Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Video Instant Messaging for Collaboration and Knowledge Management

Due to falling costs, high-availability data connections, smart mobile devices, and the growth of cloud computing, knowledge management and enterprise collaboration are undergoing something of a rebirth. Most enterprise collaboration remains centered on documents. There is an opportunity to extend beyond document-centric tasks to other collaborative, linear, process-oriented work. Simple to use video instant messaging (VIM) technology may be very useful in this much needed shift.

Today, most companies use video for:
  • team conferencing;
  • customer interaction/service support;
  • pre-recorded-corporate communications;
  • an alternative to text for training/education.
Beyond those areas, VIM functionality is just starting to arrive to companies. There are different opinions about VIM. like it and feel it helps tocreate a better "human connection," and others don't like it and claim that it invades their privacy. In fact, the most common arguments in favor of and against the use of video are surprisingly similar to one another and suggest a cultural split that can be difficult to bridge or even manage.

Video instant messaging, as its name makes clear, is potentially the most invasive use of video in companies. For example, it can be images of unexpected video calls on an active laptop coming from an angry boss, with the recipient of the call being unprepared. One-to one, face-to-face discussions are the most optimal use of such real-time technology. There are valuable ways of using the technology.

What is Video Conferencing

Video conferencing is when multiple people, typically four or more, in more than one geographic location use audio and video technology to connect via a virtual conference room environment to conduct a pre-arranged meeting.

Web conferencing (or webinar) is where multiple users watch a single remote screen; this method is typically used for one-to-many presentations.

Video instant messaging (VIM) is distinct from the other two in that the interactions are typically one-to-one and are also most typically not pre-arranged, but rather ad hoc.


VIM is not particularly new, but its use (and misuse) has until recently been largely confined to the consumer world. Some knowledge management vendors such as Citrix, TIBCO and Teambox are adding VIM to their product suites because VIM functionality is particularly relevant in the mobile era: almost all handheld devices contain cameras. This is key to understanding the value of VIM, since it's not so much the video as the mobile camera that has much potential.

Future use cases for VIM technology in knowledge management will be situations where a physical object or environment needs to be collaboratively viewed. For example, in a service situation, a technician is looking at a complex wiring structure and using a mobile device to stream video of the situation to a remote expert, enabling them to share visuals to resolve the situation. Similarly, designers and creative people can discuss and view samples and compare options in real time. In situations like these, the ability to share a clear real-time moving image of the in real environment via a handheld device can be invaluable and a highly efficient use of collaboration technology.

Pros and Cons of Using Video

  • Seeing the other attendees builds a deeper connection.
  • It reduces travel costs and time on the road.
  • Meetings can be recorded.
  • Processes can be more efficient.
  • Collaboration can be enhanced.
  • People are self-conscious on camera.
  • Audio/video quality varies.
  • A poor or lost connection means no conference at all.
  • It is not as good as face-to-face meetings.
  • Signal delays can ruin the meeting.
New Horizons

For traditional users, there is a somewhat parallel use case in that they often want to share a document, drawing or whiteboard in real time with a colleague. It is about seeing the same thing and collaborating on it. VIM can have a valuable role in supporting collaborative processes in areas like law enforcement, healthcare, and engineering. The established use for video are users who create a lot of text-based communications and need to occasionally see one another from their home offices.

Moving from a fixed camera position to a fully mobile situation opens the technology to many more uses. Video stream can be used for all the key management and productivity functions, such as calendaring, expertise location, file access edit and view, knowledge sharing, and team and project management.

Three Priority Objectives

On a more tactical level, it will be important to use these objectives in VIM use.

First, focus on tying collaboration and knowledge sharing back to clearly defined business processes that involve human interaction. Take existing technology and configure it to meet your organization needs, and also use VIM to engage with work objects and environments, rather than simply using it as a face-to-face conversation tool.

In an organization situations, communication can't simply stop if someone hangs up. Whether with video or text or voice, the trail needs to be kept traceable, and the files and data created should be contextualized and made relevant. Documents need to be retained intact until a decision has been made to remove or destroy them, depending on governance, housekeeping and compliance requirements. This option should be available for video and other forms of interaction. Information lifecycle needs to be considered.

Third, if VIM is to be used for collaboration, then still-image functionality that freezes and captures views in HD should be provided within the VIM frame. This enables a detailed visual examination of a specific point in time, and also creates a file of record. Shifting between moving and still images in a collaborative engagement, allowing a free-flowing interaction and the capture of specific elements, would be of great value to many industry and process-specific collaborative situations.


VIM has a key role to play in taking enterprise collaboration to the next level. This role is not so much about being able to see the face of the other person as it is about viewing and capturing in real time what the other party is seeing.Refining the use cases and collaborative process that leverage VIM will take some effort. Over time, VIM will prove to be a value in the growth of enterprise collaboration. It will be especially useful for industries such as healthcare, law enforcement, engineering, and maintenance. Enterprise collaboration tools and suites already have many of the key pieces of the puzzle; now they need to put them together into a coherent, practical whole.

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