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Ubiquitous business video calling: Are we ready for our close-up?

Gina Narcisi

With video conferencing unshackled from the confines of the expensive, high-end telepresence room, enterprises are exploring a wider swath of video options -- like desktop video calling and managed or cloud-based video services that could improve their businesses.

The arrival of more accessible video endpoints is removing one of the final barriers to every conferencing vendor's dream: ubiquitous business video calling. The evolution of the modern workforce -- with enterprises opening branch offices everywhere and more employees working from home or on the road -- is also lending itself to a more

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video-friendly culture.

While not every company is ready for ubiquitous business video calling, more businesses are relying on visual communication tools to connect far-flung offices and employees. Video technology has even helped some companies hire "the best and the brightest -- no matter where they are located," said Dave Gilbert, CEO of Simple Signal, a Dana Point, Calif.-based cloud-based unified communications service provider.

Being able to see body language makes [users] feel like they are actually working with someone, not just a voice.

Katie Kregel,
VP of marketing, CorvisaCloud

Simple Signal uses Polycom video technology to connect its 54 employees, who are scattered across several offices throughout the U.S., for their "morning huddle" -- a 10- to 15-minute morning meeting. "It really doesn't matter if [the employee] is in the next cubicle over or connected by a video camera. The conversations are the same. Video has really connected us as a company," Gilbert said.

Business video calling is still relatively new for many corporate users and presents inconveniences to employees who might be used to working from home in the comfort of their pajamas, or from rooms within their homes that may not quite be "camera-ready."

Simple Signal has learned to embrace the "human aspects" of connecting with employees via video, by encouraging employees to put something in the background during a video call that reflects their personality or interests in order to promote more natural conversation.

"For me, I have a surfboard in the background because I live on the beach and this is what I love, and we can talk about that briefly [during a meeting]," Gilbert explained.

CorvisaCloud, a provider of cloud-based call center software, adopted video to help remote employees build personal connections during meetings. Instead of hardware, the cloud startup selected online video conferencing service provider Blue Jeans.

"Being able to see body language makes [users] feel like they are actually working with someone, not just a voice," said Katie Kregel, vice president of marketing for CorvisaCloud. "My own boss is located in Tampa, but I still meet with him multiple times a week, or even multiple times a day over Blue Jeans video," she said.

Prior to encouraging business video calling in their company, CorvisaCloud's executives were spending a lot of time and money on travel between the company's Milwaukee and Chicago offices. Video has reduced that need for travel, which saves the company money, but maybe more importantly, gives employees more time at home, and less time on the road, Kregel said.

"Video has been really allowing us to cut down on travel, but it also has been really helpful to employees with families to have more time with their personal commitments, while still maintaining that personal and professional connection with colleagues in other locations," she said.

Many companies are still in the midst of trying to figure out how -- and if -- ubiquitous business video calling is necessary, or would even fit their culture. In the meantime, video technology will continue to evolve with the help of traditional hardware vendors and service providers, offering enterprises potential cost-savings opportunities, while giving users an innovative way to improve the all-important work-life balance.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.


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