Global CIO: BP Oil Spill Sets New Standard: Video Anywhere

Now that we've watched real-time video from one mile deep on the ocean floor, there's officially nowhere left that people won't expect to get a video link.
As we hold our collective breath that the cap holds on the disastrous BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, it's telling how utterly unremarkable people find it that we have streaming video from nearly one mile deep on the ocean floor.

Live feeds from BP's underwater devices are found any number of places online, from BP's site to TV station sites to a House of Representatives' global warming site. The Associated Press is reporting directly on the video stream, not waiting for BP to give it updates on this environmental catastrophe. It filed this report July 12:

NEW ORLEANS — Live underwater video showed a new cap was placed Monday onto the leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico, offering hope of containing the gusher for the first time since BP's deepwater rig exploded in April. BP officials did not immediately comment on the video images streamed online by the company.

Business technologists watching all this should take note. Video isn't a huge part of everyday business communications today, even though its use is growing. However, the option for video increasingly will be taken for granted, and it'll fall on IT teams to deliver it, whether it's streaming video like BP's, or videoconferencing, or something between.

Need more proof that video's on the march? What feature is the centerpiece of Apple iPhone 4 advertising? It's the FaceTime video calling feature, which is sure to give employees one more reason why they absolutely must have their iPhones (safely ensconced in their complimentary cases) supported at work.

This "video anywhere" expectation is decidedly different from "video everywhere." People don't want video for every remote interaction, and they aren't likely to in the future. They'll want the option.

On a visit to General Motors late last year, I talked with its IT leaders about, among other things, the use of videoconferencing, for which they have extensive capabilities to help teams working in different locations around the world. Video is not in high demand there for everyday interactions with colleagues who know each other well. But it's often used for teams getting to know each other, and kicking off projects.

GM also has high-definition videoconferencing capabilities, which initially sounded like an extravagance to me. But what if a designer needs to show a colleague across the globe the grain of a type of wood that'll be featured in a new vehicle? Or an engineer wants to show the precise fit of two components to a distant colleague? IT teams are enabling that with the hi-def video option.

My colleague Fritz Nelson has great perspective on video's use in business, in his column on why Cisco came out with an iPad-like tablet. He notes that InformationWeek research shows that video ranks at the bottom of the priority list when it comes to collaboration technology IT teams are deploying:

… As hot as video seems, it's not yet entrenched in the enterprise. Sure, there's progress: more telepresence and more desktop video (nary a laptop comes without a Webcam), but usage is still low and the ROI is still not easily understood (a full 65% of readers we surveyed don't measure ROI for any collaboration system and 35% don't measure their videoconference use). In fact, our research shows that for those companies not using any form of collaborative communications technology, the most oft-cited reasons are that other projects are a higher priority or there is no definitive business value.

It all sets IT leaders up in a difficult spot. Video capabilities aren't an absolute, everyday top priority. But when video's needed, there's an expectation that it's, of course, an option. Anywhere.

Global CIO small globe Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek.

To find out more about Chris Murphy, please visit his page.

For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO.

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