Monday, June 6, 2011

The case for and against video conferencing

You gotta love Google Alerts. In my e-mail the other week was a juicy little tidbit that caught my eyes.

John Bartlett, a blogger for Unified Communications Strategies, recently hosted a podcast with his fellow bloggers to discuss use cases for video conferencing in business. They examined where video adds value, as well as where it does not in several spaces, including health care, human resources, mobile, and virtual conferencing.

I found it interesting, and I think you will too, because if you're reading this blog, you probably follow the UC space. Several insightful examples where brought to light by the panelists, which included Pam Avila, Art Rosenberg, Blair Pleasant, Don Van Doren, Michael Finneran, and Dave Michels.

On the pro side, they talked about how video conferencing can work work well to share visual information, help employees feel more connected to one another, and cut travel and related costs. On the con side, the panelists highlighted service and infrastructure costs and technological compatibility and support issues.

We've talked on the ProtonMedia blog about the drawbacks to video conferencing for some time now, including those mentioned by the UCStrategies bloggers. While it might be a step in the right direction as far as information sharing goes, it doesn't address the broader adoption challenge in the enterprise surrounding telepresence.

Not all employees want to be on video every time they need to meet and collaborate. Rather, a better approach is to fold video into a group of communication and collaboration tools that are unified by one virtual office infrastructure. This is how we see video adding value to the enterprise. Make it an optional tool in the box that employees can use as their needs dictate.

In fact, the UCStrategies' podcast really pricked my ears when Dave started talking about using video in the virtual space.

"At Enterprise Connect, we saw a company called ProtonMedia that’s doing a similar solution for Microsoft Lync. And I think this type of virtual conferencing has a place. What I thought about it is the one, it is more interactive than video conferencing. Because a lot of the video conferences I attend are one-to-many type of environment and my camera isn’t necessarily on, and I get misdirected," he said.

Dave went on to explain how meeting in the virtual space provides workers with a sense of self through their avatar, which facilitates better engagement and interaction than video conferencing. He also highlighted how ProtoSphere's audio functionality more effectively simulates real-world meetings in which you can have group conversations and then peel off into private, one-on-one sidebars.

The conversation dove deeper into how ProtoSphere provides a "contextual environment for communication and conversation and exchange," as Art stated. To read more about their views, flip over to the podcast for their first-hand feedback. The transcript is also posted there, so you can read through the interview as well.

What are your thoughts on video in the enterprise? Are you using it? Why or why not?

Also, since we're on the topic, has Microsoft's acquisition of Skype impacted your use of video, or do foresee any impact in the future?

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