your business. But first, it’s important to understand some of the benefits of collaboration in the workplace:1. It moves a company more effectively towards its goals.A Work.com study found that 97 percent of employees and executives agreed that the level of collaboration directly impacts the outcome of a task or project. When a team or department is collaborating smoothly, openly sharing information and able to communicate seamlessly, they are able to work at their most effective level.On the other hand, when employees work in individual silos, it can take longer for a team to finish a particular project or task. As Gensler found, the most effective workplaces balance individual focus with team collaboration. Not every employee does their best when they are constantly in close contact with their coworkers; many need some alone time balanced with teamwork. Collaboration technology such as video conferencing and desktop sharing enables this balance because it seamlessly links end users when collaboration makes sense – rather than all day, every day.2. It creates greater flexibility. Today’s collaborative technology, such as tablets and smartphones, enable employees to work more flexibly than the traditional 9-to-5 office day. Many end users are able to work from home and on the road, and even take advantage of real-time collaborative capabilities with remote coworkers around the globe.This level of flexibility fits many end users’ lifestyle better than a strict eight-hour workday. And improved flexibility can lead to greater efficiency and effectiveness. In fact, a 16-year study by Idea Champions recently found that only 3 percent of people come up with their best ideas at work. The other 97 percent said they encounter great ideas throughout their day, at home, on vacation and even in the shower. With the mobile capabilities of collaboration technology, workers are able to take advantage of sudden bursts of creativity and productivity – rather than confining both to the office.3. It appeals to the tech-savvy. In many industries, younger and more tech-savvy employees are more likely to gravitate toward collaboration technology, since technology is such a large part of their life already. Millenials are especially supportive of collaboration to improve productivity; one study found that 49 percent of that age group support social tools, such as Skype and Face time, for collaboration in the workplace.Since Millenials are about to take over the workforce, now is the time for employers to sit up and take notice.4. It engages remote and work-from-home employees.Despite all the benefits of working remotely, sometimes it can also leave employees feeling cut off from their coworkers. By fostering a high level of collaboration, a company ensures that all employees – whether they work from home, headquarters or an overseas office – benefit from real-time information and continual communication. This higher level of engagement means that a company will benefit from the knowledge and expertise of all employees, no matter where they are located.5. It helps new employees get up to speed.New employees learn best from their coworkers and higher-ups, and learning is best achieved through collaboration. On top of that, collaboration creates a natural mentor-mentee relationship between new employees and their veteran counterparts, which helps inspire and engage both groups even more.What other benefits of collaboration in the workplace have you seen in your own career? How have you seen today’s UCC technology enable a higher level of collaboration?

Some Workplace Collaboration Trends You Can’t Afford to Ignore

Although many companies—small and large—have invested in collaboration tools, they often find that their investments do not necessarily meet all of their needs. New information shows that companies are not taking all factors into account when considering how their employees collaborate. Distributed collaboration, distributed teamwork, and meeting and behavioral metrics are all important when choosing collaboration tools. Value-added resellers (VARs) should follow these trends in order to identify areas of improvement for their clients:Collaboration is becoming more distributed – When two or more people need to transfer complex information for a common purpose or to meet a common goal, they are collaborating. Distributed collaboration allows people to work as an integrated team across time and distance for a specific purpose. According to a recent survey, 87 percent of employees work, at least occasionally, on distributed or hybrid teams, and 38.7 percent spend over 65 percent of their work time on distributed or hybrid teams.Distributed teamwork is common for many projects – Most employees are part of three to five teams on average, regardless of the size of the business. This statistic shows growth in distributed collaboration. According to the survey, almost 78 percent of workers claim that they participate in two to seven projects simultaneously, with an average of five per person. While company size and role in the business can affect the number of simultaneous projects an employee is involved in, the average across all roles and company sizes is three to four projects that employees work on at the same time.Meeting metrics are needed – Meeting time can be extensive and often unproductive. According to the survey, 40 percent of employees spend half of their time in meetings. About 30 percent of employees spend most of their time in problem-solving and project status meetings. Around 40 percent of workers spend little or no time in decision-making, brainstorming, and strategic planning meetings, but instead spend time in problem-solving and project status meetings. According to the survey, 37.8 percent of companies used no meeting metrics, and the current metrics being used, including number of people and frequency of meetings, do not provide much information about the meeting content and interpersonal interactions. Considering this is where all the meeting value comes from, meeting metrics should be modified to include these topics.Behavior modification for meetings – In order to improve meeting behavior, employees should stick to an agenda and avoid discussing old topics. The top meeting issues are:No clear, pre-set agenda communicated in advance of the meetingStakeholders not prepared or not in attendancePersonal agendasRehashing of old topics and decisionsLate arrivalsNot communicating effectivelyIn addition, behavioral metrics can improve meeting value. These could include:Value of interpersonal interactions in the meetingThe number of decisions to come out of the meetingThe percentage of time spent engaged (paying attention) in the meetingAdd these behavioral modifications to technology and companies will find that collaboration, even distributed collaboration, becomes more effective. Teams that use collaboration tools like video or Web conferencing can use built-in tools in order to evaluate meeting effectiveness. Technology can help by providing feedback in real time to the meeting members through various types of real-time graphic displays, surveys, comment sections, and more. VARs that can explain the value of both behavior and technology in meetings and how to measure effectiveness will be successful selling unified communications tools to their customers, who in turn will be able to conduct successful meetings with distributed teams.Does your company follow trends in workplace collaboration whether they include technology solutions or not? Please comment below.