A panel at the Enterprise Connect conference last week dealt with the depth of need for video in unified communications. The bottom line is that video is an asset for virtually any transfer of information. The real limiting factors are expense and participants' desire to always be visible.
Enterprise Connect was held last week in Orlando. Among what seemed to be a great deal of interesting presentations and tutorials was a discussion on the role of video in unified communications.
John Bartlett, the principal of NetForecast, posted at No Jitter
on a presentation entitled "UC in 2011: Myths, Realities and What Comes Next?" He started out by paraphrasing Phil Edholm, vice president of technology strategy and innovation for Avaya, who suggested that video is more important when the session is persuasive in nature, as in a sales call.
Bartlett wrote that John Del Pizzo, program director for IBM's Unified Communications and Collaboration Software, disagreed. Del Pizzo said that the need for video extends to any communications in which it is important to get feedback. On a more pragmatic level, he said that video can focus a meeting by, for example, keeping participants from multitasking.
Edholm ended with his own viewpoint:
I think to understand these use cases we need to go back to the basic social instincts of humans and how we were designed to communicate. We do best in small communities where we know the people and we can judge how they will react to what we say. We get a lot of that information visually. I think what video conferencing does for us is allow us to more quickly form those small communities even though we are not co-located. Once we have been able to form the social connections to the group, the group can then be much more productive in its work because we know how to communicate.
Clearly, video is the next big thing in unified communications. It's interesting to read about folks who spend much of their time on the technical issues related to adding video to established unified communications platforms change pace and discuss the topic from a more theoretical point of view.
Their points are well taken. There is essentially no communication that isn't better with video. There may be specific cases where it isn't ideal, such as the incremental benefits not being cost-justified or cases in which participants don't want to be on camera -- or doesn't want his or her work area on camera. The bottom line on video remains clear: It is coming and coming quickly.