Time Travel with Videoconferencing – The User Perspective

I have just been reading a White Paper from a top videoconferencing company called “The Top Five Benefits of Videoconferencing”. These are, apparently,   (in order) Reduced Travel Costs; Increased productivity; Improved hiring and retention; Sustained competitive advantage, Support for environmental initiatives. This is obviously marketing aimed at management – the people who control the purse strings and make purchasing and equipment investment decisions.

For me, this is a problem with the way that videoconference is brought to the public’s eyes in general. This is a particularly bad example of management-gobbledygook, but the perception of “benefits” is nearly always seen from the point of view of the organisation-  “What are the benefits for your organisation”.? and not the individual using the equipment.

This serves to obscure the benfits to the actual user – who is, more often than not, a person who is not accountable for return on investment, staff productivity or sustained competitive advantage, and frankly, doesn’t care much about them either. The user of the equipment is far more likely to be a person like most workers these days, struggling to get along, juggling home life and work life, and at work, fighting to get everything done in the eight hour day.

What are the top five benefits of videoconferencing from this person’s point of view? I would say the most important of these is Time Travel. By this I mean the bending of the time-space continuum whereby the travel time to a meeting with a colleague a hundred miles away becomes the few minutes to the VC room, rather than the few hours down a railway or a road. Better still, that few minutes walk can enable them to be with a number of colleagues at various locations simultaneously – Time Travel!

This has all sorts of impacts on the users lives: they do not have to get up early and sort out their families, walk the dog, park the kids, and then drive like madmen because they are late. If they forgot something – or think of something during the meeting – they can pop to the office and get it during the meeting.

It often means they can justify attending the meeting at all, whereas without the Time Travel they would just not have gone, due to other pressures and deadlines; they are able to go now, and it only takes the time alloted to the meeting – then they can get on with all that other stuff.

Why don’t marketing bods concentrate on the benefits for the users? They should be trying to get the ‘nag’ factor from the workers directed at managers: “Why haven’t we got videoconferencing?” rather than from the top down “You will use videoconferencing”.

The top five benefits should be:

  • a better work/home balance (no more evenings spent driving miles home and missing the kids bedtimes);
  • less stress – a day out of the office can be relaxing, but often is the opposite;
  • better time management – less time spent travelling means more time to do other stuff
  • actually being able to attend rather than ducking out because of time or cost pressures;
  • equality – have the same access to meetings, experts and events where ever you live and work.

…oh, and feeling good that you have saved all those CO2 emissions too!

One thought on “Time Travel with Videoconferencing – The User Perspective

  1. Paul Richardson

    You’re right! I think this has to be looked at from both ends. It is very important that individuals are considered, and I think it is just not convenience which counts here, but also how comfortable people feel about their own carbon footprint. Organisations are important too. Without some management buy-in, it is often impossible to arrange a videoconference in the first place. (Although that is getting easier with the advent and better integration of desktop conferencing). Hopefully we will see more and more people getting the benefits of videoconferencing over the coming months and years.

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