UC EXPO: Overcoming the barriers to video adoption

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Eighty per cent of consumers use video at home or on the move, but only 28 per cent of people deploy it within their business. So said Axel Albrecht, Senior Solutions Engineer EMEA for enterprise video provider, Blue Jeans Network, speaking at the ‘Future of Video Collaboration’ panel at UC EXPO in London yesterday.

So why aren’t more organisations using video (via webcam or IP endpoint) as part of the increasingly collaborative workflows created by unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) applications, platforms, and systems?

“That ease of use and user-friendliness are missing in a lot of solutions,” Albrecht said, adding: “but the enterprise also needs to know you have scalability and access on a global level.”

Anthony Blake, Cisco’s Video Acceleration Lead EMEA, agreed, saying: “There are two areas for us: interoperability needs improving, and the user experience. It’s that ‘delightful experience’, that touchy-feely, almost consumer approach to connectivity, that’s been missing in the past.”

Mark Richer chairman and founder of cloud UC provider Starleaf, said: “It’s fascinating how often this comes back to user experience and ease of use. But why have these systems been so difficult to use? The problem is architectural, the traditional way that all of these things have been designed is peer to peer and we end up with lots of devices talking to lots of devices.”

The key is to structure video technologies hierarchically, in the way that voice communications have been structured in the past, he said, with the cloud being their natural home.

But he added:“My feeling is that we don’t need to do anything overt to convert people to using video. I think people are smart about figuring things out for themselves. People are huge adopters of video if everything is right. But small differences in usability are critical to getting things right. It’s our [vendors’] fault if people aren’t adopting it.”

But while one part of the video-adoption challenge may be technical, and another is certainly cultural, there is a third, often-overlooked, aspect. As Albrecht put it, “it has to be a video image that adds value to the conversation”.

There are practical, real-world challenges, too, which naturally arise out of the greater flexibility that mobility brings to people’s lives. According to Cisco’s Blake, 65 per cent of people on an audio-only conference are doing something else while participating: concentrating on other work, but often also doing household chores and even, in a surprising number of cases, using the bathroom: a whole new variable in the productivity equation!

Michael Boyle, VP of Collaboration for PGi, picked up on the practical, real-world theme, observing that while video is the next hot topic in UC&C, a lot of people simply don’t like to switch their video camera on during a conversation and have their “human presence beamed all over the world”, particularly if they are working remotely, or from home.

That said, he added: “I haven’t found it’s a millennial thing. If the first person puts on their camera, then there is a peer pressure thing [and others will follow suit].”

Lines of business adopt video better than relying on any organisation-wide, generic deployment of a product, he said. “Sales tend to use it more, and HR, because there is a purpose.”

• Also taking part in the debate was Tim Stone, VP of Marketing for Polycom, who took the opportunity to stress that it is “business as usual” for his company, despite Mitel’s long-mooted acquisition of the company being confirmed on Friday.

The union of the two UC&C providers is a good match, he said, combining Polycom’s enterprise track record and Mitel’s strength in the midmarket. The deal is expected to close in Q3.

About Author

Chris Middleton

Chris Middleton is a widely respected business and technology journalist, author, and magazine editor. In recent years he has been Editor of Computing (where he remains Consulting Editor); co-founder and Managing Editor of Professional Outsourcing – a magazine he developed from scratch and grew to be the leading magazine in its field; Editor of CBR in its most successful year; and co-founder and launch Editor of Sourcingfocus.com. Today, he is co-Director of EastwoodMiddleton Publishing, and founder, designer, and Editor in Chief of Strategist magazine (UK), the boardroom magazine that provides strategic insight for business leaders, and of its mobile-first digital edition at www.iamtheStrategist.com. He is also co-founding Editor of Child Internet Safety magazine, and a contributing Editor of Diginomica.com. Over the years Chris has also written for, among many others, The Guardian, The Times, the BBC, and Computer Weekly. He is the author of several successful books on digital media, and a commissioning editor of more than 50 books.