Google already is talking about producing an enterprise version of its Google+ social media offering that makes multi-party webcam conferencing both free and widely accessible. And Microsoft’s $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype in May set the ball rolling for Skype video integration into the Microsoft Office suite, which will make it easier to schedule and conduct video meetings online while simplifying the process of integrating video into the production of commonplace business content at the desktop level.
Couple the looming push for live video from the big boys with a range of innovative video collaboration applications emerging from the likes of NetBriefings, Tokbox and Watchitoo, and you have all the ingredients for an honest-to-goodness 2012 land rush of vendors seeking to stake their claim to their share of the market for democratizing live video in the corporate sector.
For the business community, this surge of live video communications alternatives could be as central to promoting wider adoption of video in the corporate sector as YouTube proved to be in popularizing on-demand video clips in the consumer market.
After all, traditional forms of video conferencing have long delivered value in the business world because they build on the ways that executives already work. They integrate video into existing meeting formats to help executives communicate in a more engaging way, mitigating the need for some business travel and promoting greater corporate efficiency.
The primary hurdle to extending the benefits of video communications to a broader swath of the work force has been the high cost associated with equipping and managing dedicated video conferencing rooms. The looming video initiatives from Google, Microsoft and others promises to shatter that cost barrier, commoditizing live video capabilities in a way that makes it viable for companies to consider extending the reach of video communications into progressively lower rungs of their work force.
But even with commoditized live video on the horizon, companies that seek to fully leverage the power of expanded video communications in coming years should be taking steps today to prepare their organizations to capitalize on this coming video democratization. Following is a list of five proactive steps that your company should be taking to prepare for the new era in live video business communications.
- Establish rules of the road for corporate networks. Information technology departments should be identifying optimal video loads that can be handled on current corporate networks, and subsequently establishing policies for limiting the number of video-enhanced meetings that can be scheduled at any one time. Any mandate to throttle live meetings at the outset should be married with a long-range plan for network expansion that expands the capacity for live video on the corporate network over time.
- Plant webcam seeds. Where possible, leverage existing investments to be video-friendly over time. When your organization buys laptops, for instance, make sure that they integrate webcams even if live video applications are not broadly used on your corporate network today. Simple steps today will help reduce implementation costs when employee demand for accessible live video communications increases over time.
- Raise video’s profile. Once infrastructure issues are satisfied, companies can foster greater adoption of online video (along with the gains in productivity and efficiency that they enable) by exposing more employees to video events. Start by identifying meetings or events with a high likelihood of touching all employees and then developing ways to integrate video into these presentations. Beyond typical “all-hands” employee meetings, ideal communications events for introducing video on a widespread basis are typically found in the human resources department. Meetings in which employees are told about their benefits or medical packages for the coming year via conference call, for instance, can benefit from the integration of video to create a more engaging, interactive environment. In the process, workers get more familiar with video and start to think of ways they can use it in their own daily communications.
- Engage in active video training. Live video is not suited to address every business communications need. Short training classes can be used to help workers identify the types of business meetings that can benefit from video enhancement and those where video can get in the way. Such training efforts can help ensure that the video that is shipped over corporate networks is delivering on its potential for maximizing productivity.
- Identify video pioneers. Because of the collaborative opportunities for live video at the corporate desktop, its adoption within an organization will likely take place on a viral basis. Identify a sub-set of technically savvy employees who can evangelize the adoption of live video simply by scheduling meetings that introduce more employees to the growing set of video communications features that are feasible to use at the desktop.