A Good Manager:

May 27, 2008 by Ben Sayers

To preface this, the intended audience may or may not be in the VoIP industry, they may work for VoIP Supply or somewhere else, they may even be the owner of their own business. This commentary is stream of consciousness and written to reflect on experiences during the week at my company that I hope will be of use to others in some manner. Your comments, positive or negative, are always more than welcome and highly encouraged as I too love to see things from someone else’s perspective in effort to always being improving.

At VoIP Supply, we have some excellence within our management team. We also have ways to improve and provide a greater leadership experience to our staff. Some things that our management staff can, should, and generally do exhibit include (though we can all get even better at):

1) Proper delivery of expectations: Staff needs to know what is expected of them in clear and concise terms, preferably written and reviewed in a timely manner. Ongoing support and coaching to ensure that once delivered, the understanding of the expectations are indeed well known and execution is a simple and easily followed path, are necessary from start to finish but not necessarily in a micro-managed fashion.

2) Follow through on delegation, to get what you inspect, not what you expect: Getting work off your plate is only of value if the results are what you expect and are of value to you such that the work does not need to be redone, finished off, or worse–a complete failure. With regards to delegation of work, you will always get the results expected if you inspect the work prior to completion of the task.

3) Providing just the right amount of rope (not a noose): A truly good manager hires people capable of exceeding expectations and providing enough value that the manager themselves can be promoted and backfill their position with a solid replacement. To do so is to encourage self sufficiency, creativity and opportunity to succeed above and beyond their predefined tasks. Letting staff loose to show their talents and help build the business (should they be motivated to work above and beyond their minimal job description) is critical in developing a team of truly valuable assets. Coach, mentor and follow up with them to ensure that they have not been setup to fail or allowed to wander too far without supervision.

4) Proper message delivery and moderated use of tone: Each team member is different, reacts differently and interprets the manager’s guidance and directives differently. Being sure to deliver the message, positive or negative, in the right medium and with the right tone, is important when hoping to motivate the team rather than threaten them, devalue their work, or create fear of failure and its consequences.

5) Accountability relative to expectations delivered: While I am proponent of positivity, patience and understanding of circumstances beyond the control of the staff member that has been given a particular project or task, holding them accountable remains a necessity. If a task is delivered and accepted, the accepting member of your team must be held accountable for completion of it or communication of its pending incomplete status, reasons for its status and a plan for completion within an adjusted timeframe.

6) Encourage and promote positive two way communications: One of the greatest points of failure in any business is within the internal communications between staff and between departments. It is the responsibility of the management to demonstrate the value and process of effective two way communications, leading by example, coaching and promoting it, rewarding it and ensuring that the team is doing their part within the company.

7) Setting goals and defined points of re-evaluation: Along the same line as setting expectations, the management should be setting goals for celebration of the success of the department. Considering the expectations to be the minimum levels of achievement for the department and the goals are just that, the goals. Sometimes goals are missed and that’s ok, you still have something to shoot for and feel exceptional about achieving. When goals are set too high or unplanned circumstances occur making goal achievement impossible, management needs to set points to re-evaluate those goals and maintain realistic levels so-as to ensure that the goal is not completely unrealistic and therefore not worth striving for.

8.) Leading by example: This one more or less goes without saying, but a good manager needs to lead by example and overachieve those working for them. This should not be confused with squashing the efforts of the staff to ensure that managers continue to look good by preventing others from succeeding. The right thing to do in the situation of a superstar knocking it out of the park is to let them pass and be proud that you groomed such a valuable asset to the company.

9) Understanding the big picture and providing visibility into it: When delegating tasks, assigning team members to a project, critiquing their work, dismissing their suggestions and explaining results and expectations, it is important that the manager understands the overall direction of the company, how their department fits that picture and how the staff fits into the overall big picture of the company. Some are comfortable repeating the same task over and over again while others have ideas and suggestions for improvements. While the suggestions may well be valid and good ideas, they may not fit with the current needs and direction of the company. It is important that ideas and suggestions are not merely dismissed, but shown that the reason for dismissal or non-implementation is that it may not fit the current needs and direction of the company. Thank them for their independent thoughts and suggestions, encourage more of it and educate them on where they should focus their attention relative to additional ideas.

Employees Teaching Themselves…

May 23, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Phil Laurenzi, a VoIP Supply colleague, recently wrote a great blog for our sister company’s blog: www.voipsupply.com/ip-cameras.  Just wanted to post a shout to it, because it has some great ideas on management, and having your associates learn about products by having THEM teach! Here’s an excerpt:

Studies show that the retention of new material increases beyond the archaic lecture. Here at IPCS and VoIP Supply, associates are encouraged and rewarded for “presenting a lesson” to their peers. Teaching others…

…For those of you categorized as a VAR in our economy, why not challenge your associates to read-up on PBXs, switches, routers, IP cameras or WI-FI and have them demonstrate skills and subject mastery by having them instruct their peers? I think you may be surprised by the results and the acquisition of a product specialist.

For more check out:

http://blog.ipcamerasupply.com/management/product-specialist-teaching-and-grooming-101

Product Specialist Teaching and Grooming-101

I remember when I used to teach Social Studies, specifically while I was student teaching, a student would come up to me and ask me a question to which I had no idea what the answer was. If this happened in front of the whole class, this could be a source of embarrassment. If it was in front of the class and the principal (who dropped by to observe you) heard you fumbling for the answer…LOOK OUT!

Now, that being said, management of the classroom involves several tricks. Ask any teacher and they’ll tell you that you have to know your content, but also have excellent “stage presence”. Stay on your toes and be prepared for anything.

When a student came up to me and politely asked, “Mr. L, how did the Versailles Treaty affect Germany after WWI?” I paused for about two seconds and just fired out….

I don’t know Jaime, you tell me…”

Another great moment is “Mr. L, how did American Patriots use the writings of Voltaire and Locke to influence the growing tide of anti-British sentiments and thoughts of independence?” My reply was not by the writing of treatises, colonial legislatures and town hall meetings; my answer was to the class as a whole…

“Who knows the answer to Tabitha’s question?”

What happened here? Well, students will surprise you with how much they do know, and Jamie answered the question himself. Another student answered Tabitha’s question and essentially taught the lesson for me.

Well, that is pretty lackadaisical on your behalf, Laurenzi! What kind of teacher are you anyway?”

My purpose for bringing this anecdote to life is simply to ask if you as a principal and stakeholder at your company are satisfied with the results of on-going training you expect your employees to implement and execute for the betterment of the company. Does the thought of listening to me lecture you on something I know a lot about horrify you? It horrifies me to stand up there for 45 minutes talking until I’m blue in the face, too.

Have you ever seen this?

Learning pyramid

That’s right. Studies show that the retention of new material increases beyond the archaic lecture. Here at IPCS and VoIP Supply, associates are encouraged and rewarded for “presenting a lesson” to their peers. Teaching others.

This does not guarantee that the learner will retain what the associate taught. But it will bear another fruit. By having an associate assume the role of instructor, you will now have a master of a certain subject at your disposal. This associate will now become the go-to, de facto, uber-source of information, data and resources on a given subject.

For those of you categorized as a VAR in our economy, why not challenge your associates to read-up on PBXs, switches, routers, IP cameras or WI-FI and have them demonstrate skills and subject mastery by having them instruct their peers? I think you may be surprised by the results and the acquisition of a product specialist.

For more on the effects of the learning pyramid at any level of instruction, click here:

http://politicalcalculations.blogspot.com/2008/03/descending-learning-pyramid.html

If you have any questions on lesson planning, “tricks of the educator,” or want to talk about the direction of corporate instruction at your company and what has been successful and what has not, please write me a e-mail at [email protected].

IPCS Word of the Day: F

F = In optics, the f-number (sometimes called focal ratio, f-ratio, or relative aperture) of an optical system expresses the diameter of the entrance pupil in terms of the effective focal length of the lens; in simpler terms, the f-number is the focal length divided by the aperture diameter. It is a dimensionless number that is a quantitative measure of lens speed, an important concept in photography. Depth of field increases with f-number, as illustrated in the photos below:

f-stop

Voice Calling and Social Dynamics

An Andy Abramson post pointed me to a piece done by Jeff Belk. The overall premise of the piece was that voice carriers (cell, landline) need to stop focusing on marketing “cheap minutes” that are difficult to use or “expensive minutes” that are easy to use and unlimited SMS plans and shift their focus to making voice calls easier for users, so that calling can once again reclaim the spot of preferred method of communication.

I agree with his positioning and the advice he gives to carriers, however I think that the carriers are fighting an uphill battle here.

When I was going to college to be teacher, we learned a lot about social development of students and the effects of social conditioning. I am not going to bore you with the scientific details, but essentially much of who we are, how we act and what we become is because of “nurture” or the effects of social conditioning. We learn from and take queues from our peers and those that surround use.

(more…)

Join VoIP Supply’s Social Media Revolution

Yes! You can find us on Facebook and Twitter!

We recognize that social media has a huge impact on how we communicate with our customers and those curious about the VoIP industry. We feel that we can facilitate better connections by not just having a website and traditional news sources, but that we can take a proactive approach to reaching out to the community. Our pages will be great for education and directly connecting with the voip world.

See you there!

VoIP Market’s Identity Crisis

May 22, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Up or Down? What’s it going to be?

VoIP market growing in cable sector, yet shows downturn in first quarter subscription lines

Being in VoIP marketing, I read a LOT about the VoIP industry during the day.  One of the things that confuses me is how more households can be utilizing VoIP lines (particularly through cable providers), yet the market seems to claim that VoIP subscriber line orders are shrinking.

I, for one, am confused.  How can an industry growing in homes and businesses across the country be shrinking? Seems kind of contradictory to me.

First, the bad news.

JR over at iLocus wrote a post on May 20, saying that the VoIP subscriber lines market shrank 19 percent in the first quarter.  The post stated:

In 1Q08, vendors shipped a total of about 7.9 million VoIP Subscriber Feature Server licenses for deployment in service provider networks generating $144 million in revenue. The number of lines is down by 19% Q-o-Q. The 3Q07 and 4Q07 quarters however were unusually high growth quarters for VoIP Subscriber Feature Servers.”

Meanwhile, on a day prior, May 19, Om Malik at GigaOm produced a post on VoIP booming in the U.S. thanks to cable service providers like Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Cablevision and Charter.

Despite all the troubles with VoIP service providers such as SunRocket and Vonage, VoIP as a technology seems to be doing quite well in the U.S., according to data from Telegeography. As of the end of March, there were 16.3 million consumer VoIP lines, or about 13.8 percent of U.S. households, and 27 percent of households with broadband lines installed.”

Most of the new customers are coming from RBOC’s (At&T, Verizon and Qwest), with that industry losing 17.3 million residential telephone lines, and VoIP service providers gaining 14.4 million new customers.  According to Om’s post, nearly 80 percent have come from cable companies.

So where does this leave the reader or manager inquiring about the industry?  From the way I comprehend it, people are using their current broadband lines to incorporate VoIP, rather than having to buy new lines.  Considering that half of American homes have broadband Internet, new lines are not necessary.

But the good news is that people are jumping onto VoIP, and will have a need for more VoIP systems and services.  The telecom that could is growing in a big way.

Buying an IP Camera-The Final Step

You’re ready to buy!  So what happens now?  So many factors could influence a buying decision of this caliber since the choices for products are endless.  It’s almost like choosing one of three doors and hoping for the best, which would be fine if you were Indiana Jones.  My goal is to have you walking away from this four-part series with the confidence to buy the right product at just the right price point.

Step one:  let’s structure your price point to meet your needs.  If you’re going to make an investment in outdoor surveillance YOU WILL pay more.  Let’s face it, materials and accessories are one surefire way to bulk up your order total.  With an approximately 25 percent price difference, a several thousand dollar outdoor setup can be substantially more than your indoor-based IP solution.  We’re not talking about Bazooka Joe bubble gum here, IP surveillance is a big ticket investment.

With that out the way let’s structure an indoor surveillance solution and you can figure accordingly for the outdoor upgrade.  To get started we’re going to line up three choices with similar functions across the board and rank them by monetary value:

Under $100 – Panasonic BL-C1A Home IP Network Camera 10X Zoom

Weighing in at just under $100, this Panasonic delivers the most basic yet reliable setup.  It’s ideal for any home office or small storefront.  

Under $300 -Q-See QSIPBL2 Ball IP Network Camera

Another ideal desktop or shelf top solution, this Q-see delivers a little more bang for the buck and includes a built-in web server.  You can now access your view from any computer around.

Under $500 – TRENDnet TV-IP400W – Wireless Advanced Pan & Tilt Internet Camera Server

The heavyweight of affordable technology, this TRENDnet is ideal for shelf and small area space.  It has wireless access and a built in server, so you can send images via Wi-Fi to your server or access the camera itself from any desktop you sit at.

 

DECT vs. Wi-Fi Death Match…Who Will Be Victorious?

Today I am talking about DECT and Wi-Fi Technologies, and who I think will win out in the end in an endless battle for supremacy. This idea came about after reading a VoIP-News.com article (SNOM Brings m3 DECT Phone to U.S.). The article shows that DECT is a technology that has worked well in the European market, and that it is just now starting to hit the U.S.

DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) uses base stations and SIP (Session Initiated Protocol) to connect to your VoIP PBX. Think of it this way; your cordless phone at home has a similar base station to charge and receive signals to talk to your old analog phone lines. The technology works pretty much the same way, but instead of an analog signal it’s using digital to talk to a VoIP phone system. Pretty easy to understand that way. Now, expand on that thought and think about multiple phones on one base station. That is what this technology is giving the digital world.

Then there is Wi-Fi. Good ol’ Wi-Fi. What isn’t there to love about wireless signals that can be used to talk to computers, phones, and other goodies?  With Wireless VoIP technology you have an access point, or a “Hot Spot” (like Starbucks) and access to the World Wide Web. That too is pretty easy to understand.

Now that you have a very basic understanding of the concepts that run both DECT and Wi-Fi you should also understand the cons of such technology.

DECT runs on 1880 MHz-1900 MHz to where as Wi-Fi runs on 2.4 GHz. What does that mean you ask? Well because DECT runs on a different frequency than traditional Wi-Fi, you will get no interference on your cell phone, computer or anything else that needs the Wi-Fi frequency for broadcasting. Also, if you have too many applications on a Wi-Fi network you may start to see a decline in QoS (Quality of Service) on some or all of the products on your Wi-Fi network. (WINNER = DECT)

And there is also battery life to consider. DECT, because of its lower frequency and better batteries has an amazing life. To where as Wi-Fi Phones do not. For example, Spectralink Kirk DECT phones have a 20-hour talk time and a 200-hour standby time. That’s right; there is no typo in what I just wrote. Or you can go with Wi-Fi and have (if you’re lucky) a three-hour talk time and a 50-hour standby time. And that is with the Linksys WIP 330 to which is one of the better phones on the market. (WINNER = DECT)

To wrap this up we need to look at access points and the base stations. These are the backbone of any network, and these are how the units get the information needed to communicate to an IP PBX. Wi-Fi has an easy to set up wireless access point, such as the Linksys Wireless routers. They are cheap, and very easy to setup. Then there is the base station for the DECT phones. Not as easy to setup, but still pretty simple; I would estimate about double the amount of time taken with Wi-Fi access point will be taken on the base station, and also they are not as cheap.

A typical Wi-Fi station setup will cost $69.95 to $165 for a Linksys Wireless router and another $210 for the WIP 330 unit, Total being in the range of $270 to $350.

For a Polycom DECT, setup will cost $344.99 for the Base station (Called Server 500) then another $414.99 for the KIRK 5020 Phone.

Snom has a bundle package available called M3 for $244.99 that comes with one phone and the base station. This can hold up to eight phones on the same base station.

So, if price is your biggest concern then I would call Wi-Fi the winner, if it’s not, and you want a nice system that is reliable, and doesn’t interfere with your current wireless network, then I would say DECT wins. (WINNER= DRAW).