What to Look for in a Videoconferencing System
Key features to consider before purchasing a videoconferencing system.
There generally is a significant difference between the way things work "on paper" - in other words, the most positive implementation in which every pass is a touchdown - and real life, with its mix of touchdowns and interceptions. A study done by the Interior Department's inspector general points out that the real world of videoconferencing is far different than the one portrayed by marketers.
Indeed, few telecommunications disciplines have as high an upside as desktop and room videoconferencing and its cousin, telepresence. These tools reduce the cost - in time out of the office and travel expense - of visually communicating. It makes on-the-fly visual meetings far more feasible. Finally, white boarding and increasingly high-definition audio enable collaboration on increasingly detailed content. The category has gone way beyond somewhat fuzzy facial images.
That's the best-case scenario for videoconferencing, but the downside is less well known, but significant nonetheless. Simply, getting from here to there is not so easy.
A problem that is not even mentioned in the FCW piece is that systems from one company can't talk to others. A piece at Mother Nature Network described the importance of interoperability through a quote from Scott Niesen, director of marketing at InFocus, a projector vendor:
"One of the historic limitations of videoconferencing is compatibility/interoperability between these dedicated systems," Niesen says. "They kind of only work in their own world. In a big company with a lot of office locations, that's fine - they're all controlled by the same IT department and it all works - but when you start wanting to bring in customers, partners or suppliers, it gets more complicated."
Videoconferencing shares many attributes with unified communications, which in many - but not all - cases is its parent category. The bottom line is that the upside indeed is great, but it simply doesn't happen without a concerted effort on the part of the organization.
The good news is that there clearly is an answer to the question of what needs to happen for videoconferencing and telepresence to succeed. Actually, there are two answers: The platforms need a champion with influence in the organization and an employee working under that executive who is tasked with carrying out the mandate. Consigning videoconference gear to an all-purpose room - to the left of the ping pong table and to the right of the reams of stored printer paper - is a recipe for failure.
An engaged exec and a manager whose job description expressly includes videoconferencing and telepresence can make remote visual communications realize its considerable potential.