During recent interviews with Computerworld Malaysia, MYREN program manager Liana Jacinta Jaganathan said the Malaysian educational research network has already realised faster decision-making and increased productivity from implementing Polycom's HD telepresence video and conferencing solution, which was initially chosen to help enhance its e-learning programmes.
Polycom Asia Pacific's director, education industry solutions & market development, Lynette Whitfield, outlines some of the challenges during the rollout and points to the company's plans in the region.
Photo - Liana Jacinta Jaganathan, MYREN Program Manager
What challenges were you facing that led to the need for the Polycom solution and what are some of the main short term and expected long term benefits from this implementation?
As MYREN is a dedicated research network, the organisation requires extensive communication among its members and with other Research and Education Networks (RENs). As a geographically dispersed group, this can make effective collaboration a challenge. It is also highly technical given its diverse platform and the volume of information exchanged, making regular discussion crucial in meeting its goals in the research and education space.
In an effort to enhance collaboration among its educational network and extend e-learning programmes, while also improving network performance and lowering latency, MYREN deployed the Polycom RealPresence Platform - the software infrastructure that powers Polycom's HD telepresence and video solutions at its main headquarters in Kuala Lumpur and in outposts across Malaysia.
While initially implemented to address IT issues, the system was soon recognised as a tool for e-learning programmes, facilitating closer collaboration among the participants as they take part in consultations and course discussions. The technology enables us to provide a flaw-free infrastructure to our members, helping them to deliver their promises in the field of research and education.
We also had a very positive response from the institutions that have reported an increase in demand for the broadcast of live lectures and other e-learning facilities. For example, the MYREN network now also serves as a host of the fortnightly live lectures conducted by University Malaya and Kyushu University in Japan and used for streaming courses by the Internet Education and Research Laboratory (InterLab), Thailand and UNESCO.
In addition, we've increased the participation rate for our Amanat Ketua Pengarah meetings with community colleges and the Ministry of Education ten-fold, enabling nearly all senior managers and directors to attend.
In summary, the benefits provided by Polycom include more effective collaboration, an improvement in response time to fault resolution by 50 percent and a significant increase in productivity as a result of on-the-job training for the technicians.
Could you provide some highlights of your project management journey: for instance how you selected the 'right solution' as well as the post-implementation steps?
The idea for this first came about in 2009, when we decided to upgrade our video collaboration system along with our network infrastructure. What started out as an initiative to address IT issues was soon recognised as a valuable tool for fostering closer collaboration between students and facilitators.
As such, following tests and evaluations of leading competitive solutions in the collaborative space, MYREN decided to choose Polycom's RealPresence Platform as it has supported a far more collaborative experience compared to the rest. In addition, Polycom was also able to deliver HD voice, video and content sharing capabilities to conference rooms and meeting spaces, which helped us a great deal in terms of enhancing interactions and connecting with dispersed members. The entire process from the initial conceptualisation to implementation took about a year, and the solutions were officially executed in 2010.
It's been two years since, and with the success of the initiative, we have also decided to expand our partnership programme to increase our reach regionally. The implementation might have been successfully executed within a year, but maintenance is a continuous process that involves regular trainings whenever the solutions receive updates or when new members come onboard.
How do you feel the workflow has changed in the organisation?
Prior to using Polycom's solutions, there was hardly any usage of video conferencing at MYREN, except for one-on-one meetings. Adoption only picked up after we implemented the RealPresence platform, as it offered more features than traditional video conferencing, and was a lot easier to use and integrate with our current network infrastructure.
The initial benefit gleaned was a faster decision-making process and increased productivity, especially within our technical team. However, a key long-term value for MYREN is the competitive edge we now have in terms of increased accessibility for both our members and stakeholders.
Did you need to smooth the cultural/behavioural changes among staff, partners and other stakeholders; and what were their reactions?
MYREN employees are already well-trained in video conferencing; hence there were no major issues in getting them adapted.
However, it was a different case for our stakeholders, who were mostly unfamiliar with the solutions. As such, training was provided at their respective Points of Presence as soon as the platform was implemented, in order to speed up the adoption process. In time, as they got more accustomed to the platform, we also encouraged them to be active advocates of collaborative solutions by making use of them during meetings and events to showcase the capability of the solution.
The overall response from our members has been extremely positive and the technology has been well received. We plan to expand their distance- learning partnership programmes by leveraging on the network to add more lectures and consultations as part of their long-term strategy starting from 2012. Improved efficiency within the network has led to extending education outside the walls of the classrooms and involving more members to participate. We are planning to implement more projects to improve communications worldwide turning the capabilities of a collaborative network to reality. In addition, more research and education institutions are slated to join the network this year, including two teaching hospitals, four community colleges and three polytechnics.
In addition, no customisation or localisation of the solution was needed.
What is your advice to other organisations that are considering a similar move?
i. Deliberate the actual need for the implementation
A collaborative platform isn't limited to a single purpose, and can usually be tailored to various requirements, so it's important to consider all aspects of your operations that would require the use of video conferencing solutions so as to maximise ROIs [returns on investment].
ii. Make sure your network, systems and rooms are ready
It is vital to evaluate the technical aspects of your existing infrastructure to ensure that the solutions you are about to invest in perform at their best. For instance, for a HD solution to show its true capabilities, it is important to have in place a stable network with optimal bandwidth to handle the traffic generated.
iii. Identify video conferencing champions
The first step when building a company-wide video collaboration culture is to identify champions within the organisation. They do not have to be IT or video conferencing specialists per se, but simply a group of management staff who would be able to "walk the walk and talk the talk". This will in turn boost adoption and utilisation rates.
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