Video Conferencing (VC) in 2013 - what's changed?
Five major objections to VC examined
Video Conferencing (VC) isn’t a new technology. It’s a topic on which IT leaders have been bombarded with hype for years. So why is 2013 any different? Powerful, scalable yet cost effective networks, the rise of HD, intuitive, affordable new meeting room and desktop video systems are all here now. And with ever rising travel costs, VC has never been more appealing.
For multi-site organisations or those with a dispersed and mobile workforce, a strategic VC solution gives your people the ability to work smarter, collaborate better and travel less – while the business can save money with tangible ROI on travel costs, increase agility and cut their carbon footprint.
Like any technology though, integrating video into your day-to-day business has advantages and disadvantages. Here we list the top five reasons we’ve encountered from IT leaders and our rebuttals:
1. Budgets are still tight and I can’t justify the investment to the CFO
Times are tight and trying to justify the investment in a both new VC system and potentially upgrades to your comms infrastructure may not seem the most appealing. However, investing in the right VC solution can actually give you in-year savings – so can you afford not to?
And these savings don’t even include the intangible benefits such as enhancing your people’s work/life balance, boosting productivity, cutting your carbon footprint and making your business more agile.
To build a dynamite business case for implementing, speak to an expert and with just a few key details about your organisation and scenario (number of sites and staff, number and frequency of meetings, locations etc) and you can quickly calculate an approximate cost savings figure. At Azzurri, we’ve saved ourselves over £270,000 a year on travel costs (or £385 per person per year) by using VC – and that doesn’t even include additional savings such as travel subsistence i.e. overnight hotels stays and meals.
2. I already have an audio and web conferencing system
Distracting back ground noise, awkward silences, inability to identify who is saying what – these are all commonplace occurrences on audio conferences and can mitigate their effectiveness.
While audio conferencing is undoubtedly a quick and easy collaboration tool - it doesn’t offer the same experience as VC and the cost difference is not what you might expect. While they can’t (and shouldn’t) completely replace a face-to-face meeting experience, HD VC solutions do allows users to read nuances and body language, maintain a rapport and easily share content like presentations and documents more effectively than audio and web options.
3. VC traffic will put an extra strain on my network and cause performance and capacity issues
The battle for bandwidth is one of the biggest factors halting the more widespread adoption of VC in the enterprise. A reliable and fast link is needed to allow for good quality visuals and sound.
However, the latest generation of VC systems can scale according to bandwidth availability, while HD is preferable it’s not always essential for the conference. By automatically adjusting picture quality to suit the bandwidth available at that moment, the impact on your network is mitigated.
bandwidth flexibility can ensure your critical applications performance won’t be affected, but equally if your capacity is going unused you allow your VC traffic to flex into the available bandwidth. Despite video compression and dynamic bandwidth management though, you still need to ensure your network infrastructure is appropriately set up to effectively support video communications.
4. I’ve had a VC system before and no one used it
Frustrating experiences of previous generations of VC equipment have lingered long in the memory for some, especially compared the ease of consumer products like Skype. However, the latest generations of HD VC solutions have evolved significantly and are simple to set up, user friendly and require almost no training to use effectively. And with growing consumer acceptance of video communications (like Skype and FaceTime), encouraging staff usage is no longer than barrier it previously might have been.
Not all video conferencing solutions are created equally either, so choosing the right one for your business is crucial to achieving the best results. The choice between lengthy round trips in traffic on the M25 or a one-time five minute training session learning to use VC system is often an easy one to make.
5. I need to conduct meetings face-to-face, VC is not an appropriate alternative
Remember that video is a complement to and not simply a replacement for traditional face-to-face meetings. Board meetings and the early stages of client engagement for example can rely on the full spectrum of human communications, some of which don’t always translate as well over VC. But once you’ve built an initial rapport face-to-face, VC is a great way of maintaining it.
And while it’s not appropriate for every type of work or engagement, strategic use of video conferencing and it’s more advanced collaboration features can be very effective. For example, working in large geographically dispersed groups for brainstorming sessions or virtual team meetings, with the ability to share, collaborate and edit presentations or documents reduces time and money spent on travel, letting you focus a limited budget on crucial trips and meetings. Desktop video integrated with meeting room systems and the proliferation of devices with in-built cameras now also enables your key people to conference in from anywhere – home, a hotel or a coffee shop – and speed decision making.