Successfully deploying conferencing and collaboration technology

Written by Anthony Caruana, editor of Macworld Australia

It wasn’t so long ago that getting a team to work together meant assembling a team of people in a room, projecting a document onto a screen and having someone attempt to scribe everyone’s edits as they come in.

Or perhaps someone created a version of document and sends it around with change tracking enabled. Then all the changes were pulled together, the non-contentious ones accepted and a meeting to resolve the changes that weren’t agreed.

Either way, you were looking at a costly, labour intensive process.

Other fields, like education, medicine, even families, are seeing the benefits of a technological revolution that has completely changed the nature of communication and collaboration.

The successful deployment of any business change relies on three key elements: people, process and systems. It’s an old school way of looking at things but by considering all three pieces you ensure a balanced approach to success.

On the systems side, great collaboration depends on robust communications and networking infrastructure, software that complements how people work and end-point hardware that feels like an extension to traditional work practices.

Healthcare

For example, we spoke to Phil Coll from UnifiedFX. His company deployed a solution in hospitals that would contact surgeons quickly when they were needed in an emergency. Through an application they developed, using Cisco wireless handsets over the hospitals VoIP network, they sent a text message, an audible alert and a vibration alert to the handset to ensure surgeons wouldn’t miss notifications.

On the patient side, the recent launch of the MyHealthPoint service by Telstra shows what can be done with smart devices that can remotely communicate.

Measurement devices developed by Entra Health Systems capture data such as blood sugar, temperature or blood-oxygen levels. The devices remote connect to the patient’s router and transmit the data to a central service.

Big data analytics are used to automatically spot anomalies and trends that require further investigation by a healthcare professional.

This doesn’t require the patient to do anything new and the systems that have been developed make the process seamless for the people involved.

Getting the infrastructure, end user hardware and software right is key.

Education

One of the challenges teachers have faced when integrating technology into classrooms is that it interferes with the teaching process, leading to frustration for students and teachers.

Collaboration that utilises video demands a fast and reliable internet connection. If you’ve ever watched a movie where the images are choppy or degraded you’ll know how frustrating that can be.

The Passaic County Technical Institute in New Jersey is one of the most highly regarded technical colleges in the United States. Following a recent systems upgrade where Cisco 802.11ac access points, improved network management and a simplified network configuration has resulted in greatly improved communications between teachers and students.

Canada’s Niagara College, in Ontario, wanted to integrate video into the classroom – a challenging task with 24,000 students across several campuses. By rebuilding their network core, using switches from Nortel, and using collaboration tools from Avaya they were able to deliver HD video, for viewing and conferencing right across all their campuses. This includes content sharing, meeting moderation and real-time streaming and recording.

Even off-campus students are accommodated with support for up to 600 concurrent video streams.

People, Process and Systems

In all these example, the technology, business process and people were considered equally. Without all three sides working together, it’s not possible to deliver a successful collaboration outcome.

The trick is to not just look at what systems you’re going to use. If you’re going to introduce a new communications and collaboration platform that pulls together video, text, voice and other applications you need to look at how those things will best work together.

Talk to your people and learn about what they do. Then use that information to create a series of use-cases. These use-cases are a way of showing how the technology can make a current task easier rather than mandating specific work practices. That way, they will see the benefits without having specific processes rammed down their throats.

Integrate 2015 is on from 25-27 August at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre.
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