Virtual Meetings Increasing Collaboration While Reducing Costs and Ensuring Business Continuity Ram Narayanaswamy CTO 8x8, Inc.
Virtual Meeting – What is it? Realtime interaction /collaboration over the Internet Typically includes audio, video, chat, content sharing and electronic whiteboards Participants are connected through software applications
Advantages Distance learning and collaboration is a snap No need to travel – saves time & expense Enables greater scheduling flexibility Ability to RECORD and REPLAY meetings Efficient, effective and productive
Typical Use Academic Institutions – Remote student access to remote expert Sales Team – Pre-sale presentations and real time quotes Product Team – Product demonstrations Distributed team members – Real time collaboration
How does it work? Software that runs in a browser with/without browser plug-ins Services are typically hosted - delivered via web browser Participants interact via chat pane, audio and/or video sessions and shared whiteboard etc. – Electronically indicate non-verbal gestures (raising hands etc.) Content sharing pane that displays documents – Slides, text files, multi-media content being shared Any participant can take control of the meeting – Controlled through meeting administrators Entire meeting can be recorded and replayed – Automatic minutes of meetings
Why is it Significant? Creates environment as if participants are in the same location - Provides social connections without having to travel, saving time & money Provide expanded/increased access to remote resources (like experts, lecturers etc.) in an academic setting Instant scheduling capability - Use of Flash enables anyone to schedule or access meeting from anywhere - No long downloads/drivers, no incompatibility, and (in fact!) no phone required Highly efficient, increases productivity Ability to play recorded content in portable devices (like mobile phones etc.)
Real-Life Scenarios Customer support agents can walk-through step-by-step instructions with customers Using Remote Desktop Control, a service technician can take over a “remote” computer and identify/fix problems Using webinars, a sales executive can communicate “consistent” message to all sales personnel on the field at the same time Remote/online students can participate in live classroom sessions and interact with professors as if they are in the classroom Employees working from home do not need to miss meetings / presentations
Benefits Distance is no longer a factor Reduce costs (related to business travel & accommodations) up to 80% With budget cuts due to recession and slowness in economic recovery, real time audio/video conferencing-based technology solutions are handy Enable more participants to attend meetings without the fear of cost and time Reduce carbon emissions and environmental impact of travel Cuts down on non-productive travel time No long term commitment - pay-as-you-go models exist
Service Provider Perspective Infrastructure required to keep services up and running 24x7 – Redundant data center and network infrastructure Browser-based vs. solutions that require download – Platform dependent or independent Security, scalability and ease of use – User interface design, password based access and unlimited participants Support various vertical market segments that require special features – Education, corporate etc. Internationalization requirements – Language, time zone etc.
Challenges Participants in different time zones Technical problems like Internet connectivity, network traffic, audio and video quality due to connection speeds Improper setup of tools and not having the “right environment” to run tools Some of the “in-person” meeting benefits cannot be completely addressed - can’t replace face-to-face IT management to keep up with the software versions that require downloads and platform dependency
Where is it going? Webinars – All meetings are web based Telepresence and virtual office locations – Why commute? Wider audience – Ease of adding more participants (one-click invite and join) Synergy with Podcasting and video blogging – Playback on portable devices Recent improvements in sound and video quality – Bringing experience closer to face-to-face meetings Integration with contact management systems – Outlook, Google contacts etc.