“Failure to Launch” — Why videoconferencing is underutilized after deployment

Have you ever heard about a company spending large amounts of money for videoconferencing equipment and it gets underutilized?  In one case a company spent more than one half million of their capital budget to deploy videoconferencing on their worldwide network and ended up with less than 5% utilization.  Needless to say, there was no return on investment.  There are basically 3 reasons for this failure – (See the article in this web site: “3 reasons why videoconferencing fails or falls short after a deploymentFailed Videoconferencing“).

There is however an overall problem with a very simple solution.  Have you ever walked into a conference room and seen a speaker phone on the conference table — One that you have never seen before?  Chances are you can make a call from this speaker phone immediately, only asking if you need to dial 9 for an outside line.  Maybe there was a laminated reference card on the conference table that included dialing instructions and phone extensions to key personnel in the company.   In any event more often than not there is no need to call a technical person to make a simple conference call with just about any speaker phone.  Videoconferencing in a conference room should be exactly the same.  Anybody should be able to walk in, pick up the remote and connect a videoconference call from the system’s phone book or easily dial a videoconference IP number.

We offer a bundle program whereby we combine the circuit with the hardware. The client does not have to spend any capital budget on the equipment.  It’s all consolidated into one low monthly fee.  The package makes videoconferencing simple and reliable because it does not touch the client’s existing network. (See Reason 1 – in the article “3 reasons why videoconferencing fails or falls short after a deployment“).  We specified a simple yet robust videoconferencing CODEC. They can connect a computer into the back just like an LCD projector and present from a distance easily with the push of one simple button on the remote.   In the event someone needs help, we prepared a laminated remote reference chart for each deployment. There are also 800 support numbers for both the network and the system —   We are still waiting for someone to call us.  Now we know what the “Maytag Repairman” feels like.   So far nobody has needed to refer to the plastic remote reference chart.  This is good news for this particular product — Videoconferencing should really be that simple.

The hardware deployment failed if you needed to call tech support to make a videoconference call. This is a “failure to launch” — This is inexcusable.  Videoconferencing should be simple and easy just like a speaker phone.   The next challenge is the other annoying office appliance, the copy machine!But that’s another story all together.

(Solve the problem with  “Worry free videoconferencing“)

When a system fails to connect what are the main reasons?

There are three general reasons for a video conferencing system not to connect. The First is the network – More often than not this is the source of the problem.  The Second is the physical layer – Something got disconnected, like the router.  The Third general reason is the CODEC or video conferencing system itself The network settings in the configuration were changed.

Let’s focus on the first source of the problem – the network.   Over the years with all the calls we receive in for a video conferencing malfunction, ninety-nine times out of one hundred the problem is in the network, not the CODEC or the system.  The first question we ask is — Did you change phone service or circuit providers recently?  The second question is – Did your IT staff or IT provider change anything in the network?  Sometimes there is a new network server or new router installed and they are not finding the CODEC.   Another overlooked problem in the network is bandwidth. Many times there is simply not enough bandwidth to accommodate video conferencing.  Those video conferencing from their homes through cable will notice a significant drop in performance or disconnection after 3:00 pm when all the kids are home from school and start surfing the internet.  In any event always look at the Network first.  Another way to check the network is the green and yellow network indicator lights on the back of the CODEC.  They should be on with a steady light — not blinking.  It’s a good idea to look at the network lights  on the back of the CODEC first.

The second potential source is the physical layer in the network. Again look at the network lights on the back of the CODEC.  If they are totally off, this usually means something down the line is disconnected or off like the router.  Make sure everything is connected properly to the router and modem.   When there is a disconnection it’s usually caused accidentally by the cleaning staff or maintenance people.   One of our clients is a law firm, and they use video conferencing for depositions, interviews and interrogatories.   All their conferences are critical.   One time they called and said the system is down.  We immediately opened a trouble ticket.   Our technician found that someone simply unplugged the router’s power supply and Ethernet connection and stuck the router on a shelf in the Telco closet —  Very simple and quick fix and one of the few times the problem was discovered in the physical layer.

As a rule, the last thing to look at is the CODEC itself.   More often than not it’s the power supply which is external.  It’s very simple and inexpensive to replace the power supply.  Other times it’s a simple change in the configuration, i.e. IP address; DNS server; Gateway settings, etc.  Unless the CODEC is old, (10 years plus), it’s rare for one to simply stop working.  Most CODECS are solid state with backwards compatible firmware – They just always seem to work.