Just about everyone in the business world agrees that video collaboration has great potential to help people work more efficiently and reliably when virtual meetings or remote teamwork are necessary or beneficial. Yet this technology is not utilized as much as it should be given its potential.
Why should this be the case? Is the technology itself the problem? Perhaps its capabilities are over-touted and it is not yet ready for primetime. Or, are perception and business practices the problem? Perhaps there is an unwillingness to try something new, or to adjust processes to allow video collaboration technology to shine.
Last year, Cisco (News - Alert) set out to answer those and related questions by commissioning a worldwide study of video collaboration technologies (telepresence, video conferencing) in the business environment. Representative samples of workers in 12 markets around the globe were polled about the well known and lesser-known benefits of video collaboration, and asked about usage to uncover trends.
Results from the study reveal two broad findings: the differences in perception and work habits between those who use video collaboration and those who do not, and why the “soft” benefits of this technology (e.g. improved work-life balance) are important.
The biggest barriers to adoption of video collaboration, the study found, are not technology limitations but rather lack of experience and/or lack of understanding about how benefits outweigh costs. People who regularly use this technology are generally eager to extol its benefits, and overwhelmingly say it is worth the cost. Yet those who do not use it have a hard time understanding why it would benefit them. It truly is a case of seeing-is-believing.
“Ninety percent of those who use video conferencing technologies once or more per week say video collaboration technologies save them at least 2 hours of valuable work time a week—yet only 33 percent of nonusers believe they could save any time using the technology,” Cisco said in a report about the study.
Closing the gap between users and nonusers, therefore, is a critical challenge. It is usually most effective if adoption occurs from the top down—starting with executives.
“A much higher percentage of executive-level workers perceive time savings from video collaboration (79 percent) as compared to nonsupervisory workers (36 percent) who need to travel less,” Cisco noted.
For skeptical nonusers, it is often the case that justification for giving this technology a try is simply a quantitative numbers game—saving money on travel costs, improving productivity, and the like. Yet, for video collaboration users, some of the most compelling benefits are qualitative (increased competitive advantage, bringing people together).
Qualitative benefits of video collaboration highlighted by users include enhanced experience when working from home, helping businesses maintain continuity if a disruption occurs, helping organizations project a forward-looking view, improved group collaboration and reduced confusion.
There is also a big variance in how video collaboration is perceived, and how much it is used, in different places around the world.
“Significant gaps exist in the perception and use of the technology among nations, with online workers in China consistently ranking high in terms of usage and perceived benefits,” Cisco said in its report. “More than half of respondents in China use video collaboration technology (56 percent)—more than double the respondents of any other country.”
Other countries would surely benefit from following China’s lead in this area.
“These communication tools are helping workers build strong relationships with their clients and with colleagues who work at other locations,” Cisco said. “Using solutions such as telepresence and video conferencing in the workplace can also positively affect the personal lives of today’s workers by helping them achieve a better work-life balance.”
Given all its benefits, the good news is that usage of video collaboration technologies is growing, and will continue to do so.
“More workers are using video collaboration and telepresence more frequently, and more than one-third of nonusers worldwide intend to use the technology as soon as it becomes available to them,” Cisco reported. “Costs for video collaboration and telepresence solutions are on the decline while quality is improving exponentially, so workers who do not yet have access to the technology, or have the opportunity to use it only occasionally, may not need to wait long to experience the many potential benefits of the visually enabled workplace.”
Mae Kowalke is a TMCnet contributor. She is Manager of Stories at Neundorfer, Inc., a cleantech company in Northeast Ohio. She has more than 10 years experience in journalism, marketing and communications, and has a passion for new tech gadgets. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Jennifer Russell