Monday, November 9, 2009

The line between video conferencing's success and failure

As we talk about human factors here on the blog, I was reminded of a white paper I read that covered the findings of a study on video conferencing. In the study, University of North Carolina researchers identified recommendations for planning and implementing video conferencing to support interaction and collaboration among large groups.

You can click over to the white paper to read more about their suggestions, which I thought were insightful. But I was particularly interested by some of the background studies that the white paper referenced. These studies identified two challenges when groups try to collaborate using video conferencing, both of which arise from human factors:

One, video conferencing is not the best environment for brainstorming. And two, video conferencing is not the best environment for conflict resolution. Video conferencing tends to be an environment where just one person is comfortable talking at a time. It can be difficult, as the studies find, to share information, bounce ideas off one another, negotiate and bargain, ask questions, resolve disagreements, and make decisions.

All of this can obviously hinder collaboration, which takes me back to an argument I've made before on the blog: If you blend live or prerecorded video with other collaboration tools unified by a 3-D infrastructure, video becomes more useful, less complicated, and far less costly. Video conferencing might be justified as an investment for large conference rooms in global businesses, but it fails to address the human and cost factors that have, to date, prevented large-scale video deployments from achieving critical mass in the enterprise.

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