As commuters on Southern Rail face continued disruption to services, Andy Nolan, Lifesize vice president for UK, Ireland and Northern Europe, considers the benefits and pitfalls of cloud-based video conferencing.
The changing nature of work today, characterised by dispersed workforces, mobile workers, telecommuting and constantly evolving technology, is causing many organisation’s to re-evaluate how they support employee communication and collaboration. Throw in greater travel disruption and the need to control costs and it is easy to see why videoconferencing is now seen as an essential tool in any company’s IT offering.
The need for seamless collaboration with colleagues, customers and partners who may be located outside a company’s main office, country or time zone has produced an explosion in demand for integrated Software as a Service (SaaS) conferencing solutions that are able to deliver easy to use consumer-like services.
Organisations that make use of this technology benefit immediately from an instant ‘on service’, minimal internal IT costs and quick adoption, resulting in increased productivity and competitiveness and improved employee recruitment and retention.
As with any new technology, a successful transition to cloud-based video communication technology requires some thought and groundwork:
Review Cloud Advantages
First, ensure your decisions and choices are aligned with the needs of your organisation. Most businesses move to a cloud solution to gain the following benefits:
Reduced Cost. IT departments are under pressure to reduce expenditure. Investing in an on-premises video conferencing infrastructure and hardware requires up-front investment and can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. IT budgets go much further with a cloud-based video conferencing service.
Increased Flexibility. It is difficult to deliver and support video conferencing sessions if they are scheduled with little or no notice, but this kind of ﬂexibility and agility is necessary in a dynamic business environment. An intuitive, cloud-based application enables users to be more self-sufficient, saving time for IT administrators. Enterprise-class, cloud-based video communication platforms generally offer more ﬂexibility to scale up and down in line with business requirements than services that have grown out of consumer applications.
Simplifed Automation. A cloudbased video conferencing solution simplifes management for IT administrators, freeing up valuable time, money and effort. A web-based admin console gives IT administrators easy access to dashboards to check usage statistics and to customise settings.
Increased Device Diversity. Video conferencing software needs to support and stay up to date with a wide range of ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) technology. This can be challenging for IT support staff, so organisation’s often prefer to give the task to a cloud provider. Professional cloud-based video conferencing solutions bring collaboration to the devices employees use every day, from browser- and desktop-based applications for laptops and tablets to mobile applications for smartphones, with no need to worry about software versions or complicated updates.
Inter-operability. On-premises video conferencing products usually lack inter-operability and still live in a proprietary software world that requires users to purchase an expensive gateway appliance to call third-party video communication devices. Moving video conferencing to the cloud makes inter-operability the vendor’s responsibility and avoids the risk of being saddled with incompatible equipment.
Choose the Right Vendo
Once you’ve established that a cloud-based video conferencing solution is right for your organisation, it’s time to vet the vendors. Decision-makers should pay close attention to the vendor service level agreement (SLA) and support, ask about outage levels and discuss vendor availability. Video conferencing is a business-critical tool that must have the highest levels of support and service levels.
Those who want to give employees the benefits of traditional meetings in a conference room, along with the ability for remote parties to dial-in and communicate face-to-face, should look at a hybrid model featuring cloud-based video conferencing and a conference room-based hardware component to offer employees the best of both worlds.
Lastly, effective implementation is key; even if the software is a perfect ft for your organisation, it won’t work if it isn’t implemented correctly, and that means:
Choosing a Point Person. Selecting the right team and establishing who does what and when reduces the likelihood of a stalled implementation.
Establishing a Timeline. Imposing a clearly defined timeline provides clarity and stops drift.
Maintaining Focus. Resist the temptation to think about every detail rather than focusing on the big picture. Take care of the high-level issues first and enjoy the additional features after implementation.
Listening to the Experts. Remembering who the expert is – the vendor when it comes to the new software and the organisation when it comes to business operations – is vital to implementation success.
Gaining User Buy-in. After a long vetting process, it’s common to assume the internal sales process is over. Nothing could be further from the truth. Employees who will be using the new software most may not have been involved in the approval process and it is vital to gain their trust and buy-in and even give them a say in the implementation. Ensuring that they value, and champion, use of the new software will increase the likelihood of a timely implementation.
As businesses continue to employ distributed workforces around the world, demand for an enterprise-ready video communication solution that can provide a seamless, connected experience will continue to rise. Organisation’s that go ‘all in’ and commit to improving employee communication and collaboration stand to benefit from a workforce that returns the favour with increased productivity, less staff churn and great employer/employee relationships.