Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tandberg's desktop video conferencing tool: Once telepresence, always telepresence

CAMERA READY? Many enterprise users say no
I don't really have an axe to grind with Tandberg. But it just seems every time I see news about Tandberg and the way it sells video, my alarm bells go off.

So with apologies and all due respect to the good folks at Tandberg, I really need to respond to their recent announcement.

The company released desktop telepresence solution, EX90 the other week. I have two main thoughts on it.

First off, it might be a step in the right direction as far as enterprise collaboration goes. Any tool that reduces costs and increases efficiency can be advantageous for enterprise users.

But it still doesn't solve the broad distribution and enterprise penetration issue surrounding telepresence. At the risk of being repetitive, there are a lot of reasons I don't see all employees in an organization using video every time they want to collaborate. Rather than rehash all my viewpoints, I'll refer you back to some of my previous posts on telepresence.

This also brings to mind an article written by Kishore S. Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at Accenture. He penned a piece for the company's Outlook journal last month, saying, "Now, a new medium, the videoconference, is rapidly emerging as an important way for executives to communicate with their employees, upper management and customers. By understanding the medium and mastering its dynamics, you can significantly improve your effectiveness as an executive."

He describes his tips for effectively communicating in a video conference. At first blush, his article might seem like helpful advice. But consider it more closely. What Kishore is really recommending is for executives to change their human behavior. Don't sit with a window behind you. Frame yourself for the camera. Don't move around too much.

Seems like a lot to worry about when you just want to get work done, and you already have a lot on your mind. Again, this indicates the human factors challenges with video. And for a site-to-site video Q&A, Kishore recommends adding a human element, moderators, to solicit questions and call on people to speak.

This is a controlled, "pass the baton" model, which might not be the best way to collaborate. As I've said before, it can be difficult to share information, bounce ideas off one another, negotiate and bargain, ask questions, resolve disagreements, and make decisions this way.

Video is certainly one part of a rich collaboration environment. But it's not necessarily easy to use without changing many natural human communications behaviors.

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