Insight from the Experts: Video Conf 101
Just about every Fortune 500 company in the world has a professional video conferencing system, enabling their executives to communicate with each other, "face to face" through a TC/computer screen. Meeting face to face is important and best, but there's only so many cities or countries you can go to in one day.
Phone calls, email, fax and mail can only go so far.
The next best thing is a video conference solution. I know most of you have Skype, ooVoo or some other solution for PC based video conferencing. However, as your business grows, you might find that a more robust solution, such as what I call a professional video conference solution is best.
One of the leaders in video conferencing is Tandberg and in this Q&A below their spokesperson helps demystify VC solutions and explains why a PC based solution might not be the right option for you.
Is there a particular type of small business who uses a video conference solution?
While there are certain verticals and types of SMBs that might be more predispositioned to use video than others, we believe that video can help just about any size business in any vertical market. SMBs that would be particularly strong candidates for video solutions are businesses that:
• Have executives who travel frequently to meet with customers / partners / colleagues, etc.
• Have a geographically dispersed work force.
• Need to scale resources to compete with larger companies.
• Are looking to reduce their carbon footprint and take a greener approach to their business.
Industries where we have seen growth in video deployments include financial, manufacturing, professional services, communications and retail. We have customer examples from these sectors that I’d be happy to share if you’d like.
How do they decide between needing a video conference system such as Tandberg provides vs a PC based version?
We offer a full range of video solutions, from our PC based solution, Movi, to our high-end Telepresence T3 so we can customize a visual communications program for any type of customer. It really comes down to the goals a customer is trying to achieve. The great thing about investing in a video conferencing solution is that you can start small and build on your investment as you grow because all of our products are built on open standards and designed to work together and with third-party solutions.
Some other PC video and video conferencing providers are proprietary, so you can only talk to others who use their products and software, like Skype. We believe these types of solutions are not sustainable in a business environment where people need to be able to conduct business securely and with a variety of customers, partners or suppliers who may use different solutions.
The three key things SMBs - or any business for that matter - should consider when choosing visual communications solutions are:
1.Quality of video
2. Total experience;and
In order experience the optimal benefits of video communications, HD quality is absolute. With anything less than HD video, you quickly begin to lose the connectedness that you feel with the person on the other end, because facial expressions, reactions and visual cues become less apparent. This is a key differentiator between business caliber video and consumer video.
Secondly, they should consider the entire video experience - does it allow them to easily connect with everyone in the organization via multipoint calls? Does is enable them to collaborate by showing desktops and applications? Is the solution easy to deploy, manage and scale as they grow? Does the quality the video projects represent their business image? Lastly, because consumer PC video solutions are web-based and not designed for business use, they may be susceptible to security risks, which can result in confidential information getting into the wrong hands.
What are some range of costs for a video conference system?
Depending on the scope of deployment, the size of the organization and overall goals of the visual communication deployment, the costs can vary.
For many SMBs, the best course of action could be a managed service, where their video network is managed by a Tandberg certified partner. This has several advantage in that it 1. Minimizes the financial risk of getting started in video 2. Provides experienced experts who can design, deploy and manage the network, removing the need for additional headcount or additional responsibilities for existing personnel. 3. Ensures that the network can be expanded and/or updated as new technology becomes available, without requiring a forklift upgrade. Costs vary for this type of service greatly depending on a businesses needs.
For those SMBs that want to purchase their own equipment, there are several available options priced to get them started with their own video network:
• The TANDBERG Quick Set C20, an easy-to-install room based HD video system is available for under $10K in the U.S and provides up to 1080p quality video
• The TANDBERG E20 is a desktop video solution designed to replace the standard desk phone with a video phone and is available for under $1,500 per unit
• TANDBERG Movi is a PC based HD video solution with a cost of under $300 per license. Depending on the number of licenses purchased, the cost can be significantly less.
It is important to note that additional infrastructure is required to deploy the E20 and Movi. We have resources available within Tandberg and throughout our partner network that can help SMBs design a solution that can meet their technical, business and financial needs.
When discussing cost, it’s also important to address the return on investment. We have seen organizations recoup the cost of their investment in video in just as little as 12 months through reduction in travel costs and increased business efficiencies.
How does one decide between the very low cost solution vs one that costs more - in the Tandberg line of products?
There are many factors to consider when making a decision about what video system is right for your organization, and certainly cost is one of them. The primary question that SMBs need to ask is “What do we want to achieve by deploying a video solution?”
If the goal is to reduce travel time and costs and maintain high-quality face-to-face communication, then the Quick Set C20 is a great option because it provides 1080p HD quality video on a large room based monitor to support both large and small meeting environments in the highest quality resolution. It is also very easy to deploy.
If the goal is to put video on the desktop of every employee to increase enterprise wide face-to-face collaboration, than the E20 desk phone is a great option because it is affordable, multi-functional and easy to scale and deploy.
If the goal is to keep road warriors visually connected while on the road, then Movi, TANDBERG’s PC video solution, is a great option.
Even higher end telepresence options, like the immersive TANDBERG Telepresence T3, which creates the perception that the person is sitting across from you at the same table, can be a good option for SMBs. While this is a solution that is designed more for the enterprise, it’s important for SMBs to know that they should invest in a video solution that can grow with them.
What’s your advice in how businesses can know when it’s ok or time to do a VC vs when it’s necessary to do a face to face meeting?
Common sense should prevail. Consider the time and cost it takes to fly anywhere; and cost includes lost productivity. Even if the flight is only 1 hour, there is travel to the airport, security lines, etc., and a 1 hour flight can quickly consume 3-4 hours or more taking away precious time for other activities. Is that travel time all for a 30 minute meeting? If so, video could be a great alternative. If that 30 minute meeting is to close a multimillion dollar deal, it may be better to make the trip.
It’s important to keep in mind that it’s not just travel replacement where video can have an impact, but it’s also the benefit of day-to-day interaction via video. Eighty-five percent of communication is visual, so consider how much is lost in a phone conversation or a conference call. All of a sudden the equation is not just about lowering travel costs, it also includes improved efficiencies, team building, increased collaboration and decision making, faster time to market, etc. It’s not just about how video can save you money, it’s about how can video help you make more money faster.
Should EVERY small business owner have a VC system? Explain your answer.
We believe that if everyone knew what video could do, they would want it. It is The New Way of Working. With the widespread availability of HD video, and ease of management and use of a video system, we do believe that any organization can benefit from the power of video.
With that said, we understand that in today’s economic climate resources are limited and organizations need to carefully consider where they are going to recognize the greatest ROI when making capital investment decisions.
If a business is looking to reduce travel budgets, unify the organization, scale resources and accelerate decisions, video can definitely help and quantifiably demonstrate a fast return on investment. We have examples of businesses recouping the cost of their video system in less than a year by drastically reducing their travel costs and increasing efficiencies. With such compelling benefits, we would encourage every SMB to at least have a conversation with us or one of our partners to decide which path is best for them.
Ramon Ray is the editor and tech evangelist for Smallbiztechnology.com