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Enterprise video gains usage but must be used wisely to be effective

Enterprise video is seeing wider use in more interactive and practical applications, such as video conferencing systems, telepresence and corporate training videos.

Employees are using more enterprise video than they were a year ago, and management hopes they will be using it...

even more in the future. But continued growth and return on investment will depend on how that video is packaged for users.

Vendors clearly believe in continued growth. Cisco Systems has invested significant engineering and marketing revenue in Telepresence, its room-based, high-definition video conferencing technology. And this morning, Cisco announced an agreement to buy its video rival Tandberg for $3 billion.

"[Enterprise video] has to be used for the right reasons. It can't just be a talking head."
Blair Pleasant
President and principal analystCOMMfusion Unified Communications

"[Enterprise video] has to be used for the right reasons. It can't just be a talking head," said Blair Pleasant, president and principal analyst of COMMfusion Unified Communications. "If you're going to do it just to see somebody's face and it doesn't add anything, then you don't need it. But if you're going to do it to show someone how to do something, then it makes a lot of sense."

Employees watched an average of 5.2 hours of enterprise video per month in 2008, up 13% from 4.6 hours per month in 2007, according to Melissa Webster, program vice president at IDC and co-author of Video in the Enterprise Proliferates: An Updated Snapshot of Current and Planned Adoption.

Although respondents said they expect employees to be viewing 6.8 hours of enterprise video per month by the end of 2009, Webster said that growth will depend a lot on how it's packaged.

"Companies that distribute video by … stuffing a video someplace on a portal and basically clicking through on a link have found that's pretty disappointing," she said. "A lot of companies are … using these enterprise video platforms to push these videos to the employee desktop. It's a separate channel … maybe five minutes in the morning that's either live or on demand."

Size also matters. Corporate training videos may be able to get away with a half-hour of step-by-step instructions, but the message from the CEO should be closer to five minutes, Webster said.

"Everyone that's made video a relative success in their companies has kept it short," she said. "They were telling me 10 to 15 minutes is the max."

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Video conferencing systems rank as top use of enterprise video

Video conferencing, including telepresence, was reported as the top use (50% of respondents) of internal and external enterprise video, followed by employee training/certification (46.6%), according to the IDC review, released in August 2009, which surveyed 341 business and IT professionals worldwide.

"The thing about an email is they're so boring and so dry, and people ignore them," Webster said. "You're not looking somebody in the eye. You're not seeing their body language or hearing their tone of voice. It strips the emotion out of them. That's why we have silly little emoticons, don't we?"

Meanwhile, video is "a lot more direct," she said. "Video is a very immediate, high-impact way to communicate." Safeway, North America's third-largest supermarket chain, uses corporate training videos to show its butchers how to cut meat properly, she said.

Cost saving was the top reason (76%) enterprises favored video conferencing systems, especially as enterprises expand into the global market, the survey reported. In addition, enabling employees to download video meetings on demand can help branches in different time zones and prevent supervisors from having to dedicate time to repeating the same meeting.

"That starts to really improve those collaborations across time zones and cultural boundaries," Webster said. "Increasingly, people have teams in which part of the team or half the team may be on some other continent, so real-time communication is a struggle."

But video conferencing doesn't need to be transcontinental to be useful, Pleasant said.

"If you're collaborating and people are going to make changes to [a] chart, it's really nice to be able to use the collaborative tools so you don't have five different versions of something floating around," she said.

Enterprises should think of video as one piece of their unified communications suite, Webster noted, not as a substitute for face-to-face communication or standard electronic media, like email. Employees in a video conference can IM in the "back channel" with questions that would otherwise disrupt productivity, she said.

"Some of these technologies are not going to replace each other; they're complementary," she said. "It's like being able to drive and listen to the radio at the same time."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, News Writer

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