Are Workers Really Not Ready for Desktop Videoconferencing?


According to new research by Forrester (s forr), desktop videoconferencing isn’t yet taking the enterprise by storm. It found that nearly three-quarters of business technology users don’t want to use desktop videoconferencing, and just 15 percent have access to the necessary tools. These results seem somewhat surprising, given that low-cost videoconferencing technology is now so widely available, thanks mainly to consumer video calling services like Skype, Google Chat (s goog) and Apple FaceTime (s aapl). Our own research suggests that there will be near-exponential growth in video call volume over the next few years (GigaOM Pro link, sub req’d). But is that growth then mainly limited to the consumer market, and if so, why?

Forrester released its data in a report titled Information Workers Are Not Quite Ready For Desktop Videoconferencing, which concentrated primarily on the use of desktop videoconferencing tools (as opposed to traditional room-based videoconferencing and telepresence tools) and was drawn from a survey of North American and European workers in the third quarter of 2010. Some of the interesting headline figures from Forrester’s report:

  • A majority of workers don’t want to use desktop videoconferencing tools. 72 percent of workers indicated they don’t wish to use videoconferencing.
  • A majority of workers don’t have access to desktop videoconferencing tools. 58 percent of workers reported their firms didn’t have desktop videoconferencing technology.
  • Desktop videoconferencing is mostly an upper management tool. While some 42 percent of directors have access to desktop videoconferencing tools, only 7 percent of individual workers do.

While I’d suggest that had Forrester perhaps included a higher concentration of high-tech businesses with remote workers in its study it probably would have found usage of desktop videoconferencing in the enterprise to be higher, it’s hard to argue with the figures; the survey was conducted fairly recently and was drawn from responses from several thousand workers. Most interesting to me was the large number of workers who flat-out don’t want to use videoconferencing tools. The Forrester report doesn’t offer any further insight as to why this might be, but it’s significant, because a general reluctance to use this type of technology in the enterprise will make implementing effective remote work programs more problematic. I’d speculate that reasons for worker reluctance could include not understanding the benefits of using videoconferencing over telephone calls (hence not feeling a need for the technology), and perhaps even feeling embarrassed about making video calls in the office. The report does note that a hindrance to the adoption is corporate IT’s concerns about its impact on network traffic.

The good news is that the workers already using desktop videoconferencing see additional potential uses for the technology, and 13 percent of workers without such tools would be keen to use them, so there’s potential to grow user adoption. The Forrester report includes some recommendations, including planning for infrastructure impact, identifying groups of workers who would be prepared to participate in pilot programs and documenting successes to get buy-in from management. I would add that for videoconferencing to be successful, it needs buy-in from everyone, not just management, and for that to happen, everyone needs to have an understanding of the benefits it can bring — such as building connections, increased productivity and reduced travel time and expenditure — and an understanding that using videoconferencing doesn’t have to be difficult, or involve being any more presentable than one normally would be in the office.

It might also be that, despite their proliferation and low/no cost, the current crop of consumer-focused video chat products (Skype, Google Chat and FaceTime, for example) aren’t seen as being suitable for the workplace. Customized, private versions of these tools (such as those provided by vendors like of ViVu‘s VuRoom for Skype) offer firms greater control and the possibility of integrating them with existing software and processes for relatively low cost, as well as offering additional revenue opportunities for the vendors.

Despite the low penetration of desktop videoconferencing in the workplace indicated by this report, I think it’s likely that its use will grow markedly in the short term. The hardware and software required is cheap, and widespread use offers considerable benefits — such as increased productivity, reduced travel costs and improved work-life balance — that will be impossible for businesses to ignore.

Photo courtesy Flickr user st0nemas0nry

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Pankaj Taneja

I am not sure of the exact context of the research, but i suspect although most workers don’t want to video conference, these very people are increasingly using teleconferencing tools (sans the video). The reason is, although there is an explosive need for distributed teams to discuss issues, the need to see each other serves only the purpose of team building and motivation (important ends in my view).

Does the research pertain to both teleconference and video conference tools?

Commercial Satellite Audio & Video

Its not the system, its the implementation

1st, There is a huge difference between video chat, which is what you do on your cell phone or skype, and video conferencing and collaboration as its used with TRUE HD video conferencing systems like LifeSize, Cisco & Polycom.

2nd, Its not video conferencing that is what the employees are resistant to, its change period.

The types of meeting you have using HD Video Conferencing systems are not the type you would be muti-tasking in the middle of anyway.

In a sales presentation or in person meeting or a collaboration meeting with a vendor or client (of the type that you are replacing with true video conferencing session) you would rarely multi-task.

So those arguments are truly off base.

When a system is designed that dovetails with existing procedures and training is implemented to show employees HOW to use it effectively within existing procedures then it is a huge boost to productivity.

Far too many companies are buying video conferencing HARDWARE without working with a company that will help develop a program to fit it into existing procedures or to write new procedures that are easy to use.

Just having a piece of hardware does not mean it will be used.

Companies with a well thought out and implemented procedures for video conferencing are seeing up to 80% savings in travel costs and improvements in overall productivity of 20% or more.

If they are not then maybe they should be calling us for their video conferencing system and implementation.

Scott Love

I can buy the argument that certain types of meetings can save money like a production crew working remotely or a customer presentation or a more formal board meeting but I’m skeptical of the 20% productivity improvement. Show me the study and the numbers to back up the 20% gain. That’s a big number. And what specific metrics are you using to get that 20%? From what?

Commercial Satellite Audio & Video

1st remember that I am not talking about Skype calls. That is webcamming, not videoconferencing. There is a huge difference.

Travel savings are as high as 80% for some companies.

The internal numbers of our customers and white papers from our vendors all point to huge increases in productivity.

Lets just point out ONE area of productivity increases related to travel.

No more lost time traveling. A single business trip avoided can add two days or more of productive time for 1 or more employees that would be lost getting to and from the airport, on the plane, checking into hotels, etc… Even a short hop flight (LA to SF) can kill an entire day of productivity.

A typical travel arrangement takes hours of time for multiple employees to get the trip scheduled, booked and preparation in terms of logistics & materials shipping.

With a video conferencing system built to fit your particular needs now you send an invitation to a meeting via email,Outlook/Google Calendar, etc… then sit down in your conference room or office and have your meeting.

We have not even addressed benefits such as increased meaningful contact with clients and vendors, document sharing, and other collaboration benefits.

Universities around the world have done studies on the benefits of increased business collaboration and true video conferencing facilitates that collaboration.

LifeSize, Polycom, Cisco all report similar numbers from their customers.

The benefits include increased sales, increased customer & vendor contact, lowered personnel and travel costs.

Erik Lagerway

For me there is a big mobile component here that has not really been brought up yet.

Video Calling is great and all but before we get to desktop (or mobile, Facetime etc.), mobile VoIP in the enterprise, would likely be more valuable to a larger audience.

That being said, we would also need a simple (& free) way to deploy & manage mobile VoIP (IOS, Android, PC, Mac) endpoints in the enterprise, without having to actually license endpoint software and erect provisioning servers. (full disclosure, I am working on that concept now :)

Steve Roe

As a worker who was not polled, I don’t want to use desktop videoconferencing because I want to attend fewer meetings in my job.

If I have to attend a meeting, At least with a teleconference I can mute my phone and ignore the meeting while I do some real work. In a video conference my inattention would be clearly visible – and perhaps cause a loss of face.

The question I would like to see a report answer is would a company get a greater boost to productivity by having fewer meetings, rather then spending money to deploy something that enables more meetings?

Simon Mackie

I agree with you: we should all be working to reduce the amount of needless overhead on our workforce.

However, the flipside is that the effective use of videoconferencing could reduce the number of meetings that you actually have to travel to.

Scott Love

One size doesn’t fit all is probably a better way to describe the use of tools to get work done. Putting the discussion of videoconferencing aside, the exchange and use of information to enhance productivity is clearly one of the most important factors for evaluating use.

Scott Love

As another friend pointed out, this was a clever piece of writing by Forrester if you visit their site and explore the survey further. Vendors of video services such as Cisco will likely buy the report. Good marketing.

I use Skype and iChat almost daily to do voice calls. Some chat and then we use NoteShare as a project inbox if we need to dive into taking meeting notes or organizing project work/tasks. Video never enters the discussion. Ironically, I don’t think it’s all that compelling for the day to day knowledge worker.

On the other hand, I do think “video” playback for training, lectures etc is already popular but that’s not videoconferencing.

Kimmo Linkama

I think Scott and Erik have a point. Work-related conferencing, at least in my B2B copywriting business, most often involves issues that require screen sharing for the work being discussed. It doesn’t add any value for anybody to see the other people’s talking heads, let alone the distraction factor. In private communications, as Erik points out, it’s a different story.



Agreed, I barely have time for phone calls, text has become much more efficient for me.


It’s nearly impossible to multitask when you have to constantly look at your phone.

Can’t say I am surprised. End to end video conferencing is still in it’s infancy, one could speculate that the consumers use of video conferencing is mainly used when grand parents want to see their grand children, or the like.

Most of us in the work place, enterprise or not, simply do not have time to dork around with a video call just to have a brief conversation, time is too precious.


It’s corporation’s fault; they are very conservative and then there is the “only” supplier Microsoft PC’s. The Company who changed the Consumer market with simply to use User Interfaces; has just a very small step in that door. No competition in the Corporate IT world. Maybe use private WiFi Gadgets for conferencing!

Scott Love

Without reading the actual report and survey comments, one can only guess that the “video” in videoconferencing is the main issue. Did the study only focus on the use of video to video conferencing or did it also ask if other forms of remote conferencing were valued such as audio plus screen sharing and collaborative “spaces” for live work? It’s difficult to draw any conclusions other than video is not necessarily an essential component for a successful online meeting or discussion.

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