Videoconferencing is hardly a new idea. In fact, it's been around for almost as long as there have been networks capable of transmitting real-time video. But in the past, its effectiveness has always been restricted by the limitations of the technology, and the popular image of the tool has been of low-resolution images, stuttering and lag.
Even in today's environment, when network quality has improved enough to make seamless, high-definition videoconferences a practical reality, it's still something that's viewed more as a nice-to-have extra than a key part of an organisation’s communications strategy.
But is this about to change? As young, tech-savvy employees enter the workforce and innovative new technologies affect the way enterprises think about collaboration, video could be set to take its place in the top tier of communication tools.
Meeting the demands of generation Y (millennials)
The young people entering the workforce today are the first generation to have grown up in an entirely digital world. They don't remember a time before smartphones and Facebook, and this is reflected in their attitudes and expectations when it comes to collaboration.
Indeed, a study conducted by Microsoft and SurveyMonkey found that 93 per cent of millennials polled cited modern and up-to-date technology as one of the most important aspects of a workplace.
They expect an always-on environment where they can keep in touch with colleagues, customers and suppliers at any time of day, on any device they choose. Videoconferencing needs to play a part in this.
Figures from Redshift Research and Cisco back this up. It revealed 87 per cent of young respondents would prefer to work for a more video-enabled organisation, as opposed to one that does not fully utilise these tools. What's more, 84 per cent of respondents believe that they will rely on virtual meetings with video for at least a quarter of their interactions in the future.
New ways of collaborating
Another factor in favour of videoconferencing is a shift in the way many businesses work, with a growing number of businesses prioritising a more informal approach to collaboration, where users can flick between several different channels at will in order to work on projects.
For instance, it's estimated by Logitech that the rise of more open workspaces has led to the creation of between 30 million and 50 million informal meeting rooms around the world. However, there are just 1.5million to two million locations dedicated purely to videoconferencing.
This, combined with the growth of virtual meeting solutions such as Skype for Business, indicates a change in attitude to how the technology will be used in the coming years. With collaboration taking on a more ad-hoc approach, video today isn't about complex, high-cost systems. People expect to just be able to sit behind a webcam on a laptop or smartphone and enjoy a high-quality virtual meeting.
With videoconferencing now supported by high-speed networks and low-cost, simple to implement applications, it's easier than ever for businesses to make the solution a key part of their communications ecosystem and ensure their collaboration offerings meet the needs of the next generation of workers.