Taking video conferencing out of the boardroom

Video conferencing has been around for twenty years but for organisations making the most of the technology has historically gone hand in hand with prohibitive costs. While businesses love the idea of immersive multi-screen telepresence, accessibility and justifying the investment in procurement remains an issue.

Typical deployments are limited only a handful of rooms in large office locations. But with the mean capital cost of a telepresence deployment hovering between $250,000 and $300,000 there was a built in barrier to right of use.

Unified communications solutions have traditionally been expensive to deploy, expensive to maintain and run; and traditionally the domain of the C-suite talent within an organisation.

However, the proliferation of mobile devices has added a new dimension to unified communication (UC) deployment, with a recognition that important conversations just don’t need to happen in purpose-build screens and rooms. These conversations are happening across multiple screens on multiple mobile devices, often brought into the workplace by employees.

The key driver in the change unfolding in the UC space is that the rank and file now has a far greater appetite for using video solutions and they aren’t happy to wait for the conferencing schedules to clear up.  

Scheduled conference room video conferencing is giving way to personal unscheduled conferencing and the BYOD trend is manifesting itself in a way where a business and its clients want video conferencing to be as simple as dialling a number.  

The magic word is scalability and providing a solution that mitigates the costs and the skills barrier so far associated with UC services.

That’s where solutions like Tata Communications’ Jamvee service are seeking to fit in, as the overall market becomes more receptive to alternate deployment models and cheaper systems that provide better integration.

Indian-based Tata, an established heavy hitter in the communications space, has teamed up with remote collaboration services provider Arkadin to launch Jamvee in the Australian and New Zealand market.

Tata’s senior vice president, unified communications and collaboration, Antony Bartolo says offerings like Jamvee are designed to democratise the edge of the network and extend it to the realm of the user.

That means providing a remedy for quality and interoperability issues, especially with multi-user global video conferencing.

“With BYOD there’s now almost an expectation that everybody either has [video conferencing] capability or has access to such a facility. Whether they choose to leverage it or not is purely left to the participant,” Bartolo says.

Making video conferencing as accessible as audio conferencing entails overcoming significant hurdles. The biggest of these is network performance, especially when you are dealing with latent-sensitive traffic. Given the proliferation of end-point devices managing quality is a key consideration.

Bartolo adds a third element – the inefficiencies manifest in actually setting up a video conference.

“There is a metric I have come across which stated that it took an average of 12 minutes to set up a video conference. You get into these specific rooms and you would have participants who aren’t adept at using the systems,” he says

Products like Jamvee are designed to mitigate the complexities build into the traditional UC delivery model, which in turn propel the greater adoption in enterprises.

“We have worked hard to simplify the Jamvee experience, firstly by removing the peripheral elements and then leveraging what participants naturally feel comfortable about.  Make a phone call, punch in the participation code and off you go,” Bartolo says.

Simplifying a video call into those fundamentals is critical to the customer experience, which in turn opens the door to businesses developing broader use cases.

Like most tech trends, adopting a one size fits all approach is perilous, especially when it comes to mobile video conferencing. Mobility and video conferencing are more closely aligned than ever before and as Bartolo points out there isn’t anybody currently deploying a UC solution that doesn’t have strong mobile (phones, tablets, and laptops) component.

Choosing a UC solution requires businesses to clearly understand their use case and that’s where culture becomes very important.  Implementing a mobile UC solution purely as an add-on could actually become a constraint.

“The minute you present it in that particular manner you have created dependencies on your company’s adoption of a particular collaboration tool,” Bartolo says.

Video conferencing is on the cusp of entering a golden age and the new eco-system looks likely to be one where enterprises increasingly shed the stress of deployment and interoperability and solutions like Jamvee become the facilitators of an open ended environment.

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