Government // Enterprise Architecture
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4/25/2011
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75% Of Enterprises To Use Videoconferencing By 2013

Immersive telepresence technology that uses high-definition, life-sized images holds great appeal for collaboration, but is costly and a bandwidth hog.

Cisco Umi
Slideshow: Cisco Umi Takes Telepresence To The Home
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Despite all the purported benefits of video conferencing--reduced travel expenditures, increased collaboration among employees and immediacy--only about half of all enterprises have actually installed the technology and only about another 25% plan to in the next two years.

The biggest hang-up, according to a report from IT products and services firm CDW, turns out most often to be poor salesmanship on the part of the IT departments' video conferencing evangelists. Too often, they try to sway business leaders to foot the bill for the initial outlay for this Star Trek-like collaboration technology without providing either hard and fast return-on-investment figures or at least some well-defined, clearly articulated and measureable soft ROI benefits for their pet projects.

The net result, according to CDW's "Video Conferencing Straw Poll," is that only the largest enterprise customers have implemented video conferencing equipment and applications and most of them are content with the basic peer-to-peer (70%) and multisite meeting room variety (59%).

The really exciting stuff, the so-called immersive telepresence technology that uses high-definition, life-sized images to simulate in-person meetings down to the very detail of entering a virtual conference room, is what excites most companies the most, but provides the most challenges in terms of cost and complexity because it's such a bandwidth hog.

"What CDW has found, with all of the videoconferencing platforms that we offer, is that 'any-to-any' communication is driving tremendous growth in video conferencing," Bill Coe, business development manager of CDW's video solutions group, said in an email. "Today, people on desktops, tablets, or Android devices can participate seamlessly in conferences across all of the other platforms, including immersive telepresence. No one has to be siloed any more because of the platform they choose, and that has completely turned the tide in the video conferencing arena."

The CDW survey, which polled 631 IT and telecommunications managers in November and December, found that only one in five is currently using immersive telepresence technology for various collaboration, training and sales endeavors. But another 48% are planning to implement it within the next two years, making it the hot spot for video conferencing and unified communications vendors.

"Immersive telepresence is in many ways 'videoconferencing with rules,'" Gartner analyst Robert Mason said in an email. "By delivering a more prescriptive environment with a greater propensity to attach managed services, immersive telepresence delivers a more repeatable, reliable, and higher quality experience for meeting participants."

For older workers, this might seem a little too sci-fi to be believed. But for younger workers and customers who grew up playing 3-D video games, use Skype as their primary telephone service, and share videos on Facebook the way their older colleagues handed out business cards, this technology takes enterprise collaboration to its next logical level.

"As telepresence continues to mature, the new frontier will be how these systems more seamlessly integrate in the broader collaboration ecosystem, including investments in unified communications," Mason said.

But before any new frontiers are explored, the bean counters still need to be convinced of the need and value, and the IT department has to make sure it has the network infrastructure in place to make it work.

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