Buyer's Guide to Video Conferencing

When someone finds out that I am a 'video conference consultant', they either politely change the subject to something interesting or ask me what is the best product. The answer is ALWAYS "It depends". Today, I'll give you the potential customer some ammunition before you go into battle with the sales rep who will try to convince you that their video conferencing product will do everything...and MORE!

Who What Where How When and Why

Let's keep it as simple as possible and figure out a few things. I won't get us lost with industry jargon.

Who in your organization will be using video conferencing? Identifying the people who will use it will start to narrow down what features you are going to need and that starts to narrow down the options. C-suite may need exceptional face to face video where the engineering team may need heavy data and incidental video. Human Resources may need a good combination of both for remote interviews. Find your demographic.

What is your budget? Video conferencing has a per room range of free to half a million dollars (or more). There are software products out there that are priced simply per user per month. There are other 'software' products that require you to either purchase hardware or rent ports from a third party. Next up are individual codecs and cameras and then the Immersive Telepresence systems that everyone loves yet few can afford. Defining the per room (or user) budget will greatly narrow down the list. Going cheap doesn't necessarily mean a sacrifice in quality and on the other hand, spending loads of money won't automatically increase usage or decrease travel (or whatever justification the sales rep throws out).

Identify the locations where you plan to have video conferences. Are they board rooms, huddle rooms, dedicated video conference rooms? Domestic or worldwide? What about teleworkers with their laptops, tablets or smart phones? A combination of all of the above? This is where an independent consultant can really help clarify your particular use case.

Will meetings be scheduled or ad hoc? Point to point or multi-point? Look for products that are easy to use. The harder it is to make calls, share data and have meetings the less likely you will end up using it and opting for a simple phone call.

What are your plans for rollout and what is your time frame? Rollout can be as simple as a few minutes for a software product versus months of lead time for an Immersive system.

Why does your organization need video conferencing? Are you expecting less travel or more teleworking? Knowing why you want to get into video conferencing will allow you to make a better educated decision on the solution you end up with.

Taking these simple ideas into account will help your organization save money and time and help you get the right products or services your company needs.


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