Should You Buy More Infrastructure Or Subscribe To A Cloud Service For Videoconferencing?

Videoconferencing infrastructure connects videoconferencing endpoints — the conference-room-based systems, desktop clients, and mobile apps people use to join meetings. By prioritizing solutions that make the technology available to all employees with a simplified guest access model for partners and customers, organizations can make the case that video enhances collaboration and improves business outcomes.

Our Wave evaluation of videoconferencing infrastructure and cloud services vendors includes the 10 most significant OEMs: Acano, AGT, Avaya, Blue Jeans Network, Cisco Systems, Lifesize, Pexip, Polycom, Videxio, and Vidyo. The vast majority of systems integrators, telcos, and conferencing specialists with video offerings actually resell, white-label, or stand up their own services based on these evaluated vendors' products.

A key tenet of the evaluation was to include BOTH vendors that sell infrastructure and vendors that focus only on the cloud. It’s important to compare both camps because large enterprises want to know which vendors can help them extend or replace their existing investments in infrastructure on premises. A key finding from our research is that there are indeed many large enterprises logging 1 million minutes or more of videoconferencing from cloud services per month, and some replacing their large deployments of infrastructure with cloud services entirely. Alternatively, some are setting up their own "private cloud" environments with virtualized infrastructure.

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Winners Of The 2014 Groundswell Awards (Business-To-Employee Division)

For the past seven years Forrester’s Groundswell Awards have recognized the most innovative social and collaboration programs with a measurable business impact. This year in the business-to-employee (B2E) division we gave out awards in two categories:
 
  • Employee Collaboration. This category recognizes programs that help employees work better together.
  • Employee Empowerment. This category recognizes programs that help employees better serve customers. 
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Office For iPad Adds Another Reason To Go Office 365

Today Microsoft starts shipping Office for iPad, finally plugging the gap in its portfolio that’s been filled by popular document viewers and editors like QuickOffice and SlideShark.
 
Does this come too late for Microsoft?
As much as naysayers like to proclaim Office is dying, people still overwhelmingly use it at home and at work. Office is supported at virtually every organization. Our survey of Forrester clients at the end of last year showed strong strides by Google Docs with 13% of firms using it.* However, the caveat is companies that have gone Google are using Docs to complement Office with collaboration features and mobile support, not to replace it.
 
You could argue how much incremental revenue Microsoft lost out on, but I don’t think the lack of native Office apps has caused Microsoft to cede ground to other office productivity suites on the PC, where the vast majority of content is still created. Keep in mind that out of the 20% of information workers in North America and Europe that use a tablet for work, 60% of them use some office productivity software on it.** Half of tablets used for work are iPads. So immediately just 6% of information workers will be considering the Office apps as an alternative to what they are using on their tablets today. 
 
Is Microsoft really multi-platform now?
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What You Can Learn From Atos's Zero Email Initiative

Atos created a stir in 2011 when it announced its Zero Email program — an initiative to completely eliminate the use of email for internal communications and use enterprise social instead. Many scoffed it wasn’t practical or that it couldn’t be done. Some others — myself included — thought getting rid of email completely isn’t the right objective. Yes, there are many statistics showing we spend a lot of time on email. But if you accept that . . .
 
  1. Composing and reading messages is an important part of communicating for work;
  2. Specifying the recipient(s) without exposing the message to others unless you intend to (i.e. email) has its place;
  3. Other collaboration tools are more efficient than email for some types of interactions;
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Winners Of The 2013 Forrester Groundswell Awards (Business-To-Employee Category)

Every year Forrester’s Groundswell Awards recognize the most innovative social and mobile programs with a measurable business impact. Once again in the business-to-employee (B2E) category we received many outstanding examples of companies empowering their employees with these technologies to solve customer and business problems. This year’s entries highlight a growing sophistication in how companies are applying mobile and social to transform their operations. This year’s entries featured:
 
  • More complex mobile and social technology integrations. Both our Mobile winner and runner-up combined mobile forms and location data with a social application to more efficiently allocate resources in the field. We received multiple entries in the Collaboration category featuring companies applying gamification to communities and to CRM, and as well as integrations between real-time and asynchronous collaboration tools. These integrations multiply the power of the technologies and create new and interesting use cases. 
  • More targeted customer impacting applications. Customer-facing employees often represent a direct opportunity to show the business impact of social and mobile technologies. This year’s entries saw a number of applications to empower sales, field operations, and customer service roles with tools to increase customer engagement and improve satisfaction scores by speeding up delivery and equipping employees with the right information.
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Reality Check: Enterprise Social Does Not Stem Email Overload

Email overload is a hot topic. Replace “email” in the title of this post with “message” and the point becomes more obvious. 
 
Summary: Social displaces some interactions that are inefficient over email, but overall introduces more messages for workers to sift through. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, many organizations invest in enterprise social for the additional collaborative interaction (i.e., messaging) it facilitates. 
 
First, let’s look at how social displaces some interactions that are inefficient over email. In contrast to a private model -- which relies on addressing specific individuals and restricting who can see messages -- a public model allows everyone to more easily:
 
  1. Find someone who can help. Social platforms elevate experts based on their rich profiles, contributions to the community, and recognition by others. Addressing a larger group also improves the chances the right person will see your message. This avoids what IBM calls the squirrel hunt when you start pinging people to ask “Can you help me with this or direct me to someone who can?"
  2. Surface and participate in relevant discussions. We’ve all been annoyed by massive reply-all email chains. Rather than depend on being forwarded or copied at some point in an important email chain and be unnecessarily looped in on others, social tools allow us to choose to participate in relevant discussions. By electing to get notifications or watching the activity in a particular channel or group we stay "in the know” and can jump in or stay out.
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Office Productivity Software Is No Closer To Becoming A Commodity

We just published a report on the state of adoption of Office 2013 And Productivity Suite Alternatives based on a survey of 155 Forrester clients with responsibility for those investments. The sample does not fully represent the market, but lets us draw comparisons to the results of our previous survey in 2011. Some key takeaways from the data:
 
  • One in five firms uses email in the cloud. Another quarter plans to move at some point. More are using Office 365 (14%) than Google Apps (9%). 
  • Just 22% of respondents are on Office 2013. Another 36% have plans to be on it. Office 2013's uptake will be slower than Office 2010 because fewer firms plan to combine the rollout of Office 2013 with Windows 8 as they combined Office 2010 with Windows 7.
  • Alternatives to Microsoft Office show little traction. In 2011, 13% of respondents supported open source alternatives to Office. This year the number is just 5%. Google Docs has slightly higher adoption and is in use at 13% of companies. 
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Presenting the 2013 Forrester Wave on Desktop Videoconferencing

Today we published the Forrester Wave evaluation of Desktop Videoconferencing solutions.

Technology improvements are lowering the infrastructure and price barriers to using videoconferencing, making it available to more people and generating new applications. Employees want desktop videoconferencing because they don’t have to get up and go somewhere, reserve a room, ask for permission, deal with chargebacks, or ask for help to use it. Based on rapid adoption over the past three years we anticipate that within the next three years more than half of information workers will use desktop videoconferencing at least occasionally for work.

There are four major categories of solutions: consumer applications, unified communications (UC) clients, video pure plays, and webconferencing.

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Presenting the 2013 Forrester Wave on Webconferencing

Webconferencing is an important, multipurpose technology used by a quarter of information workers, half of which use it for work every day. It is a mature technology, with several vendors' products making it into the Leaders category of our evaluation. The Forrester Wave report updates our previous evaluation of the market and includes 11 products:

Adobe Connect, AT&T Connect, Cisco WebEx, Citrix GoToMeeting, FuzeBox FuzeMeeting, IBM Sametime*, IBM SmartCloud Meetings, InterCall Unified Meeting, Microsoft Lync, PGi GlobalMeet, and Saba Meeting.

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Understanding Virtualized Videoconferencing

Server virtualization has been and continues to be a top IT priority for good reasons like improving infrastructure manageability, lowering TCO, and improving business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities. In IT's quest to virtualize more workloads, however, videoconferencing has remained on its own island of specialized hardware due to its reliance on transcoding DSPs (digital signal processors), an incredibly compute intensive type of work. Transcoding is necessary for interoperability between unlike videoconferencing systems, and the performance of that specialized hardware has been difficult to match with software running on standard servers. 
 
That is, unless you turn to a model that doesn't use transcoding. Enter Vidyo, whose virtual edition infrastructure delivers comparable performance to its physical appliances since it doesn't have to transcode calls between Vidyo endpoints. Desktop videoconferencing solutions for the most part are available in virtualized models. However, transcoding based videoconferencing is also becoming available virtualized, with LifeSize offering its platform in this model. In the cloud, Blue Jeans -- the poster child for videoconferencing as a service -- has a virtualized platform based on transcoding that also provides a high quality experience. It will be interesting to see how the performance of virtualized transcoding workloads compares to traditional infrastructure.
 
Innovation in videoconferencing today is about making this historically cost prohibitive technology cheaper and easier to deploy. Server virtualization is key to that goal. In conversations with end user companies considering their videoconferencing strategy, virtualization is something they express interest in and would consider the next time they refresh their technology. Here's what vendors in the upcoming Forrester Wave on desktop videoconferencing are doing with virtualization today:
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