A common adage is that a picture is worth a thousand words. But when it comes to business, video could be worth a whole lot more. Organizations of all sizes are discovering the tremendous benefits of using video in the workplace--from removing distance barriers to enabling efficient collaboration among teams. According to a recent MarketsandMarkets report, the enterprise video market is expected to reach USD 40.84 Billion by 2022, growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 20.1%. The industry’s rapid growth can be attributed to the increased demand for video as a tool to improve collaboration and communication across the enterprise, as well as the rising adoption of cloud technology.
With so much opportunity in the industry, new entrants can come in all the time, leaving organizations overwhelmed with so many video conferencing options. But like every enterprise technology, not all video conferencing solutions are created equal. In order to capitalize on the benefits of video communications, it is vital for organizations to tap the right solution for their needs.
VoipReview recently spoke with Roger Wallman, Senior Manager of Product Marketing for Team Engagement Solutions at Avaya, and Mike Kuch, Senior Director of Products and Solution Marketing at Avaya, to discuss how businesses can find a reliable video conferencing platform and the various ways it can be used to achieve the best business outcomes. Wallman and Kuch also talk about their latest offering, the Equinox Meetings Online, and how this platform is transforming the enterprise video experience.
Not All Video Conferencing Platforms are Created Equal
Video conferencing isn't exactly a new technology, but in recent years it has been experiencing a sudden resurgence. According to Kuch, there are two reasons behind this: one is tech-based, and the second is social-based.
"From a tech point of view, we are seeing that it is becoming easier and easier for people to connect," explained Kuch. "Before these new-age solutions, you had to go into a room and use a room system (and also spend 100k to get [a quality system])...and if you didn’t have the audio capabilities then you were doomed. Plus, a lot of these old systems were marginal, and participating from a desktop was difficult, and the bandwidth requirements meant you couldn’t participate in a meeting over a cellular network. But technologies have evolved to where you can be elsewhere (a hotel, coffee shop, etc.) and operate on other networks. Everything has moved to a point where you can be anywhere and have connectivity."
The second reason behind this resurgence is social norms. According to Kuch, today's individuals are getting more accustomed to having video as a means of communication. "Between Facetime and other popular applications (WhatsApp, Viber, Snapchat, etc.), consumer apps are driving the popularity of video as a viable channel," he said. "The social aspect of video has driven video adoption. Also, there is a generational shift [in the workplace]. Millennials are on and using video, and it is more prominent in the workplace. There is a generational gap where the older generation is afraid of video and the new generation is accustomed to it. Also, it’s the convenience of apps and video apps because that’s just the way things are going--video is becoming more mainstream. Video was stuck with consumers at a time, but now businesses are seeing value in it."
So as video becomes more widely adopted, how can enterprises choose the right solution for quality video calls and collaboration sessions?
The Three Requirements for a Quality Video Solution
According to Wallman, there are three crucial factors businesses must take into account when looking for a video conferencing platform: incorporated technology, high-quality connections, and interoperability.
“The first factor is a combination of things: it’s the incorporated technology that is tolerant of the networks that people are going to use,” Wallman said. He explains that on WiFi, LTE, broadband, 4G etc., there is often packet loss and network congestion because these networks are unmanaged. What is needed, says Wallman, are advanced codecs (H.264 high profile). These codecs and each successive technology generation (H.264 to H.264 high profile and on) uses half of the bandwidth of the previous generation and delivers the same quality.
“Video coding provides high resilience on the network as well. Ultimately, you need a methodology that monitors the available bandwidth on the fly and can back off the resolution on the fly so that you don’t have an annoying video drop. You should be able to dynamically monitor the available bandwidth on the fly and back off the frame rate of resolution. What it comes down to is that end users can detect when the video drops, but when you lower frame rate, there is less of an impact when accommodating changes in the network,” said Wallman.
The second factor is high quality. “A part of the reason for this factor is if you envision a video conference where you’ve got people on mobile devices and participants in-room systems,” said Wallman. “On a mobile device (and because the screen is so small) users don’t need to have HD, but in an enterprise conference room you will need this and are quite likely to also have interoperability with an in-room system. You can imagine that if on mobile the low resolution looks bad, then imagine that same low resolution on a 65-inch display. Ultimately, it will be a bad experience for people who are in front of the room system (but mobile-to-mobile will be great).”
The third is native interoperability. According to Wallman, many solutions today talk about connectivity with mobile devices, PCs, laptops, MACs, other room systems, etc. But interoperability is not just about the basic connection scheme. Instead, it’s about the video meeting and the data sharing capabilities like screen capture, recordings, and other exchanges of data. “When we talk about something being “native”, it means that you can connect to it but more important is that it can also accommodate data and can get data to any device,” Wallman explains. “When you start doing native interoperability, you end up with a bunch of different vendors, and so you (as a consumer) need the technology that allows you to 'put a square peg in a round hole'.” Not everyone has the same resolution or codecs for audio and video side,” he added. Wallman cites the scenario of mobile devices connecting to a room system conference solution as an example. In this scenario, Wallman says “you don't want everyone in the meeting to go to the lowest common denominator, so you want the capability to have varying speeds, algorithms, and resolutions, which can be done with transcoding.”
For Kuch, it all boils down to the audio quality. “When it comes down to it, it is actually simple logic: if video gives out, users can still communicate with audio...but if the audio gives out, then you’re left to charades with video," he revealed. "Audio is still king, and we keep this in mind.”
How to Leverage the Power of Video in the Enterprise
Travel time and cost savings are two of the major advantages of video conferencing. But the benefits extend beyond money. By enabling face-to-face interactions via video, enterprises can also create better team environments, enhance collaboration, improve productivity, and speed up smart decision making. “What we find is that it is really about the different groups within a company that can take advantage of video,” said Kuch.
According to Kuch, some direct examples of how enterprises can utilize video in their business or relevant industry include:
Sales - In sales, employees can meet with customers via video to discuss transactions, which saves people from driving or flying somewhere to meet.
Marketing - In marketing, video helps in the process of execution, launch planning, etc. and it’s much easier to get into a video room and bring up a virtual whiteboard for discussion. Plus, marketing teams are cross-functional and cross-company, bringing in agencies or outside contractors for projects.
Management - For managers who manage a team worldwide and need to be in contact with them, video conferencing is so much more effective. With it, you can read body language and have a one-on-one meeting that might not otherwise be possible. You can also get queues (from a manager’s point of view) to see how people are doing, if they are frustrated, etc. When you’re managing a team, and especially today with very diverse teams across various continents, video can really help.
Expert Anywhere - With the help of an advanced video platform, it’s now possible for organizations to connect with and consult subject matter experts regardless of their geographic location.
Training - Today’s workforce is increasingly mobile and dispersed, with employees located across the globe. Organizations can tap video conferencing to provide training to new hires, update employees on new benefits and policies, and even deliver professional development workshops and courses.
Project management - Virtual face-to-face meetings via video conferencing are also helpful for project managers in ensuring that all members are up to date with project timelines.
Remote eyes - For complex issues located in inaccessible project sites, a video solution can provide the “eyes” experts need to look into the issue and resolve it quickly.
Collaborative meetings - Whether it’s a meeting with customers, suppliers, or an all-hands meeting, organizations can conduct highly productive and collaborative meetings of all types with the help of a video conferencing solution.
Fast and Easy HD Video Collaboration with Avaya Equinox Meetings Online
When it comes to enterprise video and voice communications, Avaya has been at the forefront of innovation. Avaya offers a portfolio of video conferencing technology and products designed to make communications simple. Most recently, the market leader announced the global availability of its new cloud-based video conferencing and collaboration service, Avaya Equinox Meetings Online. Offered exclusively by Avaya channel partners, Equinox Meetings Online provides high-definition meeting rooms in the cloud. It also connects with a PC, MAC, Android, or iOS device (along with an existing video conference room system) so users can have full HD capabilities across the board.
“What’s unique to Equinox is that it has native and included interoperability with existing systems,” stated Wallman. “Each virtual meeting room supports up to 50 people, and each user can connect via any device or via any system: it can be a high definition video room system with full HD 1080p or a mobile device. Many other solutions do not offer this connectivity, or even charge extra on a per room or a per connection basis (and so you could end up having an expensive collaboration session with all of these extra costs).”
“Equinox is all-inclusive, possesses unlimited dial-in telephony capabilities and unlimited connectivity with room systems, desktops, mobile devices," Wallman explained. "It is not just about how many solutions we connect to... this is about full interoperability and includes things like sending messages, which are scrolled across all solutions for continuous threads.”
Another key highlight of Equinox is the enterprise-grade security it features. “We support enterprise-grade security and not consumer grade,” noted Wallman. “We use AES 256 128 HD235 security protocol room systems as starters for security. And then we use meeting room locks.” Wallman shares that with Equinox, once someone arrives late for the meeting, there is a 'knock on the door' feature, where the meeting owner gets a message stating that a colleague wants to enter the call/conference. Then, it is up to the moderator to let the individual into the room.
More details about Equinox and its tech specs can be found on Avaya’s website.
The enterprise video communications space will continue to evolve as more businesses realize its benefits. “We are seeing a proliferation in video because it is ubiquitous," said Kuch. "While not yet as reliable as audio, people often choose video first over an audio conversation. Most point-to-point communication is starting with video first.”
Kuch also shared one trend that’s on the rise in the video collaboration industry. “One thing we are seeing in video collaboration is that there is now a point where some competitors like Slack are starting to merge with other collaboration solutions,” he observed. “The whole collaboration point of view has changed...these were once separate thought processes, but they are starting to merge into a single unified solution.”
For more information on Avaya and how they are transforming the enterprise communications experience, head on to Avaya’s website.
Avaya delivers superior business communications software, services, and solutions to enterprises worldwide. A true industry leader, Avaya creates solutions that are flexible, reliable, scalable, and secure. Their portfolio of solutions includes technologies for customer and team engagement, contact center and customer experience management, unified communications and collaboration, and networking.
2017 has been a big year for Unified Communications (UC). Over the past year, enterprises of all sizes and across all industries have come to realize the need to adopt robust UC solutions in order to...