4 barriers to video conferencing adoption and how to clear them

At one of the recent Microsoft press conferences regarding Windows 10, the tech giant introduced the world to the Surface Hub. This new device, in essence, is a massive tablet which will support the newest operating system. Measuring in at 84-inches with an "ultrahigh-definition" touchscreen display, the Surface Hub also boasts motion sensor technology, which Microsoft stated will track people in the room and pick up audio from anyone in the area.

While there could be a discussion about the Surface Hub itself, it's certainly interesting to look at this new device as the ultimate unified communications accessory, especially since Microsoft is targeting enterprise environments with this video teleconferencing solution. The Surface Hub has many capabilities and will definitely prove valuable to organizations, but the introduction of such a product raises a huge question in regard to telepresence solutions.

"Telepresence tools are a valuable asset, yet they're often left unused."

Unified communications solutions based on Voice-over-Internet Protocol telephony systems are very popular tools that modern businesses deploy. Employees enjoy the various methods for communication, while executives are satisfied with the low cost that hosted PBX services offers. However, one feature, while commonly referenced as a benefit of UC, just isn't used as much as the others. It's clear that we're talking about single and multi-party video conferencing.

If Microsoft wants the Surface Hub to catch on, they need to consider how to circumvent many of the hurdles facing video conference adoption. Similarly, business leaders know that telepresence tools are a valuable asset for their staff members, yet when left unused, they don't press the issue to uncover what is hindering employees from leveraging video call technology.

On that note, here are four barriers to video conference adoption and how to clear those hurdles to ensure a maximum return on UC investments and to create a more productive and collaborative workforce.

1. Cost
Simply put, video conferencing features are not expensive, but the hardware to support those capabilities is more than cheap. In an article about the Surface Hub, CNET pointed out that teleconferencing systems can cost upwards of six figures in some cases. There are cables, projectors, screens, phones and many more accessories available for purchase. The Surface Hub doesn't have a price yet, but the source estimated that the 84-inch tablet - there's a 55-inch version as well - could cost around $20,000 if other similar devices are any indication of market trends.

However, Andrew Davis, a partner at Wainhouse Research told TechTarget that it's not really about the price when it comes to procuring video conferencing equipment.

"The bottom line for companies is they want to know how much their equipment is being used," David explained. "And with a typical room system costing something in the order of $20,000 to install, they also want to know what value video conferencing brings to the business."

If businesses calculated their ROI for those technologies, they would immediately see the value of the systems and encourage employees to use them more. There are also savings from mitigating and sometimes removing the need for travel. According to Talkin' Cloud, video conferences saved organizations over 2.1 billion miles of travel and $1.3 billion in the past six months of use alone. That clearly offsets the cost of the tools.

From projectors to cameras to screen sharing software, those investments need to be recuperated.From projectors to cameras to screen sharing software, investments need to be recuperated.

2. Quality
The quality of video calls and the chances of them freezing or dropping are enough to put some employees off of video conferencing altogether. There's not more more to say than that, and the performance of video calls is going to pose an issue for organizations until everyone has upgraded, high quality Ethernet services, but there is a solution for internal telepresence operations.

MPLS networks will solve a wealth of quality problems. These solutions allow IT professionals to prioritize traffic, ensuring that VoIP and video data is sent over networks at higher speeds than YouTube videos. While Ethernet service is easier and less expensive, the easy way isn't always the best. If business leaders want to be sure that employees are using video conferencing tools to collaborate with coworkers and communicate with clients across long distances, MPLS is the optimal choice.

3. Flexibility
In the era of bring your own device and the consumerization of IT, solutions need to be scalable and flexible. The problem is that 56 percent of organizations have video conferencing hardware that is outdated and not fit for high performance, according to IT Pro Portal. Businesses are proverbially shooting themselves in the foot and causing employees not to use these tools by giving them access to old tech. In fact, 49 percent of people said they are dissatisfied with their video conferencing hardware's ability to interoperate and connect with other systems.

"56% of organizations have outdated video conferencing hardware."

The solution is in the cloud. Research and Markets found that the cloud-based video conferencing market is expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 39 percent up through 2019 because of BYOD and convenience. With hosted PBX-based UC systems, telepresence hardware and software will always to up-to-date with the latest technologies and flexible to employee demands.

"Businesses continue to migrate their unified communications applications to the cloud, citing flexibility as the key reason," Diane Myers, principal analyst for VoIP, UC and instant messaging at Infonetics explained, according to eWEEK. "Cloud solutions are inherently more flexible than premises-based solutions, offering businesses the ability to scale users up and down, centralize management, and deploy new features and applications quickly."

4. People
The last hurdle to video conferencing adoption is employees. On one hand, people don't want to devote the kind of attention that video meetings call for, while another barrier is the ease of use of many solutions. In regard to the former, there really isn't much that technology can solve, but when the use of tablets - massive-scale or personal - catch on in boardrooms, multi-tasking won't seem disrespectful.

This is also where millennials can help solve a problem. The generation is familiar with and a proponent of video calls. So, as they start to fill higher positions in organizations, it's likely that they will make a push for the technology's use along with tablets and other touchscreen devices.

Then, there's the difficulty of some video conferencing programs. According to IT Pro Portal, 53 percent of employees claimed that video conferencing tools are simply too hard to use altogether. The solution here would be to implement a training process as new tool are slowly disseminated across meeting rooms, offices and cubicles. Once using video conferencing becomes second nature, employees will be much more likely to opt into using video calls as a primary means of internal collaboration.

The benefits of the various UC tools included in hosted PBX services are enough of a reason to deploy the solutions, but business leaders might have to take a few more steps to ensure that these technologies are put to good use and generate ROI.

Sheldon Smith is a Senior Product Manager at XO Communications, a telecommunication services provider that specializes in nationwide unified communications and cloud services.  Sheldon has an extensive background in UC and his position involves overall product ownership of Hosted PBX, SIP, VoIP and Conferencing.