Rodrigo Parreira, CEO of Logicalis Latin America, explores the latest developments in video collaboration asking, ‘Now the user experience lives up to expectations, has the technology come of age as a tool for global collaboration?
Has video collaboration come of age?
The potential cost benefits of video conferencing have always been compelling. However, until recently, it was the video conference experience that held back mass adoption.
Ten years ago taking part in a video conference was far from simple. You would have to use a dedicated video conferencing suite, so a call across time zones always meant some if not all participants getting into the office very early, or staying very late. If the room wasn’t already booked (usually for anything other than a video conference), it was not uncommon to spend 30 minutes trying to figure out how to use the remote control and set up the call. With all that done, you could just about talk face-to-face with your colleagues across the globe – but interrupted speech and faltering video made for an unproductive experience.
The format simply did not live up to expectations of enhanced collaboration and increased productivity. That failure, along with the perceived benefits of foreign travel and the real value of meeting clients, suppliers and colleagues face-to-face, dampened the growth of video collaboration.
That is all starting to change – the cost and convenience benefits are more pronounced and, crucially, the experience is now living up to expectations. As with many of the latest enterprise technology trends, the shift started with consumer technology, where we’ve long enjoyed acceptable video conferencing from services like Skype or via smart devices equipped with high quality cameras and Wi-Fi capabilities. The quality may not be perfect, but it’s cheap and we’re getting used to the format.
Of course, businesses have rather more exacting requirements – Quality of Experience (QoE) remains at the fore because, in a business context, the technology needs to be practically invisible if the benefits of video collaboration are to be realised – it needs to be as easy as picking up the phone.
Today, those benefits are within easy reach. The availability of capable devices, coupled with the increase in IP bandwidth across the globe, means that the quality is in place – so you can show the head office in Texas what is happening in the field in Alberta, show a surgeon in Vienna how an operation is going in Delhi, or technicians in a factory can show design engineers where a problem has occurred on the line.
What’s more, Telepresence, or immersive video, is now so real that it has become a far more valuable tool to senior executives – a meeting conducted via video conferencing now feels like ‘just another meeting’.
For the global organisation the ability to bring together remote specialist resources, that are geographically scattered, into “virtual power teams” unleashes new productivity potential that can focus on specific issues, clients and projects.
Everyone wins – clients see increased service effectiveness by having the best resources on a global scale focused on their solution. Organisations consolidate a scattered knowledge base that boosts global integration on processes and business models and reduces the need for specialist outsourcing and duplication of effort. Workers will gain professional development opportunities through specialised training and collaborating with colleagues with differing skill sets.
The good news for CIOs is there is also now a real choice of affordable, good quality options. For instance, High Definition, pay-per-use Video as a Service (VAAS) solutions offering crystal-clear quality and the flexibility that goes with easy access from the office, home or hotel, and via a variety of devices, can be rolled to your entire board of Directors with a minimum of fuss.
On top of that, the cost has dropped even further. I recently bought a return flight to the US – the price of the ticket would cover an HD VAAS solution for over eight years. So that’s eight years of productivity for the price of one flight.
Even so, I personally don’t think video conferencing will ever replace face to face when it comes to the really big meetings. However, there is no doubt that the ability to video conference with colleagues worldwide two or three times a day (whether I’m in the office or not) has been hugely beneficial when it comes to my routine catch-ups – collaboration is easier and more productive.
With all that in mind, and given that most enterprises already have the necessary infrastructure in place, it does seem fair to say that video conferencing has come of age. In fact, is starting to sound very much like a quick and inexpensive win for CIOs.
Over the next few weeks we’ll hear from a guest contributor on the subject of datacenter procurement, and from Chris Gabriel, VP of Solutions Management, Logicalis Group on BYOD and innovation, who will give us his take on the latest technology buzz – the ‘Digital Native’.