Business Collaboration and the Death of Distance

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Business Collaboration and the Death of Distance

By Greg Turner, Chief Revenue Officer & Chief Information Officer

Whenever someone asks us about the impact of business collaboration solutions, I share this story about an insurance company customer with half a dozen offices throughout Delaware. We installed a new video phone system and asked one of the insurance agents to initiate a call from her office to an agent at another branch office to test the connectivity and call quality.

When the video call was connected, both agents were pleasantly caught off guard. Even though they had become close friends after working together at the same insurance company for over 10 years, they only saw each other face-to-face at the annual Christmas party, and they had never seen one another’s offices. When the video call connected, they yelled in excitement, “Oh my God, your office is so cute!” and “Hold the phone up so I can see the whole office!”

The addition of video engaged and excited the insurance agents more than any traditional voice call over legacy PSTN. We had installed a new Cisco Webex Calling solution with Cisco 8845 IP Phones connected by the Cisco Collaboration Cloud. This connected their branch offices instantaneously via an IntelePeer SIP session and automatically recognized that both IP phones were video enabled.

The insurance agents could have just as easily been thousands of miles apart and enjoyed the same experience. In that moment the power of video was obvious. We were witnessing business collaboration and the death of distance.

10 Years Younger, 20 Pounds Lighter
Another example: our team was installing a new room-based video conferencing solution for a New York City-based hedge fund. It took only a few minutes to attach our system to the customer’s existing 65-inch, flat screen TV and register the now video-enabled conference room with the cloud.

To test the new conference room system, the hedge fund’s CIO sent out a standard Webex invite to all his employees, who were familiar with Webex from their desktops.

One by one, employees began to join the video conference, which automatically created a video tile for each attendee, commonly referred to as the “Brady Bunch Effect.” The video was very clear and the speaker tracking technology allowed the camera system to zoom into the active speaker in the conference room and automatically place their video tile in the main viewing area of the screen.

Each time someone popped up on screen everyone in the conference room had a big reaction to it. There was a lot of energy and interest as people in the office joined the video conference with their own tiles. The hedge fund employees joked with each other that on video they each looked “10 years younger and 20 pounds lighter.”

In this case, our team had installed a Cisco Webex Room Kit solution, which includes camera, codec, speakers, and microphones integrated in a single device. We added a Cisco Touch 10 control unit as a remote controller for the room and then registered the room with the Cisco Collaboration cloud via the Webex Control Hub. The entire installation and test took less than an hour.

Once again, the power of video was obvious, and distance became irrelevant. The hedge fund CIO felt that a video-enabled conference call was a far superior experience than holding a traditional audio-only conference call. He noted that with audio-only calls, attendees tended to put their phones on mute and work on other things, ignoring the point of the meeting.

Business collaboration is built into everything today – both video and content collaboration. It’s an important aspect of today’s office, but it’s critical for the office of tomorrow. In fact, you are probably using more video than you think. And if you’re not using a lot of video today, you will be within the next three to five years. As we have said to customers who have initially been skeptical of the power of video, “Have you seen how your millennial workforce uses their phones?”

Millennials are often teased for not using phones to make calls, but that’s not exactly true. While they don’t typically make audio-only calls, they do make video- and audio-calls, like FaceTime and Skype calls. They want to see the other person, watch their expressions and make a stronger connection.

We’re able to support and empower that natural behavior with Cisco Webex video conferencing. What this new workforce gets is a familiar way to connect and a rich user experience both on mobile and desktop. In fact, they can start a conversation in one environment and seamlessly move into another environment while keeping connected.

Think about this scenario: You’re in your car, you begin talking on a call, you get to your building, walk into your office, and automatically transfer that call to your desktop – everybody wants to do that. You don’t want to keep talking on your cellphone. You want to talk on your desktop phone and put it on speaker or plug in your Plantronics headset or put the call onto a conference room screen for the others in your office.

Zero Provisioning. Complete Usability.
One of the things that has helped make this transition from traditional – and separate – voice communication to true collaboration is the flexibility and simplicity of setup that today’s VoIP phone systems provide. The customer experience has improved to the point that the business user no longer worries about anything today.

Zero provisioning is huge if you have at home employees or workers in a small remote office where there is no technical staff. In a branch or home office, your employee simply takes a phone, plugs it in for power and internet, or in many offices directly into power over ethernet (POE), they scan a bar code with the phone’s integrated camera, and they’re up and online. That saves hours that might have been spent configuring and provisioning a phone system.

On-Premises, In the Cloud and Hybrid Environments
Some customers are focused on maintaining premise-based systems, while others are looking to migrate to the cloud. Many are looking at hybrid environments. What our customers appreciate is that we’ve been in business for over 30 years and one of our technology pillars has always been collaboration. We hold specialization certifications from Cisco and we’re experts in making collaboration technology work for our customers’ businesses.

We serve as their trusted advisor and look at where they are and where they want to go – on-prem, in cloud or hybrid. Most customers also look for MTM to manage their collaboration technology.

Traditionally, a customer hires us to provide managed services for its on-premises system, perhaps a Cisco Business Edition 6000 or 7000 Unified Communication Manager. We provide all the moves, adds, and changes, as well as any upgrades, to the system that is physically located in their data center. They often don’t require an indivudal to administrate the system because we can manage it as a remote administrator with an agreement for on-site support when required. In cloud and hybrid environments, we provide similar remote managed services to configure or expand operations for them on demand.

Cloud has arguably been the most disruptive technology over the past 10 years. Business Collaboration was disrupted as customer’s struggled migrate their on-premises voice and video solutions to the cloud, so they turned to MTM Technologies as a trusted advisor to answer questions like “Can I keep my legacy phones?” or “Can I keep my legacy PSTN trunks?”

The future of business collaboration lies in the ability to connect with executives through story where you can communicate ideas, visually and virtually. The millennial and prior workforces are seeing the benefits of face-to-face communication and their companies are realizing the ROI of collaboration – it’s time to get on board!

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MTM Technologies, Inc. is a Cisco Gold Certified Partner, meeting all requirements for attaining the broadest range of expertise across multiple Cisco technologies. We have achieved Cisco advanced specializations in the following areas: enterprise networks architecture, security architecture, collaboration architecture, and data center architecture. MTM Technologies has integrated Cisco Hybrid IT, Cloud and Managed Services, and ensures high customer satisfaction in its end-to-end Cisco solution offerings. As a Cisco Gold Certified Partner, MTM Technologies has access to Cisco’s comprehensive sales, technical and lifecycle services training and support.

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