Andreas Wienold, VP EMEA, LifeSize offers his top tips on how to make sure video is right at the heart of your corporate communications and collaboration strategy
In any business the human factor must never be over-looked. A company that has a great product may be lacking in sales due to poor sales support or customer service.
Often, attaching a face to a name and, even more significantly, being able to read someone's facial expressions and body language can make the critical difference in the success or failure of a business communication.
The applications of video communications are endless, and with improvements on both the network and video system sides, few, if any, factors stand in a company's way of using video conferencing.
Video conferencing has become easy to use and offers such high quality that having a meeting via video can be more effective than connecting in person. But that's not to say that a company should launch into a video conferencing programme without careful examination of how the technology best fits into its environment.
Here are 10 tips on how to make video an essential part of a corporate communications and collaboration strategy:
- Take stock of your company's collaborative environment, and explore how video might enhance the experience. Audio calls, instant messaging and email are all examples of useful corporate communications tools that encourage collaboration. But they can all be improved upon with the face-to-face experience video conferencing enables.
- Assess organisational requirements, and account for the scalability of your implementation. A good strategy is to deploy video conferencing in main conference rooms and boardrooms and start with executives as the first users, says Rafi Anuar, product manager at LifeSize. "When you first start deploying, it's easy to put a system in each location and have those systems place direct calls to each other. That's pretty straight forward, requiring no major network overhauls," he says. Once those are up and running effectively, consider installing desktop software so you can take video out of the conference room and enable an individual with video conferencing from wherever that person might be, Anuar says.
- Evaluate bandwidth requirements as well as connectivity between ISDN and IP networks. Although most video communications today will traverse IP networks with 1 Mbps of bandwidth, users might sometimes be connected via ISDN links. If so, you'll need specialised gateways that connect the two. Depending on the number of sites, you might consider Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) services for video conferencing use or running videos over an internal IP network.
- Plan for mobility: How will you ensure that travelling users can participate in video collaboration sessions? As your video conferencing use evolves, you might want to let people who travel have the ability to participate in video calls from wherever they are. But be sure to take security into account as you select a fire-wall traversal product. As a best practice, look for a product that supports standards-based H.460 and Session Initiation Protocol(SIP) tunnelling for secure video communications.
- Make a commitment to ease of use and a quality user experience. For example, look for video conferencing systems that have complete room coverage and use MPEG-4 AAC algorithms for super-wide-band audio of up to 16 kHz for high-fidelity sound. Superior audio conferencing sound quality will eliminate echoes, shield against distracting buzz and otherwise make the meeting experience more effective.
- Automate and centralise video management. Look for solutions that ease the deployment and management of large numbers of computers and endpoints. In other words, look for management tools that will automatically apply settings based on user name and push out software updates and reconfigure endpoints as appropriate.
- Incorporate video collaboration into overarching unified communications strategies. Document sharing and video conferencing have long gone hand in hand, but don't be afraid to incorporate video into your unified communications (UC) strategy. For example, integrate video conferencing with instant messaging/chat presence tools. Look for a video conferencing solution that supports open standards and uses an application programming interface to ease integration with UC platforms, such as IBM SameTime, Microsoft Office Communications Server or Microsoft SharePoint.
- Account for recorded video as well as live feeds. Video conferencing no longer has to be a synchronous activity involving specialty equipment at both ends of the connection. At times, such as for new-product or human resources training, distance learning and all-hands-on corporate communications, recorded video made available on demand will more than suffice. If this is a need for your company, look for a system that allows recording of video for live streamed delivery or saving for on-demand access later.
- Ease potential discomfort for first-time users with video via Picture in Picture (PIP) suppression, and educate participants about video etiquette. Video participants tend to quickly get over any initial awkwardness they feel, but you can ease their way into regular video conferencing with a few tricks. For example, set up the system so they're able to view only other callers, not themselves and encourage meeting participants not to have side conversations during the call. Remind them to keep their office or conference room doors closed during video calls to avoid distractions unrelated to the call.
- Build video collaboration into business quality. Upper management should take on sponsorship of video conferencing, actively encouraging its use for internal and, as appropriate, external engagements.
With the state of video conferencing technology today, you'll find a platform that meets just about any requirement.
The value of good communication cannot be overstated. Videoconferencing allows independence, mobility and greater collaboration while reducing costs and environmental impact. Businesses that do not have a well considered video strategy are driving down the highway with the handbrake on.
Andreas Wienold is VP EMEA at LifeSize.