March 23, 2015

Article

Video blackout: It’s time to stop leaving some employees in the dark

I frequently attend events where corporate communicators and IT professionals from around the world discuss best practices in using video for employee engagement.   It’s impressive how far video in the enterprise has come. There is widespread acceptance that video is the best way to deliver mission critical leadership messages and training to employees, and nearly every speaker echoes that message.   However, off the stage in private conversations I’m surprised to hear that the vast majority of companies have huge segments of their population that simply can’t access video, in many cases up to 40% of employees are deliberately cut off from the critical messages they require! In this post I’ll explore how we arrived in this situation and what we can do to change it.

The Evolution of the Message and the Medium

Decades ago, the company loudspeaker blared the latest news to all employees, whether they wanted it or not. The in-person all-hands meeting was engaging, but reached only a handful of employees. Twenty years ago conference calls become the mode du-jour for communicating, however a recent Intercall Survey found that 65% of conference call participants are doing other work while on the conference call (27% reported having fallen asleep on a conf. call). Video webcasts have stepped in to solve this challenge, and a recent Ragan survey showed 89% of corporate leaders say video is now important for their internal communications programs due to its ability to engage.

From a technology perspective, the growth of video has been much more uneven due its unique challenges. Early solutions, such as satellite, were extremely expensive, limited to select locations and forced employees into break rooms. Twenty years ago solutions such as multicast and hardware-based caching devices enabled enterprises to reach 50% and in many cases and as much as 80% of employees with video (after several years of work).   The implementation and maintenance involved in using video is simply too difficult and costly to justify, so most companies just stop after a certain point. Without a solution in place, these offices are truly blacked out from video. The network can’t handle it. So just to reiterate: In the year 2015, if you’re in a large enterprise and IT has prioritized video and spent years and millions of dollars getting multicast or caching devices set up, 20% or more likely 40% of your employees still can’t use video. We’re supposed to have flying cars by now and instead we have conference calls.

Misplaced Priorities, Old Fashioned Solutions

The hard part about not reaching everyone is that those that don’t get the message are precisely those that need it the most. Everyone in headquarters surely can watch the video message or join a face to face meeting. Those in large secondary campuses can probably watch it. But the best sales guy in Singapore, the critical technician in rural Iowa, the new hire in Brazil… they’re left in the dark.

It’s for this reason that we must draw the line with video solutions. It is never acceptable to have a video solution that can’t reach your entire audience.   Whatever technical or cultural hurdles stand in your way pale in comparison to getting your message to those critical, front-line employees.   Technology should drive communication and innovation, not stifle it.

Our Challenge: 100% Reach in Less than 100 Days 

One route to reaching all employees quickly is to leverage a software defined network solution (SDN). Kollective and others in the Software Defined Enterprise Content Delivery Network space create a software-based video network on top of your existing network that can overcome challenges with your network and enable video quickly and efficiently to every office and every employee: surely within 100 days, sometimes in as little as a week. These solutions can reduce video network bandwidth requirements by as much as 90%. With the recent introduction of Kollective Adaptive Bitrate, the video system is able to reliably overcome even the most challenging network conditions.

If you’re wondering why the SDN space is growing so fast right now–why companies like Cisco are investing billions–It all comes down to technology finally delivering what we really need. No, not flying cars, but video to the last 20%.

So whatever solution you decide on, I challenge you to reach all employees; not next year, but today. Businesses that reach that last 20% (like Nestle, Wells Fargo and NCR) will continue to be aligned, nimble and successful. Those that don’t won’t.