May 1, 2014

In-room video conferencing systems can be expensive to implement, which often leaves managers wondering: how much worse off would I be using Skype or Google+ Hangouts or FaceTime? IT pros argue the answer comes down to reliability and image quality.

Law firm Johnson Winter & Slattery (JWS) has rolled out an extensive video conferencing and telepresence system over the last year, for use both with customer meetings and internal training. The system includes both dedicated rooms and built-in Jabber clients on desktop video phones. “It’s moved so well that we have installed second video-conferencing rooms in Sydney and Adelaide and have a third one planned for Perth,” CIO Ross Forgione explained in a press briefing at Cisco Live in Melbourne.

So why the move to dedicated rooms? “It’s about the level of professional presentation and the ability to stream and have that more immersive experience,” Forgione told Lifehacker. “If I’m using Skype to talk to my dad, I don’t care if it goes click sometimes or the connection goes down. When you’re in a corporate environment and you’re doing deals or you’re looking out for the best interests of your client, the clarity of the image and the distribution of that content adds to the message you’re driving towards. It’s almost a chalk and cheese scenario; I don’t believe you can compare the two.”

“Smaller form factor phones are more suited for one-on-one, where you don’t need the higher resolution. It’s horses for courses depending on what you do. If it’s a casual conversation, it’s OK to take your chances on a more public system.”

Having the video component can also make collaboration easier. Engineering group Aurecon has 11 video-equipped meeting rooms in its new Melbourne Docklands headquarters, and staff are encouraged to use those in preference to other rooms which only allow conference calls. “The virtual team mentality won’t work without video,” said Barry Honey, IS strategy & architecture manager for Aurecon. “We’ve tried with phones and it just doesn’t work.” – LH

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