Thirty-eight years after the first videoconference took place, and almost 28 years since the first commercially marketed VTCs, or Video Teleconference, solutions became available, this concept still has not reached its full potential.
Why is this? This article will explore the existing hang-ups, business trends, the technology today and future solutions for this time and money saving, green and long overdue solution for today’s meeting-challenged individuals.
What we’re not talking about in this discussion are videoconferencing solutions such as NetMeeting, Microsoft Live Meeting, GoToMeeting or InstantPresenter. These are considered entry-level solutions and while they have their place, no matter how much bandwidth you have available, you’ll rarely get a smooth, high-quality conference fitting an extended crunch session with high-level execs. This article refers to the high-end, high-quality videoconferencing solutions such as Polycom, Tandberg, Sony, VCON, and Codian.
Most people who have had any experience with yesterday’s video teleconferencing equipment know all too well the complexities and disappointments that plagued the VTCs of yesteryear. We all had our short bouts of accolades, with two-dozen high-ranking executives in each boardroom on opposite ends of the planet. When everything worked flawlessly, it was great and you wondered why you didn’t use the equipment more often. However, when something went wrong, it went really wrong.
The expectations of these nightmare scenarios can be hard to overcome, and rightfully so. However, you should know that today’s VTCs are much smaller, cheaper and much, much easier to use. Plus, they most certainly don’t require a team of support technicians waiting in the background for something to go wrong while you’re having your monthly meetings or sharing and collaborating with your constituents and customers abroad.
Several world-class video technology vendors have already invested millions into pushing the envelope of traditional video conferencing techniques by moving away from the simple point-to-point videoconferencing solutions and moving towards the more complex collaboration studios. For some, the idea of having to travel to a studio to meet with someone further away simply never caught on, with the consensus being that two main issues prevented this technology from moving forward. These boiled down to the inability for the participants to engage in real eye contact and appearance consciousness, or feeling uncomfortable simply by being on-camera.
While the eye contact issues may be overcome with technology, there will always be a handful of meetings that will require real face-to-face contact followed up with a real handshake. We’re not talking about those kinds of meetings. There are however, plenty of other opportunities to take advantage of what is available today.
Today, there are a host of extremely easy-to-use, dependable and somewhat affordable videoconferencing solutions. We say somewhat affordable because for as long as this technology has been around, some 30 years, it should be much less expensive and further integrated into our everyday lives than it is today. Yet the cost for a unit with all the bells and whistles can still run in access of $50,000, not including the conference room and all of its accessories.
The technology has been around for decades, the bandwidth has been available for years and certainly the need to save money, reduce pollution and increase productivity has been widespread among all corporate, education and government facilities for as long as they have been in existence. So why, then, are we not taking full advantage of this solution to help solve all these problems? I suspect it’s the fear of investing lots of money into something that won’t payoff or meet our expectations.
But the fact is today’s videoconferencing solutions can and do meet the needs of hundreds of businesses. Take, for example, simple installations such as the Tandberg Profile 3000 MXP. For about $20,000 you can have a completely integrated, top of the line video conferencing solution installed in your office, conference room, or instead, have the same unit placed on a wheeled pedestal to be used in any room or office.
For this type of investment you get a 42-inch plasma screen, true CD quality stereo sound and the ability to conference with anyone, anytime with the press of a button. You need only supply a room with a 512 kbps ISDN or a 2 Mbps IP connection and you’re ready to roll.
For about half the price, provided you supply your own television, you can have the Polycom VSX 7000. This machine can also be installed permanently or wheeled away as needed and will give you smooth natural video and superior quality sound as well as allow you to easily connect to your constituents abroad over your existing IP network, or with the purchase of the ISDN module, connect to external customers that are not able to share your network.
Take the plunge
Widespread videoconferencing is long overdue. If your business hasn’t put this technology near the top of your wish list then now is the time to take a closer look using these four simple guidelines.
Examine your options closely because there are many available and consider such things as multipoint conference ability, IP network infrastructure or ISDN availability, and customer and partner access to videoconferencing equipment.
Remember that with all new technology there is a learning curve. Be prepared to properly train your people on how to use all the features of the unit.
Put guidelines in place to aggressively utilize the equipment. Odds are that simply offering videoconferencing as an option won’t pay off. Make “travel” the option, not the other way around.
Consider the multitude of other ways to use videoconferencing besides the typical business meeting. Things such as employee training, pre-meetings when travel is eminent, disaster recovery rehearsal, security surveillance, employees keeping in touch with family members overseas, client seminars and much more.
A modest investment in today’s video conferencing technology can foster collaboration and drastically cut the time your workers spend at airports. Eliminating or scaling back some trips throughout the year can easily recoup the cost. And in this new era of environmental consciousness, keeping a few more cars off the road &ndash racing to make those meetings, naturally &ndash is just an added bonus.