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When Video Conferencing Won’t Save Money
Video conferencing can no longer be treated as a standalone application or singular product. Traditionally this technology was difficult to implement, deploy, and manage with limited integration as most products used proprietary hardware and software.
As end user working styles and work locations change, and technologies continue to mature, we need to redefine what roll video conferencing will play. Video conferencing is now an additional consideration when a company is developing a strategy for collaboration capabilities.
Looking to Save on Travel Costs
A short time ago I had an analyst call with an Info-Tech client who was starting to investigate various video conference vendors. The member came to the call with a high-level list of some basic requirements that included:
- the need to accommodate meetings with high quality
- low/no capital investment
- process that can easily transcend multiple platforms/video conference technologies
This initiative started several months before our scheduled call, as a request from the senior leadership in the organization wanted to avoid traveling to New York City as frequently as they had been. The senior leadership team was looking to gain visibility into what investments may be necessary and some of the cost points for video conferencing.
I enquired as to the number of end users that may be able to leverage these capabilities moving forward. The member paused for a moment and stated that they felt maybe only a small subset of users (approximately 100-150) would be able to take advantage of video conferencing.
The company had an existing contract with West Communications that allowed them to maintain a few Cisco WebEx accounts for a handful of employees to start a proof of concept. We continued to identify different internal teams using various pieces of technologies to collaborate.
After some prodding, we identified that the Human Resources team was leveraging point-to-point video capabilities with Skype for Business to complete “talking head” interviews. A previous merger and acquisition engagement included bring an older subset of Polycom equipment into the organization. This infrastructure had limited functionality and can only provide dedicated point-to-point communications between a specific set of conference rooms due to proprietary endpoint hardware and network requirements.
The final major discovery was that every location potentially could have a different provider of telephony, from legacy on-premises to a variety of cloud-based providers with various styles of endpoints and applications. This type of situation can occur when an organization grows rapidly. Often companies are forced to acquire technology with a “just in time” approach to enable the business to move forward. Merger and acquisitions can often be the catalyst to cause the technology sprawl that we see in this company.
What Are Some Lessons Learned?
First, travel is not always necessary. While there is ample evidence that in-person meetings have some clear advantages over remote collaboration, this doesn’t rule out the need for completing a cost-benefit exercise.
Second, the real world is a messy place, and often requires jerry-rigged solutions to problems. That being said, standardization will improve communications practices. The client in question manages a hodgepodge of different infrastructures—and that’s a burden on the organization. Streamlining the acquisition process, and maturing the collaboration practice could go a long way towards relieving some of these headaches.
Having standards, and making good faith efforts to implement them, is a good first step—and something that I’m sure has become top of mind with the team moving forward as they continue to develop an approach.
- Ask yourself the question, “Do I really need to be onsite?” Current collaboration technologies have reduced the need to travel for many types of engagements.
- Is this travel expense a requirement? Include a statement in the travel profile to verify that being physically onsite is needed.
- Standardize and simplify the number of solutions deployed.
- Complete a requirements gathering exercise to determine the time, effort, and spend required to provide the expected return on investment to add these capabilities.
Senior leadership is looking to reduce travel costs by bringing video capabilities to the end user. These capabilities come standard in many collaboration products and can provide an end user with a more viable alternative than having to physically travel.
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