Torn between video and chat? Why not both?


by Meredith Lawrence

With the notable exceptions of a few companies that have recently dialed back or canceled their telework programs, the office and workplace of today is an increasingly virtual affair. Ultimately, most organizations have realized the savings that can come from minimizing their footprint, reducing office space and enabling their employees to operate virtually.

And the move to a distributed, teleworking office environment has delivered many other positives in addition to cost savings. Office morale often increases as employee work-life balance improves thanks to telework. Employees also tend to become more productive without the need to commute and with the ability to do their work when they’re most focused and effective.

However, the move to a more distributed office environment does come with some challenges as well. Not unlike having a distributed network of branch offices, some fear that telework can have a negative impact on communication and collaboration within the organization. This is a challenge that many federal government agencies have cited as a main reason for not embracing telework initiatives.

To overcome the issues that distance poses to communication and collaboration within the agency, many organizations have embraced technologies that enable employees to interact from anywhere. These technologies have ranged from enterprise instant messaging systems, to enterprise social networks, to video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions that enable face-to-face communication.

In a recent article on Telepresence Options entitled, “The Not So Obvious Advantages of Telepresence Versus Chatting,” author Sam Briones debated the benefits and advantages of two of these technologies to determine which was better for enabling communication and collaboration between distributed employees. It’s no surprise by the title that Sam felt that VTC was the superior technology.

According to Sam, the ability to actually see the other participant in a conversation, which VTC provides, enables a more natural and complete communication experience. This enables participants to overcome language barriers. It allows them to avoid confusion and misunderstandings created by not being able to hear inflections in voice. And it also allows participants to better get a gauge on the tone and mood of the person they’re speaking with.

Although we concur with Sam that the face-to-face, interactive experience that VTC enables is the more natural and complete form of communication, there are some times when you just want to send someone a quick note. Although VTC collaboration may be superior, there are still merits and benefits to technologies such as instant messaging and enterprise social networking. So why not integrate them all?

Utilizing today’s advanced unified communications (UC) software applications within the organization, federal agencies and private enterprises alike can embrace enterprise-wide instant messaging, voice and and video communication. Today’s VTC solutions natively integrate with Microsoft® Lync™ which provides access to both video, voice and instant messaging functionality. In fact, many government agencies already have Lync deployed across the organization.

In addition, integrations with enterprise social networks, such as the one announced between Polycom and the enterprise social network, Jive, enable the addition of video to the social networking experience. These integrations enable enterprise social network users to identify individuals within the company they want to interact with and then reach out to them via video. Video content can also be saved and shared via these social networks.

When it comes to driving communication and collaboration within a distributed workforce, there are multiple new technologies that can virtually erase the distance separating employees. It’s not a question of which technology is better than the other. They all have positives they deliver, and thanks to the integration of video with Lync and other technologies, they can all be embraced and used together.