The Power of Digital Mentorship

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User adoption is an ongoing challenge for many companies, especially as new UCC and cloud communication solutions become more available in the workplace. Tactics like top-down modeling of usage best practices and surveys of test groups are often used by business leaders to overcome user adoption obstacles. However, many companies find taking a more engaging and hands-on approach to addressing user buy-in and adoption is more effective in the long run, and implementing a digital mentorship program is one of the most impactful ways they’re doing it.

Digital mentorship involves establishing a culture of learning, refinement and optimization for users of collaboration technologies. For many employees, initial training sessions often aren’t sufficient to achieve their maximum adoption of a new technology tool and sustain its proper utilization over the long term. However, consistent communication on usage best practices, dissemination of user resources, frequent check-ins and feedback sessions are elements of digital mentorship that can help bridge the gap between investing in a new business application and getting employees to utilize it properly. For business leaders, creating a sustainable digital mentorship program can help unleash the potential of crucial applications, improve overall data and application security and serve as an essential touch point for career development.

Unleash Crucial Applications

Many important business applications are underutilized simply because employees aren’t given the proper education. Nurturing a culture of digital mentorship can teach employees how to fully maximize the benefits of crucial applications. Encourage team members to teach each other how to properly find applications, show general tips and tricks for optimal use, and demonstrate company-specific best practices. For example, when implementing new UC software or cloud-based applications, utilize tech-savvy team leaders to spread best practices to the rest of the office and remote workers. This prevents the dilution of important internal processes and acts to disseminate critical application knowledge without resorting to inefficient training meetings.

Security Threats

When employees aren’t given a proper introduction to essential applications, they will resort to “cheater” apps that are more familiar—often at the expense of security protocol. Third-party apps, while they may serve the same purpose as preexisting UCC software, won’t take into consideration industry-specific security protocols. This poses a serious threat to both company information and employee identity.

Use of cheater apps creates a nightmare situation for IT teams trying to implement new applications company-wide. Keeping everyone on the same applications and software maintains high levels of security and prevents breakdown of communication due to software or hardware misusage.

Confidence

Promoting a digital mentorship program arms employees with the confidence to become more self-sufficient and help others develop their skills. In short, it’s a great way to develop a culture of leaders. This is great for encouraging collaboration and a workplace where employees feel valued and supported. When employees feel they are making a direct contribution to an organization, they are more engaged, productive, and happy. Encourage tech-savvy employees to share their knowledge and develop their leadership skills with a sustainable digital mentorship program.

Digital mentorship programs can improve overall collaboration and create a self-sustainable leadership culture that mitigates the need for micromanagement and empowers employees to drive technology adoption organically. This results in adoption of efficient processes, better overall security and a greater sense of fulfillment on the job, which translates to more productive workers. As collaboration and technology continue to play a major role in the workplace, promoting a digital mentorship program can improve nearly every aspect of the employee experience. Learn more by reading this article about how cloud-based phones enhance collaboration.

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Four Questions to Ask When Creating a Collaborative Workplace

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Despite gaining momentum as a focus point for many business leaders in today’s fast-paced, device-driven workplace, the term “collaboration” has become a ubiquitous concept for increasing workplace productivity, efficiency and technology ROI. In previous decades, collaboration might have solely been tied to the in-person meeting – a place where captive teammates could interface and dialogue. But the advent of devices, social media platforms and collaboration technologies has blurred the lines of what constitutes collaboration and how it manifests in the everyday workplace.

Social media platforms promote a culture of sharing, where multiple different perspectives and disparate comments contribute to a single post or group text. Mobile devices empower this paradigm even more by enabling real-time, on-the-go digital interaction. In business, suites like Office 365 and Slack connect teams across the globe with on-demand digital workspaces that can be accessed from any device or smartphone. And tech pioneers like Facebook continue to push the envelope of how to stimulate collaboration in the workplace. The social media giant, for instance, offers extracurricular activities like art classes and woodworking to improve team morale and creativity.

These evolving technologies and mindsets have helped usher in new approaches to collaboration, but the challenge for many business leaders is understanding how these new paradigms can impact the day-to-day of their unique workplace environment. For many companies, turning the ambiguousness of “collaboration” into a process that makes a practical impact on their day-to-day work environment can start by asking four questions.

1. What Does My Team Need?

The first step to understanding what will empower collaboration in any workplace is analyzing the needs and challenges of the employee base. Companies may consider surveying their workforce about what obstacles or inefficiencies are preventing them from carrying out tasks and projects. Following the surveys, leaders will likely gain insight into what workplace adaptations to make and which technologies to consider. Companies should then make a short-list of possible solutions and pilot new technologies and processes with test groups before making full investments.

Evaluating the office setting may also be a starting point for meeting employees’ collaboration requirements. In some cases, adjusting the office space to include an open floor plan or individual huddle rooms may help solve communication breakdowns. Other times, more abstract solutions like changes to company culture or managerial processes might be needed. No matter what teams need, it’s important for leaders to gather actionable data and insight before entering into a cycle of change.

2. How Can I Leverage Facilities to My Advantage?

Companies should consider what’s already available in their current office or workspace, and re-think how to use it. More often than not, office spaces are inherited, challenging teams to make the best use of the space they’re given. By understanding the opportunities and challenges presented by their office layout or design, business leaders can make strategic modifications that empower their teams to work smarter and faster.

For example, a solution to a lack of communication on projects might be to convert conference rooms to “focus rooms” where zeroing in on specific tasks is the goal and use the office’s common areas to hold impromptu team meetings. This counter-intuitive approach to collaboration promotes a culture of flexible interaction by taking away the need for formalized, siloed meetings.

3. How Do I Leverage My Team’s Work Habits and Technology Skills Most Effectively?

Gone are the days of strict nine-to-five office hours. With the huge shift towards BYOD culture and mobile-friendly workplaces, companies should consider how to leverage these trends to shape their workplace around their employees’ technology usage and work habits. A mobile workforce with the ability to take meetings, data and resources anywhere can help promote a healthy culture of collaboration if teams are empowered with the right tools, processes and environments. An example of this empowerment might be to allow in-house teams to work remotely every Friday or turning external areas like rooftops or picnic areas into meeting “rooms” where employees can gather to have obligatory meetings in comfortable settings through the convenience of a device.

4. How Can I Encourage Technology Adoption?

Often the hardest part about investing in new technologies and processes is integrating them into everyday routines. This is where business leaders, executives and managers can play a key role in helping employees learn and adopt new solutions. If IT has installed a cloud communications suite to improve remote meeting quality, executives should actively use the system to promote benefits and best practices. If operations has designed a new communication workflow to streamline project efficiency, business leaders should take time to help employees understand the “why” behind the process change and regularly take feedback on how to fine-tune it during the early stages of adoption. These top-down adoption tactics can be critical to ensuring the effectiveness of new collaboration technology or processes.

The term collaboration might be ambiguous for many decision-makers, but there is no question about its importance in the workplace, especially as new technologies and workforce paradigms take shape. To create a collaborative environment fit for their unique workplace needs, business leaders should consider what their users need to be most efficient and productive, how their facilities can play a role in the collaborative environment, how to leverage employees’ device usage and individual work habits and, most importantly, how to streamline adoption of new solutions and processes by leading by example.

To learn more about how cloud technology is helping some companies in setting up their collaboration environment, read this article.

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Amazon Chime: A New UC Competitor?

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On February 14, Amazon launched their new freemium-based unified communications service, Amazon Chime. Chime is the result of Amazon buying Biba in the fall of 2016. Biba, a WebRTC-powered service, was one of the earlier apps that consolidated audio, video and web conferencing into a single offering. Amazon has a record of disrupting industries, but when it comes to UC, major players like Microsoft, Cisco, and Google make it difficult for any new entrants into the UC space to stand out. Looking at the current market and digging into Chime’s service set may provide hints into whether Amazon’s leap into the UCaaS fray will pay off.

Amazon Chime Features

Per Amazon, Chime delivers “frustration-free online meetings with exceptional audio and video quality.” Going beyond VoIP and video conferencing, Chime offers virtual meetings, chat, and content sharing. Billed “per user, per month”, Chime has three different versions: Chime Basic, Chime Plus, and Chime Pro. Chime’s app is offered on iOS, Android, Windows and Mac, so chats and data will sync across devices. There are limitations, however. Chime doesn’t offer the ability to record meetings or search persistent messages, and Chime Pro costs more than Skype for Business overall. The most important missing feature is that Amazon Chime users can only call other Amazon Chime users who are signed in at the time of the call. Not exactly the most convenient.

Why Is It Different?

Chime runs as an extension of AWS, the world’s largest cloud infrastructure. Amazon hopes to leverage the growing importance of AWS to enterprises by offering Chime as an extension. This provides a hardware-free option for UC that may be enticing to new startups that can’t afford the space or upkeep. This also decreases the learning curve, so everyday integration of Chime is potentially much easier without complex infrastructures to navigate or hardware to meddle with. While AWS dominates IaaS/PaaS markets, Amazon’s previous attempts to crack the SaaS market with products like WorkSpaces, WorkDocs, and WorkMail didn’t make any significant dents. It will be interesting to see how these services integrate with the Chime app or if they will over-complicate the simple, all-in-one-app concept.

Will It Work?

Chime is a logical bridge between the PaaS/IaaS and SaaS markets for AWS, but claiming a meaningful piece of the market isn’t so simple. The free Chime Basic, and the fact that Chime Pro costs more than Skype for Business, suggests that Amazon is content with exploring for now. Additionally, Vonage intends to incorporate Chime into its business UCaaS at no additional cost, showing a focus on leveraging partnerships rather than trying to completely disrupt the market altogether. It seems that Amazon isn’t quite ready for full-fledged investment into enterprise communications, but with their cloud infrastructure prowess and strong customer satisfaction record, Chime could be a viable player in the UCaaS space.

Read more on breaking UCaaS news and updates here.

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What Makes the Ideal Workstation?

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Workstations should be an asset to our professional lives, and creating the ideal workstation doesn’t necessarily require a giant office makeover. Sometimes by making minor adjustments, optimizing any desk space or cubicle for maximum productivity becomes instantly feasible. In fact, equipping your workspace with the proper ergonomics, privacy elements, and ease of access are factors that can be easy to control on a personal level and don’t require huge investments or large amounts of time. However, tailoring a workstation to fit your physical and psychological requirements isn’t always a straightforward task.

To start, consider these three variables when thinking about how to create your ideal workstation:

Ergonomics

Consider the physical challenges, hassles or time sinks of your workstation. Is your desk uncomfortable? Do your arms ache after a few hours typing? Is your mouse too small, cramping your hand? In some cases, making minor physical changes to the layout of your desk or cubicle can have a major impact on your efficiency throughout the day. Perhaps raising the chair an inch or two will prevent typing fatigue. Maybe a different grip on your mouse could mitigate hand cramps. When it comes to optimizing your workstation, find out what makes the most physical sense for your day-to-day needs. Some options might seem silly, but it’s important to take care of your physical comfort, even at a desk job.

Privacy

Sometimes an open desk environment neglects the dire need for privacy. Sure, open office environments are a great way to collaborate with co-workers, but occasionally, alone time is required for innovative thinking and coming up with creative solutions. Try making a “Do Not Disturb” sign for your cubicle or wearing headphones at your desk so that fellow co-workers know when you’re in the zone. If you’re working from home, keep tabs on the external forces that could inhibit your work time and proactively address them. Perhaps move your home office to the quiet basement to better avoid your neighbor’s daily housework, or save work on your most critical projects for the middle of the day when the family is out of the house.

Ease of Access

For the ideal workstation, it’s important to consider the positioning and ease of access to all necessary equipment and personnel. It’s an obnoxious distraction to have to get up and walk across the office for a paper clip, sticky note or to constantly check in on time-sensitive projects or communicate with teammates about tasks. Remote employees may have an advantage in optimizing the convenience of their physical workspace, but even still, if changing the position of your desk or cubicle isn’t possible, it may help to consider how collaboration technologies like Skype, chat or web conferencing can ease the challenges presented by your physical workspace.

Creating the ideal workstation doesn’t have to be a major investment. By making small tweaks to what’s already available, personalizing your work environment to fit your day-to-day needs can be an extremely quick and cost-effective undertaking. To learn more tips on how to maximize productivity and potential without shelling out a fortune, check out this article.

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How Small Organizations Can Use Technology in a Big Way

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Technology advances have made it possible for small businesses to access collaboration and conferencing solutions previously reserved only for big enterprises. With the rise of cloud communications and innovations to traditional tools like audio, video and web conferencing, the hardware costs and hands-on technical support requirements associated with collaboration technologies have dropped dramatically. As a result, robust business communication suites are much easier to manage and more affordable for small businesses to install, maintain and optimize over the long term.

Hancock Regional Hospital

Despite the newfound availability of these solutions, many small businesses are challenged to understand how innovative collaboration technologies can impact their operations on a day-to-day level. Hancock Regional Hospital in Greenfield, Indiana, is one example of a small organization creatively using web meeting technology to increase collaboration and solve meeting attendance issues and inefficiencies.

At Hancock, Dr. Michael Fletcher is a widely recognized physician and medical professional. He’s an MD, MBA, FHM, FACP, Vice President Medical Staff Services and Chief Medical Officer, but one of his biggest sources of professional pride recently is leveraging technology to advance the learning and patient care initiatives at Hancock.

Solving the Commuter Dilemma

One of the challenges Dr. Fletcher faces is collaborating with his staff when they have frenetic schedules and commute 30 minutes or more to the hospital. He meets regularly with his team and works closely with them in order to achieve their goal of ongoing education and providing quality care to patients by improving hospital processes. For a variety of reasons, it is difficult to get his staff members around a table at the same time, and, as a result, there is often low in-person attendance. Similarly, participation via audio conferencing is not as effective for engaging the group and ensuring the education has maximum impact.

The Cure for the Common Meeting

To avoid the common pitfalls of remote meetings and conference call-based training, Dr. Fletcher wanted a way to share audio, on-screen information AND video of the room. He felt it was valuable for participants to emulate live, in-person discussions and knew their engagement levels and absorption of information would increase with a multi-media experience. To accomplish this, Dr. Fletcher needed a reliable web conferencing and video set-up that was easy to set up and manage for all members of his staff.

With a very busy schedule and so many web and video conferencing options on the market, Dr. Fletcher chose to utilize a third-party advisor, Select Communications, to evaluate vendors and determine the best solution. After reviewing requirements, the team at Select recommended GoToMeeting and helped Dr. Fletcher understand the various benefits GoToMeeting offers in relation to his needs. To make the transition as seamless as possible, Select aided in the installation and integration of the system and handled staff training. Dr. Fletcher had a single point of contact for his technology suite and didn’t have to burden his IT staff to make it happen.

Prescription for Success

It didn’t take long for Dr. Fletcher to realize that GoToMeeting had succeeded in solving his challenges – and then some. He felt the web and video conferencing offered a host of immediate benefits:

  • Solved the commuter dilemma by allowing remote participation
  • Resulted in better participation in meetings and more engagement
  • Enabled the staff to attend meetings in between their appointments with patients
  • Proved useful for future needs like collaborating on grand rounds

Other features of the web and video conferencing capabilities are a bonus, such as the ability to launch meetings from any location and to record meetings allowing those who can’t attend to share the experience at a later time. Dr. Fletcher has since expanded his use of GoToMeeting for training sessions and executive functions, and continues to look for ways to employ collaboration and conferencing technology to improve care.

Hear more about Hancock Regional Hospital’s creative use of GoToMeeting in this full interview with Dr. Fletcher.

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