Boldly go where videoconferencing has never gone before

An analyst from Nemertes Research talks about user demand for the technology across disparate systems and between companies, creating a renewed urgency around network capacity planning

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Videoconferencing has been around a long time … maybe not as long as fax machines, but long enough.

The thing is, it’s still not widely used, despite its benefits. Penetration within organizations tends to be low, said Robin Gareiss, vice-president and senior founding partner of Nemertes Research, in a recent Enterprise Connect webinar sponsored by Sabre Virtual Meetings.

This is going to change, thanks to the consumerization of technology and the prevalence of video on mobile devices and in the cloud. But, without careful consideration — videoconferencing affects everything from networks to security to mobility — organizations may struggle with bandwidth, integration and adoption issues.

According to Gareiss, there are five types of videoconferencing systems: immersive or tele-presence (purpose-built rooms), room-based (a single screen in a room or on a cart you can wheel from room to room), desktop, recorded or streaming, as well as mobile.

The drivers are the same as they always have been: reduced travel costs, better quality of life, enhanced collaboration, improved sales and more insightful customer services, to name a few.

What’s new is we’re seeing integration of these different types of systems, as well as a trend toward business-to-business videoconferencing.

But this integration adds complexity and requires additional bandwidth. What if you want to switch out of a room and onto your mobile device, for example? Integration is great, but it means more work for IT; decisions must be made on how to manage, monitor and evolve these systems.

We’re also seeing an increase in the number of companies using B2B videoconferencing — so now IT has to bridge systems from different companies, and potentially different platforms and types of video.

“If companies don’t do this right they’re going to end up turning employees away from video (because it’s too complicated),” said Gareiss.

Mobile integration is also going to be extremely important. In a recent survey by Nemertes Research, two-thirds of respondents said it’s critical or very important to integrate mobile with videoconferencing capabilities. In other words, employees want to be able to create and view video on their tablets.

Organizations are also looking at cloud-based videoconferencing, but this is pretty limited — about 12 per cent are using it, while about 12 per cent are evaluating it. “We expect these figures to grow this year because organizations are becoming more comfortable with cloud-based services,” said Gareiss, which can also help with training and troubleshooting that IT typically has to absorb.

One factor inhibiting growth, however, is network and capacity planning. It’s difficult for companies to provide desktop videoconferencing to everyone in the organization, says Gareiss, because they don’t know what it’s going to do to the network.

That means it’s prudent to roll it out in slow stages, see what happens to the network and plan from there.

But even if everything runs smoothly, then there’s the issue of getting people to actually use it. That comes down to internal marketing — and that’s not the job, nor the expertise, of the IT department. Training is crucial, as is simplicity.

So engage people who are experts in this space, recommends Gareiss, whether internally or through a third-party partner. And make sure to talk to the business units to find out what their drivers are before evolving and integrating systems — videoconferencing offers a lot of business benefits, but only if people actually use the technology.

Download a case study about how the University of British Columbia overcame a huge business issue through videoconferencing. 

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