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A game-changing year for videoconferencing: 4 factors that are making it happen

A recent Canalys UC Market report for EMEA forecasts that, between 2012 and 2014, shipments of business video devices will spike. It seems businesses, large and small, are coming round to the idea of using video conferencing as an effective and efficient business communications tool.

This shift has partly been driven by the popularity of consumer video technologies like Skype, which are allowing people to communicate face-to-face across different geographies and time zones, in a cost-effective, efficient and social manner.

There has therefore never been a better time to look at video collaboration technologies, and we anticipate an exciting 6-12 months ahead. This will be a time when we start to see the “democratisation of video” brought into every business by employees anxious to collaborate fully and freely, on any device. But why now? What is causing industry experts to predict the spike in uptake in 2013 and beyond?

Businesses have perhaps previously been slower on the uptake because of the need for failsafe solutions that provide the quality and resilience that professional communications require. Up until now, video conferencing technology has been expensive, problematic to implement and difficult to use.

Now, desktop solutions are open and interoperable, affordable, and easy-to-use, and suitable for businesses of any size, including vibrant small and mid-market companies. But there’s also another argument to consider: over the past few years, critical factors have been gradually aligning to ensure video can finally and successfully move into the mainstream.

The hardware is at our fingertips

For many, personal devices now outstrip those provided by the company IT department in terms of functionality. People have become accustomed to using sophisticated devices and applications at home. As a result, we’ve witnessed the growth of the Bring Your Own device (BYOD) trend, where employees bring their personal mobile handsets, many of which are video-enabled, into the enterprise. Many IT departments are responding positively and new features such as front-facing cameras are making video conferencing an attractive and realistic prospect for enhancing mobile productivity.

Collaboration is no longer just a buzzword

With new, holistic video and unified communications solutions, people are constantly sharing as well as communicating. Whereas people would have previously spoken on the phone, and followed up with information in an email, they are now doing everything, all at the same time – communicating and sharing content all in one seamless collaborative session.

This behavioural shift is partly down to the fact that people are naturally collaborating a lot more in their private lives, using desktop and mobile video conferencing to chat, share internet links and photos etc, and even pull in other friends or family members as they see them come online. Video creates an ideal platform for these collaborative sessions to take place, and businesses are recognising they are an effective, efficient, productive and convenient way of getting things done.

Advanced networks allow video ambitions to flourish

A combination of factors are forcing IT departments to consider their network infrastructure – BYOD, Bring Your Own Application (BYOA), the proliferation of multi-media content, and the widespread use of mobile devices. As a result, many businesses are assessing their networks to ensure they have the network capacity to operate in this new environment. As they look to boost their network capacity, many are also attracted by the promise of high-quality video conferencing.

Interoperability is top of the agenda

Finally, interoperability is the glue that holds the promise of video together. The video conferencing industry has always been particularly ‘closed’ with businesses forced to commit to one vendor’s products over the long term. Yet in 2012, interoperability came forward as a key business driver. This was reflected in the membership of the Open Visual Communications Consortium (OVCC), an organisation that provides an industry framework of interconnected service providers and technology suppliers for a simpler and better user experience.

With the aim of breaking down barriers between video conferencing and telecom providers, its membership continues to expand as technology companies recognise the importance of interoperability, and businesses seek non-proprietary, truly open solutions to make the most of the systems they already have. Essentially, “rip and replace” is becoming “enable and enhance.”

These factors combined mean there has never been a better time to look at video conferencing. Video is no longer a place to which you go, involving a high-end set up and guy from IT on stand-by in case things go wrong. Rather, video today is a thing that you do. And this is where video really moves into the mainstream and we start to see the true democratisation of the technology.

Simon Culmer is Managing Director, UK and Ireland. He is responsible for ensuring that Avaya’s global strategy is executed in the region and that Avaya’s commitment to support its channel partners and customers is maintained at a local level.

Desire worked at ITProPortal right at the beginning and was instrumental in turning it into the leading publication we all know and love today. He then moved on to be the Editor of TechRadarPro - a position he still holds - and has recently been reunited with ITProPortal since Future Publishing's acquisition of Net Communities.