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Innovation in Medical Collaboration Saturday, 12 June 2010 06:35

Written by Bob Preston
By Bob Preston

This week I had the opportunity to attend the Hammersmith Echocardiology Conference 2010 at Hammersmith Hospital near London, England. I was participating in the event along with my colleague, Andrew Graley, Polycom Healthcare Market Specialist for Europe, to support a session in which a surgeon performing open heart bypass surgery for a mitral valve repair was collaborating with a group of observing surgeons, medical students, and professors in a nearby conference center auditorium on the hospital campus.

Dressed in scrubs, Andrew and I were allowed to enter the operating room and observe while Dr. Prakash Punjabi of the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust skilfully performed the operation in an interactive procedure, all the while describing his steps, answering questions, and collaborating with the audience through Polycom’s HDX video conferencing (photo right)
and installed HD voice ceiling microphone array (circular shaped microphone in photo left). The HD Medical Conferencing solution was installed and supported by Multisense Communications. This unique open heart valve repair employs a number of leading edge surgical procedures, such as miniature heart-by-pass and manufactured cannula valve insertion, to repair a the mitral valve in degenerative or diseased heart of a patient.
During the session, the high definition video conferencing link broadcast and recorded from the operating room, while simultaneously showing patient vital signs data, echocardiogram ultrasound images, and HD close up views inside the patient’s heart from an endoscopic camera (photo left). Assistants in the operating room raised, lowered, or zoomed the HD “Eagle Eye” camera view of the operating table at the surgeon’s direction and easily switched the broadcast images between the endoscopic camera or ultrasound and vital sign monitors. Transmission to the auditorium was to another Polycom HDX video conference system via simple IP LAN connection with output to large sized projectors and monitors for audience viewing.

The procedure has been developed by Punjabi and his colleagues over the last six years, and is recognised as pioneering life saving operation. In his position, Dr. Punjabi, a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, is President of the European Heart Valve Repair Group and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons USA, Great Britain & Ireland, often travels about the globe to train other surgeons on the technique.

Partway through the procedure I left the operating room, got dressed back in my street clothes, and walked across the hospital campus to observe and listen in the classroom auditorium receiving the live broadcast. Another physician and professor of cardiology hosted the session in the auditorium and facilitated the conversation with questions directed at Punjabi in the operating room. The exchange was real time, dynamic, and highly interactive as the audience challenged Punjabi to explain his steps, assumptions, and applied theories as he performed the advanced procedure. The entire procedure and session from start to finish took about two hours.
Following completion of the surgery Dr. Punjabi also came into the auditorium where I had a chance to meet him personally. “The HD videoconferencing equipment allows detailed discussions of the case while the procedure is taking place” explained Punjabi. “This solution is an excellent illustration of the use of modern technology to demonstrate advanced surgical training and techniques which is enabling us to provide the best treatment to patients.”

It was an exciting day for me to experience firsthand the power of a healthcare collaboration solution in action. It was an enriching environment, harnessing the knowledge of a skilled surgeon and further stimulated by the inquisitive exchange and human interaction from a live audience. Such collaborative solutions have the ability to transform organizations in all industries by integrating into workflows and processes, in this case utilization with a life saving medical procedure.

Enabling Collaboration in Marketing Friday, 30 April 2010 01:18

Written by Bob Preston

Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking at Aberdeen’s CMO Summit 2009 in San Francisco on the topic of enabling collaboration in marketing teams. It was a fun experience and the audience asked some great questions. In most organizations, marketing as a line of business (functional department) has one of the highest demands for effective collaboration due to the creative and iterative nature of every day work flows. Following is a quick synopsis of my presentation I gave yesterday to Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and marketing leaders from companies with some of the world's leading brands.

The organizational pressures of pushing both short term performance and long term brand building initiatives rest squarely on the shoulders of the CMO. Increased customer complexity in an age of new forms of media and social networking further add to the CMO's challenges. In addition, ever changing cultural and lifestyle choices among staff members and target markets makes the role of CMO one of the more hot seat executive positions in any company.

Further, strategic marketing initiatives in response to the pressures, complexity, and trends can often create fragmented marketing teams or “silos” which impact overall marketing department productivity by creating distance and communication barriers. The ability of marketing leaders to reduce distance barriers to enable collaboration and empowerment among staff members can ultimately lead to more streamlined marketing teams capable of faster decision making, better sharing and coordination of plans, goal setting and problem setting, and ultimately project option decisions, particularly in times of crises management.

Enter the importance of collaboration solutions for marketers – getting teams to work together closely on projects to achieve common goals. Voice and video conferencing, content sharing, and telepresence technologies can enable marketing teams to bust through silos and collaborate effectively regardless of their physical location. The application of collaboration solutions into marketing work flows can be in any number of everyday business processes including the following:
  • Global Team Meetings
  • Virtual 1:1s with CMO
  • Strategic Planning Sessions
  • Creative Process
  • Project and Event Management
  • Product Definition, Launch, and Life Cycle Management
  • Design Review and Approval
  • Editor and Analyst Briefings
  • Sales Training
  • Customer Demos and Presentations
  • Partner Meetings and Councils
The benefits and business value of effective collaboration are quickly apparent to the entire marketing organization at multiple levels: work flow, employees, partners, and company ROI. Benefits will flow down through the department in the form of sharpened marketing processes and efficiency, impressive innovation and creative thinking, better decision making and moral levels of employees. Customers and partners will be more loyal due to tighter relationships with your team. The company as a whole will also see results with a faster time to market on new products and initiatives, reduced costs and carbon footprint, and ultimately increased shareholder value.

Put collaboration tools in place for your marketing organization - you will clearly see enhanced efficiency, productivity, and creativity leading both short term performance and long term results!

Unified Communications Down Under Monday, 17 August 2009 17:30

Written by Melissa Chotiner


From www.BroadbandIgnite.com, written by Alex Doyle, Sr. Director of Solutions at BroadSoft

Congratulations to Telstra, which recently announced integration of their TIPT (Telstra IP Telephony) Hosted PBX service with Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS).

Telstra and Microsoft today unveiled Australia’s first hosted IP telephony service integrated with Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS). This will enable Australian organisations to place high definition Telstra IP Telephony calls directly from applications such as Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Office Communicator and Microsoft SharePoint.

The new offering of Microsoft OCS on Telstra IP Telephony (TIPT) services means customers can now see at a glance if their contacts are on a phone call, busy or available to be contacted. If available, the user simply clicks on their name to initiate and then manage the telephone call.

Telstra Product Management Executive Director, Mr Philip Jones, said that until now Microsoft OCS integration was limited to customers with premise-based IP telephony services and the new service would improve efficiency by coupling the enhanced features offered by Telstra IP Telephony with certain Microsoft programs.

It’s a great solution. And one of the things that’s overlooked about this, I think, is that from an operations perspective, it’s actually quite simple. Businesses get Unified Communications by blending Telstra’s Hosted PBX solution, which is already live and in market, with Microsoft’s enterprise applications, which are already live and in market.

It’s pretty common to see people talk about UC in either a “forklift” way (‘replace all your stuff with all my stuff, and then you’ll have UC’), or in a “future” way (‘just wait….in Release XYZ you’ll see UC in a whole new way’)….so it’s nice to see Telstra UC-enabling their existing customers (with Microsoft app integration, mobile integration, high-definition voice, and more) today, using the BroadSoft infrastructure already in place.

Hosted Versus Premises - It's not Black and White Friday, 14 August 2009 00:07

Written by Melissa Chotiner
There’s been a lot of “Hosted vs. Premises” debate in the blogosphere in the last few weeks, and a particularly spirited debate over at focus.com (“Why wouldn’t a Small to Mid-Size Business Always Go With a Hosted Phone Solution?”), with some fantastic insights from friends-of-BroadSoft Alteva, Broadcore, and SimpleSignal on why their hosted business is booming.

But – sometimes these discussion threads tend to have diminishing returns. You see people digging in their heels on either the ‘pro-hosted’ or ‘pro-premises’ positions.
I outline my thoughts on this below and at BroadSoft's blog, Broadband Ignite (www.broadbandignite.com). I'm interested in what others have to say on this topic.
This kind of black-and-white mindset, I think, misses three interesting trends in our industry.

First, we’re seeing a convergence of hosted and premises solutions in the SIP Trunking space, where service providers complement premises systems with network-hosted applications. Service providers who offer only ‘plain connectivity’ trunking have a serious customer churn risk – with today’s ease of portability, voice-only SIP trunks are quickly becoming a commodity. But service providers that “UC-Enable” their SIP Trunks – CBeyond boasts an average of seven UC apps per customer, and an enviously low churn rate – are able to lock in and monetize their SIP trunking base.

Second, it’s telling that a lot of the historically premises-oriented vendors have been leading the charge into hosted UC. Whether it’s Cisco and Webex Connect, Microsoft’s Hosted Messaging & Collaboration, or Lotus Live – I think the rapid move towards hosted apps from these companies is a clarion call that the hosted UC space is absolutely the real thing.

But at the same time, these teams aren’t abandoning premises solutions either. Microsoft’s “Power of Choice” message has been particularly accurate here, I think. Customers are going to be able to consume apps from enterprise-hosted apps, service-provider hosted apps, or Microsoft-hosted apps – there’s not just one correct answer.

Third, we’re seeing a rise in “virtual overlay services”, where UC apps are provided “in the cloud” independent of the actual end user phones. Google Voice is probably the most famous of these, but certainly service providers around the world have been providing (and monetizing) “Virtual Front Office”-type apps with BroadWorks for years. These apps are demonstrating that there’s a business for hosted UC services that complement, not replace premises systems.

So – “Hosted vs. Premises” doesn’t represent the debate very well, and could actually lead to people missing out on some huge market opportunities.

Impressing the Boss is Always a Good Thing Tuesday, 28 July 2009 10:39

Written by Dean

Author:  Jamie Ryan, CIO at Aspect

There are certain infrastructure upgrades and decisions that you need to consider as you develop your unified communications (UC) strategy. One of the biggies is the use of Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) Trunking.

For Aspect, SIP Trunking was a no brainer. Our company was looking at Microsoft® Office Communications Server 2007 R2 as a way to consolidate some of our unwieldy technology and streamline processes, but we were also extremely focused on potential cost savings. SIP Trunking was a logical way for us to take significant costs out of our telecommunications activities.

To us, one of the really appealing elements of SIP Trunking was that it enabled Aspect to completely consolidate our voice infrastructure and still look “local” when our infrastructure was really thousands of miles away.  This is resulting in a much more efficient use of capacity.  And, in doing so, we have been able to get rid of lots of hardware (which as you know is expensive to maintain), as well approximately 70 percent of our separate voice, video and data connections at remote sites.  I love the idea that we only need to manage one WAN connection for each of our sites, instead of various voice, video and data circuits.

And, my boss (our CEO) is pretty psyched about the fact that Aspect has seen a significant drop in local and long distance costs because of reduced number of circuits and better usage rates as a result of our use of SIP Trunking. We expect this to amount to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings over the next several months and years.

In addition, with all of the consolidation, employees have been able to keep Direct Inward Dial (DID) lines.  This provides improved call handling flexibility and efficiency. We have also seen better call quality of voice-based IP communications because each SIP Trunk is a dedicated “channel”.

As you can see, SIP Trunking and OCS are already providing Aspect with some pretty impressive benefits.  But, I am convinced that the real value will be in what lies ahead –federated multimedia communications.   What role do you think SIP Trunking will play in getting us there?

CRM and Unified Communications Sunday, 28 June 2009 14:00

Written by Sandra M. Eisenberg

My last blog focused on how Unified Communications (UC) can empower the contact center by directing nontraditional call center calls to the center.  Most people think of UC as a way of combining multiple contact points for one person to a single point of contact (thus John Smith’s office phone, cell phone, email, IM, etc. can all be directed to “ring” on his cell phone).  This is the common way UC is explained, and it can be very valuable — but it can also result in TMI (too much information).

Everyone may be created equal, but we can’t give all of our customers, peers, bosses, and the world at large equal access to us or we’d never get any work done.  We need to prioritize who can contact us and how.  Thus with UC we can identify specific people (our boss, our spouse, our key customer) to reach us at our #1 end point (maybe that cell phone) while other important people get directed to voice mail — or as I pointed out in my last blog — this is a perfect opportunity to now direct those folks to a contact center where an inside sales rep or pool admin can hopefully handle their needs in one call (OCR = one call resolution).

So there is a natural marriage between UC and CC (contact center).

Where does CRM come into play?

CRM (customer relationship management) has become such a muddied term.  It has become far too generic.  To some it does mean contact center software (and it can be that), to some it means the software or software as a service (SaaS) that outside sales reps use to keep track of their accounts, where they are in the sales cycle, etc. — and that is a good definition. . .but CRM is much bigger than that.

CRM is really broken into two broad categories:  “front office CRM” and “Back office CRM.”

Front office CRM are the applications that actually touch the customer directly — the voice on the phone in the contact center, an internet interface where they can place an order, customer service (again online or over the phone) or the live customer service rep (CSR).  Any part where the customer is directly interfacing with your company is a form of “front office CRM.”

And a logical touchpoint for UC and CRM to link.

The holy grail of the contact center for years has been OCR – one call resolution.    Any problem that isn’t resolved in one call, or any sale that can’t be closed in one call (”we have an internet special where for the same price you are paying today you can add XYZ. . .”) costs lots of money.  Any customer service call that takes too long or requires “follow up” also begins to alienate your customers making them more inclined to leave you for another firm.

UC can dramatically improve the goal of OCR — whether that “one call” is a phone call, an internet access or even your face to face outside sales rep.

It all has to do with the “hand off.”  Inside a contact center this can be done with intelligent routing (which is really what UC is in a larger scheme of things).  We route the call to the most logical, not the first available, agent.   With UC we are now moving beyond the barrier of the contact center and able to route the call to best person no matter what department they work in, or even WHERE THEY ARE physically.

Setting up skills routing takes time, but the rewards are immense both in customer satisfaction and in cost reduction.

All of this so far focuses on the connectivity between front office CRM and UC, but back office CRM can increase this cost reduction by quantum factors.  Using a data warehouse (or perhaps data mart) to identify your most profitable customers you may choose to always route them to a specific department or person — not blindly treating all customers the same but giving platinum treatment to platinum customers.

By contrast your lower value customers (in margins) can always be routed through an IVR (interactive voice response) unit and routed to newer agents. . .  The dirty little reality in sales is that there are some customers that are not worth having because the amount of work they require (and work = expense to your company) may mean you actually lose money by having them as a customer.  Back end CRM identifies who is profitable and thus worth retaining.

One to one marketing is a myth.  We do not market to all of our prospects and customers in the same way and we shouldn’t.   Back end CRM’s information on customer profitability can help determine who we route to whom in our dynamic, unified communications world.

This blog is speaking in generalities — as if we had all the money and time in the world to link all of these disparate systems together.    The good news is that many of these systems are already begining to be linked — Cisco with Salesforce.comAspect with Microsoft,  Avaya and SAPNortel offers integration to Microsoft Dynamics CRM and implemented Dynamics internally.   The idea is to take advantage of the technologies you may already have in place such as a legacy  Siebel implementation maybe using AT&T’s Siebel Solutions offer) to improve relations with your customers and business partners through a streamlined “one call resolution” that goes far beyond the silos of “outside sales,” “engineering,” “customer service” across your business.

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