There is little doubt that the credit crunch has brought about a fault line in the business continuum by creating extreme circumstances that have sped up interest in innovation through technology to put business growth back on the table. In some ways the previously little-known volcano in Iceland and the resulting impact on air travel has also been a catalyst for change in business behaviour with respect to how we interact. Add pressure on budgets to the mix and the scene was clearly set for a boost in video conferencing, or its high grade option, telepresence.
However, that’s only part of the story about how video is being used, however before I leave this part of the topic behind there are a couple of points to make. The first is that I really would have loved to steal the headline from a posting on the growth of video for conferencing with the byline; ‘Eruption in Video Conferencing continues as new Volcano ash alert’. How is that for a topical attention grabbing headline!?

The more serious point is that those planning enterprise-level investments in video conferencing should have one eye on the issue of standards which is just beginning to emerge. Sure the business case may be in-house around linking key enterprise complexes at the beginning but it’s going to look a pretty poor investment pretty quickly if the expense corporate installation can’t be used with key external customers and suppliers. The industry as ever has made it really complicated with terminology and different standards, but you can download a great pdf document that provides an excellent overview to anyone wanting to understand what’s what.
My real interest is in all of this is the growth in low-cost messaging using video by every day employees. There are at least three common tools now around; many new notebooks, such as the one I am using have a built in camera and capability; most smartphones can accommodate small clips; and there are low cost webcams to clip onto PCs. Actually I am using a fourth tool that I really rate and have been surprised to see how many others are in use; the Flip. The simplest device to carry and use, but with two hours of high grade recording time and direct USB plug-in to download and charge without needing any cables. Flip also has a web sharing site to exchange, download, etc. This device truly does make it so easy that you find yourself recording more and more video notes to your colleagues.
As an example of why and how this is growing; in my private life I had a problem with a mechanical device, and the immediate advice from this company’s service support line was, ‘Got a phone with video? Can you take a video and post it’. And sure enough they were able to come back with the assembly replacement solution, and guess what, there was also a video to show how it should be done! Now I was pretty interested in this and pursued it with the service manager who admitted that originally it was an employee who started asking customers for video clips from phones unofficially via video sharing web sites, but that they had now adopted it as a standard procedure. Enterprise-wide I asked? No just a local country and department innovation.
So once again there is innovation in the use of technology at the edge of the business to improve customer service, a common theme today, but no path upward to leverage this. It’s definitely a case of people adopting what they see as familiar consumer technology to use at work, in a hands-on sense of what the issues and solutions are, rather than a top down big change driven corporately that is succeeding in many cases. So what’s the issue? Answer is it’s just the same as social networking; it’s happening all over every enterprise without, management knowledge and is pretty well always based on being hosted on an external site. Short video clips and social networks go hand in hand, but video downloads are more complex in terms of implications on bandwidth etc.
What really made me sit up and blink was to hear that this service centre had solved the firewall problem to allow them to be free to use video in this way. Their answer? They had an extra phone line installed that wasn’t on the records and were using it for broadband access. Think about it! It’s a pretty easy trick!!
Am I against video because of this? Certainly not, but I do think it’s the next round of pressure for change, and just as with social networking it wont go away if IT and management ignores the topic. Instead both need a new approach to safe enablement. You have been warned! And to finish off two looks at other ways instant videos are being used; Business story telling with video – increasing use to show customers and using an instant video submitter for business survival.