I hate to date myself, but I entered the workforce before the web was the standard business tool it has become today.
Back then we had libraries at work to get access to the reports and facts and figures we needed. Our phones and computers had wires that tethered us to our desks, and if we wanted to see a coworker, partner or customer, we flew, drove, or walked there.
And we walked to work,… in the snow,… up hill,… both ways…
It was a dark time.
Kidding aside, I distinctly remember when the web started to take off in business. It was 1994 and this company called Netscape was generating a lot of buzz with its browser. The company would eventually go public in 1995 at $14 a share. Seemed expensive at the time…
I remember the discussions back then...
Is the web good for business? Do we need it? Will it kill productivity? What about bandwidth? What about security?
Some companies embraced the shift and benefited from it dramatically. Think FedEx and web tracking software. Others resisted but eventually had to embrace and catch up when their employees demanded it.
In the end no one could stop the movement to the web for business. It was inevitable because the benefits so significantly outweighed the downsides. Business found a way to adopt and everyone is better off today for it.
Does this sound familiar? The same discussions are happening today around video.
Is this good for business? Do we need it? Will it kill productivity? What about bandwidth? What about security?
Some companies are embracing and benefitting tremendously with cost savings and productivity improvements. Others enterprises are frantically blocking Skype, keeping their video conferencing systems from dialing out, and resisting the adoption of iPads. But if history tells us anything it’s that you cant stop this movement.
Four things are aligning that make the proliferation of video conferencing inevitable.
Workforces are getting more distributed (especially when you include partners and customers),
Businesses are looking for ways to reduce travel (whether motivated by cost savings, time savings, carbon savings, or safety concerns),
A new generation is entering the workforce that grew up in a world of video and collaboration (Generation “V”) and expects the proper tools at work, and finally
Video enabled mobile devices (iphones and ipads) are propagating wildly as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) takes over.
Projections for video conferencing growth over the next few years are quite bullish, but I think they don’t fully capture the opportunity. Back in the 90's no one dreamed just how prolific the web would be twenty years later. It’s the same today with video collaboration. We’re just scratching the surface on use cases. This goes well beyond distance learning and telemedicine.
Video will change business the same way the web did. We can't stop it. All we can do is embrace it.