The consumer has become accustomed to video communication technology at home. There are now millions of people who feel comfortable using and appearing in video, thanks to services such as Skype, which has in part helped consumer take-up of video conferencing between friends and family.
Tools like Skype – almost 40% of Skype minutes last year were video calls – and the fact that webcams are frequently built into computer monitors, have allowed consumers at home and on their smartphones to have easy access to video communication.
This consumer impact will drive the enterprise to change the conversation and integrate video conferencing. So far, success has been mixed – the Telecommunications Industry Association reports average growth of 6.5% for each of the last three years.
For video conferencing to be widely taken up, it needs to be easily available at the desktops of every employee, in the same way as email – by simply clicking on the name of the person you want to speak to and off you go – as we’re used to doing on mobile phones.
So why hasn’t the enterprise adopted video communication in the same way as the consumer? Security was an issue – tools like Skype were not designed for use in the enterprise – the primary reason being that they lack the security for corporate use.
And price too – costly ISDN lines and limited bandwidth, compromising the real-life feel of video communication, also proved prohibitive in the past. But these barriers no longer exist because of low-cost ADSL and IP networking.
And now there is an economic driver – while companies were prosperous, money spent on travel and international mobile communications didn’t represent a prohibitive cost, and was far outweighed by the fact that they could meet face-to-face with important clients, partners or prospects. The current economic climate has changed all that.
Video can now be as integrated within the enterprise as telephone calls or emails. I believe that video communication is a key stepping stone in establishing a truly dynamic enterprise, giving employees more ways that they can engage with each other, with partners, with customers – and innovate together.
It’s in play now – the barrier is now behavioural, not technological. Yet as partners and employees used to videoconferencing their friends and family become mainstream employees, this will drive video conferencing to gain the critical mass it needs to become a mainstream communication tool.