Video Conferencing: A New Twist on an Established Technology

The majority of today’s connected devices, from smartphones to tablets to netbooks, are equipped with embedded video capabilities that make using video convenient and readily available for business and personal use. These progressive devices came to market wrapped in consumer packaging, but quickly made headway in the enterprise as employees began syncing and securing their devices to their company networks. And, according to Gartner industry analysts, the growth in tablets will have a meaningful impact on the video conferencing landscape:

The move toward tablets marks a significant acceleration point for the adoption of softclient solutions, and we would expect that video softclients will be pervasively deployed on all multifunction tablet devices used in the enterprise – whether enterprise supplied or employee-owned.[1]

So, why aren’t we all using video clients installed on our corporate desktops and mobile devices?

Clearing the Hurdles

While professionals may feel comfortable with video chatting on their personal smartphones, delivering that same experience to the business world presents several challenges.

Employees generally can’t bring their tablets to work and connect to colleagues through an unsecured application. Technology adoption in a corporate environment requires strategic planning. In order to implement video conferencing, companies need to develop a compelling business case and find an executive advocate to move the project forward.

IT departments also face a number of questions related to video: What software will the company use? Which devices will support video? Will video conferencing be restricted to communications between employees?

Nemertes Research found that nearly 74 percent of businesses expressed interest in video conferencing systems that work outside of the corporate firewall – a key consideration when collaborating with customers, vendors or partners. And yet only 47 percent have already deployed these systems. [2]

Businesses cite different reasons for proceeding slowly with the launch of video collaboration tools: concerns about bandwidth, complexity associated with developing interoperable solutions, and lack of understanding of the technology.

But if a company has to tighten its travel policy to reduce expenditures or if a disaster prevents employees from coming to work, the benefits of video conferencing will likely become quite evident. With the widespread adoption of the smartphone and tablet enabling video capabilities, the idea of the mobile worker has become more of a reality given the leaps technology has taken over the last five years.

There are three key customer needs service providers must take into account for business video conferencing to reach its full potential: security, simplicity and flexibility. The usefulness of video grows as the number of endpoints or channels users can connect to increases. There is a growing need for users to connect to suppliers, partners, and customers outside their company to improve collaboration while decreasing travel costs.

For example, an electronics manufacturer may want to have regular meetings with a supplier who is working on a key component for a piece of equipment being developed. Or a financial firm may have outsourced programming of an important business application and wants to project manage the effort remotely. These business-to-business and business-to-customer applications won’t happen unless the users are confident they can connect to each other in a secure way.

Along with security, businesses want simplicity. Service providers and equipment manufacturers working together and making the technology easy-to-use is one key reason behind the success of immersive video capabilities like telepresence. With cloud-based applications, users can arrange meetings using their familiar calendar applications and start a meeting just pushing a single button. And they don’t have to worry about adjusting cameras and microphones. Customers want this kind of simplicity with all types of video calling.

Finally, conferencing tools for businesses must be flexible.  Customers should be able to connect from their preferred device fluidly across different networks, whenever they need to. Service providers need to support a broad continuum of endpoints including smartphones, tablets, traditional PCs, desktop video units as well as multi-purpose and immersive room-based systems. Industry cooperation is needed to build “borderless networks” enabling video connections without users worrying about who provides the endpoint connectivity. Equipment manufacturers play a significant role in ensuring the end devices will work together. Service providers, equipment providers and other players are working together in a number of industry forums to bring about this flexibility.

What factors are holding your company back from using video conferencing? Is it time to take another look at the possibilities and its potential to boost productivity?

[1] Gartner, Market Trends: Videoconferencing, Worldwide, 2011, April 28, 2011.
[2] Nemertes Research, Video Conferencing: Beyond the Firewall, August 30, 2011.
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