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Trends 2011: SA business will unlock Video-conferencing



With broadband becoming faster, cheaper and more accessible, video conferencing will be here to stay, and not just as a travel cost-cutter. It will be used to build businesses and leverage scarce skills, as the World Cup 2010 experience proved.

Video conferencing (VC) is here to stay, and not just as a travel cost-cutter. In 2011, VC will be increasingly adopted to build businesses and leverage scarce skills.

The prediction comes from Imago Communications SA, one of the local leaders in VC technology and the associated field of Unified Communications (UC), which combines video with data, email, voice and other formats.

VC achieved a local breakthrough in World Cup year as many major companies cut travel expenses and curtailed corporate flights in anticipation of travel disruption.

VC enabled senior managers to communicate face-to-face with executive peers across the country without leaving their offices.

Clint Cronj√©, MD of Imago Communications SA, commented: ‚World Cup year was the tipping point for VC locally. There’s no going back.

‚Many firms are happy to find that savings on travel can amortise their VC investment within months. They now ask ‚How much more can we get out of this tool’?‚

The Imago view has been confirmed by Regus, the local and global provider of flexible office solutions and an early adopter of VC technology at its business centres.

A recent Regus study of South African businesses showed that many had made corporate travel savings by adopting VC. Over a third of respondents (35%) expect to make continuing use of the technology, while 69% of larger companies have become reliant on it. Only 6% of large firms say they have not increased VC usage in the downturn.

Cronj√© noted: ‚Companies keep finding new uses for the technology. VC can be a cost-efficient training tool. Rather than sending trainers around the country to communicate the latest training modules, one trainer can operate from a one location and reach multiple centres.

‚VC is also used for corporate ‚handholding’. A senior manager at head office can communicate regularly via VC with regional subordinates at under-performing operations to give support and ensure action points are actioned.

‚Another exciting role is to provide back-up at companies that need to stay in constant touch with partners in various sub-Saharan countries. Previously, continual communication of company strategy and best practice required an executive on the spot. Now an executive in a VC suite can take on the task at a fraction of the cost.‚

New ways of adding strategic value would be continually found in the year ahead, said Cronjé.

‚The other form of growth,‚ he added, ‚will come from VC adoption by an increasing number of medium-size and small businesses. Larger companies have demonstrated the benefits and cost savings. Smaller companies often have even more need to embrace smart business practice.

‚World Cup year created VC’s breakthrough. The coming year will widen it.‚

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