For some enterprises, video conferencing has proven to be a powerful collaboration tool that has lived up to the promise of significantly reducing travel. Many have found the complexity, inconvenience, and expense of traditional, location dependent video conferencing exceeds the value anticipated by their enterprise. As the workforce increasingly shifts to mobile employees and teleworkers, location dependent video communication becomes a hindrance. Instead, what is needed is the capability to have video conferencing from any location. While multimedia applications such as video conferencing, message management and telephone calls over the Internet aren’t new, the way they can be used simultaneously with secure wireline or wireless remote access to the network from anywhere, with a variety of devices, is new.
At the most basic level, virtual enterprises are now cost-effective, technically viable alternatives to the traditional office because of the new capabilities of communications networks. In the past, we had multiple networks – voice, data, wireline and wireless – all functioning independently of each other and using different technologies for voice and data. Today, these multiple networks are converging into one, using the same packet technology. Packet technologies like Internet Protocol (IP) and Voice over IP (VoIP) convert voice, video and data into tiny packets that can be transmitted together over a single, high-speed network, eliminating the need for separate networks. When all voice or video or data information is handled the same way – by one high-speed, packetized network, either wireline or wireless – the boundaries are eliminated and simplified from having multiple networks that made it difficult to use multimedia applications simultaneously. You can access the network through a desktop computer on a wireline connection at home or be on the move with a wireless connection for your laptop or Smartphone.
Virtual multimedia capabilities are valuable across all industry sectors. Take healthcare as an example. A nurse needing help with a patient can immediately reach a doctor without wasting valuable time calling office, mobile and home telephone numbers. The nurse could quickly share pertinent medical information, prescriptions and even X-rays with the doctor, ultimately providing better patient care. The benefits of video / multimedia solutions for the virtual enterprise have been proven by many corporates whose associates around the world who have been enjoying the freedom and mobility of virtual work for some time. A blue chip Insurance company conducted a sample of full-time teleworking employees that showed a 15% increase in individual productivity and somewhere between 42% – 90% reduction in telecom-related costs for mobile workers.
Real time collaboration and immediate access to information means the most remote, geographically-dispersed workers in any industry sector can function as cohesive, integrated teams increasing productivity and shortening decision cycles to be more responsive to business or customer needs. Of equal importance is the potential for enterprises to drive their operational costs lower. Telcos are in prime position to supply mobile video conferencing solutions to the Enterprise sector. Their access layers ( Hspa+ and LTE ) are getting faster and IP optimised , dual mode ( 3G + Wifi ) smartphones are being subsidized , converged billing systems allow granular invoicing , PCRF middle ware can allocate bandwidth fairly etc.
Mobile collaboration systems combine the use of video, audio and on-screen drawing capabilities using newest generation hand-held mobile devices to enable multi-party conferencing in real-time, independent of location. Benefits include cost-efficiencies resulting from accelerated problem resolution, reductions in downtimes and travel, improvements in customer service and increased productivity.
Rather than traveling great distances in order to have a face-face meeting, it is now commonplace to instead use a telepresence system, which uses a multiple codec video system (which is what the word “telepresence” most currently represents). Each member/party of the meeting uses a telepresence room to “dial in” and can see/talk to every other member on a screen/screens as if they were in the same room. This brings enormous time and cost benefits. It is also superior to phone conferencing (except in cost), as the visual aspect greatly enhances communications, allowing for perceptions of facial expressions and other body language.
British Telecom and AT&T have launched one of the world’s largest telepresence networks, following successful trials conducted in 2009.The pair say the service is the first interoperable exchange for telepresence, and will allow business customers to schedule meetings and connect via Cisco endpoints.Meeting support, assistance and billing will be handled by customers’ individual service providers, and the operators plan to introduce a directory to help users determine which other organizations can be contacted through the connection.
According to Dion Hinchcliff much has been made of the likely underperformance of a particularly high-profile type of collaboration tool — enterprise social networks (ESNs) — if rollout is conducted without the requisite supporting behavioral, cultural, and process changes. We forget at our peril that collaboration is a fundamentally human activity. This implies that any use of enabling technology without taking into account how people actually conduct their work, their inclinations to share information and interact with each other, and in particular how the proposed technology will empower them and alter their collaborative behavior for the better/worse, is bound to disappoint.
Sadiq Malik ( Telco Strategist )