Friday, September 22, 2017

Toilets, Lightbulbs and TelePresence

My primary job is managing the Cisco TelePresence environment but it is never that simple. I think more than any other IT field, we have to work with other non-IT departments and deal with things that are not traditional IT all the time. When things break at work people are going to point at IT or at facilities. If the sink doesn't run, they know who to call and usually call IT for anything else that even remotely smells of technology.

Of course I'm always amazed at the technology behind a flushable toilet and it is astounding how much "technology" is involved with lighting these days.

So when you go into a conference room and push the button to turn the light on you expect the light turns on. When it doesn't you push it again. If it still doesn't work, you pretty much leave and find another room, right? But when you walk in the room and push a button to turn on a video system and ......      do I need to go on?

The truth is after a century we instinctively know there is a relation between the physical utilities like a toilet and a light and "Facilities" but even after a quarter century of use the line is blurred with "technology." Turn it off and then back on works too well for things we do but has no equivalent in anything else. When the blender doesn't work and you unplug it then plug it back it it isn't to "initialize" the blender it is to confirm you plugged it in in the first place. Then you might check another plug but that is to see if maybe the outlet is dead.

Keep pushing that button to power on the TV... just like the elevator button makes the elevator get there faster when you push it more ;)

But really, the things people look to us for help with might be simple for us but so much friction and apprehension is instilled in people that when something doesn't immediately react, doesn't react at all or just goes plain bonkers we don't always know what to do.

We as IT and technology people can always do more and do better to explain and assist.  Edison and Tesla went on big road shows and conducted grand public displays so the public could understand that the little light bulb was going to turn on and should replace their cherished whale oil lamp. The genius inventor of the toilet had a harder time demonstrating so but thankfully that work made our lives less shitty.

So what am I doing about this all?

Instructions. For now.
Getting Started instructions
When you tap the button on the main screen of a Cisco Touch Panel, you get some basic instructions. This screen is explaining the controls on the wall and I give some other helpful this. I'm trying to keep it short and simple. This is only on the main home panel so nothing in here should be needed during a meeting since it it is not nearly as discoverable during a call.

AV Controls help
No matter where you are on the Cisco Touch Panel, there is a little help button in the upper right of the screen (it's a lightbulb here but in real life it's a question mark).
I am using these panels to give the most basic of instructions to users for how to use the controls on the wall to turn screens on or off, select the different modes of the room and change volume levels.
VTC Controls help
While I find the Cisco Touch to be really simple, some people wanted more help. Again, I kept it simple and just the basics.
After reviewing feedback and looking at support tickets I added some of the top issues here and most importantly how to get more help. A single unified service desk to call when they have issues. There are ways I could even add a button to call them, but if the system is broken then that is not a call they can make, right?

This was pretty simple to do. I utilized the Room Integration tools for Cisco endpoints. Ideally they could interface with the butt things on the wall for AV control but that is not an option yet with all of our audio video equipment. So they are just text fields  that I built in the Cisco provided tool and uploaded to every endpoint.

Hopefully they will reduce calls and let people use the rooms faster and easier.

As tie goes on, I will improve these. I will have training and maybe I'll record it. But really I'm going to try to remember that no matter how simple and easy I think it is, It still isn't that magic lever that makes it all go down the drain.

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