The spread and adoption of video conferencing in the office might have been held back in the past when the technology was expensive and network capacity was limited. However, today high definition screens are even available on devices as small as smartphone, along with high quality cameras putting video into almost everyone’s pocket. In addition, with the widespread availability of fibre and high-speed mobile networks, sufficient bandwidth to reach even remote locations is less and less of a barrier.
With many of the technical limitations largely removed, it is often the human issues that remain. Using and being filmed on video is something that many people have become much more familiar with as consumers, especially on smaller, mobile and non-traditional IT devices like tablets, but how does this familiarity turn into acceptance of video as a tool for the workplace?
New worldwide research surveying over 800 business video conferencing users, shows that in many companies video usage had spread well beyond the boardroom to general meeting rooms, desktops and even mobile devices. Several interesting questions remain, especially around getting employees to feel really comfortable with using video and I asked Roger Farnsworth a senior director of services from Polycom, the sponsors of the research, how he felt these issues were being addressed.
Rob: Why do users still feel they need handholding?
Roger: Often users find purpose-built video environments most intimidating. Users are not reluctant to click links and mash buttons on their mobile devices or laptops; however, when entering a panelled boardroom with chic electronics they fear breaking something. We’ve found that if a user is exposed to the group conference tools, either through training or simple how-to videos, they are far more likely to jump in and give it a go. In fact those users that have personal access to video as a regular part of their portfolio of business tools, personal Virtual Meeting Rooms (VMRs) for example, quickly catch on and begin using ad-hoc video more often.
So, some of the issue is a reluctance to let go from IT. Our research found that those whose video calls are more often assisted by IT are the ones most likely to also blame it for being complicated to use or unreliable. The survey found more than 50 percent of people who regularly use video rarely or never need IT to help them place a call. This is because video solutions have come a long way from their original iterations. Often, those with the most trepidation have previously been burned by a poor user experience which is why it is so important to get it right first time round.
Familiarity coupled with regular usage, normalises the use of video, and this seems to have the biggest impact on whether employees can manage without IT assistance or not. From the research it was also clear that user confidence rises with informal use of video, and it seemed better when video was put to use in a variety of communications applications – not simply replacing regular meetings such as team meetings, but also personal communications like interviews and one-to-ones.
In this way, video becomes just another day-to-day communication and not a ‘special event’ conference.
This normalisation is further improved when location restrictions are removed. At one time, video conferencing systems were only available in boardrooms or other special meeting rooms and customer briefing centres. Desktop conferencing systems widened access further, but often only to the desks of senior management. The move to general desktop PCs with low cost cameras, laptops and now smartphones and tablets completely removes location as a barrier to video usage – except perhaps for reasons of privacy – and video on the move can add a new dimension to its value.
Rob: What does small screen mobile usage contribute to video collaboration?
Roger: An average individual today uses one or other kind of mobile device; in fact it is hard to find a person who doesn’t. A majority of companies equip their workforce with mobile devices and support a BYOD culture. Companies are embracing mobility of their workforce because it means that business-as-usual can be conducted flexibly from any location at any time. Flexible working is a boon of the invention of small screen devices that allows workers to deliver their work from outside of the office premises and will soon become a norm. Its benefits extend into the event of emergencies, such as extreme weather conditions or train strikes, when video collaboration over mobile devices ensures business continuity.
This is where proliferation of the small screen devices industry converges with the advances in video collaboration. Ultimately, this is how the investment in technology is paying off for businesses and chiselling the shape of the future of workplaces. It really is a case of #videoforall and the real question is why should your business be left behind?
Ultimately the success of mobile devices has been less to do with technology and more about people and in the work context, process. For individuals there is increased choice – from BYOD, but also from the variety of form factors and sizes of mobile devices available. Good design, styling and even just fashion branding have helped foster personal connections with mobile devices.
The business process impact is more on the organisation than the individual, but it is important to both. At one time the constraints of technology imposed themselves too much on the process and the person. You must return to your desk to communicate with someone (or visit them in person), you must also return to your desk to access the wealth of data stored by your organisation’s IT systems. For those who are not office workers – on a factory floor, treating patients in hospitals, on site in the field, travelling with goods – this distraction of having to go somewhere special to use a communications tool affects productivity, and let’s face it, even office workers are not glued to their desks.
Mobile devices and the shifting of IT access and communications tools directly to where the individual needs to be to work on their business tasks helps them be more productive, responsive and to collaborate better. Now that video can be an intrinsic part of that approach too, there is no reason why it should not be adding similar value to the business process. To read more about the impact of video adoption, download this free report.