Over the past few years, interactive videoconferencing tools and video streaming via the Internet and Intranets have helped break down geographic barriers by facilitating interaction with individuals around the globe. Individuals and companies around the world are feeling an increased need to exchange information through engaging and interactive visual presentations.
A timesaver and sometimes a lifesaver, videoconferencing and video streaming have addressed the growing need to overcome challenges imposed by time and geography. Videoconferencing systems in board rooms, operating rooms, cruise ships and airports around the world have saved organizations time and money, improved communication between colleagues, increased the quality and quantity of available information, and helped organizations attain their goals. Video streaming technology has allowed a level of participation for distant workers and customers that was not possible until recently.
Less than a decade ago, videoconferencing systems could cost over $100,000, making it affordable only for large businesses. It was difficult to find the appropriate telecommunications equipment in rural areas, and the cost of supporting videoconferencing systems was prohibitive. Interoperability between video systems and telecommunications systems across the globe provided significant challenges to all but the largest companies. Today, a business can obtain videoconferencing capabilities for as little as $10,000, and telecommunications options abound. Video streaming, an inexpensive option for the user, if not the originator, has gained popularity as the Internet becomes faster and more accessible almost anywhere and any time.
Many corporations have already embraced videoconferencing and video streaming to support their domestic and global interests, and to attract new clients and employees. Reducing the amount of time employees spend on the road or in the air often justifies the cost of owning and operating the technology. Allowing key staff to access video-streamed information, on their own terms, increases productivity and lessens the feeling of isolation experienced by "road warriors."
Executives have become responsible for divisions spread across the continent and around the globe. It has become essential for individuals to stay connected to their colleagues. Real time interactive videoconferencing and on demand video streaming enable co-workers to benefit from a more participative interaction, allowing them to work on projects, proposals and diagrams in real or near-real time, without leaving their homes, offices, hotel rooms, or even the airport.
Noting the potential of this technology, many managers are asking how they might utilize videoconferencing or video streaming in their business or practice. It may help to consider the following questions when determining if videoconferencing will have benefits in your enterprise.
- What aspects of your business can be enhanced by the use of videoconferencing or video streaming?
- How much time and money does your organization spend getting people to meetings? What is the value of your employees' time? Include salary paid during travel time, hotels, meals, mileage, etc., as well as quality of life in this analysis.
- What value-added benefits could you deliver to your clients or customers if you could meet with them more frequently and less expensively, or provide them with education and information on demand, through the Internet?
- Do you educate your clients, colleagues, or employees on a regular basis? What benefits might be realized if the same information could be delivered to all employees or clients around the world, and from one location?
- Do you commonly recruit new employees from distant areas? What expenses are associated with recruiting these employees? Could an initial âvirtual meetingâ via videoconferencing decrease expenses and increase your chances of identifying the right candidate?
These are questions to consider when identifying the benefits of videoconferencing or video streaming. As the cost of these technologies continues to decrease and advanced telecommunications technology becomes more available, the number of organizations leveraging video technology will only continue to grow.
This article was prepared by Mary Jo MacLaughlin. Ms MacLaughlin is a Senior Consultant in Berry, Dunn, McNeil & Parker's Information Technology Group. She can be reached at (207) 942-1600 or via e-mail at [email protected]