Why Implementing Videoconferencing Is Getting Easier
Principal Consultant - AV / Multimedia / Video / UC,
Director of Emerging Technology, IMCCA
By now, everyone has heard how the successful implementation of collaborative communication tools increases productivity. Many people look to videoconferencing to minimize business travel (and the related costs), increase productivity among a dispersed workforce, and improve the quality of interpersonal communications for employees, potential employees, and customers.
Ten or fifteen years ago, just the word "videoconference" was enough to create panic in the minds of enterprise users. Questions around being able to get a room, calls staying up, questionable connections, etc., were on the minds of discouraged, pessimistic users. This was because videoconferencing was oversold by the industry manufacturers. It was advertised as "just like being there" and "easy to install and use," when the truth was usually far to the other extreme.
Adoption improved over the years but didn't really take off until the latest wave of telepresence hit the market a little over five years ago. Telepresence got everyone interested in video again, added reliability to the mix, and got the c-suite involved in becoming video champions and driving funding. For all the good that it did, however, telepresence regrettably also came with its own unique set of hype and overselling.
With the dust now settling from the telepresence explosion, what we're left with is much better than what we had before. As I've written many times, organizations are now starting to understand that it's all about selecting a unique blend of collaboration tools that is right for them. What's interesting is that the selection within our industry is far richer than at any time before. There are easy-to-deploy choices in telepresence and room and desktop systems. There are truly interoperable services, and there are truly flexible managed services.
The installation of telepresence four or five years ago usually involved major construction to prepare rooms. In many cases (which I personally experienced), the cost to prepare the room was equal to or greater than the cost of the technology. Today, there are less rigid systems that can be installed in rooms as they are, and modular/four-wall options are able to drop into a space, making it instantly ready.
The installation of a room-based videoconferencing system used to involve a choice between poor-performing carts or overly expensive, overly complicated integrator installed systems. Today, firms are manufacturing stand-alone units that provide very high-quality for relatively little cost. The era of the AV integrator and AV consultant firm inflating the cost (and complexity) of room systems is now over. More and more organizations are buying these simple room systems, which I refer to as "the video equivalent of the conference room speakerphone."
The installation of desktop video used to involve balky cameras clipped to the top of PC monitors, very low-quality postage stamp-sized images, and very difficult to manage enterprise software. Today, high-quality HD cameras are frequently embedded within the displays, and the software is much more simple and reliable. Calling between firms used to require either unsecure connections over the Internet, or very expensive connections to private B2B exchanges (or legacy ISDN connections that were problematic in and of themselves). Even with all of those complexities, calling between different brands and types of systems was rarely guaranteed to work.
Today, there are a number of relatively inexpensive services that can connect video systems of different types and standards with no trouble at all. I frequently have video calls combining Skype, room systems, Lync, and anything else you can think of. You can also now hire partners and/or managed service providers that help you only where you need the help. It no longer has to be an overly expensive, complex hosted solution.
If any of this is news to you, then you're not speaking with the right people. If you need some suggestions regarding where to begin, post a question on the message boards. But remember, just as a surgeon usually recommends that you do surgery, advice from video system manufacturers will usually involve buying their systems. I suggest you speak with the manufacturers last -- specifically so you can see demonstrations of products, once you're ready for that step.
I also recommend that, as a first step, you seek general advice from people and firms that have no vested interest in selling you one product versus another. That way you can get a fair representation of the pros and cons of your many options.
This blog was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions. It originally was published at UBM’s “The Video Enterprise” website that was closed down November 1st 2012. Here is a link to the Google cache of the page with comments. I do not know how long Google keeps these pages.
David has over 30 years of experience providing problem solving leadership and innovation in media and unified communications technologies for various firms in the corporate, broadcasting and academic worlds including AT&T, Bloomberg LP, FNN, Morgan Stanley, NYU, Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan Chase. He recently joined Dimension Data as their Principal Consultant for the collaboration, multimedia, video and AV disciplines. He is also the IMCCA’s Director of Emerging Technology. David can be reached at David.Danto@Dimensiondata.com or DDanto@imcca.org he can be followed on Twitter @NJDavidD , and his full bio and other blogs and articles can be seen at Danto.info.