Just five years ago, streaming video seemed better suited for the college dorm than the corporate boardroom. But as the technology has rapidly matured, its applications have evolved to a highly professional level. Now streaming video is widely adopted by thousands of global businesses, every branch of the U.S. military and nearly every government agency. Today, it's on the verge of becoming a ubiquitous tool in familiar unified communications platforms.
Streaming video's transformation began as more and more businesses adopted networks able to support voice and video. At the same time, video compression approaches evolved that made better use of network bandwidth — a trend still in evidence today with the widening adoption of enterprise-friendly streaming technologies, such as the H.264 codec. Business applications for streaming video gained even greater momentum as declining costs for digital storage made on-demand video more economical.
But, perhaps the most important driver of all is that streaming video has finally been seamlessly integrated with widely-used office communication tools, such as Microsoft's popular Office Communicator platform (now called “Lync”).
This last development spells two significant changes for enterprise video. The first is that corporate leaders can now use it to immediately reach every desktop in the enterprise. The second is that individual users can now share, discuss, and act upon video via real-time communication tools like chat, voice-over-IP and Live Meeting. In short, streaming video has transformed from a conference room-only event into a real-time desktop collaboration tool.
Despite its increasing ubiquity in enterprise communications, some still question streaming video's practical impact. In answer, here are three ways that streaming video can transform your business:
1. Keep employees around the world on the same page. With more businesses competing on a global stage, it's becoming more challenging than ever to share a corporate vision that's both unified and agile. Memos and emails poorly communicate new strategic goals, best practices or even the latest update on new products. Streaming video, in contrast, provides your corporate leadership a personal, authentic and immediate presence on every desktop across the enterprise. Including rich media presentations, graphics and animations only adds to streaming video's intuitively visual impact, and lets business leaders communicate complex ideas in minutes.
2. Preserve the best of your organization's institutional knowledge. Your best employees have a habit of moving onward and upward, bringing with them their extensive knowledge. Video provides a supremely accessible, cost-effective, and searchable medium for storing institutional information and employee expertise. With the click of a mouse, it allows your staff to capture, archive, and replay video conferences, training sessions, product presentations, and employee-generated content without ever leaving their desk.
3. Connect employees to each other and the world in real-time. In business, information is knowledge and knowledge is power. Streaming video can deliver live news feeds to every desktop, to digital signage screens and even to mobile handsets. The IP video underlying streaming technology provides the most cost-effective means to distribute live business television and cable news over existing corporate networks. No other medium keeps your workforce better informed, more up to date or better equipped to compete in a fast-moving market.
The truth is that businesses have confronted change and undergone transformations well before streaming video appeared. The difference today is that the pace of change has accelerated, along with the tempo at which consumer attitudes change, competitive challenges emerge and industry consolidation, acquisitions and mergers unfold.
Against this backdrop, streaming video isn't a transformative technology so much as the hallmark of a modern business. It enables global companies to respond more quickly and uniformly to market demands. It speeds the assimilation of new corporate cultures and IT infrastructures. And it enhances the value of existing unified communications tools by extending the reach of corporate broadcasts, webinars, and training to every desktop across the enterprise.
Erik Hertz is video services director at VBrick, which offers a range of streaming video products for enterprises, governments, and educational organizations.