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Time to give video comms a second shot

Monday February 4 2013

Dan Tanel discusses the reasons why legacy video communications systems fell into disuse and why retail businesses should now reconsider these solutions to help create operational efficiencies, drive customer loyalty and boost companies’ bottom line

Dan Tanel discusses the reasons why legacy video communications systems fell into disuse and why retail businesses should now reconsider these solutions to help create operational efficiencies, drive customer loyalty and boost companies’ bottom line


Over the past several years, driven by growing globalisation and rising travel costs, many businesses have invested in video conferencing solutions.


However, Dan Tanel, chief technology officer for worldwide managed videoconferencing, telepresence and visual collaboration services provider BCS Global, highlighted that a recent Gartner report found that almost 90% of these facilities now sit unused. In fact, many video conferencing screens, which were originally substantial investments, are now sat gathering dust or are only being used once or twice a month to justify the original buying decision.


But Tanel said times are changing: “Not only has technology evolved but so have people’s working habits, in terms of a greater adoption and acceptance of remote working. Today, with the know-how and support of an expert video communications supplier, solutions can be revitalised, new systems integrated and the benefits of increased operational efficiencies, customer satisfaction and improved bottom-line easily achieved.”


It’s all in the past


Historically, many retailers have found that the video communications systems they invested in were not intuitive. Tanel acknowledged it has often been the disappointing performance, lack of application integration and a missing operational support model which prompted users to give-up on the solution altogether. Video communications failed at the first hurdle as they didn’t meet user expectations.


But he argued that the time has come for retailers to pull out their old systems and blow off the dust. “Today, technology has moved on, working habits have become more flexible and expert video communications suppliers have recognised the need to support customers every step of the way. It’s time to give video conferencing a second shot,” Tanel said.


To work cost effectively, the key is to revitalise any old equipment by implementing a programme that addresses the challenges. For example, if the solutions were proving difficult to use or hard to manage and maintain, you can deploy a managed service to take care of your entire video communications programme - from installation to the setting-up of conferences to in-store kiosk displays. Not only does this free up retailers to focus on core business tasks but it ensures that the devices work to full capability. Users can also gain quick access to a shared cloud infrastructure and the most advanced equipment at very small monthly costs, which make it easier to manage budgets and make cost effective use of the latest technology.


Not just a pretty face


With the falling costs of both bandwidth, and video hardware as well as the introduction of technologies such as Telepresence and High Definition (HD) systems, more and more real benefits of video communication are emerging. “Video communication has evolved, not only in the advancement of speed, quality and reliability of networks, but also in improved integration and interoperability across different hardware and software platforms,” continued Tanel. “The result is an altogether more compelling argument in favour of video usage.”


Sainsbury’s, a leading UK food retailer, is already reaping the benefits of having enhanced their visual communications. Sainsbury’s Logistics Division was already using video conferencing across four locations, each equipped with video endpoints, connected by a dedicated Integrated Service Digital Network (ISDN). However, working over IDSN was proving to be unreliable due to network bandwidth restrictions and, as calls were charged per minute, video conferencing soon became cost prohibitive. As a result, colleagues only used video communications on an ad hoc basis.


The decision was made to migrate video communications to Internet Protocol (IP) with the aim to achieve a more reliable and higher quality video conferencing experience. Since the move on to Virtual Presence, an end-to-end managed enterprise video communications and collaboration service from BCS Global Networks, the company has dramatically improved communication within the supply chain. Call quality is no longer restricted by the ISDN bandwidth and video conferencing has become an on-demand service that can be used anytime and anywhere, with full service support.


“We now have a versatile facility,” Nigel Hough, said Sainsbury’s logistics communications manager. “We can hold simultaneous meetings, with 24-hour availability and constant connectivity. We pay a monthly managed service fee under one umbrella, so if I use 20 hours of it [Virtual Presence] it doesn’t cost me anymore, whereas on the ISDN network the costs added up.”


Prior to implementation, Sainsbury’s staff were travelling many miles for meetings. Now conferences can be held instantly, which saves time, reduces costs and helps to build trusted relationships. The firm also noticed an improvement in user engagement as on audio calls workers could become distracted, whereas on a video conference, users are forced to actively listen and engage with fellow participants. Sainsbury’s found it reduced standard call times from three and a half hours of to just under two hours via video conferencing.


Sainsbury’s also added a range of applications to its video communications solutions including multi-location meetings for over 30 participants in up to eight locations, as well as using the system for quick personal one-to-one catch ups – rather than emailing or calling, which makes team members more collaborative and interactive on a personal level.


Business gets personal


In the past video communications may have frustrated the user but Tanel reiterated that today the technology and support have evolved. “With the ability to improve user engagement and collaboration, while reducing hard costs, video communications solutions shouldn’t be overlooked,” he said. “In fact, implementing them on a managed services contract, all a retailer has worry about is who to contact.


“With the opportunity within reach to exploit video communications as a competitive advantage, today is the day to dust off the old equipment. Contact a video communications expert now to find out what a second shot at using a video communications solution could do to improve your business,” concluded Tanel.


BCS Global’s top tips for making video communications work for retail:


  1. Make sure that you get the “user experience” you need when you decide to implement video communications in your business. The right Managed Service Provider can ensure the best end-user experience;
  2. Ensure that your technology (network, video endpoints and infrastructure, room environmental and management systems) has the capability to provide the services you want;
  3. Behind every good video communications programme is a team of service and operational support – make sure you choose an expert partner to work with;
  4. Finally, measure the success of your video communications strategy, depending on your needs this may include increased user adoption or improved return on investment (ROI), whatever the factor is, these results will enable you to monitor progress.