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How Users View Collaborative Conferencing

Many users of collaborative conferencing technologies are confused.  Why? Because the industry has pushed technology and buzzwords at them that they don’t understand. Users don’t care about buzzwords. They want transparent technology that allows them to conduct business.  If the technology can help them be more strategic and competitive, even better.

One way of looking at the adoption of collaborative conferencing is to equate it to the launch of the personal computer.  When PCs first entered the marketplace, no one was expected to immediately sit down and use a PC to solve all business problems.  Instead, most users found a learning curve associated with the hardware and with each software package.  And, as we all now know, few of us use all the packages loaded on our PCs.

The same holds true for collaborative conferencing.  Users look at a set of technologies that will improve productivity, increase access to subject matter experts, and allow meetings to be held when needed.  These are all factors that are difficult to quantify and place a dollar value on.  Yet many users have discovered that collaborative conferencing provides many advantages.  The problem is that few users, or vendors for that matter, understand how to make collaborative conferencing something wanted by everyone. 

How did we get to this point? When videoconferencing was first commercially introduced in 1982 by CLI and NEC, as an industry we made the mistake of telling everyone that videoconferencing looked like a television and sounded like a telephone.

As a result, users felt that a videoconferencing unit would last 20 years before needing replacement and calls would complete like telephone calls.  We all know that videoconferencing systems are really computers that need software updating with regularity and, if you haven’t been told, let me tell you that the carriers have NEVER established a call completion rate for video calls over ISDN as has been done for audio calls.  Further, you need to realize that the adoption of IP is an evolutionary process that will take 10 years to complete.  (We are in about year 7 of that process.)

Let’s not leave audioconferencing out of this equation.  Although we have done much better with audioconferencing, there are still an awful lot of offices and conference rooms without conference phones.  In fact, there are still conference rooms without telephones! 

Clearly the use of data and web conferencing has grown.  However, technology is not the only issue to be concerned with regarding data and web conferencing.  People resist change and find nothing wrong with their current work style.  They need to be shown the value of the technologies.  Fortunately, the SEC ruling regarding the dissemination of information has greatly helped the growth of data and web conferencing.  But users don’t know where the responsibility for these technologies belongs within their organization and they don’t know which technology to request for a particular situation.  Confusion reigns.

The purpose of this blog is to review the current state of the collaborative conferencing industry and emphasize what needs to be done to drive adoption of these technologies so they become second nature to users.  Topics that I will cover include:

•    The latest in audio, web, and video conferencing
•    How to determine your benchmark for success
•    Assessing your needs
•    Developing a return on investment
•    Developing applications
•    New technologies

What needs to be done to drive adoption?  Start small and grow.  Continue to provide promotions and training.  Be sure equipment is updated and procedures are in place across an organization.  Finally, conferencing vendors need to advertise and place public relations articles in general business publications, not just technology magazines.

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