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Telepresence: Looking Beyond the Hype: Page 2 of 3

Building the Business Case

Earlier this year we asked enterprises their views on both high definition videoconferencing as well as telepresence. Approximately 51 percent were either evaluating or already planning to deploy high-definition or telepresence systems. High definition video was seen as the logical upgrade to existing room-based systems, but most participants understood that telepresence was something more, and in large global organizations, they were investigating its use.

Given the high cost of initial investment, most enterprises were identifying specific business opportunities for use, rather than considering deployment of telepresence as a general-purpose conferencing solution. Specific examples included the use of telepresence for engineering teams to share detailed images, researchers who needed to share high resolution images during presentations, telemedicine applications including collaboration for physicians, and for graphic designers who needed to share project details including high-contrast color schemes.

These limited examples don’t translate well to a broad market for telepresence, so it’s not surprising that companies like Cisco have touted the ability of telepresence to reduce travel, while also offering tangible benefits in improved meeting productivity, and the ability to impress customers and prospects by using telepresence for sales meetings and product demonstrations, and to improve access for clients to senior executives. In this approach telepresence becomes a substitute for the executive briefing center that most vendors currently use to wow their clients. Cisco noted at a recent analyst conference that approximately 40 percent of all internal telepresence sessions at Cisco were used for customer meetings, a number that had grown from 30 percent a year earlier.

Among global enterprises, we found a great deal of interest in telepresence, primarily to reduce travel among senior executives, to improve the overall meeting experience and to reduce an organization’s carbon footprint. High-level executives are drawn to the quality, life-size screens and the actual feeling of being in the same room as those on the other end of the conference. That same experience translates well to organizations looking to impress potential or existing customers. Vendors in the telepresence space are stressing the “luxury” aspect of telepresence, in effect making ownership of a telepresence system a status symbol for the corporate executive.