Copyright © 2012 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide
April 28, 2012
Meetings and real-time conferencing have always been very demanding because it requires all participants to be available at the same time and/or the same place. Starting back in the old days of face-to-face meetings in the same room to exploiting voice and video conferencing for distributed participants, there is still a need to synchronize access to information and personal availability to join a live conference.
The primary benefit of conferencing is that it allows the participants to question and discuss issues with others in real-time, thus shortening the time to get issues understood and resolved. In effect, conferencing is the “heart of collaboration,” even though asynchronous forms of communication are also very important ways to collaborate and exchange information. “Unified communications” (UC) has been evolving to allow end users to selectively use any form of contact with others in order to collaborate easily and cost efficiently.
While voice conferencing has always dominated the real-time conferencing world, video conferencing technology has improved sufficiently to enable it to be a new UC-enabled option for organizations to exploit instead of face-to-face meetings that require expensive travel for remotely located participants. Not only has video conferencing become practical for traditional room-based groups, but has now also moved into the domain of individual end-user participation from their desktops or from their personalized, mobile tablets and smartphones. In effect, video conferencing has joined voice conferencing, or, like “unified messaging,” I would describe as “unified conferencing.”
“Different Strokes For Different Folks!”
The basic value of UC integrations is that it can flexibly accommodate individual end user needs for multi-modal communication applications on a device-independent basis. UC flexibility provided limited benefits to users at the desktop, where a PC and telephone were separately accessible, but the dynamic demands of mobile environments made such flexibility more critical. Now, with the rapid adoption by consumers of multi-modal smartphones and tablets, the vision of UC enabled business processes can be realized. When end users have to communicate in real-time, whether person-to-person or in groups, they have easier and dynamic access to their choices of interaction and participation.
Such flexibility is of particular value when conferencing requirements are “ad hoc” and time sensitive. The faster and easier for individual end users to participate in any real-time discussion, the greater the operational benefits to business process performance. As I pointed out recently, conferencing modalities no longer have to be confined to separate desktop silos for all participants, but can now be exploited selectively by individual users as their roles require.
Adding Video Conferencing to the Business Collaboration Menu
Although video has become well accepted for both information and personal communications through You Tube and other web-based applications, a recent survey shows a number of challenges still facing business user adoption of video conferencing. Inasmuch as voice conferencing is well accepted, easily managed, and cost effective, it already provides basic real-time conferencing capabilities for participants.
Aside from implementation complexities, higher costs, and questionable benefits of video conferencing, the biggest resistance from end users is the lack of a real need for it in doing their jobs. Voice conferencing has been readily available for both desktop and mobile users, and has apparently been adequate for most real-time conferencing needs. While video conferencing was limited to room-based set-ups, it did not provide the convenience that voice conferencing allowed. Although desktop video conferencing was an improvement, it did not allow maximum participation from mobile users. With Mobile UC–enabled video conferencing, it is now time to exploit video in a variety of ways, including ad hoc conferencing.
Like everything else, new business communications have to satisfy individual end user needs and their job roles. In many cases, the end users are in an audience watching a speaker presentation; in other cases, the end user may be being interviewed while others watch. For group interactions, participating in a real-time videoconference should be a matter of choice to be “on camera” or not, depending on the individual end user’s role.
With such UC-enabled flexibility, it will become easier to maximize the real-time involvement all key personnel, especially when they are mobile and outside of the organization (e.g., business partners, customers, consultants). This, in turn, will speed up any business process that requires group discussion and interactions.
This post sponsored by the CIO Collaboration Network