Video conferencing has many times been presented as THE solution for many business communications challenges, and yet beyond walnut veneer boardrooms and despite the wider usage of video in personal communications, business adoption often seems tantalisingly muted.
Having embarked on a worldwide research project surveying over 800 current business video conferencing users, several usage patterns emerged, but some burning questions remained, which I put to Roger Farnsworth a senior director of services from Polycom, the sponsors of the research.
The first question concerns the matter of how many working hours are taken up with what seems to be endless pointless meetings – a point which the vendor agrees on and suggests how video could change this working pattern
Rob: Many employees feel that they have too many meetings already – isn’t video collaboration just a way to hold meetings remotely?
Roger: “It’s not that employees have too many meetings; that’s a function of business culture. Organisations still have to be smart about time management; however; video collaboration can make necessary meetings more productive. In the UK alone time wasted being unproductive in meetings is estimated to cost the economy £26 billion every year. That’s because of the 4 hours the average worker spends in meetings a week, 2 hours 39 minutes of this time is wasted. This is down to travel time, waiting for rooms when the previous meeting runs over, waiting for latecomers etc. Workers can be more productive when they don’t have to physically go to a meeting room and wait for a meeting to start. When dialling into a meeting room from your desk you can continue to work right up until the moment the meeting starts.
Video as a medium also speeds up the meeting process. Essentially, meetings are a way to reach consensus on issues and make decisions. In our recent research, more than 80 percent of those using video collaboration said they experience faster decision making. The ability to launch a group video collaboration anytime, anywhere means no more long, convoluted email trails as a preamble to a lengthy meeting. And of course both remote and external participants can join easily, so that the group can be effective and efficient. Video collaboration promotes smarter and faster decision-making.”
It is clear that for video to effectively change the way people work, share information and make decisions to be more efficient, more people, in fact pretty much all employees would need to be using it. The reality is that in many organisations, video conferencing usage exists only in pockets; either the walnut veneered boardroom, certain team meeting rooms or on privileged desktops. This seems oddly restrictive when so many have become so accustomed to advanced communications, including video, as consumers.
However, the research also indicated that some organisations had a much more progressive attitude than others. In these, video conferencing usage had become accepted, normalised like using the phone and very widely adopted. So what makes them different?
Rob: What do you think are the characteristics of an adoptive video culture?
Roger: “Organisations with a high percentage of digital natives and millennials will see a video culture develop rapidly. This is because these workers are more used to using video in their personal lives, with consumer solutions such as Skype and FaceTime.
However, there are other key factors. Organisations that are constantly revisiting process and policy in pursuit of improvement adapt and evolve more quickly. Those organisations where IT is a more active participant at C-level will see video collaboration integrated into business processes and therefore adopted quickly too. Having IT advise lines of business leaders on integration of video collaboration drives adoption from the top down.
In order to foster a bottom-up movement in terms of video adoption it’s important to develop a more democratic work environment where employees feel empowered to run with the tools provided. This means making video for all, not just managers. Dissolving hierarchical access limitations is absolutely essential.”
The research backs up these comments. The video conferencing industry has progressed through several stages of evolution, with the perceptions from some earlier hang-ups lingering a little longer than necessary. The technology needed to mature to become easier to use and more reliable, and networks needed to grow in capacity to support higher definition video. This has largely happened, with perhaps the odd rough edges in usability still needing some polish.
The next steps involve non-technical challenges such as social, psychological and political (the internal politics of management) acceptance. These influence the culture in the workplace and attitudes to how people communication. Getting them right will bring greater adoption and should lead to the intended goal – more effective communication. To read more about video adoption, download this free report.