Forget mobile, what’s your video strategy?!

A video strategy should be an adoptable solution across divisions which enables human-to-human interaction by empowering collaboration, education, communication and engagement.

In the last few years, mobile has dominated the conversation at enterprises and what they should do about it,: mobile first, mobile responsive, native or hybrid, in-house or outsourced, with code or no-code, etc. While it is an important item for any company – small or big –  to address, companies are facing similar questions on new waves of technologies: AI, Chat Bots, DevOps, etc. Among all of them, one of the items that can play a very important role in making technology decisions and is usually taken as granted is selecting a video or web-conferencing solution.

Introduction of VoIP and complimentary features such as Screen Share, has played an important role in adaptation of web-conferencing solutions in various organizations. Relatively low-cost or no-cost of VoIP phone lines made it possible for specially small organizations to become connected to their audience globally, the days that having a toll free number was an indication of a big or well funded organization is well gone.

The above advancements has created a market for several web-conferencing technologies to be used by enterprises to be used by various departments and different usecases. According to Gartner’s report for Web Conferencing (Magic Quadrant for Web Conferencing – 2015), historically, enterprise buyers have been from lines of business (LOBs) where support for specific use cases (such as group meeting among employees and customers, corporate training, and sales and marketing webinars) is needed. However, the strategic impact to the organization of web conferencing has made its sourcing a strategic decision for most organizations. Aside optimizing cost, in the lack of a one-solution-fits-all-needs, many enterprises choose a tiered approach, rather than a single vendor to meet all of their Web-conferencing needs and that’s what needs to change.

There are several reasons that companies take a tiered approach, some of them are:

  • Optimizing price: different solutions provide different pricing models. For example, using a software suitable for group calls might not be a good choice to run webinars with potentially hundreds or thousands of attendees
  • Unique user experience needs: Some solutions are geared – technically and price-wise to small group calls, others for large sessions such as marketing webinars.
  • Adaptability: A group call software might be good for ready online meetings, however not provide an easy way to integrate it with ERPs to be used by HR systems to conduct interviews within HR platforms, or to support sales personnel to easily use it inside their CRM used.

Another disadvantage of not having a unified platform for all video-conferencing needs is that IT and users have to manage multiple accounts among different solutions. For the regulated industries such as finance, healthcare and government, compliance and controlling access control is another source of concern: where meeting data is stored, who has access to it, how additional access can be granted or revoked.

What has been listed above is only a review of existing usecases that virtually any organization experience them. Opening to new lines of technologies such as AI, Chat Bots, and new productivity tools is another front to be adopted. Gartner – in same report – predicts that virtual personal assistants (VPAs) will participate in a capacity to support team collaboration in “smart meetings.” An algorithm would gauge from the amount of conversational traffic in chat rooms whether workers are reaching a point at which a meeting is advised — to convey complex concepts or make critical decisions, just for an example.  Other example is scheduling meetings: scheduling a meeting among attendees inside the same organization who users share their calendars being Microsoft or Google Calendar is still a challenge. Suggesting and aggregating content from documentation repositories and upload them to the meeting whiteboard automatically is another area of intelligent to be added. So video conferencing is not just one tool or function inside the organization, it becomes a placeholder or platform to connect many pieces, processes and help the organization to improve in productivity and efficiency.

The above items have been the factors informing LiveH2H Video-conferencing platform architecture and features:

  • The core video-conferencing technology is free, no cost to use it for group meetings, one-on-one or webinars. While all the core features for a group call is provided for free – voice, video, chat, screen share, whiteboard, etc. – the monetization model is per value-added services built on top of the platform and its marketplace.
  • It is offered in SDK/APIs, so it can be used as a SaaS model, turn key, or it can be integrated with any third party system and be used within those systems. Those enterprise system can be CRMs (i.e. a salesperson can schedule or launch a meeting right inside a lead profile), a recruitment system (i.e. HR can schedule an interview inside current system). Additionally integration with other internal tools such as Slack is available.
  • The meeting experience is customizable per meeting: Each meeting can be unique, what layout should look like and what features to be included can be pre-set per usecase:
  • A corporate training meeting might need whiteboard being in the focus, with chat and no videos of attendees
  • An interview session needs the videos of attendees side by side with chat or other features in the background
  • A collaboration meeting needs to be empowered by Screen Share in the center and thumbnail-size videos in the footer
  • Being an Open Platform: Ability to integrate and add new modules and features to a meeting room, selected by each organization and user, per their need from a marketplace. As examples, a speech-to-text technology has been integrated into liveh2h Meeting Rooms to create script of the meetings automatically (powered by Naunce). Another example is offering a secondary live voice channel for live translators to join the meetings and translate the current conversations to any other language, similar to interpretation services in UN committees and gathering.

In a broader view, video-conferencing is about people meeting to accomplish a task. Therefore, providing an environment to enable Human-to-Human interaction, is the core value it provides being a sales call, a design task or a corporate training session. A H2H experience  consists of one or all of the following criteria:

  • Collaboration: being able to exchange ideas and co-create content
  • Communication: Make it easy to present and share ideas
  • Education: Sharing content and supporting materials
  • Engagement: Effective 1-on-1 interaction in a way that simulates a face-to-face meeting

It is time for IT leaders and Chief Innovation Officers to rethink and revisit organization video-strategy and go beyond conventional methods and solutions.

Why Free Meetings Matter for Innovation – A Hackathon Experience

Video calls as we know it today started over 14 years ago in 2003 by Skype, which enabled any two people with proper access to internet connections to have a video call for free. Other major service providers followed suit, Apple introduced FaceTime service for the first time in 2010, and Google caught up with Hangouts 10 years later in 2013. Since then, a wide range of small and big players joined the trend to allow peer-to-peer video communication along with text chats or voice-only calls over an internet connection.

In parallel, the convenient and potential productivity of online meetings was increasingly appealing and technology pioneers immediately perceived the value and raced to build group meeting services for businesses and organizations. WebEx, after a series of developing collaboration software and messaging applications, announced its web conferencing solution which was eventually acquired by Cisco. Skype for business was announced after the Microsoft acquisition of Skype which aligned with the Office Communicator service that Microsoft was offering a few years prior to that. In between, many other organizations, small and large, such as GoToMeeting, zoom.us, join.me, started offering their solutions with features such as screen sharing, whiteboard, etc. Nowadays, an organization uses one of those solutions to meet online, and being more or less similar, there is one factor to make a decision which one to use: cost.

The usual business model in using commercial meeting software is to charge per ‘host’ (how many users can initiate and host a meeting). While such a business model follows the overall cloud rational (pay-per-use), there is a big issue with it which has set back many groups and industries looking to use commercial meeting software: many small and innovative groups of talented individual who can greatly benefit from an online collaboration environment, cannot afford the cost. Startups, not-for-profit organizations and educational institutes are among many.

The other issue that has blocked the innovation and how group meeting software can be used is a user experience issue: almost all of the meeting software solutions are SaaS model and in order to use them, users must leave the current environment or platform they are using, and use the fixed meeting room designed for it. That includes both the layout and what features are available to a user.

I argue that group meeting is a commodity. It must be free for anyone to create as many meetings as needed, invite as any attendees, and use for unlimited time.

The second important item is to let different solutions and software adopt and embed a meeting experience inside their own environment. For example, a doctor-patient portal or a dating service providers must have the ultimate flexibility on where to launch a meeting, whom invite to, what features make available to them, and how to handle the data and features of the meeting.

Lastly, a meeting platform must be open to allow talented and innovative developers to add the features they want to add to it.

At iTutorGroup, we have been building such platform, called Liveh2h or “Live Human-2-Human”, to make all of the above three criteria possible:

  1. Anyone can use it for free for group calling, virtually unlimited number of attendees can join a session. No matter if it is a large enterprise or a student group working on their homework, anyone can use it free of charge.

It also doesn’t require to have an account to host or join a meeting. We have learned, even though having an account enables the users to do more (schedule future meetings, record a meeting, integrate with address book, etc.) the fact that anyone can start a meeting instantly, makes it extremely easier to run group meetings.

2. Anyone can adopt it inside their own software as a turn-key solution. It is a fully API/SDK enabled solution that can be integrate with web, iOS and Android.

3. Anyone can build new features or modules on top of it, or integrate it with other services and solutions.

In January of this year we ran a hackathon in San Francisco and even though the first version of our API and SDK is still being developed and updated, a small group of developers built applications around ideas in 24 hours that we hadn’t considered before!

For example, a team of three developers integrated the live stream video with a facial recognition system which measures engagement level of attendees in a meeting or webinar based on facial expressions, whether attendees are watching enthusiastically or falling sleep and it is time to wake them up. Another team integrated a screen capture feature to post a handwritten note to the whiteboard by using camera without a need to upload it. Another team worked on a TA Assistant chat bot. Yet another team worked on creating an easy way to connect to an expert on a website without the need to have an account or login. Other teams worked on user design approaches, unique voice-to-text integrations, and more.

The level of innovation and passion to come up with new ideas was phenomenal, and it all happened because the platform enables creating meetings for free.

Studies show that when our tasks and expected deliverable are well-defined, working remotely or from home can be effective when uninterrupted. On the other side, when a task involves creativity and innovation, we need to collaborate and interact with peers, to form and grow ideas. A free, flexible, and adaptable human-to-human environment is enabling both scenarios: allowing remote employees to focus and connect when needed, or being in a collaborative environment to participate in discussions and projects, from anywhere.

As it is said, it is not about B2C or B2B anymore, it is about H2H, Human-to-Human.

 

Agilitrix: How to align the culture of company to succeed

As a business owner or manager, you ask yourself, how we do things around here to succeed? It is a question of corporate culture, how we work together to achieve our goal.

Agilitrix model (based on The Reengineering Alternative book by Willian Schenider tries to answer that by looking at type of the products and services you are trying to build, and type of company being created based on that.

The model, as shown below, considers 4 types of answers to the above question:

  • We succeed by getting and keeping control
  • We succeed by working together
  • We succeed by being the best
  • We succeed by growing people who fulfill our vision

 

You can guess a few of examples for each of the above four types. For instance, most likely when you are in security business, having control over what needs to be done, having processes, predictability and standards are carrying a heavy weight (therefore it forms culture of the company around having control). It is vs. a usecase which teamwork, relying on trust and affiliation plays a more important role (A good example is a design company). Collaboration plays a central work in the later usecase.

As model shows, the above four questions leads to four types of culture:

  • Control
  • Collaboration
  • Competence
  • Cultivation

The two axis of an organization being People- Oriented toward Company-Oriented, and the y axis of being Reality-Oriented toward Possibility Oriented, can help to see where your company, or a team inside the company fits.

The important item is that no company or team purely falls under one of those tiles. For instance, if you are running a R&D team which assigned a task of coming up with a breakthrough innovation solution, you culture probably falls in the Collaboration and Cultivation tiles. You need to encourage team work and let your team evolve in the process to fulfill your vision. At the same time, you need some sorts of efficiency and predictability (no one can afford to continue a research project for ever and something must be achieved at the end. The point is how a cloud visualizing weight of those parameters in the model will be formed. The below chart shows it for a R&D team:

Gather your team in the room, give them post-its, and ask each one to name top 3 items they think is important for their project to succeed, and place them on the model. You will see how your team thinks about the suitable culture to be successful and how the cloud will be formed!

Cloud Platforms: Innovation Enablers

Background:

  1. Innovation is not only about new ideas, but to validate them, find which one works and which one doesn’t, as fast as possible
  2. When it comes to innovation, mortality rate is high. Taking start ups experience, in average 9 in every 10 new start up fail.  The question of what  is the best idea is an important one to answer.
  3. Therefore, faster a business can try and validate the new ideas, it becomes better at innovation. Take apps as an example: If a business can try 2 new app ideas every month,  in a year, it can try 24 ideas, and stick to 1 or 2 that proved useful. Comparing to building one app every 3 or 6 months. It is called Sustainable Business Innovation

When it comes to try new ideas faster, the first word comes to mind is agility. Nowadays, necessity of being lean, adopting agile methodology and having short iterations are common knowledge, however businesses need the necessary tools to implement it, and it is beyond replacing traditional project management tools with the new generation of team collaboration tools.

One of the areas that is crucial to release the new software, is the infrastructure to support it. Traditionally, IT department has been responsible to create and maintain the servers to run the business applications, from hardware to supporting applications, OS, data services, etc.

In recent years, a series of SaaS services (software-as-a-Service), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and  and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) has been introduced to the market by the big players: The famous examples are salesforce.com (SaaS, PaaS), Microsoft Azure (PaaS),  Google (SaaS, PaaS, IaaS), Amazon Web Services (IaaS), and also with some other smaller companies such as RighScale (IaaS),ProofPoint (SaaS, IaaS).

The good news is that, a new generation of services are being introduced that by combining development work and operation (DevOps) on top of existing cloud platforms, they make it even easier to adopt cloud services. The two examples are Pivotal CloudFoundry and AppDirect.  CloudFoundry allows to set provision the infrastructure and necessary applications and data services in hours instead of months, and let the teams to deploy and release new versions of their software almost instantly, move from dev or test environment quickly, scale automatically, etc. therefore empowers the agile approach. AppDirect is doing it differently, by automating the process of server provisioning, making some necessary items such as identity management and integration with third party service, etc. as a  turn-key solution, therefore allow businesses to offer their new services and ideas to their target market very quickly and validate them.

The above services, allow the teams to dramatically fast track process of creating, deploying and maintaining new software and extend agility beyond development teams.

Understanding the power of cloud and services on top of that, and how adopt them in the process, is not only a task for CTOs anymore, it is a must for any business owner or executive who needs to innovate, introduce new products and services.

Is it time for Mobile CMS?

If you want to make a mobile app for your business, the first option that comes to mind is to hire a team (internally or externally)  to design, develop and deploy your app. And it needs to be done on all platforms:

  • iOS and Android: definitely
  • Blackberry and Windows: maybe
  • HTML5 (Mobile Web Responsive): Nice to have

However, going through the above process is costly, time consuming and risky. Making follow up updates, bug fixes and adding features is not easy or fast to do. In response to the above challenges, other options have been introduced: One of them is Mobile Application Development Platforms (a.k.a MDAP). Those platforms help you to fast track the development by providing a set of tools and libraries. At least, in some areas, you won’t need to re-invent the wheel however it still needs development, making the app for each platform, etc.

The third option which can be appealing for some usecases is to use a Design Platform. A design platform, similar to Web Content Management Systems, allows a user to use a visual tool, and by using per-defiend templates, drag-n-drop and point-n-clicks.

The latest option can create the apps for various platforms with one click, however,  like any other platform, it comes with its own limitations.

The chart below summarizes the respective characteristics and rating for each scenario :

The above charts shows, for the usecases that trying new ideas with limited functionality in the shortest time matter, use of Design Platforms is a good option. If a very complex app, with a sophisticated User Experience is needed, a custom development is a better option. MDAP falls somewhere in between.

Above ratings are based on responsiveness to a new requirement including the time, effort and cost to deliver or change an App. The higher the rating and appeal of the other criteria, the better the solution.

Note: The criteria or ratings are NOT based on a specific scientific approach or methodology. It is a guideline on what parameters to consider when selecting on how to make a new mobile app. It also provides an estimation on each parameters and pros and cons for each approach per criteria.

Original document for this post can be found here.

BYOD-X-Curve

As adoption of mobile in the enterprise is growing, the question of who should be able to use their mobile phones at work, for what data and area remains a challenge for both business managers and IT departments.

Also the question of whether using a Mobile Device Management solutions is necessary or not, is another important question to be answered as it drives the cost, usage and how to integrate mobile into the business processes.

The BYOD-X-Curve is a framework which helps to understand the landscape of tuning devices into a corporate device, and come up with a series of questions to make a decision on how to adopt BYOD.

As seen in the below image, answering the Device Policy is a parameter of Security Policy in the organization:

 

Based on the data and the organization, data might fall under Security Compliance or not, when there is no concern over security of data (or it is low concern), usually there is no compliance to be applied to the data, therefore, concern for employees to bring their device to work remains low. If data is considered confidential or needs to be secured, adoption of BYOD becomes more important until at some point, the device that users use, needs to be considered a Corporate Liable Device (vs. personal or Corporate Open Device). The BYOD-X-Curve suggests that use of MDM is directly related to Security Compliance of the organization.

The examples in the framework also shows sensitivity of the data is independent from channel or platform that data is generated or used. For example, even though Facebook is considered an open social network, if a business uses it for advertisement, the information regarding ads, various campaigns, their performance, etc. might (or might not) falls under data security policy. If usually marketing department can decide on  who has access to such data, and such access doesn’t need to be tracked, monitored, etc., then probably managing such campaigns from a personal or open device is ok.

Disclaimer: BYOD-X-Curve is only a framework to provide a guideline on how to think about adoption of MDM solutions. In order to make a decision about it, based on content, use case, organization, data types, etc. the necessity of adopting a MDM solution or BYOD policy needs to be reviewed and analyzed  case-by-case.

The BYOD-X-Curve was presented at Ontario Centers of Excellence Conference, May 2013, Toronto

Licensed under Creative Commons, 2013, (c) Silverberry Group Inc.