MAD Perspectives Blog

Connecting Live is Still Relevant!

Peggy Dau - Monday, September 08, 2014

I've been writing about connectivity for the past few weeks. I've done this because I believe connectivity is at the root of our human experience. Whether it is our family, friends, business colleagues, or even those who remain nameless, but share a common interest, we are always connected to someone or something. We exist in organizations, be they schools, businesses, clubs, sports teams, religious organizations. We attend and participate for education, exercise, creativity or community. No wonder the advances in communications technologies and services fascinate us.

But none of those technologies can replace the benefit of face to face gatherings. I've been living in the technology, communication and media sectors for the past decade or so. I love technology in how it simplifies and enhances my life. I am able to stay connected to my friends, family and clients from a variety of devices. I stay abreast of industry news via those same devices. However, i look forward to opportunities for valuable face time (and i'm not talking about the Apple video conferencing app).

This summer my family celebrated a few landmark events by enjoying a vacation together. While this may sound like a set up for a tragic comedy, it was a wonderful opportunity for all of us to relax together. While we talk, text, email and FaceTime (yes, this time I am talking about the Apple app) with each other on a regular basis, the opportunity to be together for a period of time was fantastic. It is the same for business. it is why the golf game evolved as such an acceptable and successful business event.

The conversation that occurs over a period of hours or days has depth that cannot be attained as quickly or easily via apps or devices. Sure with the help of social media and big data analytics, we can capture, sift and assess online conversations to uncover trends that impact business. However, it is the conversation with a business partner or client, on the golf course or over dinner, that reveals new opportunities, politics of closing a deal, or challenges to overcome.

I'm attending IBC 2014 this week, a conference service the broadcast industry. I enjoy the opportunity to discover emerging technologies and uncover new opportunities. I look forward to insightful conversations with business colleagues. I am thankful that so many colleagues have agreed to meet with me as our conversations help me gain greater perspective on the impact of big data, cloud, social media, mobility and other trends on an industry that has been in our homes for years. I am connecting live - how about you?

What's your perspective?

The Connected Experience

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, September 02, 2014

What is the impact of our increasing dependency on all things mobile? How is the the connectivity between things impacting our daily lives? Our desire for connectivity is evident in the increased investment in the "internet of things". Simply put, this is the ability for devices to communicate with each other.  This may take the form of alerts to your smartphone or using your smartphone to control other devices.  Much attention has been paid to connecting to devices in the home such as, thermostats, lights, locks, refrigerators or TVs. It is all driven by our addiction to connectivity, but what about the experience?

Examples of machine to machine (M2M) connectivity include being able to verbally unlock the doors of your house by speaking into you smartphone. Future functionality might include asking your TV to find the content you seek - by name, genre or talent. The advances in technology and networks enable this "futuristic" connectivity - similar to what we once enjoyed in the Hanna-Barbera animated sitcom,  "The Jetsons".  we seek experiences that enrich or simplify our daily lives.

We've already proven that we are addicted to devices as evidenced by estimates from eMarketer, that 1.75 billion people will own smarthphones by the end of 2014. That translates to ~ 24% of the global population (as of July 1, 2014 based on estimates from the United Nations). Smartphone adoption is led by China, followed by the United States, with these countries and many others passing the 50% penetration mark in 2014 and 2015.

We've shown that we like to enhance our experiences by using devices. We use the map functions on our phones to guide our explorations. We plan running routes and track calories. We comparison shop and make dinner reservations. Why not connect to other devices and simplify repetitive tasks? 

Devices that enabled an internet connection to our TV entered our homes in the mid-2000s. Today Smart or Connected TVs enable direct internet connections that in turn allow connectivity to OTT providers such as Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, music sharing site Pandora or social media maven, Facebook, and others. The benefit is the enjoy the connected experience via our favorite in-home device, the TV. We choose to  enhance our TV experience with our mobile devices, enriching our experience through simultaneous connectivity to online information related to the program we are viewing, or sharing our experience on social sites or simply multi-tasking.

The connected experience is one that is constantly evolving as our definition of connectivity and tasks that can be enabled expand. Our expectations are limitless as behemoths like Apple and Google invest in enabling technologies while also defining ecosystems that may include traditional manufacturers as well as entrepreneurs. It is safe to say that the manner in which we connect and communicate, one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-many, or thing-to-thing will be quite different five years from now. And, it is the focus on our connected experience that will drive this market evolution.

What's your perspective?

Connected Awareness

Peggy Dau - Monday, August 25, 2014

Last week i wrote about our addiction to connectivity, which when thinking about it further led me to consider what we could call connected awareness. With our addiction to devices and their apps, we have a heightened awareness of our friends likes or dislikes, to the behavior of celebrities (which broadly include movies stars, musicians, athletes, business leaders, politicians, etc.), entertainment trends (Hollywood, social media) and news. If not for social media, connectivity and awareness, ALS would not have raised $80 billion, yes that's a B!  This is a great example of connected awareness. The ground swell of ALS awareness has been astonishing as anyone from a friend, neighbor or family member to celebrities happily dumped buckets of ice and water overt their heads. Thanks to our addiction to connectivity where we scan the news or social sites while waiting in line or traveling, we are more aware than ever before.

There's a downside to connected awareness. This is exhibited by online bullying, lack of sensitivity (consider Zelda Williams's experience after her father's suicide) or  mis-statement of facts, to name a few. With a potential for groupthink mentality to set in, connected awareness can lead to negative behavior. Hopefully, that will be the exception. Brands, non-profits and politicians hope to capitalize on increased connected awareness.

The media and entertainment sector is and industry that's quite open about its goals to optimize on the connected awareness of its audience. In the TV space, a lot of attention has been paid to Social TV, the second screen and OTT consumption. Nielsen reported earlier this month that 25% of TV viewers were more aware of programs due to social media interactions. The second screen is used to become more aware of product advertised on TV, actors in the program being watched, statistics related to a live sporting event, or to engage with friends. Connected awareness is driven by tweets and Facebook posts.  

In fact, Nielsen has begun measuring the reach of these platforms. Awareness is not about the person sharing content, it's about who sees that content. Looks who's tweeting and what content is driving their activity. It's not wonder that advertisers are actively seeking insight from social networks.

Our connected awareness is influencing our thoughts and actions. We are stimulated by opinions from others about about TV shows, movies, concerts, vacation destinations, restaurants and more. We seek input from others either socially or via text or in some cases, email (which many consider of very old school communication tool). In any case, we are often doing so via our mobile devices with an expectation for immediate response. This expectation is borne from our connected awareness. We anticipate that our friends are accessible, online and ready to influence.

I anticipate that, very soon, we will see some type of connected awareness barometer. It's about measuring more than tweets or Facebook updates. It's more that a Klout score. It's understanding where we connect to obtain content and what action we take upon its receipt. Imagine that as we enter the next presidential campaign cycle, broadcast networks and campaign advisors will be seeking every advantage to understand and to influence the connected awareness of the voting populace. 

How are you connected?  When are you connected?  Where are you connected? And, what do you choose to connect to? Our very connectivity allows for collection and measurement of data. That data leads to a different kind of awareness, but awareness that is still driven by our connectivity.  How has your connected awareness shifted with increased access to smartphones or tablets?

What's your perspective?

We All Want to Be Connected

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, August 14, 2012

We've just finished watching the most connected Olympics ever.  Who didn't tweet or update their Facebook status about an event, a team or an athlete over the past 17 days. We connected to friends, family, media outlets, journalists, athletes and coaches. We shared thrilling victories and disappointing TV coverage. We questioned online strategies and discovered alternatives based on feedback from social networks. China's Sina Weibo managed 393 million social posts around the Olympics.  The opening ceremonies inspired 9.6 million tweets. And, the Spice Girls closing ceremony performance surpassed Usain Bolt's 200M race with 116,000 tweets per minute vs. 80,000 tweets per minute.

Don't you want to be this connected for business? Of course you do! Connectivity is at the heart of all communications, from the telegraph to the telephone, from the TV to the internet, from email to social media. The challenge for business users is in understanding who, what, when, where and how to connect. The key is in thinking like a journalist. Connect to friends and colleagues who have common interests or inspire you to success. Connect when it makes sense for business and when you have something meaningful to share. Your audience desires certain types of information. Think about that content and deliver social updates that fulfill that need. Connect in response to customer demand. If your customers are asking questions about products or support, provide answers. 

Where to connect can be overwhelming, but it always comes back to your customers. Where are they? While there are many social networks that fulfill both business and consumer needs, not everyone is on these networks for the same reasons. Your customers may enjoy Pinterest, but are they pinning for business or personal reasons. It's the same with Facebook. Identify where your customers are and create appropriate content. Sometimes its as simple as a heads up on product functionality. Other times it may be a hurrah for a valued business partner.

Managing your social connectivity for business is often the most daunting aspect of a social media strategy. Simplifying listening and posting across multiple platforms requires time, attention and the help of social media monitoring/measurement tools. These tools (e.g., Radian6, Visible Heat, TweetDeck) can filter the noise and help you hear the comments that are most important for your business. After all not everyone wanted to hear about synchronized swimming, but most Americans wanted to hear about the swimming feats of Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin.

The guidelines for external social connectivity also apply for enterprise social communications. Connect to colleagues who share your goals, influence your success or provide meaningful content. Follow discussions that broaden your perspectives. Engage to learn, educate, share, simplify, collaborate or simply to connect. In many companies email has displaced a phone call. Will social chat displace email. Probably. Consider how we will be connecting for business success in the future. Don't be a laggard. Social media may make your business as successful as the London 2012 games!

What's your perspective?

Corporate Employees - Get Social or Get Out!

Peggy Dau - Monday, July 16, 2012

I love talking to my friends in corporate america. They keep me attuned to the fears surrounding the use of social media within the company and outside the company. I'm such a fan of communication tools that I may overlook these very valid concerns. My job is to help companies communicate effectively.  Their goals are to get their jobs done, be that product development, channel management, sales, marketing, etc.  Because they are so heads down in achieving their defined goals and metrics, they often only use social networks at home, while relaxing, to connect with family and friends.

However, more and more companies are implementing social media strategies to attain and retain customers, but also to encourage and simplify employee collaboration. The tools they use to enable these strategies are similar, yet different. These microblogging platforms (e.g., Yammer, NewsGator, SocialText) all consist of a simple user interface that allows users to login, make connections and post comments. The primary challenge for employees, in using these networks, is fear.

Fear, you say! What are they afraid of?  They are afraid of the time it will take away from other activities. They are afraid to be perceived as unavailable, too available, wasting time, distracting others or sharing inappropriate information. Depending on the demographics, they may think that they are "too old" to use social media - this is something their kids do. Or they may be afraid that if they don't use social tools that they will be considered obsolete and subsequently passed over for positions with greater responsibility. And the greatest fear mentioned to me is the "big brother" factor. Some employees are afraid that their every move will be monitored for negative purposes. Fear is a powerful inhibitor!

How can employees and their employers take fear out of the equation? It's simple.  It's all about communication. Employees are afraid to engage or not engage because they don't understand the guidelines or goals for using social networks. Social media is changing how companies communicate internally and externally. It empowers employees to have a voice. But, if they have not had a voice prior to the use of social networks, they may be uncomfortable. Companies can help by encouraging communication, by setting expectations for professionalism, by setting an example at the executive level or by rewarding social collaborations that benefit the company.

Like email and instant messaging before it, enterprise social networking (aka enterprise 2.0) has a learning curve. Employers should help employees understand the nuances of the tools through online training and best practices. Employees can start small and, depending on their role and their needs, determine how enterprise social media can best help them in their day to day activities. There are pros and cons to any new technology. 

One benefit, of corporate microblogging tied to existing enterprise applications, is the ability to store and retrieve activity streams along with any of the documents related to those discussions. However, some will feel this is evidence of the corporate monitoring of individual performance and behavior. This perception reflects a cultural concern and if based in fact, why would anyone want to work for a company that they didn't trust. 

The advantages of instantaneous communication can lead to new perspectives, reduced cycle times, rapid decision making and great innovation. The opportunity to expand networks beyond existing business silos to access thought leaders, decision makers and experienced peers will benefit the organization. Employees may need help overcoming their fear of new technologies, but they must adopt these new communication tools or they will be obsolete. Studies show that those university students just entering the workforce, no longer consider email a primary communication platform.  Their influence cannot be underestimated as they are the future managers, directors and CEOs.

What's your perspective?

Enterprise Social Software - Another Distraction?

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A colleague complained to me last week about her company's use of a social media platform behind the firewall. She wanted to know why she would use this platform and wasn't it a distraction to her getting her job done. She also wanted to know why so many people felt compelled to spend so much time on social media. This raised a few concerns and questions for me.  I will address these thoughts over the next few weeks.

Why are we compelled to be seen online?  My colleague's thought process was that by being available on a social network, it shows that you are at work. Would her peers and management think she was not working if she was not available on the social network? Alternatively, could being available mean that she was "wasting" time on social media? 

We live in an online world. In the business world, emails are used to inform and request. Recipients are engaged due to a organizational or functional requirement. Information is shared. Questions are asked. Demands are made. Timelines are set. When emails are sent there is an expectation that they will be answered immediately. Instant messenger services stepped into the corporate world several years ago and enabled employees to quickly reach out to each other. 

We want to be part of the conversation, yet we are committed to completing our projects and fulfilling our goals. Enterprise social software provides the forum for quick, trackable, retrievable online conversations. Like general social media, individuals can choose who to follow or "friend". It is possible to be available or not. It is possible to initiate ad hoc conversations to find a quick answer to a challenge. It is possible to gain insight into new products, engage with sales teams (wherever they are), or, find quick fixes to customer concerns.

Enterprise social software (e.g., Yammer, NewsGator, SocialText) is here to stay. It enables collaboration between one or many individuals. These services pose the question "what are you working on?" For increasingly geographically dispersed organizations it provides another channel of communication. It breaks down departmental silos, allows light conversation between teammates not in the same office, enables simple polling on a hot topic. It is often integrated with other corporate applications, like Microsoft Sharepoint, with the intention of enabling conversations specific to existing documents. The benefit is the ability to tag and store the activity streams. 

Like email, social media takes some getting used to. Remember we didn't always talk about how full our email boxes were. We used to complain about voicemail! We, as individuals and employees, are responsible for finding the best ways to achieve our goals within our company's given framework. If email is the mode, then so be it. However, an increasing number of corporations are adopting internal social platforms. Employees may share RSS feeds and invite comment on competitor activity, market trends or customer announcements.

It's up to you to set expectations. Only you can decide how quickly you will respond to email or whether you will engage socially. We should not feel compelled to be online - but we are. We don't have to engage - but we often do. We use email to check the availability of others for meetings. Instant messenger services and now enterprise social software allow you do the same, instantaneously. Perhaps we will be more productive. Perhaps we will be distracted by the increasing flow of content.  Time will tell - and it will vary by individual. However, like email, we will adapt. 

Companies such as LG, HP, Cisco, Deloitte, Ford, Kraft Foods and Weight Watchers have adopted enterprise social media. Has you company adopted an enterprise social software? How are you using it?  

What's your perspective?

The 4 Bs of B2B Social Media

Peggy Dau - Monday, June 25, 2012

It's all about business for any company engaging in social media. Sometimes we forget that these platforms are a means to an end. That end is revenue. All the effort to win fans, followers, interactions, comments and click-thrus is part of a comprehensive effort to increase visibility, generate leads and sell products.

So, why is social media so important for companies selling products and services to other companies? It's all about the 4 Bs.  

#1 - Business Intelligence:  Social media allows companies to share content and capture data. Various tools and platforms exist to discover, analyze and assess this data. Individuals and companies gain knowledge about the demographics of their customers, affiliated industries, emerging topics, key trends, competitor activities, opinions regarding products and services, and more. Social media provides additional insight that can help companies create and sustain powerful relationships with their customers.

#2 - Business Development: Revenue is the life blood of all companies.  Without it, a company will eventually disappear. Therefore any tools to simplify or accelerate the acquisition of new business, whether from new clients or existing accounts, are welcome. Social networks provide companies with additional channels through which they can identify prospects, learn about companies and individuals. Platforms, like LinkedIn, Plaxo, Branchout or Zerply, can help users figure out how to connect with key decision makers or influencers. Individuals can learn more about them via blogs, tweets, status updates, presentations or videos.  56% of B2B marketers acquire new business partnerships through social media (Social Media Examiner, 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report). Imagine that first meeting with an understanding of what's been top of mind for that individual based on their social commentary!  

#3 - Business Relationships: Once a relationship is developed, it takes effort to maintain it. It's not always possible to enjoy face time with contacts. Social networks provide an alternative method of staying in touch with colleagues, customers and competitors. It's possible to congratulate contacts on promotions or job changes, make introductions for peers seeking new roles and comment on shared content. Here at MAD Perspectives, we reach out to connections on a regular basis, simply to catch up with old business friends.

#4 - Business Conversations: Social networks are all about engagement. They provide a platform to discuss topics of mutual interest, ask & answer questions, collaborate on new ideas, share content and to learn. Entrants into a new markets can learn about local business culture, business priorities and key competitors. 62% of business technology decision makers now read and post comments on blogs (Social Media Examiner, 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report).  Participants can turn casual conversations into long-lasting relationships. However, just as in face-to-face conversations, each party must provide value to the other.

Social media mirrors the business activities of any company. It is simply another channel through which to pursue these actions. As you consider your use of social media, think about the 4 Bs. Perhaps you are using all 4, or maybe you've just started engaging. Either way, be strategic and tactical about how social media can help you connect, collaborate and communicate to achieve your business goals.

What's your perspective?

The Power of Connectivity

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, October 12, 2011

We all live and work in an increasingly connected world.  Our smartphones and tablets connect us to information and people in ways that barely allow us any quiet time.  How do we measure the value of this connectedness?  Is there value to having thousands of Twitter followers, Facebook fans or LinkedIn connections?  Obviously the social media community believes in the power of connectivity, but do businesses? 

Connectivity is an interesting topic.  As humans we like to be connected to family, friends and colleagues.  We have more options than even to stay in contact.  I use Facebook to keep up with friends who scattered around the globe.  I use LinkedIn to manage my network of business colleagues.  Both Twitter and LinkedIn are my conduits for promoting my blog, sharing thoughts on current events and listening to what others are saying as it relates to business.  In addition, I still email (yes, i understand it may be considered a dying technology).  Why do I use all of these tools?  Because I want to be connected.

I want to learn from others.  I want to understand what is interesting to my colleagues.  I want to gain insights into new technologies.  I want to share my knowledge.  Anyone who follows my blog or my business, knows that I am a huge fan of LinkedIn.  I did not become an advocate until I had time to realize the power of the connectivity it provides.  While i was still employed by corporate America, it was simply a tool to augment or replace my rolodex.    Since leaving the corporate world, I'm exposed to a wider set of contacts.  I thought i had a good network working at HP.  It included fellow employees and business partners.  Since leaving HP, i have added contacts from a wider range of industries and roles.

Last year I was seeking information about a topic I had been invited to investigate for a client.  It was a topic where I only had high level knowledge.  I used LinkedIn Groups to post a question with hopes of getting more in depth information.  Not only did I get greater insight, I received invites for phone conversations and a face to face meeting, which resulted in a fantastic white board session.  The power of the connectivity provided by LinkedIn, in this case, was phenomenal and positioned me for greater success in my project.

I've used LinkedIn, again, recently to request introductions from my connections to some of their connections. I was seeking access to decision makers to discuss their needs and priorities around a specific topic.  Again, my colleagues responded favorably, happy to introduce me to the specific contacts I had defined.  As a result I have been able to gather a global view of this topic, again on behalf of a client.

As businesses and as individuals, social technologies are enabling us to connect more quickly and effectively. We've all networked on behalf of business in the past.  I remember scrolling through the rolodex to find the name of the contact who knew the guy who could help me close a deal.  Social technologies reduce the manual effort and time to achieve connectivity.  So, is this connectivity meaningful?  I would argue, YES it is!

Even a casual connection can lead to meaningful business.  It's all about staying in touch and reinforcing the value of the connection.  Businesses using social media should remember this.  Social networking is not just about pushing your content out via another channel.  it is about identifying the value your customers seek from you - and then providing that value.  Customer support is an excellent example.  Your customers seek answers to frequently and infrequently asked questions.  Social conversations via all of the big networks can help you understand the their needs, get ahead of critical issues and recognized trends that may impact product sales.

Connectivity is about more than the actual connection.  it's about the conversation.  It's about providing and receiving value.  This is where the power emerges.  I don't mean power from a control perspective, I mean power to move forward, make a difference, achieve a goal.  Think about the power of your connections.  What value do you see in them?

What's your perspective?

The Resume is Dead, Long Live LinkedIn!

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Do you use LinkedIn? If so, you're one of the 90M+ people, in over 200 countries, that have a profile on LinkedIn. If you are a business person and you crave an online professional networking destination - LinkedIn is it.  You can:

     - Tell your professinal story
     - Get and stay connected with business colleagues - even if you, or they, change jobs
     - Pursue career opportunities
     - Get informed about people and companies before you actually meet them
     - Identify decision makers or influencers and get connected to them
     - Ask questions about ANY business related topic

There are competitors who offer business networking (i.e., Plaxo, Naymz, Xing) or job search (i.e., Monster, CareerBuilder, Ladders), but LinkedIn has created (and continues to enhance) the site for professional networking. It is a critical part of your online social identity - particularly as it relates to your career.

I joined LinkedIn while i was still working at Hewlett-Packard. I was happy in my job and was not particularly interested in online networking. However, I responded to an invitation from a colleage and so began my LinkedIn journey. It started as an "online rolodex" - a place to capture the details about the business contacts I made while jetting around the globe on behalf of HP.  Now, it is an integral part of every business day.  How?

LinkedIn provides me with insights about people and companies.  I learn about an individual's experience (roles, companies, responsibilities, value), education, social behavior (do they blog?  tweet?  join discussions?), personal interests, travel schedule and their connectivity (how many LinkedIn contacts do you have? and, who do they know?).  With the introduction of Company Pages last year, I can gain quick insight into the companies where they have worked.

I am about to head out on a business development trip to California.  As I was thinking about this trip, I prowled through my list of contacts on LinkedIn. I was seeking colleagues that worked at companies that might be interested in my consulting services. In many cases, my connections had changed companies and I found that I had contacts at many companies that were of high interest to me as potential clients. I used LinkedIn to reach out to these contacts and set up meetings. I did not need to know their current email addresses - LinkedIn was my intermediary.

I also learn a lot about people simply from the way they have created their profile. Many colleagues, who are extremely happy in their current jobs, have profiles that I consider placeholders. They share the bare minimum of information about their professional background and interests. They have less than 50 connections. They do not have linkes to their company page or website. I'll know they are job hunting when they beef up their profile and their connections! 

Have you worked on your profile lately? If you need to connect to a key decision maker, increase your professinal visibility or are seeking a new job, check out your profile and think about what it says about you.  Chances are that your new contacts are going to check it out too.  Here is a quick look at the most important features:

     - Professional headline - this is who you are or who you want to be, it is not necessarily your current title
     - Picture - this should be a headshot and yes, you should have a picture.  Proessionals like to do business with people, not profiles!
     - Links - reference urls for your company's website, its blog (or your blog!), twitter, etc.
     - Summary - this is about you and the value you provide.  This is your opportunity to highlight what makes your special, what gets you excited and your dream role.  It should not be a description of your current job as you will have the opportunity to share that under Experience
     - Experience - reflect not only your title and responsibilities, but the value that you provide to your customers (we all have customers, some are external and others are internal to the company)
     - Recommendations - request references from your colleagues, customers and partners.  Their comments will be revealing to you and to your connections!
     -  Contact Settings - indicate the types of contact you are interested in receiving

LinkedIn vs. Resume - LinkedIn is living and dynamic, just like you.  The resume is not dead, yet, but it is a static snapshot of your skills, education and experience. It is still relevant to have both a resume and a LinkedIn profile. They should be complementary. You can walk into a meeting with a resume and your resume can include a pointer to your LinkedIn profile. Like all things social, your LinkedIn profile should offer transparency and authenticity. Let the real you shine through!

Go ahead, go check out your profile.  Then check out the profiles of some of your connections.  What do you think?  Let me know what your learn!

What's your perspective?

Stay tuned, next week I'll take a deeper look at LinkedIn value for companies.

Telepresence - Its Time has Come!

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When it comes to video conferencing solutions, telepresence is king.  Telepresence is an immersive video conferencing experience with enhanced audio/video enablilng an experience as close to face to face as current technology will allow.  Why is telepresence so compelling?  It provides a customer experience that puts traditional video conferencing to shame.  The key differentiator is the ability to look your participants in the eye, even when they are in a room half way around the world.

Telepresence (or dedicated video conferencing) solutions typically run on a dedicated network, provide very high Quality of Service, include high end audio/video tools and studio style lighting.  All of this provides the endusers an impressive alternative for avoiding airports, travel delays and overall travel expenses.  Most companies that install telepresence already have some experience with video conferencing and use it primarily for internal communications.  However, those internal communications often include executive briefings with customers.  Telepresence improves employee productivity, enhances effective collaboration, accelerates decision making and reduces your company's carbon footprint.

When it comes to companies offering telepresence solutions, Cisco leads the pack.  With their acqusition of Tandberg earlier this year, Cisco arguably has the broadest set of video conferencing/telepresence solutions for business ranging from small to large (and pricing commenserate with size of rooms, number of people and locations).   I have not had the chance to experience Cisco's solutions but have been impressed by their overall strategy related to all things video (for both business and consumer). 

As a former HP employee, I often leveraged HP's Halo Rooms for executive meetings, training sessions and team meetings.  With a global team spread across 3 countries, Halo helped my team manage its travel budget yet still benefit from virtual face to face meetings for internal collaboration, quarterly reviews and hands on solution development.  HP's solutions target the large, multi-national enterprise who may select to install and manage the services themselves or have HP manage it for them.

I recently met with a new entrant into the teleprsence market, Vu Telepresence.  headquarted in India with a keen eye on the U.S. market, Vu is targeting SMBs who cannot afford the high-end, elegant solutions offered by Cisco, HP or Polycom.  I participated in a live session connecting NY, Silcon Valley and Bangalore.  While the system does not enjoy the studio style lighting of the high-end systems, it does provide high quality audio/video, the ability to share a laptop screen and connect up to 6 locations.  The Vu Telepresence solution is a good fit for individuals in SMBs that need to connect between georgraphically dispersed offices.  Think of small to mid size law firms and technology companies with off-shore development or manufacturing.

I'm encouraged to see the investment and growth in this market. I am a big fan of solutions that enable employees and business colleagues to connect and collaborate quickly and easily.  Solution pricing ranges from the low end (Vu Telepresence) of $1500 for one station to the high end (Cisco, HP or Polycom) of $350,000 for a dedicated, private networked, custom built studio. IDC forecasts the dedicated video conferencing and telepresence market to grow to $8.8B in 2014 from $1.9B in 2009.  This is a collobaration solution whose time is now.  The economic recession has forced companies to re-think their travel options.  These high quality video conferencing solutions provide an attractive alternative to time and money consuming travel.

What's your perspective?