the next killer app?
sales people, consultants and specialists who generally prefer to conduct
most of their business face-to-face with customers are starting to rethink
their strategies, writes Mohan Babu
darkest cloud has a silver lining. In the past few weeks, we have been
seeing a tremendous amount of negativity in the media — there are talks of a
slowing economy moving into a global recession. All this talk in the media
is contagious and many of us are inadvertently being forced into this
mindset. However not everyone is of the same mindset; instead of moping over
how ‘things could have been’, many of us are trying to look at the silver
lining. As any economist will tell you, it is just a ‘passing phase’.
Last night I
attended the annual conference of the local chapter of TiE (The Indus
Entrepreneurs). TiE is a non-profit / non-political organisation solely
focused on providing a platform for networking and mentorship in the
interests of nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit. The mood at the
conference, in spite of the downturn was upbeat and it was hard not to be
sucked into this mindset. After the conference, during the 60 mile drive
back home, a thought stuck me: isn’t it time we start thinking outside the
I have been
hearing talks and reading about a number of new technologies that are poised
to take off, especially after the New York City bombings. Many technocrats
are animated about the future of wireless, biometrics, security systems and
biotechnology and other bleeding edge uses of technologies that will make
our life more ‘secure’. Apart from technologies that are focused on
security, there is renewed interest in teleconferencing technologies.
that enable collaborative working, including work-group software, net
meeting, chat and other interactive software, have been around for a while.
They have been extremely popular, especially among the net savvy techies and
programmers. Many of us use net-meeting and instant messenger software at
work. We also use these systems to chat with families across the continents.
Technical people are already comfortable using collaborative tools in their
workplace. However, ‘industrial grade’ uses of collaborative systems are yet
to emerge. By ‘industrial grade’, I mean systems that can be used by
non-technical executives, sales, marketing and financial professionals to
communicate with their peers across the organisation or with external users.
the business world in the US are rethinking their approach towards business
travel. This is being done for two key reasons: one reason is the renewed
fear of flying that many of us are experiencing and another is the expense
that travels entail. A typical business trip undertaken by a team of two
mid-level managers can set a company off by about eight to ten thousand
dollars. In a slowing economy, companies are looking at every item of
expense. Business travel stands out as the most likely candidate.
likely to benefit from the use of collaborative systems are businessmen who
are affected by the new travel restrictions. Managers, sales people,
consultants and specialists who generally prefer to conduct most of their
business face-to-face with their users and customers are starting to rethink
their strategies. What is the next best thing to meeting face-to-face? The
answer is video/teleconferencing. Technology to facilitate videoconferencing
and teleconferencing has been around for a while. If anything, the dotcom
and B2B boom helped us build an excellent high bandwidth network criss-crossing
the US. Even in India, shadowing our primitive telecom systems, we were able
to leapfrog to the digital age.
the technologies to facilitate videoconferencing have been in existence for
a while, the widespread usage hasn’t followed.
Why hasn’t it
become popular? The reasons are not hard to find. People are generally more
comfortable in face-to-face meetings. They like to observe the body language
and other non-verbal aspects of communication that are not very easy to
capture on a screen. This is especially true if one is sitting in a group
and the camera is focusing on only parts of the group. There is another
human element to videoconferencing in groups: the camera will generally
focus on the group leader or the senior most member of the team. Hence the
purpose behind the conference — to see and observe is wasted. It is
especially difficult to grab the attention of all attendees all the time;
added to this is the possibility of being disturbed / called / paged during
videoconferences, something that the party at the other end will be unable
recently, most businesses which were contemplating the use of
videoconferencing were doing so just to keep up with the Jones — even if it
meant building a multi-million dollar videoconferencing centre that hardly
anyone wanted to use. However in a slowing economy, there is a greater
incentive and motivation to start using the tool as a means to cut costs.