Videoconferencing on the upswing, but who’s watching?

Recently in our conference room one of our associates from the Czech Republic introduced us to his extended family.  They were in their living room.  4000 miles away. On our 60″ HD plasma screen, they looked and sounded as if they were in the room with us.  For the uniformed, that’s typical of the performance of videoconferencing in today’s business technology world.

Anyone with exposure to the early days of videoconferencing is probably not to eager to take a second stab at it. Grainy images, choppy video and dropped audio were not problems, they were the norm. My colleague used to joke “fax them pictures of you sitting at the conference table – it’s less frustrating”. Granted bandwidth issues were to blame for some of the problems (did any SMB have 10 meg circuits back then?). But advancements in CODECs, microprocessor technology, and the emergence of SIP standards coupled with the widespread availability of cheap, high bandwidth connections have not just improved videoconferencing, it has changed it to the point where it can now be considered ‘disruptive’ technology along the lines of smartphones, tablets and DVR’s.

What business users still have a difficult time deciphering is in their initial adoption phases.  The temptation to use free services (i.e. Skype, facetime), when hosted is the right fit, and where do those ubiquitous desktop HD cams come into play.  But the good news is  that withthe advancements in technolgoy and the hassles and costs associated with businss travel, videoconferencing now has GBRFDS (Good Business Reasons For Doing So), as evidenced by this recent stat from the IP Blog NoJitter…

Lowering costs remains one of the biggest drivers for video conferencing in general, and the numbers continue to back this up. For instance, a Polycom study revealed that, on average, enterprises, by adopting videoconferencing, can save 30 percent on travel costs, lower time-to-market by 24 percent, reduce training costs by 25 percent, trim recruitment times by 19 percent, and shrink sales-related costs by 24 percent. Similarly, by embracing collaboration via videoconferencing and telepresence, Cisco was able to achieve T&E savings of 14 to 20 percent for its European Services unit. “Soft dollar” benefits include fewer transportation delays, less administrative time spent planning trips, and a reduction in lost productivity during travel.

 Let’s say you’re a small business with 2 or 3 salespeople traveling abroad and annual sales expenses in the $500K range.  Reducing those costs anywhere near 20% would provide an exceedingly fast ROI of less than 6 months for today’s high end videoconferencing systems.
While Videoconferencing will never replace face to face communications, the time has  come where smart business can use it as a cost saving difference maker to gain an edge over their competition.

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