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CIO Perspective: Haven’t Considered Video Communication Yet?

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Almost no business is local anymore. Even if the company is operating in one location, it does business with other businesses who are geographically far away. Many companies are on the way to operating in various geographical locations. This dispersion brings challenges to collaboration and communication, which are traditionally addressed by visiting the locations in person or arranging meetings in a different place. Although nothing beats face to face communication, we cannot say that every business trip is necessary. Companies can employ video communications and eliminate the costs associated with the less necessary visits. Here is a getting started guide for video communication.

The first step to implementing video communication solution is to lay the benefits on the table and speak with all the parties. Depending on the nature of business of your organization, some of the benefits are uniting workforce and optimizing its productivity, improving project management and communication, supporting complex, diverse geographic locations, adapting flexible and near real-time business models, becoming more reflexive to market changes and ultimately reducing travel costs. In addition to all these benefits, video communication solution brings conference calls, call recording and screen/whiteboard sharing and replay the communication if/when necessary.

Next, it is important to define specifically which problems the video collaboration solution solves and what value it is expected to create. It is important to speak with various business roles and understand what challenges they face and how these challenges can be addressed. This ensures that the expectations from the solution is clarified. For example, marketing department may ask to work on an advertising campaign by sharing fliers and taking notes and the human resources department may ask to save the video interviews to attach the personnel’s file. Aligning the needs of the business to the investment ensures better return on investment.

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Once these studies are clear, the assessment stage is to begin. The assessment will start from the infrastructure. What do we have now? Does the current infrastructure support video collaboration? If yes, up to which point? What are the requirements of the users located in the branch offices? To make a comprehensive analysis, it is better to use proven methodologies to better analyze the infrastructure together with the user requirements.

Talking about the technical issues, obviously the network is the most important point. The network can be capable of handling file shares, emails, IMs and even voice calls but it is a question whether it will be able to handle the traffic from video communications. There is an important distinction between delivering video solutions in a local area network, in a wide area network with high bandwidth connection and in a branch office with a low bandwidth, almost saturated connection. Since video solutions bring high bandwidth use, it is also important to make sure that the video communications do not affect other services; nobody would accept the ERP system to become sluggish or the emails to be delayed. On the other side the video communication needs to be fluent. Nobody will use a video communication system that operates in a couple of frames per second (the joke we had for this problem was: the other side has become JPEG). There should be enough bandwidth to ensure a smooth experience even in the conference calls and screen/whiteboard sharing.

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Once all of these issues are laid out, it is important to define the success metrics. How can is success defined and how is it measured? This is probably the most important point that is missed in the projects. In a video communication solution, the success can be defined as 10% reduction in middle-level out-of-country travel expenses and high performance can be defined as 15% reduction on these expenses in a fiscal year. This may sound arbitrary at first but it is a SMART criterion (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time related). It is best to define a “before” case, possibly by having an average of expenses in this example and an “after” case to see how the company benefited from the implementation. To better reach (and hopefully exceed) the goals, it is imperative to train the IT staff and end users. With the training, everybody would understand how to make the best out of the investment and how they can contribute individually.

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Once the benefits are realized from the video communication solution and the it is established as a routine tool, then the time arrives to build further on top of the existing situation. The first step would be to consider to extend it to mobile devices. Mobile phones, tablets allow using video anywhere – hotel rooms, cafés – making everyone accessible in case of need. It is important to make sure that the solution is supported on all major device platforms.

Then comes the innovations in the other areas of business, such as monitoring the product line for possible problems/improvements, having direct contact with the customers, surveillance. Once the solution is firmly established across the enterprise, possible use scenarios will begin to flow in from the users. I strongly recommend to keep track of the ideas (user request tickets?) and to improve on them.

As we see, once you begin to think about video communication, the possibilities that come with it can spin your head. No business can go without giving video a thought; and I believe that no business can afford to ignore it.

Let us hear your video communication challenges, solutions, creative ideas. How does it go in your company? Share your experience in the comments!


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