Video is becoming more pervasive. It seems a new reservationless video service is introduced nearly every month. And, as more people bring their own devices (BYOD) to work, users are demanding video collaboration as a standard service. But with the introduction of a plethora of new video solutions and vendors, organizations are asking for guidance on the best way to implement and support video.

Whether your organization is looking to roll out video beyond the boardroom to a mobile workforce and business partners or you are considering video for the first time, the following seven tips provide actionable guidance for companies looking to build and support a sustainable video collaboration strategy.

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1. Strategy: Set this first and revisit often

There’s a natural tendency to think of video as just a technology solution, but it’s not. It’s a business solution. Before you consider endpoints, infrastructure, or deployment, you must set your strategy, including short- and long-term (approximately 2 years) goals. Think about how video will enable your business. Let the business requirements and vision drive the technology decisions. In other words, you need to determine from the business how video is going add value. Who will use video and for what purpose? How critical is video for improving your business? Too many projects end up technology-focused. Let your culture and business requirements determine the technology, not the other way around.

Make sure your strategy is designed to avoid “forklift” (significant) upgrades by developing a roadmap for your solution, even if the technology isn’t there yet, and revisit often as technologies change. For example, in 2010 we began a global project to upgrade our conference rooms to HD video. Part of the decision making process included a vision to implement video to the desktop and integrate it into our collaboration platform, even though the technologies weren’t all there yet.

Justification factors
Develop the business case based on your company culture and business requirements. Start with answering, what’s the deliverable and benefit for the business? Many video initiatives are justified by travel cost savings; others may deliver a softer benefit, such as more efficient sales and/or team collaboration for a globally distributed sales force.

Creating a business case for a video solution does not always translate into increased spending. For example, if you have an older video system with ISDN lines, you may actually save money and increase quality by moving to the cloud and a newer video solution. In other cases, cost is a factor. In these situations, determine where you will save money and calculate the ROI. For example, in a global company that interviews executive candidates, videoconferencing can lead to significant savings. By implementing video, the firm can interview the first round of candidates via video, and then bring in only the top few candidates rather than multiple candidates.

Other companies implement video as a strategic initiative. Will video make it easier for you to manage your globally dispersed sales team or work more effectively with your business partners and suppliers? If you have a large mobile workforce, will video help your team become more cohesive, having more meetings without travelling? You may have people dispersed in multiple countries who would otherwise not meet as frequently if it weren’t for a video collaboration solution. Other companies use video to cut onboarding costs of new employees and get them more productive sooner.

Technology and bandwidth considerations
Despite the promise of pervasive video, you need to determine the cost, support, and bandwidth requirements, no matter what you decide. Put a stake in the ground to estimate utilization. Start with determining how many video calls are one-to-one, many-to-one, or many-to-many. Determine the frequency and volume of each video scenario. To get a better sense of technology and bandwidth needs, estimate the number, length, and volume of calls. How many simultaneous calls will there be? How long is the average call? If you don’t know, take an educated guess for estimating purposes. It’s an important factor in determining bridging, bandwidth, and endpoint requirements and costs, and ultimately the solution you will deploy.

2. Corporate Culture: Understand and incorporate your company’s culture

“Must-have” examples
Senior-level Executive and Assessment Firm: One of the world’s largest senior-level executive search and assessment firms with offices in 25 countries around the world. Video is critical for candidate interviews, important meetings, and how business gets done. Significant reduced travel costs and “time to hire.”

Cloud security company: A fast growing medium-sized business with distributed sales offices and development partners located on several continents. Need to collaborate with sales and partners more effectively. Save travel money and get to market faster with products because they have a better handle on sales, as well as the development and QA process.Understanding your company’s culture is extremely important factor in deciding how video will be deployed in your organization. Determine which video use cases, if any, are “must haves” and which ones are “nice to haves.” In many companies, meeting “eye-to-eye” is critical. In these cases, video has an excellent chance of being pervasive and highly adopted. If the culture is, “I don’t have the need to see someone when we meet,” then a video solution might be seen as a luxury or “nice to have” verses a “must have.”

Consider employee expectations. For example, younger adults ages 18-29 are significantly more likely to use video on mobile devices (69%) than adults ages 50-64 (37%)1. As the younger adults enter the workforce and move up the management ladder, they will continue to demand video on mobile devices.

3. Support: Never underestimate the importance of support

Support is our industry’s “dirty little secret.” As reservationless, or on demand, videoconferencing becomes more popular and more employees are bringing their own devices to work (BYOD), many vendors and service providers would like you to believe that the need for support decreases or goes away. The exact opposite is true. The need for support is essential no matter which video solution you decide to use; now or in the future. As the demand for secure, enterprise-grade video collaboration increases and expands globally, the need to provide support for your users increases and becomes more complex.

You can have the best video collaboration solution but if you don’t factor in support, your video initiative will fail. You need to have a support plan in place from the beginning. Too many people think about support after video is deployed.
The most important question to answer is, “Who are you (and your users) going to call when you have a problem and what’s that experience going to be like?”

For example, reservationless videoconferencing promises that you can use any device to talk to another device easily and quickly without needing someone to set up your call in advance or support the call. Reservationless video collaboration certainly has its place. However, before deploying a reservationless video solution, determine your users’ tolerance level for video quality, uptime and support. Are people going to demand that a video call works all the time? What happens when it doesn’t? Will there be someone to help them? What product(s) is the person or people with whom you are meeting using and how will those products work with yours? For example, if you are using Microsoft Lync© and your business partner wants to use Skype©; what will you do?

You should also factor in expertise, technology and costs into the solution as you plan (e.g., labor, bandwidth requirements, infrastructure design, hardware and software). Thinking through these considerations will help you determine whether to outsource support or provide it in-house. If you’re a global company, think through how you will support your global workforce and business partners when they require support (e.g., 24x7x365, 24×5, etc.). In many cases, it makes sense to outsource support (and infrastructure) to a company that does it for a living.

There are several vendors that provide “soup-to-nuts” services. They provide bandwidth and infrastructure via the cloud, monitor and manage the devices, and provide multiple levels of support. If you choose to go this route, designate a point of contact, such as an in-house network manager or a security person. You’ll need to make sure you can communicate securely with your provider’s infrastructure and network as part of the implementation.
Never underestimate support when it comes any video solution, including reservationless video.

Desktop and mobile users
Supporting video for desktop users adds another level of complexity. You need to answer questions such as, what soft client will your users use? Which ones will you support? Will video calls occur across the WAN or the Internet? How does video fit into your Unified Communications (UC) strategy and platform? How will you handle ad-hoc video calling with limited bandwidth? How many simultaneous calls will there be? Will the device be a corporate owned device or an employee owned device? Not all of these questions have straightforward answers. This underscores why support has to be part of every conversation and every thought process from the start.

4. Security: Don’t assume security is built in

Regardless of what you think, there will be sensitive conversations conducted over video. Don’t take security for granted and don’t assume it’s built in to a vendor’s solution. You may recall the George Zimmerman trial when testimony being delivered via Skype was disrupted by pranksters. Make sure you fully understand your vendor’s security capabilities and responsibilities. What is the vendor doing to protect the communications and/or devices? What security protocols are they using? Are they encrypting everything? What is the likelihood someone can “listen-in” or disrupt a videoconference? If the vendor uses public IP addresses, it’s not behind a firewall, what is the vendor doing to protect that device?

Make sure to read the vendor’s terms and conditions very carefully to understand the vendor’s rights to your content. Some very popular vendors state that they can use any of your information for their benefit.

5. Try before You Buy: Test everything

Don’t take anything for granted. Test the video solution in your environment. Test usability, conduct test calls, test quality, take a close look at the overall user experience and determine ahead of time if the solution will be easy for users to adopt. Use it yourself and test the various use cases and scenarios. And, make sure you test the user support experience.

6. Deliver: Show success early and often

Design your plan so you can show success early and often. Get people excited about something, get them using video, and then build from there. For example, when we deployed videoconference rooms, we knew that we would eventually incorporate desktop video. However, we didn’t wait around for desktop video. We implemented a very successful conference room program that delivered real value to the firm.

Incorporate user advocates (not technology advocates) in the plan. Select multiple user advocates who are respected in the workplace. Get them on board and involved early and get their buy in. They will help drive adoption.

7. Vendor Partnership: Partner with someone who will get you there over the short and long term

Selecting the right vendor, whether it’s a hardware vendor and/or services provider, is critical to your success. Make sure you partner with someone that has the capability, infrastructure and track record to support you long term so you minimize the need to switch partners mid-stream. Look at their roadmap and vision, their fit into your corporate culture, as well as current capabilities, and make sure it aligns with yours.

Author’s Background
Ron Ongley is the Global Head of Technology Infrastructure for Russell Reynolds Associates and has been with the firm for over 11 years.  He is responsible for all aspects of the firm’s network, unified communications, social collaboration platform, distributed infrastructure and security environments as well as the Client Services team.  In 2010, Ron began a global video and collaboration transformation initiative by introducing cutting edge video solution to the organization. These technologies transformed how the business operates by using high quality video solutions to conduct daily business.  By leveraging these managed video services, the firm achieved swift service delivery models, cost savings, improved quality of service, and versatility in how users work.  In 2012, the HD video capability was expanded to mobile devices and his team is currently working on fully intergrading video into the firm’s unified communications and collaboration platforms.  In addition to collaboration/video initiatives in 2013, Ron is also leading his firm through a Windows 7 migration and an ISO 27001 certification process.
Prior to joining Russell Reynolds Associates, Ron was the Director of Enterprise Systems at Rare Medium, Inc., where he led all aspects of the global infrastructure, liaising with internal teams to deliver e-commerce solutions to clients while integrating new acquisitions into the corporate infrastructure.  Before that, Ron was the Manager of Technology at a small educational software firm and held roles in systems and network engineering with Quaker State Corporation.

About Glowpoint
Glowpoint, Inc. is a video collaboration services provider, focused on delivering support services that meet the needs of large and mid-sized companies. More than 1000 organizations in 96 countries rely on our unmatched experience, business-class support and cloud-based services to support their unified communications (UC) strategies and business goals.