I have often blogged about the challenges videoconferencing as a product has faced and how videoconferencing as a service can solve this with creative go to market strategies, further corporate adoption of BYOD (bring your own device) etc... What opportunities are there and what does this mean for the customers... Why Video conferencing?
First and foremost one has to look at the key factors that are impairing growth as we know it. There are drivers and there are restraints.
Focus on reduction of the carbon footprint (CO2) by cutting "hard" travel.
Lower High Quality (HD) Video Conferencing System Price Points
Global and Remote Workforce & Collaboration
Increasing Focus on the SMB by Vendors and Providers
The more and more I look at each of these points and they are valid but why? Taking the Drivers first... there has been a general shift in focus whereas CO2 or carbon footprint initiatives have been mostly placed on the backburner due to the global economic environment. Less important today than in 2008-2009 as companies are not willing to invest in "green initiatives". Business is back to basics again and focus is only on the bottom line and keeping your business afloat.
There is an increased focus on the SMB market but most is from outside providers. Traditional video conferencing vendors still maintain their focus on the "whales" or the Enterprises or various reasons including contract size, technical complexity and awareness. However service providers operating in this sector or so called "video conferencing as a service" VCaaS are forcing increased adoption by the SMBs by offering to an extent previously high end services via the cloud instead of via the box(es). Saving the end user money and creating a product more readily available to the SMBs. However the message from the traditional vendors is askew. They continue to focus on the "tech talk" and make the end user in the SMB space concerned about everything from security and firewalls to admin tools and this before the customer or even segment has understood and accepted the "idea" of video conferencing as a solution to their current problem. I liken this to a bad salesman talking him/herself out of a deal even though the customer is ready to buy.
Ever dropping price points helps but not if the message continues to be tech talk and tech focus which most SMB´s do not have the experience or resources to be able to understand. This is a typical move of a desperate box pusher.
Global workforces are becoming more and more standard as the world continues to shrink with high speed internet readily available in most locations. One might wonder how much smaller the world would be and how much more global collaboration there might be if videoconferencing had higher usage and adoption rates. One day...
For the most part the restraints remain constant although outside players within the VCaaS space are offering easier to understand and use services that somewhat eliminate the complexity restraint. Global and local economic restraints remain a truth as well. One would think that with this economical environment that customers would cut travel and make investments in videoconferencing but then again 1+1=2 and not 11. Complexity + work habit = lower adoption rates.
The landscape has become more and more volatile and aggressive with vendors signing more and more channels to fight for the same business. I met with a UK partner yesterday and he said.."it used to be 7 others were competing for the customer...now it is 10 times that". The end result is the customer either passes totally or goes with the lowest price regardless of service level. This equals a poor and not supportive business model for the channels and a horrible user experience for the customer. Any wonder videoconferencing has not yet taken off?
Now the move to VCaaS models is forcing the hardwar vendor to play "me 2" and thus cutting off the legs (revenue) of their somewhat loyal channel partners. Time and time again I have seen this happen. It provides no benefit to anyone with the exception of the spreadsheet master at the vendor.
Videoconferencing has the great challenge of competiting with traditional technology (phone, plane, car) and hybrids (webconferencing with video chat)... the message is still difficult to understand. Perhaps a complete facelift of the industry is needed so that more companies adopt videoconferencing as their choice. But then again... 1+1=2 and not 11.
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When touching upon traffic congestion one hits the proverbial "hot button" in those used to sitting in traffic and those dealing with transit oriented infrastructure challenges. When one touches upon state expenditures, either "investment" or "cost" focused one also hits the hot button. Shall we invest? shall we cut? shall we "ignore"? is the standard response. What one does not take into account is "The Family". Whether commuting from Stamford, Connecticut to New York or within Boston, Los Angeles or City Anywhere, the family is the least looked at by the state, the commuter and the mass transit planners. commuting. There is also the economical effect it has - delayed deliveries of product, costs of idle or delayed transport (fuel, stress, time to market, etc...) and the human effect. Stress, socio-economic issues and more.
With "some" of these issues in mind many communities have begun to look at alternative methods of travel and transport. From transit oriented development whereas a community creates living and work spaces within walking or biking distance to the use of barges to carry freight along the waterways of the world, charging higher fees to those who "must" commute during rush hour to shopping locally via businesses that produce locally etc... etc... All are ideas on how to quell traffic but none are scalable at a fast enough clip that one will realize a relatively quick return on invest i.e. fewer cars, less traffic.
What one has not really yet embraced is the use of videoconferencing and videoconferencing services to alleviate much of the congestion while allowing the state and local governments of "anywhere and everywhere" to actually not invest as much tax payer dollars in infrastructure and of course the lower stress levels of the commuter and on the family.
With regard to videoconferencing if it is cost effective and easy to use it should be embraced by the state and local governments, environmental groups and employers everywhere and anywhere. Why not work from satellite locations, ref: home? or industry satellite campuses where one travels a short distance to an center and can utilize videoconferencing services? Workshift in Calgary, AB, Canada is a shining example of the new way to work from the aforementioned centers.
What is more important than being productive at the office, cutting carbon emissions and being home for dinner with your family at 5pm? Nothing that I can think of. We are just starting the great and long journey in changing how we work. It will not happen overnight but it can be supported by those looking within the box. Change always comes from the outside. Now is the time.
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