The Evolution of Video Conferencing
Jimmy Carroll, Director at TetraVX, walks us through video conferencing evolution and its impact on collaboration
As more and more video conferencing providers, plugins and integrators appear in the marketplace, it is time to reflect on how far we’ve come and what this means for the collaboration landscape as a whole. I spoke to Jimmy Carroll, Partner & Director Global Sales, at TetraVX, to get his view on where we are today and how video conferencing is making an impact.
Video conferencing stigma
I started with addressing the stigma that video conferencing is too costly. I asked Jimmy for a message to businesses that fear the cost of this technology?
“When evaluating workplace technology, it is important to take a step back and look at the needs of the end-user and the organisation as a whole. Is video conferencing something that our end-users need? Have we thought of the ways that the organisation could leverage a video conferencing solution? What is the cost of not implementing video in our company? When you take the end-users needs into consideration first, the conversation becomes less around cost and more around value”.
Video conferencing adoption
Once over the cost assumptions, I asked Jimmy how do IT departments get end users on board? I’ve come across many users that that have had bad video experiences in the past and refuse to adopt future tech.
“When thinking about end-user adoption, oftentimes companies limit it to training. “How will we make sure our employees know how to use it?”
Instead, we should be broadening that question to be, “How will we make sure our employees use it?”
If you consider the entire lifecycle of user adoption, there are many more components beyond just training. First, have we confirmed that video conferencing is a need for our employees? If so, what are they trying to accomplish today that they can’t without video conferencing? Second, have we communicated the implementation of the new system effectively? By leveraging the data collected in the first step, you can better tailor your messaging to employees; highlighting the value they will see from this new video solution. This builds excitement where there might previously have been resistance.
And third, have we trained them properly? Based on what we know of how they plan to use the system, is it configured properly to achieve their goals? These are all pieces of the user adoption puzzle that need to begin well before deploying a video conferencing solution.
Getting video right from day one
First impressions are everything, especially when it comes to introducing new tech. I asked Jimmy how do IT teams and vendors get it right from day one?
“Video conferencing, when compared to other communication channels, take the hardest hit on network performance. Before implementing a video conferencing system, it’s extremely important to make sure your network is up to the challenge.
By completing a UCC readiness assessment on your network, IT departments can ensure success for both the deployment and ongoing performance of their video conferencing solution. A UCC readiness assessment assess LAN and WAN network infrastructure, leveraging manual and automated tools which gather data that can adversely affect collaboration performance and user experience.
When we complete UCC Readiness Assessments with our clients, we can also provide QoS testing and WiFi configuration assessments. At the end of the process, IT departments walk away with high-level and necessary remediations for a stable video conferencing deployment”.
Tracking video conferencing
Once video conferencing is in and we are using it, I asked Jimmy how to best measure productivity and employee engagement as a result of video conferencing technology.
“It depends on the persona of the users, types of meetings, and culture of the organisation. Whether the call is personal, work-related, reoccurring or spontaneous. This all impacts whether a user is likely to use video. It’s unnecessary for some kinds of workers but may be desired by different generations, personalities, or global teams”.
Quantifying the benefits of video conferencing (reduced travel, increased engagement, productivity, etc.) is a real challenge in the industry. I asked Jimmy what do new customers and existing users really need to know about the benefits?
“Though voice calls are still the most utilised communication mechanism, the industry is trending rapidly towards video. Why? Well, have you ever had two people start talking at the same time on an audio call? Or there is an abrupt silence or a situation where you are trying hard to speak but can’t because someone else is talking continuously? This confusion happens because we lose the visual cues that help drive a conversation. There are soft benefits associated with the use of video calls that often times don’t get the credit they deserve:
- Improved Communication: Non-verbal communication constitutes about two-thirds of communication between people. Video conferencing restores those many visual cues that are necessary for human interaction
- Decreases Misinterpretation: Video calls help to eliminate miscommunication that often occurs during the exchange of ideas. This is because emotionless audio calls or emails leave room for open interpretation, and people may misread the purpose of an important point. Video conferencing, however, reduces confusion since team members can grasp unspoken elements or reiterate facts that may have initially been misunderstood
- Reduces Decision Making Time: Video calls decrease the ability for users to multitask, requiring them to stay focused on the meeting and the decisions at hand. Also, the ability to share visual content allows teams to immediately share and provide feedback in real-time
- Faster Customer Service – As we see video become more commonplace with consumers, some companies are using video conferencing systems to troubleshoot technical problems in their contact centres. Instead of having technicians travel between facilities, they can simply start a video call to see the problem and hopefully fix it within minutes. A great example of this is the rapid growth of video in telemedicine. The use of video in medicine has allowed medical practitioners to overcome distance barriers and provide healthcare to rural communities that often suffer from limited healthcare options
- True Collaboration and Team Building: Have you ever heard the phrase, “out of sight out of mind?” Well in global organisations, long distances between teammates can create cultural hurdles that lead to disjointed processes. Consider this, an employee in London reports to a manager in New York that he has only ever talked with via phone and email. Though they have been working together for some time, the London employee directs his questions and concerns to his cubemate in the office, a co-worker who he sees regularly. Through video conferencing, the employee and manager can begin to build a relationship that they would only otherwise have if meeting in person”
Video conferencing over time
We’ve come from small and blurred images to HD with transcription. I was keen to learn where Jimmy thought we go next in terms of image quality and innovations.
“Lower cost, period. Less network overhead of bandwidth and management. Better features like cameras following the speaker(s) without massive costs.”
“We really don’t need HD video for most interactions. I’d say the higher quality video has had a negative ROI except in niche meeting types (board rooms, negotiations, town halls)”
I then asked Jimmy to highlight some key milestones in video conferencing evolution, to see if that matched the ones I had in my head. They didn’t but focussed on consumer behaviour – something regularly taken for granted in business communications.
“Though Skype hit the market in 2003, video conferencing didn’t become a part of our daily lives until the emergence of Facetime in 2010. Arguably one of the biggest mile markers for video conferencing, Facetime changed the way we looked at video in our daily lives. And because we expect to work the way we live, video has become more widely accepted in the workplace along with it”.
Finally, I wanted to get Jimmy’s view on how long will video conferencing remain the most valued UC tool in the workplace.
“Though I don’t believe video conferencing is the most valued UC tool, I do believe it’s not going anywhere. We’ve seen voice keep a strong foothold, and messaging continues to grow when it comes to how we communicate with each other and our customers. Video is by far a necessity in the workplace but has its place and time. We’re definitely seeing the plateau of video conferencing buzz after years of hearing it would take over the world”.