Travel costs down: check. Now what?

Sure, videoconferencing helps organizations reduce travel expenses. But IT managers seek a more sophisticated success measure for the technology.

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Videoconferencing is making its way into many an organization these days — but a fair number of IT managers are still trying to figure out how to measure the technology’s value.

That’s one of the conclusions from Nemertes Research’s recent study of the videoconferencing market. The company’s vice-president and service director Irwin Lazar laid out those findings in a No Jitter article. He noted that seven per cent of survey respondents plan to use cloud videoconferencing within the next 12 months and 38 per cent said they already do. As well, half of the respondents who run room-sized videoconferencing systems expect to add more, primarily to address employee demand for enterprise video capabilities.

But as for measuring the value of this technology, many people are lost. “Senior IT and business leaders still often see videoconferencing as a luxury and not something that contributes in a quantifiable way to the bottom line by either increasing revenue or decreasing cost,” he wrote.

In the past, businesses measured the technology’s value according to travel expenses. If employees used videoconferences instead of flights to meet and collaborate, the company saved money.

But that’s not enough of a standard of success anymore. As Lazar put it, IT managers seek a more sophisticated approach, “looking for ways to analyze metrics like employee and team performance correlated with video use.”

That’s not easy. And it could explain why it’s also tough to find examples of companies that have made the link between videoconferencing and something other than travel-cost reductions.

What’s the use case?

Search the web and you’ll find a few good illustrations of the technology’s value. Consider Allstream’s case study of the University of British Columbia, which used videoconferencing to extend the reach of its medical program and increase the number of graduates. Note that the school invested in the technology to do just that: graduate more students.

The key to success seems to come from identifying a specific use case for the technology and then painstakingly associating videoconferencing with that task. Mike Compinger, director for the U.K. and Ireland at video platform provider Kaltura, posits that very thing in the human-resources realm, where video could supplement and speed up the interview process with respect to new hires.

Yet again, connecting videoconferencing with measurable performance indicators isn’t easy. Still, it might be the best way to see if the technology has a positive impact.

It’s certainly better than dismissing the tech completely — which too many organizations do. In fact, for years businesses have routinely missed out on potential cost savings and productivity improvements due to shortsightedness.

Have a listen to WRLWND Radio’s recent podcast, in which host Marcello Sukhdeo recalls a memo from financial services firm Western Union, reacting to a new-fangled communications platform in 1876. “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”

Perhaps the return on investment argument for the phone wasn’t obvious to Western Union’s management at the time — just as the value of videoconferencing may not be readily apparent to some organizations today.

But to avoid being as unimaginative as Western Union back in the day, companies might want to take a closer look at videoconferencing and carefully consider potential use cases. By linking the technology to particular daily tasks, they’ll find it easier to measure the value from the perspectives of cost and competitiveness.

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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