As more and more of our day to day business and commerce move online and we move towards the first truly global economy in history, one thing becomes absolutely vital: communication. From land lines to cell phones to email and instant messaging, business communication technology is a constantly developing field. Now that high speed internet and webcams are everywhere you look, video conferencing is climbing the ranks of new technologies as the next big thing. But adapting any new technology requires an upfront investment and an adjustment period. In the fast-paced world of modern business, is video conferencing really worth the investment?
Minimize Setup and Overhead
How much does a video conferencing system cost? It’s the obvious question to ask, but it doesn’t have a simple answer. Companies spent $2.6 billion last year on just equipment for video conferencing, but video conferencing systems can range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to just $100 per person.
A better question to ask is how much should you pay for what you need? Expensive and impressive videoconference rooms are common in large firms, but you can achieve the same functionality with a much more modest investment.
Cloud based, software only services like Blue Jeans Network are a recent development, and they offer a great way to save on video conferencing equipment. As the Wall Street Journal reports, any user can join a BlueJeans chat in their browser window with one click, no extraneous equipment (or even downloads) required. Cloud based systems are designed to be compatible with a wide array of systems and devices both desktop and mobile, and offer a great return on your investment. With a low startup and maintenance cost, these systems will quickly pay for themselves through other savings.
Reduce Travel Costs
It’s no secret that oil prices have raised the cost of travel, and it’s not likely to come down any time soon. Fortunately, video conferencing and ever improving communications technology make travel less necessary than ever. According to the New York Times, many video conferencing early adapters were able to cut their travel costs by 20 to 35 percent annually, and those figures add up quickly. Video conferencing has also been adapted by corporations looking to reduce their carbon footprint. The Carbon Disclosure Project’s 2010 report projected that, by adapting video conferencing and telepresence, the US and UK could cut 5.5 million metric tons of carbon production, and achieve economic benefits measured in the billions. The same report also estimated that travel savings alone would offer a return of investment in 15 months or less. Whether your company is big or small, the travel savings a good conferencing system offers are substantial.
Allow Flexibility for Your Employees
Not only can a good video conferencing system improve your bottom line, it can improve the health of your company and your employees. The benefits of flexible work environments and giving employees the option to work from home have been widely reported everywhere from Forbes Magazine to Entrepreneur. Global Workplace Analytics found that 36 percent of workers would chose being allowed to work from home over a pay raise, and when they get their wish, telecommuters show a 35 to 40 percent increase in output, per employee.
Hiring telecommuters has the added bonus of removing geographical boundaries from your talent pool. Best person for a job requiring a unique skillset lives four time zones away? No problem. File sharing and whiteboard tools make video conferencing and workshopping documents, videos, and other multimedia easy and productive, regardless of the distance.
The pros speak for themselves, and investing in a good video system helps minimize many of the cons. Some employees who work from home miss being able to collaborate face to face, or feel invisible as an online presence. Browser based video conferencing is a great solution to that disconnect: being able to email a quick chat request to a co-worker’s phone mimics the feeling of leaning over a cubicle wall to ask a quick question. Allowing your employees to be flexible requires discipline and good management strategies, but many companies find it well worth the risk in the modern world.
A Few Final Words
Is video conferencing a worthwhile investment? In short – yes, especially as software only, easy-set up systems like BlueJeans continue grow in power. A good video conferencing system represents a minimal investment with huge potential returns in multiple areas: budget, eco-friendliness, and employee productivity and satisfaction to name just a few. Find out what improving communications and networking can do for your company, your employees, and your customers. You’ll be glad you did.