From a cost perspective, video conferencing proponents too often overstate the importance of saving money on travel expenses rather than the legitimate and sometimes harder to quantify benefits virtual collaboration provides to their employees and their customers. That's not to say travel costs are an inconsequential way to trim costs, but there are bigger fish to fry.
In fact, 56% of respondents running video conferencing in their companies said they track hard dollar ROI (travel expenses, mainly) while 58% are actively tracking and reporting their soft ROI--in other words, their productivity gains.
These benefits include money saved from reduced meeting times, improved employee productivity, dollars saved from faster time to market, and better relationships with suppliers and third-party vendors.
Coe said very few organizations invest the time and money in immersive telepresence just to satisfy their curiosity about the technology. They usually have a specific problem they want to fix and believe that giving all participants a full view of each other's body language, facial inflections, and other tiny but critical details allows for greater collaboration than other modes of video conferencing.
"We may talk to a manufacturer whose goal is to bring their products to market faster and what immersive telepresence means is they don't need to transport prototypes and people around as much," he said. "If they can shorten their time to market by four weeks, they can usually see a tangible, financial benefit that more than justifies the investment in conferencing technology."
In this same vein, webcasting and virtual events facilitator ON24 released results this week from another survey that found that 88% of executives prefer virtual training programs because they're cheaper than in-person options and 67% said that they enable their human resources staff to allocate their time more efficiently. Coe said the cost to modify one room in one company location for immersive telepresence ranges between $40,000 to $200,000, depending on "how all-encompassing the customer wants to make it."
According to Gartner, video conferencing vendors like CDW, Cisco Systems, and Polycom find themselves right in the middle of a video conferencing boom with the market poised for a compound annual growth rate of 17.8% through 2013, peaking at total worldwide sales of more than $8.6 billion. "While most enterprises remain focused on the hard-dollar cost avoidance of travel displacement, telepresence is increasingly effective at connecting to vendors and strategic partners for high value dialogs," Mason said.