IDC predicts video conferencing boom -

The airline tax may have a positive effect on video conferencing but there are also other factors involved in pushing this technology to the forefront, IDC has said.

Earlier this week, Melissa Fremeijer, a senior research analyst at IDC, told ChannelBiz UK that the eight percent hike in plane tax announced by the HM Treasury last weekend could have a positive knock on effect for web conferencing.

The increase in oil costs, which had a knock on effect on airline ticket prices, was also a factor. Airline companies were also adding money onto tickets to make up for the insurance they had to pay - as well as airport security fees.  

On the topic of airfare hikes, she added that the Forecast and Hotel Negotiability Index, airfare average ticket prices (ATPs) overall for corporate travellers to top business travel destinations were expected to be slightly up by around four percent in Europe.

European businesses  are also slowly increasing travel demands both domestically and internationally, meaning air prices for corporate travel will increase slightly  for flights to top business destinations. This could drive businesses to rethink sending their employees abroad for meetings.

"Reducing travel costs has been main driver so far," Ms Fremeijer told TechEye.

Vendors and service providers are taking advantage of this, "providing customers with a savings calculator based on time and costs saved due to video conferencing."

However, this is just one factor that has businesses looking at this technology, which rose by 20 percent in 2011.

IDC pointed out that business travel does not only cost money, it also costs a great deal of time, especially when important business decisions, processes or projects require the input of resources from multiple locations around the world.

"By enabling a near face-to-face quality meeting experience involving multiple, geographically dispersed participants, business operations are significantly accelerated. This enables companies to bring new products or services to market more quickly, thus delivering a tangible competitive advantage," Ms Fremeijer said.

By not travelling, employees were said to more productive and happier as they spend less time in transit and more time to spend on tasks that add value to the business, such as pursuing new leads.

IDC pointed out that the technology also eliminates the secondary impacts that excessive travelling, particularly over long distances, can have on executives, such as fatigue, stress and ill health.

"By avoiding these side effects and being able to spend more time at home, employees should also be happier in their personal lives," Ms Fremeijer said.

Another factor for video conferencing is the continuing globalisation of big business and the emergence of new, fast-growing markets around the world, which is also driving the demand for more cross-border and cross-cultural collaboration. Vendors are pushing the fact that telepresence significantly improves the quality of communication in these situations. 


For example, Ms Fremeijer said, if a business meeting needs to be conducted in a single language but there are one or more non-native speakers participating, the ability to see and react to visual cues or illustrations contributes to a more accurate interpretation of the conversation.

"This allows such meetings to be conducted more quickly and accelerates project timelines," she said. "It can also deliver ‘softer’ benefits in terms of improving relationships, fostering inter-cultural understanding, and facilitating easier, more willing collaboration on an ongoing basis."

Vendors are taking note. The likes of Hewlett Packard are offering live in-call translation services to their telepresence services as an add-on to maximise value.

Another factor that has had a positive effect on this market is a need for an improved relationship with customer and supply chain partners.

IDC explained that the everyday pressures of business life often make it difficult for companies to visit customers and supply chain partners as often as they would like. There are many circumstances under which customer contact is necessary but it is difficult to justify the cost in time and money.

"Video conferencing offers the opportunity for ‘direct’ contact with customers to be made more frequently. This offers the potential to solve customer issues remotely, strengthen relations, and save project time and costs by eliminating the need for site visits," Ms Fremeijer said.

Businesses are also becoming much more aware of the climate, meaning that responsible energy usage is also driving video conferencing. IDC said that this technology could reduce the environmental footprint of any organisation by eliminating the consumption of resources and production of emissions generated by any form of motorised business travel.

And, of course, vendors have woken up to this fact, with many, according to IDC, using environmental benefits in their sales pitches.

Many businesses are already implementing IP telephony, messaging (email, IM, UM), presence and audio/Web conferencing, according to IDC.

Ms Fremeijer explained: "Video is no longer seen as a siloed–technology and used merely for face to face internal meetings and as a way to cut travel costs, but increasingly adopted as part of a UC&C infrastructure and integrated into daily business processes via built-in and customisable applications.

"Moving beyond the conference room meeting, video use has become a mainstay application in such vertical markets as healthcare, education, law enforcement, the legal system, manufacturing, and the gaming industry, in addition to its appeal across industries for security and surveillance purposes," she said.
 
IDC expects healthy growth for the EMEA enterprise videoconferencing equipment market over the next few years.