Telepresence: Cost, Complexity and a Call for Egalitarian Access of Video

Michael Helmbrecht, VP & GM Video Solutions

In my last post, I discussed how telepresence as an industry category has outlived its welcome. I’d like to drill down further into a few more reasons why the shine has rubbed off this once-favorite industry darling.

“Hidden” costs?

Even if your organization can foot the increasingly steep bill, it is important to pay attention to another asset that your telepresence investment is affecting: your IT and facilities teams’ time. From the research and selection of the audio, video, display and stand components to room modifications (mounting displays, wiring the room, setting up furniture), deploying and managing a telepresence suite can turn into a full-time job. What about your international offices? You will need to send your IT team all over the world to “rinse and repeat” the procedure in your other locations. After everything is said and done, you could be looking at $25,000 in valuable IT resource time and up to five weeks of deployment time per room. Now multiply that with the number of locations in your organization that need video. “Painful” is the word that comes to mind, right?

Video beyond the boardroom

Given the cost and complexity to manage a telepresence mirrored room solution, companies typically reserve the technology for the elite few. (Let’s be honest, few people outside of the executive team are regularly getting to use it.)

I’m calling for egalitarian access to video communication. Why? Because everyone in your organization can benefit from improved collaboration and productivity through video – from the sales rep, to the engineer, from the operations and finance teams, to the marketers.

Current video penetration vs. market opportunity

The analyst firms’ recent findings illustrate that traditional room-based video systems are on the rise. Declining system pricing, cheaper business-class broadband, simplicity of use and HD video technology that is higher quality than ever before are all driving that.  But there is significant untapped market opportunity out there, especially for companies that have dismissed the technology due to the misconception of “telepresence-grade” or “immersive” pricing models.

Telepresence is just a walled garden, artificial and controlled. (Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia)

The fact is that “telepresence” is a marketing term that brought attention to HD video conferencing. And that succeeded for a time  – primarily because it convinced the market it was something revolutionary. But really, it was just a walled garden, artificial and controlled, into which manufacturers pre-packaged and optimized HD video conferencing. It’s time to tear down the walls of this artificial garden and give customers what they need – products built for superior HD video conferencing that are affordable, scalable, flexible enough to adapt to their environment, and simplified to make their users successful faster and their IT organizations more effective.

But what will drive adoption?

Video must be accessible to businesses of all sizes, from the startup to the Fortune 100, and for every single employee within an organization, not just the executives in the corner office. New industry innovations in cloud-based video, virtualized platforms and support for every smartphone and tablet will also bring a new class of adopters to the table.

It’s time for companies to think differently about video communications, and moving away from the overly complex, telepresence suite deployment model for video conferencing is an essential first step to truly making video ubiquitous in the real world.

Rest in peace, telepresence.

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