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Video conferencing has been around for decades, but it's only in the past few years that it has impacted business processes. The technology has helped far-flung employees communicate and collaborate in virtual environments, crossing physical and cultural boundaries and allowing participants to read facial expressions as well as body language to better understand one another and have more effective meetings.
But, until recently, few organizations have integrated mobile video conferencing into their processes to improve how their employees get work done.
The effective use of video can indeed transform an organization by providing real-time access to information to the people who need it most. This efficacy is largely thanks to improvements in bandwidth availability, reliable networks and mobile devices.
Incorporating video in the field on tablets and smartphones is one of the most obvious and beneficial ways to reap the rewards of mobile video conferencing, as it helps workers meet customer needs and performance metrics from anywhere.
Here are some examples of how enterprises are leveraging mobile video conferencing.
In-field service and support
As employees venture into the field to perform maintenance and repair work, they should be armed with video-enabled tablets and smartphones. As they approach a new task, they can prepare by watching videos on how to perform the necessary work. And if they run into trouble, they can leverage mobile video conferencing to tap their colleagues' expertise and experience in real time, while they're in front of the problem trying to figure it out.
The camera on the mobile device allows the employees to show an off-site expert exactly what's happening in the field. In turn, the expert can demonstrate the necessary maneuvers. This capability lets the company keep senior service personnel on call to help the staff do their jobs better.
Quality and assurance
Manufacturing companies spend an enormous amount of time and money ensuring their facilities and products meet government and industry regulations. Typically, this requires sending senior-level quality assurance managers to plants around the country or globe to assess the work of lower-level colleagues on the ground.
But with video conferencing, managers and executives can monitor multiple sites simultaneously. On-site personnel can roam the plant with a mobile device in hand, streaming video evidence of whether workers are meeting targets in real time. Some companies are even using video-enabled robots that can be controlled remotely over the Internet to tour a facility on their own schedule and terms.
Organizations can use mobile video conferencing to train employees in the environment in which new policies and processes will actually take place. This is especially valuable in the retail and hospitality industries, in which front-line personnel must learn new processes that are relevant on site. These new policies might include how to cook and present new menu options, or make up a hotel room including the proper placement of amenities and fixtures, or fold and position clothing in a retail store.
Video is also improving healthcare, not just for traditional, continuing medical education purposes, but also in an ad-hoc fashion. For instance, a pioneering surgeon could guide other doctors through a procedure while they are in the operating room, even if he is miles or continents away.
Command and control
Mobile video conferencing helps executives and managers monitor, direct and evaluate outcomes in real time, from anywhere. This is especially useful in public safety and military environments, in which it's critical to gain insight into what's happening on the ground while remaining in a central command location. Streaming footage from body or helmet cameras can deliver a true "you-are-there" experience, allowing commanders to change orders and strategies on the fly as needed.
Companies should look to video conferencing for much more than just communication and collaboration. With high-bandwidth networks available almost everywhere these days, employees in a variety of mobile roles can leverage video technology to work with managers and colleagues in real time to improve in-field business processes.
About the author
Melanie Turek is vice president of research at Frost & Sullivan.
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