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Global CIO: Video Must Do More Than Cut Travel

Saving money and travel time is great. But if that's all your company gets from videoconferencing, you're wasting an opportunity.

Vidyo says it costs about $44,000 for four screens. People can connect to the telepresence system from other devices, such as a PC, tablet, or smartphone, and the system is supposed to adjust accordingly, sending only the video quality that a smartphone can utilize, for example. A tablet will show only four of the nine screens, and a smartphone, two.

Shapiro says Vidyo needed telepresence to compete--that one roadblock potential customers would throw up is that Vidyo sells desktop and mobile video, but customers would want all of their video integrated at some point. Shapiro, not surprisingly, says the reason video's not having a bigger impact across companies is that its rivals' telepresence tools aren't flexible enough--not enough screens visible at once, not easily integrated to desktop or mobile, as well as being too expensive. Those who fight video, he says, do so "because you've never used a system that worked."

But there's more than systems and technology at work here. InformationWeek Analytics contributor Michael Healey (author of this week's digital magazine cover story on collaboration contends that people need training on when to use the right collaboration technology. But more often than not, tools are dropped on employees with not much more than a how-to tutorial and a new password to write on their Post-It note.

Video's not right for every conversation, or even most conversations, but it's perfect for some. Avoiding the wrong uses is as important as using video for the right ones. A few CIOs see this collaboration coaching as IT's job. I wrote recently about a CIO who, when his company switched to an online collaboration platform, had IT pros who used to run Lotus servers instead work with business units to get all they could out of the platform's capabilities. The CIO specifically cited cross-continent product development teams as a key area of focus, to make sure they were getting what they need.

I'm not underestimating the importance of cutting costs, and the cash flow savings from reduced travel is how video will get funded in most companies. But cutting travel costs assumes there would've been a trip to eliminate. The unmet potential with video is the meeting that never would have happened, the sparks that never would've flown. It's the visual interactions--the "show me that" moment--which happen ad hoc between product people a continent apart. If IT is satisfied with travel savings and isn't helping to make those moments happen, videoconferencing will have failed.

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