Over the course of the last 30 years, video conferencing has become a key component for companies of all sizes, as well as within government agencies, healthcare and education. Whereas once upon a time it was a technology reserved exclusively for conference rooms and boardrooms, rapid enhancements have allowed it to extend to desktop computers and mobile devices, making face-to-face collaboration convenient for any employee, from senior executives, through to telecommuters and interns.
In this article, we will discuss why video conferencing is a must for every modern business, how it is helping to make the business world a much smaller place, and how it is changing the way we communicate. By effectively facilitating all facets of face-to-face communication, including tone of voice, facial cues and body gestures, video conferencing solutions are able to create the camaraderie and empathy required for successful business relationships. For businesses that want to increase productivity, nurture stronger relationships among colleagues, clients and vendors, improve employee satisfaction, reduce employee turnover and reduce costs, business grade video conferencing is the solution. It is these benefits, among a range of others, that have helped this technology to fundamentally disrupt the modern business world.
As more businesses expand their reach on a global scale, the need to stay in constant communication with international constituents regardless of time zones has become ever present. Video conferencing provides the perfect platform to accomplish this when travel opportunities are limited, or budgetary constraints are in place. The potential cost savings from reduced international travel alone can often justify the cost of video conferencing within a matter of months. The cost of video conference has decreased tenfold since 1998, whilst the associated costs of business travel has escalated, with The Global Business Travel Association estimating that $1.25 Trillion will be spent on business travel this year alone.
Fortunately, travel reduction is the easiest expense to calculate to determine the ROI a video conferencing solution can provide. Simply calculate the number of trips taken annually, multiplied by the average cost of the airfare, per diem expenses, salary of time lost while travelling. Now compare this to the annual cost of the video conferencing solution, including the equipment, network and training requirements. The example below is based on a small company with a 25-user Cloud subscription and an Icon 600 video unit.
Annual travel savings and payback period
|# of Employees Using VC Instead of Travel||8||8||8||8||8|
|# of Trips Per Year||8||8||8||8||8|
|Average Cost / Trip||£600||£600||£600||£600||£600|
|% of Trips Replaced by Video Conferencing||20%||40%||50%||60%||75%|
|Travel Cost Saving Per Year||£7680||£15,360||£19,200||£23,040||£28,800|
|Total Cost of VC subscription and hardware||£12,928||£12,928||£12,928||£12,928||£12,928|
|Payback Period (in months)||21||10.5||8||6.7||5.4|
From the above example, it is evident that even a small company replacing a moderate amount of business trips with video conferencing can justify the initial cost with travel savings alone.
Most companies are able to justify their investment within 3 months, but some even shorter. For example, a large multi-national pharmaceutical firm was able to justify their investment within 67 days based on productivity savings alone. Prior to the implementation of their VC solution, the company engineers would take a two-day return trip to their company headquarters to resolve 15-minute issues. Now these fixes are implemented within 30 minutes over video, and their engineers are able to concentrate on other areas.
Other forms of cost effectiveness associated with video conferencing are less tangible, but no less important. Companies that have embraced remote working through video conferencing are able to offer their employees a healthier work life balance, and have a competitive advantage in terms of recruiting and retaining the best candidates. Furthermore, research has shown that 87% of millennials would prefer to work for a more ‘video enabled’ organisation and 84% feel they would rely on virtual meetings for one out of every four interactions at a minimum. With the average Briton spending an entire year of their lives (or 10,634 hours) travelling to and from work, the ability to work remotely can make the difference between an exhausted employee and a motivated employee. Another way in which video conferencing can be cost effective is through streamlined decision making. By reducing turn-around on decisions, an organisation may be able to beat its competitors to market, therefore providing them with a competitive advantage.
- 75% of high-growth businesses are using video-enabled collaboration solutions
- Strong adopters of business video collaboration outgrew other companies by 300%
- Innovative companies experience 30% faster decision making with video enabled collaboration
Why do I need Business Grade VC?
Many small businesses are using ‘free’ or low cost services such as Skype for video conferencing. However, in a business setting these low quality solutions can have hidden costs including; a poor user experience, dropped calls, a lack of functionality, reduced security and slower performance. As consumer grade versions tend to operate using the open internet, the calls become vulnerable to fluctuations and network delays, leading to a slight lag and delay in video/audio quality. This can in turn create a disorienting experience for users and can undermine confidence in a potential client. So although these services are free, the hidden costs can be considerable when factoring in diminished credibility, lost business opportunities and lost time.
Security is a key issue for many IT managers, who are reluctant to let programs like Skype within their systems, as it uses proprietary security technology that does not interoperate with standards-based security solutions. One of the key benefits of business grade video conferencing is that they are developed using industry standard security protocols and standards-based firewall traversal solutions.
So what should SMB leaders consider when looking for business grade video solutions, and what determines the ‘higher quality’ they can provide over the consumer versions?
- High resolution HD video – no lack of clarity or choppy images
- HD audio – this can make a significant difference to the quality of presence in video meetings
- Consistency – no dropped calls and smooth delivery of video and audio
- Multiple participants – business grade solutions offer upwards of 50 simultaneous users
- High quality content sharing – leading to better collaboration and faster decision making
- Record and share – the ability to archive meetings for multiple purposes including training
- Value added features – instant messaging/international calling
Productivity, Efficiency, Functionality
Research shows us that over 93% of communication is non-verbal. This in turn means that phone calls and email chains can’t fully communicate the relevant information, which can easily lead to miscommunication and misinformation. The implications of this to businesses is evident, as sales, marketing and management effectiveness comes down in large part to effective communication. Video conferencing allows participants to understand and collaborate over distances and ensures that no minute gesture is missed or inflection misinterpreted. It is for this reason that participants are more focused during video meetings, decisions are made faster, objectives are met more effectively and productivity is increased.
With video conferencing freeing up vast amounts of time for workers and management, it allows your business to foster deeper working relationships and build business opportunities. With the flexibility to work across large distances and multiple time zones, knowledge workers can meet at any time and any place to develop working relationships, sign off on important deals or collaborate over important projects to meet strict deadlines.
Another way to further remove barriers to communication that exist among global organisations is through the use of recording and sharing that is available on high end video conferencing solutions. This allows businesses to archive and retrieve important information, offer remote training, and allows important meetings to be revisited across multiple time zones ensuring nobody misses the important meeting. With HD record functionality, work can take place 24 hours a day, allowing employees to continuously support customers regardless of location or time zone, so that even small companies can remain competitive on a global scale.
Improved Work/Life Balance
High morale is a cornerstone to high productivity, and this is something that has become harder to achieve with modern business, as work demands have increased, and a shift in generational employees has changes the expectations on employers. Excessive business travel can be a determining factor in the satisfaction of an employee and can put a strain on family relationships. A long commute can further raise stress levels before work has even begun, and high levels of congestion within cities can make travel difficult even when offices are closely located. By implementing video conferencing in your organisation, you can ensure that every meeting starts on time with all participants present, in turn removing the stress they may feel in trying to travel considerable distances or through heavy traffic.
A great example of this in practise is with a firm based in New York, which has two offices situated less than one mile apart from each other. Time delays and frustration associated with travelling back and forth between the two offices during rush hour in New York were alleviated when video conferencing was installed, allowing more work to be accomplished with less stress.
Another example is with a global paper goods company who have offices based in London, New York, Los Angeles and Sydney. By implementing video conferencing, their global offices have a direct line of face-to-face communication with one another that has improved their bottom line, as well as the overall morale and productivity of their employees. As their vice president stated, “Using video I can now accomplish work that would have taken me weeks to accomplish, and I don’t have to cram my long legs into an airline seat on a 10 hour plane ride. I am much more productive with video conferencing and my family appreciates it.”
Business grade video conferencing has overcome all of the stereotypes once associated with it, and is now an effective and integral part of any modern business. It has been openly embraced by every industry, and many knowledge workers now consider the technology an important daily tool. The benefits of video conferencing extend far beyond its ROI, as it contributes to higher productivity and employee satisfaction, increased staff retention and greater business opportunities. As one CEO states, “Sometimes business decisions don’t have to be quantified. In your gut you know the decision is the right one. We know that video conferencing has saved us money and made us money.”
Intelligent decision makers have realised the benefits of video collaboration to gain an advantage over their competitors, accelerate time to market and extend their business reach to a global scale, regardless of their size. Video conferencing allows communication to be face-to-face once again, and generates old fashioned business relationships that can bring the world closer together.