What do you call an employee of a large, multiple-location company who is great at their job, whom everyone knows, and whom – because they just happen to be at the right place at the right time – gets a load of new responsibilities dumped on them without any extra pay?
A victim of “desperate times, desperate measures?”
A grumbly worker?
While all of these may be right, there is one more possibility – Videoconference Site Coordinator (SC).
The SC is part greeter, part scheduler, part concierge, part technician, and part “go-fer.” She is the first person that a videoconference participant meets and the first person they call when they need anything. The SC is the critical link between the participant, the people and technology that make their meeting-at-a-distance possible.
The Site Coordinator:
- maintains the schedule for one or more videoconference rooms (including non-VC uses, too).
- knows enough about the equipment and technology in the VC room to operate it and to resolve basic technical issues.
- has a “client facing” demeanor.
- is part of a distributed team who is there to serve the client.
So, who is this person? What kind of person usually fills this role?
In most cases, they are existing employees with a lot on their plate, already; and frequently an administrative or executive assistant whose job description did not include any of these tasks. The SC responsibilities tend to be something that they didn’t “sign up for.” Their reaction to the new burden varies between, “Geez – this is just what I needed!” to, “Man! This is some pretty cool stuff. I love it!”
When I worked at Texas A&M University’s videoconference network (TTVN) a large part of my early work was the installation of new videoconference systems in remote areas of the state. Preparatory work that went on prior to my arrival identified three people who would be the SC, the Site Technician and the Administrative Contact. By the time I arrived, these folks had been tagged with these new responsibilities. Their reactions varied between the two extremes above, and they were not shy about letting me know where they fell on that spectrum!
I traveled to one of the remote Agricultural Extension Service offices to install a new VC system and met Karen. She was an administrative assistant, had the new SC responsibilities dumped on her, and was wondering just what this would mean for her. How much additional work would it be? How much training would she have to go through? She was unsure.
The great thing about Karen was her intrepid spirit! She wanted to learn new things and was interested in this cool technology that brought a whole new world to the office. In fact, she was so interested that while I was there installing the equipment, she would come by to hang out with me to learn how it all worked. In fact, she was so into the technology that, although there was another person named for it, she became the de facto Technical Contact because she had an aptitude for it and wanted to be more involved. What a great find! She was one of the most able technicians I worked with.
Official Duties of The Site Coordinator
- Scheduler. The SC is part of a distributed team of SCs across the organization. They work together to schedule VC rooms for use. Exactly how scheduling is done varies greatly from pencil-and-paper, to enterprise-wide calendars, to specialized scheduling applications.
- Greeter. Inasmuch as the SC is usually the first person that a VC participant meets when they arrive, they are the most significant client facing role. They greet, they give directions, and then make sure that the participants have everything that they need, including office supplies and food service. They assure that the VC system is working and show them how to call for help.
- Concierge. Oftentimes a VC participant will have traveled some distance to be there, is not familiar with the territory and will need some guidance. The SC is knowledgeable about restaurants, convenience stores, and other services available in the area.
- Troubleshooter. The SC is often responsible for dialing or answering the video call for the participants. Since the vast majority of problems that arise with a VC connection happen at the start, the SC should be able to handle the most common issues (“I can’t hear the other side.” “The screen doesn’t come on.” “I cannot see my PowerPoint presentation.”)
- Go-fer. By the time that the participant’s connection is up and running, the SC is often the only local staff person that they have met. It is common for the participant to contact the SC for a variety of assistance during their connection.
The first task, scheduling room use, can be a huge challenge as it deals with room “ownership” (as in, the attorney or executive whose office is closest to the conference room feels like he or she has dibs on it at all times), varying priorities for room use (Will a technical staff VC be “bumped” when a doctor wants to use the room at the same time for another VC? Will the doctor need to go to a different VC room, instead?), and so on.
The SC has to juggle local scheduling issues along with communication to the other SCs when the local changes have an impact on the other SCs’ rooms (as in, “Site A was going to connect with sites B, C, and D. But site D is now unavailable, and site E must be used, instead.” The SCs for all these rooms need to be notified of the change.) This is why the SCs are a distributed work team. And as a distributed work team they should have regular communication, meetings, planning sessions, etc. just as any other work team would. The great thing about this is that they are bound together by a technology that makes collaboration across distances easy. That is, SCs should have regular meetings with one another, using the VC technology that they have at their disposal. The not-so-great thing is that although this seems like an obvious thing to do – I find that it is rarely done. Or, at least, rarely done in a consistent way.
In the same way that a GREAT administrative assistant is a huge asset, so is a GREAT Site Coordinator, and the program which supports them in their role.
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