Unified Collaboration virtual conferencing a viable alternative?

Maturing technologies for unified collaboration have turned it into a compelling alternative to face-to-face meetings for companies that want to streamline communications and save costs.

July 11, 2011

That’s according to Ryan Miles, chief operating officer at Itec. He says that even though most people are still more comfortable with meeting in person than they are meeting virtually, that picture will soon change. The reason for this is that today’s collaboration technologies allow people on opposite ends of the globe to work together and interact as well as they could if they were in the same room.

Says Miles: “UC is an evolution from videoconferencing that delivers a natural communication and collaboration experience for people who are interacting with each other on opposite ends of a telephone line. Today’s UC technology has advanced beyond the laggy and shaky videoconferencing technologies of a few years ago to deliver a real alternative to face to face meetings.”

Miles says that UC isn’t just about communicating with people who may be hundreds or thousands of kilometres away, but also about sharing and collectively working on documents, presentations, files and more.

It is a powerful technology that brings people together over vast distances and allows them to work together seamlessly. UC can be used to enhance communication between employees, customers and business partners. Companies can harness the skills and expertise of people scattered around the country or the world, adds Miles.

By enabling more effective, real-time collaboration in their workforces, companies can enable faster decision-making and quicker resolution of business problems.  Employees can respond faster and more efficiently to clients, boosting their satisfaction.

“UC is also a real alternative to business travel, allowing companies to cut costs and reduce their carbon footprints,” says Miles. “The outlay on hardware and software is quickly paid for by considerable savings on national and international travel. Companies can reap a return on investment soon after deployment.”

Miles says that UC technology is improving all the time, although South Africa’s Internet infrastructure is still catching up. He notes that life-size interaction is made possible through 1080p x 1920 high definition video and immersive, spatial wide-band audio, provided there is enough bandwidth to cater for it.

What’s more, the bandwidth demands of UC are becoming increasingly manageable, says Miles. With network optimisation technologies improving all the time, video streams are delivered over considerably lower bandwidth than before, significantly reducing network load and costs.

“The technology is no longer just for conference rooms,” says Miles. “You can put UC tools on every desktop so that employees can join video-centric meetings with multiple colleagues, customer or business partners right from their desks.”

Concludes Miles: “Companies are looking to reduce costs, improve productivity, and strengthen relationships among employees, customers, partners, and suppliers. UC solutions enable them to meet these objectives by allowing for life-like interactions between people, no matter where they are located.”

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