Skype: Not a Replacement for Telepresence

In Technology by Daniel Newman5 Comments

In the position I am in, I see new technology come every day. With the arrival of new technology, often older products see the end of their life cycle, and eventually they  go extinct.

The buzz word for this in the high tech world is “Disruptive” technology: The idea that new better, faster, and/or cheaper technology will quickly erode demand for its previous iterations.

This includes PC’s, Laptop’s, cell phone’s, televisions, etc.  Not a single one of these product types have been immune to it.  In fact, the life cycle continues to grow shorter and shorter to the point now where it’s become hard to make a buying decision because the minute you swipe your credit card the product may already be outdated.

The iPad2 will soon be a great tool for Enterprise Telepresence

One of the hot technologies that I am betting on now is the emergence of “Enterprise Telepresence.”  We’ll call it ET for short. (Not to confuse with a friendly creature from a 1980’s blockbuster)

Allow me to first qualify what ET is.  First and foremost, when I say enterprise, I mean business of any size, not just Fortune 500 etc.  The very essence of ET is that every business whether 5 employees or 50,000 can benefit from making video part of their practice.  Believe it or not, it was almost 20 years ago that companies like Intel and PictureTel brought early iterations of Video Conferencing to market.  The original idea behind video conferencing was a solution that would allow you to see a face, hear a voice, and do it on a big screen.  It was wild beyond imagination, and ever since then companies like Polycom, Tandberg (Now Cisco), Lifesize, and others have been predicting that the proliferation of video will in someway replace the need for airplanes, cars, trains, and buses.  As if all meetings can be held over video.

Well here we are, 20 years have past, and guess what?  We aren’t there yet, but we are getting closer.  While the idea of a talking head on the big screen replacing the need to shake hands and break bread sounds entertaining.  It just isn’t so.  The reason’s are far and wide, but I believe the three reasons below are the biggest ones to date.

  1. 1. Video isn’t seen as easy – it requires an IT person to set it up and the call quality just isn’t that good.
  2. 2. Video isn’t equal– relationships aren’t built via video at the same level as they are in person.
  3. 3. Video is expensive – to do it right and be able to integrate the entire supply chain and internal staff is cost prohibitive.

Fact of the matter is, this pretty much has been the case.  However, this isn’t the case any more.

Over the past several months I can’t tell you how many people I have met that want to “Skype” with me.  Skype and the very essence of what it represents has become “Video Kleenex.”  And as whole, it is a great introduction of video conferencing as part of people’s daily life.  Now when I speak to people about using Video for Business I get a pretty typical response… “Oh, so like Skype for Business?”

My initial reaction is to start rattling off a stable of facts and figures that clarify exactly how much the two aren’t alike, however, I didn’t get to where I am by reading like a white paper.  Simply put, Skype is many things, but what it is not, is Enterprise Telepresence.

When you begin looking at what an Enterprise Telepresence model should look like.  Here are some keys to consider

  1. Purpose– What will you be using the technology for? Internal, External, Entire Supply Chain?  How will you use it? Do you want to record the video and/or stream it? Do you want multiple people on the call at one time?
  2. Budget – Are you looking to own or lease? Do you have the IT staff on board to manage the equipment, should you outsource management? Would you prefer to be flexible to upgrade? How do these different answers effect cost?
  3. Support –  What are your support requirements? Does the system need to be up 24/7? Are you dealing with Global Customers? Language Barriers?
  4. Scale – What is the capability of your current network? How many users do you have today? What is your vision for growth and does the video strategy support that?
  5. Quality – If the image and audio quality aren’t close to real life, you are losing before you start.  It has to be the next best thing to sitting across the table.
  6. Ease of Use – If it isn’t easy to use, non technophiles will not use it.  It has to be as easy as email or a phone call.  Otherwise you are buying very expensive paper weights.

The bottom line is that Skype only meets 1, maybe 2 of the above 6 criteria (Budget, Ease of Use).  The Problem with that is you get what you pay for, and when it is free, it rarely meets the demands of the enterprise.  Furthermore, with all of the offerings out there, Telepresence can be done to meet just about any reasonable budget.  So while there may be cost, it is ROI and ROR that you should really be thinking about.

With all of this in mind, if you are the type that plays golf with your kids clubs and you believe that the timeshare pitch is worth the free hotel stay, then a product like Skype may be good enough for your business.  For me, I want to use technology that says “I’m serious about what we do, and you should take me seriously as well.”

With the successful deployment of an Enterprise Telepresence solution, that will be exactly what you are saying.

 

Daniel Newman serves as CEO of United Visual Inc. and United GlobalComm. For more information about the blogger, please see the “About Me” page

For a Video Blog I did on United GlobalComm please click here.

For more information about our companies check out the following

United Visual – Leading AV and Video Systems Integrator

United GlobalCommSubscription and Managed Video Communications Solutions

United Visual Productions – Leader in Event Technology Staging and Production