The following was originally posted on the Avaya site here.
974 videos, 2,159 subscribers, 272,211 video views – all in just 17 months. Those are the key stats around the Avaya Mentor program, our fast-growing set of how-to YouTube videos for Avaya products that my team and I have been producing.
Last week I had the pleasure of presenting at the semi-annual Technology Services World (TSW) Conference, hosted by theTechnology Services Industry Association (TSIA) on the Avaya Mentor program, which I had also written about last August. This was a conference focused on services transformation and TSIA asked that I talk about how we at Avaya put together this video knowledge base, including challenges we faced. The breakout session was well attended and so I thought I would share this presentation with you here. Below is a YouTube video of me doing the presentation (not at TSW), which I’ve also summarized, along with more success metrics, for those who prefer to read.
As most of you have heard, the best example of using video to share knowledge is the Khan Academy. This non-profit’s website has a free collection of over 4,000 educational YouTube videos, surrounded by curriculum, quizzes, and incentives like points and badges. The topics range from simple addition, which has 1.7 million views, to the French Revolution with 400,000 views.
Khan makes a point of having its contributors avoid a teacher-at-a-whiteboard approach, opting instead for a style that feels like you’re sitting at a table with a tutor, working through the topic on a piece of paper. This better aligns with the many of us for whom learning is a visual experience. Being able to see how to do something taps into something different in the brain than just reading about it. The intuitive simplicity of this approach has allowed the Khan Academy to eclipse MIT’s own online education system with a total of 260 million views.
Another good example is Jove, the Journal of Visualized Experiments, which helps speed up academic research through online video. When an academic team publishes a research paper, they include instructions so that peers can reproduce their experimental results and thus verify the research. Even to experienced lab researchers, understanding exactly what the authors of the research were trying to convey can be difficult, sometimes delaying the peer review process by months. Jove allows them to more easily include videos to demonstrate the procedure.
By this point, I hope you are asking yourself why you aren’t already using video for your knowledge base. Wouldn’t your employees and customers benefit from your company’s own Khan Academy? At Avaya, we found ourselves facing this question in the fall of 2011.
The President of Services challenged those of us in his extended leadership team to make our organization not just be successful in the market, but to be an organization that the analysts would write about. Put another way, it was no longer good enough to be lean and efficient; we needed to take the lead.
Going All In
My proposal was to put together an Avaya version of Khan Academy. We would use video to expand on the company’s existing knowledge-base-focused-support-model. We limited our scope to basic how-to videos designed to help those that install, maintain, and support Avaya products, be they customers, partners, or Avaya employees. These were to be short how-to videos, not anything that would replace the training that Avaya Learning develops.
Like Khan, we would focus on videos that were more live screen capture than talking heads. Additionally, I proposed that unlike Avaya’s existing knowledge base which is only available to our customers with a maintenance agreement, we would make the vast majority of our videos available for free on YouTube. By doing so, search engines like Google would be aware of this content, making it much easier for an engineer to find the answer to an Avaya-related question.
As we got started, getting buy-in from leadership was obviously important. A big part of that was that my team of engineers would need to reprioritize some of our work in order to make time for generating 800 videos in only 9 months. We had great support from Mike Runda, the leader of Avaya Client Services, who gave us the green light to move forward.
The Gear We Got
We evaluated a number of video production software suites and settled on Camtasia Studio. Camtasia gave us great features like the ability to use templates, splice video and audio in, as well as special editing features to highlight or zoom to certain parts of the screen. These licenses ran ~$150. Adding Camtasia required that we upgrade a number of our engineers’ laptops to meet the minimum specs, an upgrade that everyone was excited to have a good reason for.
We also went with a high-quality $80 USB microphone called the Blue Yeti. All in all, that’s about $230 per engineer. We felt it was important to maintain a common look and feel to these videos, so we built a template for Camtasia with legal and branding-approved intros and outros as well as standardizing on things like transitions. Due to our high quality standards, after reviewing the first handful of videos, Avaya’s branding team gave us carte blanche to publish to YouTube without further oversight.
For topic selection, I was lucky to be starting with an amazing team of subject matter experts. Most had no trouble coming up with topics for videos. For those that did get stuck, the engineer would talk with the support engineers to determine the most common repeat scenarios that they encounter and find a way to use these videos to speed up resolution and/or prevent the tickets from being opened in the first place.
As word got out about our videos, we also started receiving requests from internal and external users. We set a limit of 15 minutes for all the videos and encouraged them to be under the 5 minute mark. The length would really depend on the topic, and I would challenge the author of anything over 10 minutes to see if they could break it into more than one smaller video. To give you a feel for our topics, here are six that show off the variety covering hardware, software, different product portfolios, even our own customer-facing tools.
- Setting up the iLO3 Interface on the HP DL360 G7
- How to Setup Avaya Aura Session Manager
- How to reset the System Manager Web Admin Password
- Administering a SIP Trunk in Avaya Aura CM
- How to log in and run reports using the Avaya CMS Supervisor Web feature
- Avaya SAL and the Egress-based Connectivity Model
As the lead for this effort, the most time-consuming part for me was the review and approval process. It was very important to me that we has a very high quality product and thus I personally reviewed each and every one, sending back to the author a list of changes that I wanted to see. The bar was set high and a single review could easily take me half an hour.
To help reduce the number of errors, I would frequently share an updated list of common problems I was encountering. This was important as some had a harder time with the learning curve than others, encountering more than 20 issues per submittal, and multiple submittals of the same video. It is worth noting though that while everyone got much better at it with time; some were submitting perfect videos on day 1 while others never quite got there. Some of my engineers were frustrated with me as they felt the bar was set too high for quality. If I heard any extra noise in the background, or if a transition wasn’t crisp, I’d send it back.
But our users noticed that quality and complimented us on it. I feel it was important to our success. After three months, I delegated the approval process to one of my top engineers, Bhavya Reddy. She was one of the best at producing error-free videos and thus I knew she could maintain our quality. Here’s her video on setting up Avaya Aura Session Manager, which has garnered more than 6,200 views.
After six more months, Bhavya transitioned this role to the company’s formal knowledge management team where it could be better integrated into the other KM processes. This is important as we made sure we always dual-published all YouTube videos to the standard knowledge base by embedding the YouTube video in an article. This helped us ensure that our users could trust that a search ofhttp://support.avaya.com would return everything. The videos that were deemed proprietary were uploaded to an internal server instead of YouTube and published as internal-only articles in the existing knowledgebase.
Getting the Word Out
Building a knowledge base, or any tools, is pointless if you can’t get user adoption. I felt it important to delay the initial announcement until we had the first 100 videos published. I was concerned if someone came to the site and only saw 5 videos, they might never return.
So once we reached 100 videos, I had the President of Services announce the program internally, followed by similar announcements in external communications to our partners and customers. To reinforce this in a more detailed way, I blogged about it on our corporate site wrote as well as created a Twitter account for Avaya Mentor, allowing people to receive tweets when new videos are uploaded.
At last year’s Avaya’s User’s Conference in Boston, myself and others passed out materials to all the customers and partners we met with, be it at the conference center itself, or in a bar later in the evening. The IAUGgroup was actually so impressed with the program that they helped with advertising on all the plasma screens throughout the conference center. We’ve also partnered with the product documentation teams to include references to our program directly in the product documentation.
With 16 months now under our belt, I thought I would share with you some of the measurable success we have had with the program. As I mentioned earlier, we have published nearly 1,000 videos on YouTube which have been watched more than 270,000 times.
While the U.S. provides our largest set of viewers, I’m happy to say that we are in 196 distinct geographies. What our support folks are most excited about is that we’re at 1,100 hours of video viewing per month which equates to about 10 full-time equivalents of people, which we figure equates to at least 3 FTE of labor avoidance.
But perhaps the most interesting metric is that we are seeing significantly more views per article than Avaya’s text-based articles. Now, this is not an apples-to-apples comparison given that we used some of the company’s most knowledgeable resources and posted our content publicly. However, I still think it is clear that video-enabled content is that much more compelling than text alone.
Three Unexpected Benefits
There are many surprising results from the Avaya Mentor project. The most exciting one for me as a manager was the impact to my employees. At first, I had some resistance from some of my engineers. They were not yet convinced of the value of these videos and combined with the steep learning curve and high quality expectations, some folks just weren’t interested. However, after the good press started, with people directly contacting these authors thanking them for their videos, they came around to its value.
I also saw increase in their self-confidence, which is typical after demonstrating how-to do something to others. Having those people publicly thank you helps a ton, too. Our most popular video is actually about setting up an interface on an HP server - it has gotten more than 19,000 views! This video was created because many of our applications are sold with this server and this configuration is important. What we didn’t expect is that non-Avaya people would find it valuable to their usage of the same HP servers. I’ve found our video embedded in a variety of websites out there, having nothing to do with Avaya.
The last surprise was discovering that a business partner pirated a few of our videos and re-uploaded them to YouTube and other sites, touting them as their own. This is something Avaya typically doesn’t care about as our videos tend to be marketing-based. The upside of this is that the message is getting out to more and more people. What makes me nervous is that if we find a problem with a video and need to take it down and re-release it, this partner likely won’t see that and bad information will continue to float around.
We’ve received great feedback from our users of the program. We get these comments on YouTube, Twitter, and via email. Sometimes we get suggestions for new videos to create, product support questions, or just encouraging statements like the ones shown here. As mentioned previously, feedback like this is very encouraging to our engineers.
I want to thank my team who helped make this program a success. We dedicated at least a third of our time for nine months building this program up and it was no small feat. I’m proud to say that Avaya has recognized all of them with well-deserved awards.
Like many of you, I’m a consumer of information. At this point in my life, almost all my information is digital in nature and thus it seems almost all my consumption is on a screen. To help keep my life organized, I’ve adopted the principles of Getting Things Done (GTD), which at this point is all about how I manage my to-do’s via email folders. This worked well for me but as my consumption has moved more and more to Twitter, my system was failing me.
My time on Twitter is mostly in small intense bursts; I don’t have hours blocked out to leisurely view my feed. After half a day, I could be so far behind that tweets would be lost and I would worry (no snickering now) that I was missing some information I would find quite valuable, and this would cause stress, something I couldn’t afford.
As I prepared to close out on our first quarter and prepare for a winter holiday trip, I asked for advice from my social networks and GetPocket (f.k.a. ReadItLater) came highly recommended. This service allows you to save off any URLs to read later. Not only does it save them off but it will cache a copy of the page, allowing you to read the content offline. This made a huge difference for me when consuming Twitter and Facebook content. When I saw something that looked interesting on my phone, I could either email the URL to pocket or copy the URL and paste it manually into the Pocket client. When on a PC, Pocket has a great plugin for Google Chrome that allows you to one-click save a page you are looking at to Pocket.
I was enjoying the service but even after getting the hang of it, I found it cumbersome to get content to Pocket when on my iPhone. However, that all changed when I purchased TweetBot for iOS. This was my first paid Twitter client and I immediately saw the value. Not only did it offer great features for Twitter, but it also had an integration with GetPocket. Now I could save off content with only two taps. Furthermore, the source tweet would be saved with the content, allowing me to remember where this came from. When using the iOS GetPocket app, I can access that original tweet directly, allowing me to retweet, quote, reply, etc.
After two months now, I’m still loving GetPocket and TweetBot. In fact, I’ve learned to use GetPocket for all the reading I do. That way, when I’m done I can mark it read, but it will remain searchable. Days or weeks later, I can easily go back and find an article that I read. I’ve become so dependent on TweetBot that since they have no Windows client, I only do Twitter on my iPhone. When/if I move full-time to Mac, I’ll be sure to purchase their MacOS client.
So, Instapaper is a place to store things you’ll never read?
— Jason Good (@jasonmgood) February 6, 2013
My biggest problem now is that I have 30+ items waiting for me in Pocket, forcing me to be a little more picky about what I really want to read. The last thing I need is another to-do list to feel behind on.
“So long as the three great problems of the century—the degradation of man through pauperism, the corruption of woman through hunger, the crippling of children through lack of light—are unsolved; so long as social asphyxia is possible in any part of the world;—in other words, and with a still wider significance, so long as ignorance and poverty exist on earth, books of the nature of Les Misérables cannot fail to be of use” – Hauteville House, 1862
My wife and I finally broke our no-movie-streak. The last time we saw a movie in the theater (not counting two documentaries at an independent theater) was before our twins were born, over four years ago. With family watching the kids, we went with my sister and brother-in-law to see Les Misérables. I’ve been a Les Mis fan since grade school when I used to listen to the soundtrack every night as I went to sleep. I’d seen a production in Indianapolis as well as on Broadway in NYC. Heck, in show choir, I sang many of the songs as solos for class.
I thought the movie was excellent in a variety of ways. First off, as advertised, allowing the actors to sing the songs as they feel right (instead of recording their audio on a soundstage and then lip-syncing to it on film), really allowed for great acting.
As many of the reviews have already said, the singing was impressive. Hugh Jackman could go toe-to-toe with almost any other voice of Jean Valjean. Anne Hathaway was also quite impressive as Fantine. I was not surprised to learn that Samantha Barks, who played Eponine, got the role because she was Eponine in the 25th Anniversary of Les Mis. She was amazing and I expect this will be a break out roll for her in Hollywood.
While Russell Crowe acted an amazing Javert, exposing a conflicted and internally tormented and unsure man, his singing was subpar. I should say that compared to the average singer, he has a great voice, but this is the Superbowl of singing as far as I’m concerned and his voice just wasn’t up to the task. If this was a George Lucas film, the re-release would include a better singer’s voice dubbed over Russell’s. Russell still deserves a good deal of credit for the way he portrayed Javert. I especially enjoyed how he handled Stars, on top of the roof, when combined with the mirror scene of his suicide.
I heard negative reviews about the very tenor voice of Marius, saying that he came across as not manly enough and thus hard to support. I was definitely feeling the same until he sang Empty Chairs, where upon it became apparent to me that the man can sing a beautiful baritone. Perhaps, instead, this was a conscious decision to show Marius as the young boy he was, becoming more of a man through the death of his friends.
All and all, an engaging story comes to live on the big screen like never before. I was somewhat disappointed to not hear the full score (no Turning or Dog eats Dog, and others were simply truncated), but at a running time of 160 mins, I understand some cuts were necessary. Even still, my fellow movie-goers and I were crying through most of the movie, either because of the plot, or just the joy of seeing our favorite musical in its best form to date.
After years of back problems resulting in physical therapy, I knew I needed to make a change. The biggest problem for me was the 11 hours a day I spend at my desk, hunched over my keyboard. After discussion with my handy wife, a treadmill desk seemed to be the best way forward. And I’m not alone, HBR did a great article on it: Sitting Is the Smoking of Our Generation.
I’ll explain in a bit how we built it, but once in place, I averaged ~6 miles per day, with my best one-day distance being around 11 miles. When on a video conferencing call (which is becoming more and more common), I can’t use the treadmill at all, so I just stand. When on an audio call, I typically walk at about 1.5 miles per hour. Any faster and the noise of the treadmill becomes noticeable to the others on the call. When not on any call, I can walk between 2.0 and 2.5 mph while still being able to type and work.
Not only had this helped me lose 10lbs in the four months, but also my back issues have all but gone away. The best thing about it is that I got all this exercising in without adding any more things to my schedule. 500 miles felt like a big accomplishment and I look forward to seeing how far I can go in 2013. So, if you are at all interested on how mine is setup, keep reading. As my primary care physician said: “Sitting is the new smoking.”
There are many great solutions out there if you are starting from scratch, but we had a treadmill in the basement collecting dust for years and I had recently purchased two new tables. The other oddity, if you will, about my office setup is that I have a lot of screens. I’ve got a Dell 960 with an Nvidia NVS video card, allowing me 4 DVI connections. I use three monitors (the 4th connection is to my Plasma TV), a tablet-style phone from Avaya (The Flare on ADVD), and a MacBookPro. So for me, I was going to need to retain a great deal of desk space.
We brought the treadmill up from the basement and my wife (who is wicked talented with any such project) went to Home Depot to buy a 2×8 board long enough to not only go across the handlebars of the treadmill but also extend beyond it to give me a good deal of space for my wireless keyboard, mouse, and other things. The handlebars on our treadmill, however, tilt down, so she used some brackets and more wood to raise one end up striving for a level shelf. We consulted OSHA diagrams, based on my height, on how high the keyboard should be. The result, not attached, looks like this.
We then used some 4×4 posts and plywood to essentially build cheap tables to go underneath our existing tables and raise them 33”, which was the height we needed in order to get the monitors at the proper viewing height for me (again, via OSHA). Below is the finished project.
Updated based on additional questions I’ve received:
I haven’t gotten motion sick at all reading while walking and I haven’t experience any noticeable increase in eye strain. I used the OSHA guidelines to be sure my eyes were at the right angle and distance to my monitors (although OSHA doesn’t have guidelines for multiple screens, so I just measured to the middle monitor.)