Today I finally got the last piece I was missing for my daily video communications: the usb camera that attaches directly to my IP phone at my desk, making it a personal video communications device.
Click on the image for a full-resolution image, the quality of video is great!
Great, so I can now have two-way video conferences (I could receive video before but not send) instead of simple and boring audio-only calls. I do think video will be the third big thing in communication channels after the telegraph and the phone. And as with the previous two, the amount of information we are able to transmit per conversation is bigger each time. It all started with a few lines of text that was asynchronous. Then we added our own voice with all the embedded info it contains (pitch, tone, pauses, etc) plus “real-time”. Now we have images and motion too. The two questions that come to mind regarding how well we will adopt this third wave of communications are: as we are able to mimic how we communicate face to face through technology, are we changing the old habits we grew using the old technology? And also, what do we need to do to ensure video interactions deliver their full potential?
On the first question, we need to remind ourselves that traditional phone service has been (and still is) around for a long time. As Clay Shirky puts it: “technologygets socially interesting when it is technically boring”. Everyone today knows how to dial everyone and how to talk to him/her. But in doing so, we have adopted the telephone so well that it might be difficult to change our habits when switching to video. Consider the habit of multitasking when on the phone, for instance. Or think about if your work environment has the adequate conditions (light, quietness, “visual noise”) for a video communication. And what about privacy when not only you have to keep audio to yourself but also video images too?
Some of those questions serve as the background for a few things I think we need to check that relate to the second question on adoption:
Make sure calling someone on video is just as easy as calling him/her on the phone: configure your systems so that video numbers to call are like phone numbers. What’s more: start thinking of an single dialplan in which a person has one number to be reached at and the system will determine whether the terminal has video capabilities or not. In short: let the system do the connection in the background while the user keeps just dialing someone
Choose the right terminal for the right environment and the right people. Maybe not everyone that works on shared desks in an open area will like to have a video terminal on the desk. Maybe they will prefer dedicated quiet rooms with video systems. On the other hand, not every video-enabled room has to be 15 sq meters and a wooden table with leather chairs in it. There is no one-size fits all with video and so chose a solution that allows for a variety of terminals.
Think how you will do video with people outside your organization. While enabling internal communications for video is great, the greatest impact for your business will come from interactions with customers, partners and distributors. Think how your solution will be able to call them on video.
Listen to the users. Make sure they feel comfortable but most important, make sure they understand why video is benefitial for them. Address their concerns on privacy.
Take one step at a time. Don’t try to extend the solution to mobile users, telecommuters, etc at first. Those environments are challenging in themselves already as to put another layer of potential problems on top. Learn as you go.
Video is a great technology and I truly think it changes communications for better. And I believe its power resides in that it puts people closer to one another. But that hasn’t been the case for years and that’s exactly where the source of most concerns from users can come from. Cultural adoption is a slower process than technical integration. The more information a communication system can tell about us, the more cautious we tend to be. Work with that in mind, understand it and don’t ignore it.
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