Most businesses nowadays are constantly looking for ways to become more efficient. From operating in different locations for a stronger local presence to working with home-based experts to provide professional services, decentralization is fast becoming a trend.
Technology such as video conferencing software is making these business strategies possible. By allowing communication between different locations, companies are able to cut costs and increase productivity. However, there’s a growing concern that while it may deliver benefits, this tool may be compromising quality.
What is Video Conferencing Software?
According to a white paper by Polycom, a global leader in collaboration and communications solutions, video conferencing is a tool that is quickly becoming fundamental. With the right equipment, companies can have meetings between employees or clients with neither having to leave their locations. This means a clothing apparel company in San Francisco can meet with their suppliers located in China without having to get on a plane.
There are elements or components needed to make this online conference possible. These include the following,
- Equipment – In order to participate in the video conference, all locations or points must have microphones, speakers, webcams and display equipment. For participants who will be accessing the meeting through their desktops, a mic-headset may take the place of the microphones and speakers.
- Codec – This is the software program which codes, decodes, compresses and decompresses the audio and video signals sent from the various points.
- Network – This could be ISDN or an IP network. It is a program that acts as a virtual bridge between the points. This is where the signals compressed by the codec are transmitted. This is the reason why a common terminology used by users call participating in a video conference as “jumping or joining the bridge”.
The online meeting rooms can be accessed by the points or locations participating by dialing a designated bridge number which is provided by the digital connection. An access code is also needed to ensure that these virtual conferences are secure and can only be accessed by those who need to be in the meeting.
When an online meeting happens, audio and visual data from one point gets coded and compressed and transmitted to the other points. Once it gets to the other locations, their codec decodes and decompresses the data it received. This transmission appears as a real time video which combines the audio and visual data so it is received simultaneously.
To ensure that both data are shown at the same time, the system makes some adjustment. Sound travels faster than light, this means audio data is received before the video. To display these at the same time, the codec delays the transmission of audio.
One other thing that you would need to know about the video conference tool is that its efficiency depends on the elements used. With quality equipment and a large network bandwidth, you can ensure that there are no delays in the signals so the meeting can go through smoothly. There would be no choppy audio or frozen video.
Types of Video Conferencing Software
Before you decide to invest in business video conference software, it will be useful to know what the different types are. This will help you identify which one fits your business needs.
- Desktop – Video conference software for desktops is ideal for individual or SMB use. It works on desktops, laptops and IP phones. It doesn’t require a big investment on equipment. Laptops often have microphones, speakers and webcams built in while desktop compatible equipment can be purchased at affordable price. All the user would need to do is download the software and ensure that he or she has a dependable connection.
- Room Based – this type of video conference software for business is often set up at meeting rooms. It includes equipment such as large screens that are mounted on either the walls or an audio visual cart. More sophisticated webcams, speakers and microphones are needed as it would need to be able to capture and transmit to a group of people.
- Telepresence – This is the most advanced type of audio video conferencing software. Screens and webcams are mounted at a level where it would appear as though the participants are seated at one table. Companies who use this type of software make investments in ensuring that the conference rooms used look very similar. This creates a more intimate and personal connection with the participants as they feel like they are in the same room.
Why Businesses Use Video Conferencing Software
There are various reasons why most companies choose to invest in top video conference tools. Whatever size or type of business one is running, the software certainly brings a host of benefits. Listed below are some of the common reasons why video conferencing software has become essential.
- To improve communication – Day to day business operations require efficient communication between departments. This becomes especially challenging if the company has multiple locations. This is why collaboration software, which includes video conferencing, has become a necessity. It allows all the key people to interact and communicate with each other to create better business strategies.
- To Enhance Project Management Processes – Running projects can be a challenge when there are multiple teams involved. In order to streamline the process of project management, companies choose to use software that allows all those involved to work simultaneously. Project management software offer features that make planning, implementation and evaluation more efficient.
However, communicating through files and emails can get confusing. Teams will need to meet and interact to work more cohesively. Online meetings through video conference tools can help keep everyone on the same page without eating up too much of everybody’s time. They can stay in their offices and simply jump on the bridge.
- To Run Cost Efficient Training – More and more businesses are recognizing the benefits of providing employees with training. From new hire to skill development, companies are seeing that it is an investment worth making. Having a Learning Management System in place helps fulfill the need to provide continuous training.
But there are training modules where learning would be more successful with a facilitator and co-trainees. If all employees were in the same location, this would be easy and not too expensive to run. However, when a business has multiple locations, this can be quite costly.
Companies can choose to bring participants to one location or send the trainer to the different sites. In both of these options, additional expenses would be incurred. This is why running training programs are often at the bottom of priorities. Optimizing the company’s LMS with video conferencing for training helps make developing employees more cost efficient.
Pros and Cons of Training via Video Conference
If you’re looking at using video conferencing to run training programs, it would be ideal to weigh the pros and cons of this strategy first. Below are some points to help you out:
- More participants can join the training. If you were to hold the training at one location and have the employees travel, chances are only a few of them will be able to attend. To keep your expenses under control, you will have to depend on the employees who attended to cascade what they learn to their teams back home. While this may be cost efficient, you cannot guarantee that the transfer of knowledge will be as effective as actually attending the training.
- The training roll out will be completed much faster. If it is essential to have all the employees attend the training, you may choose to send your trainer to the different sites instead. This of course will save on travel expenses. But it also means that it will take much longer for the roll out to be completed. By doing the training through video conferencing, your trainers will not waste time on travelling and instead focus on running the training.
- According to Video Conferencing Guide.org, the quality of training may be affected by the stability of the connection. While technology has gone a long way, it is still certainly not perfect. Training sessions are at the mercy of the connection and network bandwidth. If the connection is slow then there may be delays to the signals transmitted. Choppy lines, robot voice or freezing frames are not conducive to training and may affect the learning process.
If there are also any technical problems such as microphones not working or the display not showing, scheduled training sessions may be delayed or postponed. This will have a domino effect as the succeeding schedules will also need to be adjusted.
- The number of participants will depend on the system you are using. If you use free software, it often has a limited number of participants allowed in the conference. You may need to make adjustments to be able to meet the training needs. You can either have more sessions scheduled or have participants use a room-based video conferencing software.
Reviews of video conference tools from current users show that despite some challenges, the software still delivers positive results. Check the list of video conferencing software providers available on CrowdReviews.com so you can start exploring your options today.
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