Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Why isn’t everyone using video conferencing?

For years vendors such as Tandberg, Cisco and Polycom have been saying the use of video will become pervasive in the workplace. The reasons sound sensible and convincing; reduced travel and accommodation costs, better use of employee’s time, better work / life balance.
So why isn’t everyone using video conferencing?
When speaking to organisations that have video conferencing I seem to get two reactions, yes we do use it, its fine and no we bought some kit years ago, but never get it working properly and its collecting dust in a corner office.
There’s no doubt in the past the configuration and use of video conferencing systems has not been user friendly. Recently an IT manager said to me, “We have Tandberg video conferencing kit, but it’s not used much.” The reason being in their case that the people it was intended to be used by were the senior management of the company who were technophobes. Although to be fair he did mention network issues and having to type in IP addresses prior to being able to use the system, not something many senior managers would be comfortable doing?
In the past when I’ve spoken to people considering investing in video conferencing, the main objection is not the cost of the equipment; instead it’s the cost of the network connectivity. Just a few years ago high definition video required greater than 10M bandwidth. Two things have made the pill easier to swallow; the cost of bandwidth has halved and the codec’s have been able to compress the huge amount of data required for HD video down to a more manageable size.
Another reason for the lack of uptake of high end systems is the cost of the room facilities. Not the cost of the active kit, but the associated video screens and audio equipment. In a recent proposal I saw these peripheral items amounted to $20K before taking into account the network and video kit costs.
Perhaps the most difficult reason to overcome when considering implementation of a high end video conferencing system is the idea that “we have always had face to face meetings”, so we’ll just carry on in the same vein. This is an attitude issue and will never be addressed by improvements in the technology or reductions in implementation costs.
HR guidelines
As in the recent George Clooney film “Up In The Air”, Human Resources management may dislike the idea of certain formal meetings being done via video conferencing. Although a friend of mine did actually get the sack via video recently, but then he did work for a video conferencing vendor?

Desk Top Video Conferencing
One thing is undisputed; the use of personal, low cost video conferencing is certainly taking off. In 2009/10 BT’s conferencing revenues increased by 400%, due in part to the volcanic ash cloud restricting flights and the recession forcing companies to cut back on travel costs.
Low cost video conferencing as offered by Cisco’s Webex and Microsoft’s Live Meeting is easy to use, relatively inexpensive and in terms of equipment is very easy to setup. On my PC, it passed the “no user guide” test in that I had connected the small Microsoft web cam and installed Cisco Webex without reading the installation instructions or doing and formal training. In use I found it simple and genuinely useful with the one click button to share my desktop. It worked fine over my 2M broadband circuit.
Maybe Video Conferencing’s time has finally come?
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