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What Is Your Video Application?

In our Video conference-within-a-conference at VoiceCon we had a great first session talking about how to navigate the plethora of video conferencing choices in the industry today. Solutions are available from Telepresence Suites at the high end all the way down to inexpensive software running on PCs at the low end, with many choices in between. Our session tried to help users think about the advantages and costs of each, and determine which approach best suited their needs. In my mind, the first question always comes back to your application. We saw this same question being asked at numerous other sessions throughout the show as applied to VoIP and Unified Conferencing. In fact, in the Unified Conferencing space, the question becomes how can we integrate voice and video into the business process to create an integrated solution that directly addresses the business need?

I think this is a very powerful approach. In today's economic environment we need very clear ROI results for any technology investment. While reducing telephone charges or ISDN charges or even reducing travel can support an ROI, the real value comes by making employees more efficient. If a customer-related task can be handled in 1 hour instead of 2 hours, the same team can handle twice as many customers. If a partnership deal can be negotiated in 1 week instead of 1 month by having a series of video conferencing meetings instead of traveling, the partnership starts 3 weeks earlier, and the resulting revenue stream also starts 3 weeks earlier. These results provide much more dramatic ROI than merely saving tickets on an airline flight or hotel rooms.

Once we identify the application, the parameters for how the tool must support the application are much easier to answer. Are the parties who are meeting via video in just a few places, or spread all over the world? Do they need to connect ad hoc, or can we schedule meetings in rooms at each facility? Does calling need to cross company boundaries (business to business) or is all the calling within the enterprise network? Is there a lot of data sharing? Is this data on computers; is it drawings or physical devices (tools, packages, printed circuit boards)? What screen resolution will we need to accurately display the information we are sharing?

Find the applications that will justify the video deployment first, and this will lead you to the right product categories and will shape the deployment. The next three steps will then be much easier to work through, as the decisions can be made in the context of supporting the business applications that will be enhanced through use of video technology.

The next steps will be:

* Providing transport for the video

* The signaling infrastructure (how we get connected)

* Services, management and support

I'll tackle these topics in subsequent postings; stay tuned to this channel.