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How To Get Customers Into Video Conferencing

It helps companies save energy, money and time. So, why aren't more IT solution providers selling video conferencing systems?

Video conferencing is the perfect technology that just can't get it started. It saves money, time and energy costs. And yet employees still rack up frequent flyer miles, spend too much o gasoline and get familiar with railroad schedules. Here, Krish Ramakrishnan, the CEO and co-founder of Blue Jeans Network, a cloud-based conferencing service, offers six tips for video conferencing adoption. —Jennifer Bosavage, editor

We hear constantly that the modern workforce is increasingly global and mobile, with many companies working with teams that are spread across time zones on any given day. Alongside this trend, we see that video conferencing capabilities are built in to virtually every new desktop computer, laptop and mobile device on the market. With all this new found mobility and technology, it would seem that more enterprises would be using video conferencing as a standard way to connect and collaborate. Yet, it's still fairly unusual to find a company in which video conferencing is the norm. Why?

There are six things that must be addressed and improved before we'll see widespread enterprise adoption of video conferencing. They are:

1. Interoperability. One of the biggest benefits of using video conferencing in business is that it can nurture face-to-face connections in a virtual setting between people who can’t always sit in the same room because of physical distance. Imagine the hurdles that come up when every participant needs to own a specific piece of hardware or even download a specific piece of software. The ability for participants to use whatever end point they want – whether it’s Skype for iPhone, Polycom, Cisco, Google Talk or an Android Smartphone will destroy these hurdles. This would be a major step toward making video conferencing as easy as audio conferencing, which doesn’t care whether you dial in from Skype, a cell phone or a conference room land line.

2. Security. Security is a real issue in any business, no matter what industry it operates in. Any threat to security is going to impede a new process from moving forward. Many leadership teams are likely much more comfortable with the idea of meeting in person than with dialing into a video conference line when discussing trade secrets. If video conferencing platforms can win over stakeholders with proof that their communications are bullet-proof from threats or attacks, then we can knock this obstacle out of the picture.

3. Infrastructure. Because video conferencing is still viewed by many as "bells and whistles" rather than a core business need, the thought of having to install new technology infrastructure to make it work will stop adoption from moving forward. Many companies right now are still in a lean frame of mind, which means that anything that seems the slightest bit unnecessary and costs money to implement immediately will be taken off the table. That is why "pay as you go" models of video conferencing that run in the cloud will move along adoption must faster than expensive hardware that has to be purchased, implemented and managed.

4. Ability to run on multiple devices. For any new technology to be adopted by today's increasingly mobile workforce, it has to offer a seamless experience across multiple devices. Workers need to be able to use it on their office desktop, laptop at home and handheld device in the field or on the road. We're seeing more platforms start to think this way, but still have a ways to go across what is widely marketed to enterprises today.

5. Usability hurdles. Video conferencing has to be as easy as audio conferencing before mass adoption can take place. Think of it this way: Your marketing team tries to initiate a video conference that includes an on-site team, two offsite team members, and a vendor in another time zone. They can't get the video platform to work in the first few minutes of the meeting, so they call IT for support. The IT person comes and gets things rolling, but they've already lost 12 to 15 minutes of their hour. This team may be persistent enough to try video conferencing one more time. But after the second time with similar problems, they will simply resort to audio conferencing, which they know from experience is much more reliable. Their exposure to video conferencing wasted too much time and didn't return enough of an improvement over audio conferencing to justify bothering with it in the future.

6. Cost. Because we’re coming off a deep recession and still in a period of very slow growth in many industries, a lot of enterprises are not going to adopt new technology that costs substantially more than what they’re already using, especially if their current technology works well. If video conferencing costs more than audio conferencing without any clear reason to invest, companies will not adopt it. At the end of the day, economics matter — and that’s true no matter what state of growth the overall economy is in.

Why use video conferencing?

The benefits of adopting video conferencing in business are significant. It enables more employees to telecommute, while still feeling connected to the workers in the office. Global meetings can take place without everyone having to fly to corporate headquarters. It allows more team collaboration among offices that are in different locations. It enables initial face-to-face meetings with out-of-town job candidates. All of this lends potential cost savings to a company’s bottom line.

If IT solution providers can knock each of the six hurdles outlined here, the first dominoes of mass adoption in business will begin to fall.

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