Our customers – among which are some of the largest enterprise users of video conferencing in the world – have traditionally been highly advanced users of the technology. They often approached us because the video service delivery solutions supplied as part of the manufacturers’ toolsets didn’t fully meet their needs.
These early adopters and visionaries knew what they really wanted in terms of management and reporting and we basically listened and built it, allowing us to exactly deliver the services they envisioned. They used our solution to deliver video conferencing that worked well and their users liked; adoption and usage-levels grew as a consequence.
Several generations of refinements later, we’re at the stage where users trust video and want more; the problem now is one of success. Delivering an exclusively managed service to a large user-base is not economically viable in the long term and the challenge is to enable that user-base to take control and serve themselves, whenever and wherever they need video – this is where a growing number of our bigger customers are heading.
Several key pieces of the jigsaw have dropped into place in recent years that now enable self-service. One of these pieces is Microsoft Lync. Users like its simplicity and the fact that it looks and feels like they expect (click-to-call is a great example of this); the barriers to using it are suitably low, which encourages mass-adoption. Another part of the jigsaw is the infrastructure needed to host enterprise video and allow previously incompatible technologies – whether voice, audio or video – to work together. New entrants to this side of the market, and one I really like in this respect is Acano, solve the problems of making the slightly proprietary Lync work with traditional video equipment. This has been possible before but only just, and not without a great deal of hoops to jump through. Where Acano is different is that it makes the ‘joining the dots’ component of the problem significantly easier. For example, the Acano MCU automatically handles many of the differences between the various flavours of Lync – it just works. Acano also solves many of the scaling issues with traditional video conferencing MCUs, which have limited capacity and therefore the complexity of video conferencing was traditionally compounded by requiring lots of boxes. With the Acano MCUs, a single server can host many hundreds – if not thousands – of calls. So, essentially, anything can call anything and it scales like you wouldn’t believe. Technology like this makes huge self-service deployments viable for the first time.
Many customers are now exploring platforms that can deliver a traditional managed service but also allow them to introduce self-service. Managed video services will probably stay about where they are in use-level terms, but we are seeing a transition to planning and deployment of self-service systems; this is where we see the most future growth. Consider the voice conferencing model (people give out numbers and the participants dial-in to join the call). This is the model self-service video is moving to; users understand it and are already using it for conference calls.
To enterprises considering self-service I would highlight several factors that influence success and are worth considering. Firstly, video conferencing is inherently complex, whether managed- or self-service. It pushes your network harder than normal data and it will find all of the network issues you were blissfully ignorant to before. Technology solutions and partners will help make this easier but it is never truly easy (and don’t trust anyone who says it is). If you don’t have any experience, go to the experts first: video conferencing managed service providers. They have been through the pain before and having them on board will increase your chances of launching a service that works and meets your users’ expectations.
Not only is it not easy, it is also not a ‘quick fix’. Cutting corners predictably results in poor experience, low adoption and therefore higher overall costs due to low return on investment. Do it right and work with experts.
High levels of adoption massively reduce the cost-per-call-per-minute to the business so remember, just as with managed-service video, it is good user experience first and foremost that drives adoption. When developing a self-service solution, the focus must always be on guaranteeing reliability, usability and convenience.
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