By Pedro Pereira, Business Solutions Magazine
With a smaller learning curve and technology advancements, videoconferencing is finally ready to live up to its hype for the channel.
For a long time, videoconferencing was one of those technologies that was always about to explode, but low resolution and bandwidth limitations repeatedly killed the spark. In the past couple of years, however, says ScanSource Communications President Buck Baker, a combination of trends has created the ideal conditions for videoconferencing to entrench itself in the enterprise and start making inroads into the SMB space.
Those trends include high-definition video, growth in unified communications (UC) adoption, and consumer- focused low-resolution video applications such as Apple’s FaceTime and Skype. While corporations have been embracing the benefits of UC — which typically includes voice, email, instant messaging (IM), and collaboration software — consumers have grown accustomed to using video apps such as FaceTime for personal use. And following the same pattern as technology trends such as IM and smartphones, users start to demand access to the same technologies in the workplace.
In the enterprise, says Baker, UC deployments increasingly include video, as high-definition video becomes more accessible. “Now when you see somebody on the screen, it’s like you’re in the same room with them.”
Despite economic uncertainties, the global videoconferencing market grew by close to 25% in 2011.And although IDC (International Data Coporation) says market growth softened in the first quarter of 2012, market observers remain bullish on the technology.
Baker says ScanSource Communications’ alliance with Polycom, one of the largest vendors of videoconferencing solutions, will likely continue opening new opportunities for resellers, especially as Polycom advances its product portfolio and continues its push into the SMB market. He expects the SMB focus will bring new business to VARs and integrators that already carry videoconferencing solutions as well as for those that are just now entering the market.
In some ways, a soft economy may actually benefit the push into SMB, as companies look for ways to cut their travel budgets by investing in videoconferencing solutions. With an investment of $25,000 to $40,000, Baker says, a company with 100 to 250 employees can get started on videoconferencing and realize payback in a year or less.
A Key Lesson For Selling Videoconferencing Solutions
The technology has a horizontal appeal, Baker says, though there is a seasonal effect. Federal agencies, for instance, are more likely to close deals in July before their fiscal year ends, while private sector buyers follow a different schedule, often placing more orders during the fourth quarter than any other time of year.
For solutions providers with little or no experience with video solutions, Baker says the learning curve isn’t as steep as it used to be because the technology has become less complicated. In addition, vendors and distributors commonly offer training for solutions providers, which can help you avoid repeating past missteps in implementing videoconferencing solutions. Baker says, “When I’ve asked our solutions providers about mistakes, they all tell me, ‘I should have done a better job of listening to my end user and what it is the end user is looking for.’ What are they expecting to gain — is it a monetary gain, an efficiency gain?”
Baker recommends sitting down with customers during the planning stage to map out the project and prepare a five-year plan. It’s advice he hopes VARs and integrators will follow as many prepare to replace or upgrade old systems with the more advanced, high-definition solutions that are now available.