As 2015 fast approached, video collaboration has continued its trajectory as an essential business tool, delivering long-term strategic benefits such as increased employee engagement and cost optimization. According to research, video conferencing is expected to be the world's most preferred method of collaboration by 2016. The progression of video technology and overall user experience today, reflect this: High Definition audio and video, advanced content-sharing and recording capabilities, interoperability with existing ecosystems, and security protocols, are just some of the features which should define the standard of any video collaboration deployment.
People no longer want to be confined to a desk and video has broken free from the conference room. The continued growth of mobile workforces, cloud-based services, and collaborative workspaces have changed the face of video conferencing, paving its way from being something which was considered prohibitively expensive and cumbersome to an easy adoption, intuitive solution that brings people and processes together. Looking ahead, these are what I consider to be the next wave of developments for the future of video collaboration:
1. Video in the future workplace
I like to live by the principle that work is not a place you go to - it's something you do. There is pressure on organizations to maximize resource, particularly talent, reduce costs, and increase productivity. Results-driven productivity becomes far more a priority rather than just the number of hours you put in. In 2015, more than ever, organizations will need to consider larger numbers of employees working from multiple locations and environments like hot desks, from home, project sites, or on-the-go.
Video is an ideal tool to create and bring together pools of knowledge, but how do we ensure that user experiences are made better in a less than perfect conferencing environment, and distance technology will match their needs?
Workplace innovation will therefore define the future of working; in 2015, noise cancelling capabilities (such as through custom headsets), optimum lighting adjustment, automatic muting are all technology features which should be incorporated into collaboration environments to maintain optimum productivity. Additionally, the future workplace will combine video, voice, and content collaboration technologies within the business workflow and support easy access to information via digital white boarding, knowledge management and streaming methods.
2. Subscription-based video
As more organizations realize the value which stronger communication and alignment brings to business, the implementation of video technologies will continue to rise. Already, the traditional conference room has been complemented - or at times, replaced - with video services via desktop, mobile and tablet devices, and in the cloud in response to an increasing remote workforce.
Some organizations prefer flexible technology deployments and a pay-as-you-go model to scale up as needs evolve and change; for example adding video conferencing capacity to a site where it is most required by instantly expanding software licenses. This thereby eliminates time delays associated with customs implications and extra shipping costs. This is not just a matter of economies of scale, software video solutions now give you the option of pure cloud-based delivery or on-premise subscription. Utilizing existing data center hardware and IT infrastructure can also reduce the cost of ownership. For now and in the future, the availability of software-based video services on a subscription basis will add to the mix of visual collaboration methods.
Mobile technology has revolutionized our lives and how we communicate. The advent of smartphones and tablet devices has placed the access and dissemination of information at our fingertips. Mobile devices have been evolving from being simple, 'fit in your pocket' communication implements to becoming enterprise tools that are larger in screen size, capacity, and capability. And so we will continue to see the rise of 'supermobility' - where mobile devices are designed and equipped with all the tools and technology required for productive teamwork and collaboration on-the-go, such as multi-party video conferencing, content-sharing and integration within an organization's existing IT infrastructure. In fact, research has revealed that 1.3 billion people will work remotely using mobile technology by 2015. Supermobility will therefore become the standard for millennials, BYOD policies, and the future workplace.
4. Browser-based video
Imagine how the world of customer service, for example, could be revolutionized if a web user can initiate video chats via a browser and receive instant assistance. All this with no plugins or software installations required!
Emerging technology such as WebRTC (Web Real Time Communications) are seen as a potential solution to delivering browser-based video. However, it is as simple as it is complex. We'll start to see WebRTC apps continue to emerge in 2015, and it is an exciting development for the mass adoption of video collaboration. However, the application is also at risk of reduced uptake if unable to interoperate with traditional collaboration environments and UC solutions, such as Microsoft Lync. Therefore, any WebRTC deployment will need to consider vendors who offer easy integration and varied scope for users, whether via a browser on a desktop or tablet device.
5. Video-enabling workflows and business processes
Incorporating video as an essential part of workflow, rather than considering it a separate business application, is another trend that will increase in relevance. What this means is that people will take a new view on video collaboration - it becomes a natural extension of day-to-day business, rather than something which requires a conscious effort to utilize.
Accessing real-time video, whether through IM or streaming video via a business application, should be the next step in intuitive face-to-face collaboration. More organizations will choose to incorporate video into familiar business tools and enable tasks to be done better.
For me, video collaboration is a way of life. In my responsibility overseeing diverse markets and teams across Asia Pacific, time zones and arduous travel schedules hardly factor any more. What remains as priority is that I am connected to my teams and seeing the positive results a connected, collaborative workforce brings to an organization.
I firmly believe that employees do their best work, and are most productive when they are empowered to meet and collaborate face-to-face - and this of course impacts the bottom line. The progress in the industry has been encouraging so far and I am excited by the growing adoption of video by professionals in every industry. I look forward to being a key player in continuing to push the boundaries of human collaboration.
By Geoff Thomas, President, Polycom Asia Pacific