We've been piloting Skype as a video conferencing tool and recently I had a chance to see it earn it's keep. Very much a fan of the opportunities it brings.
So yesterday we held a crisis meeting with one of our technology suppliers.
They're helping us develop a new digital solution and at some point during the day, both our team and theirs realised things were going pear shaped. We'd drifted into creating something so bespoke that it wasn't going to be reusable on future projects. Bad move. Inefficient. Ineffective. We needed to talk! And so we did. Our team jumped in a meeting room in our office. Their team jumped in a meeting room in their office. We conferenced called one another on speaker phone.
No big deal so far, right? This sort of technology is old-hat these days - but then why isn't it brilliant yet? It's all too easy to lose track of a conversation if two people on opposite ends of the line try to speak at the same time. The 'system' seems to try and mute others in favour of the speaker and gets confused if there is more than one voice crossing the line.
What did work much better, was that one of my team was homeworking with her laptop, remotely connected to our network via a secure VPN. We use Skype just now as part of a pilot programme to better connect our staff and open up just these sort of collaboration opportunities. So I called her from my Surface Pro and there she was, video linked, full screen into our meeting room. I put her on the end of the desk and away we went.
The thing I really like about this is she was actually there in the room. Not physically, but we could see her, we could hear her, there was no lag, there was no difficulty us holding a conversation with her. In fact, the link was so good that she was able to take part in the conference call just as well as we were. As far as those on the other end of the line were concerned, she was sat with us.
And today, I'm working from home. I've already held 3 chat sessions using Skype and a video meeting this morning. The integration with Outlook worked well as the meeting invite in my diary included a "Join this Skype meeting" link and button on the toolbar. All I had to do was click it and we were off. The technology was so unintrusive that we didn't even mention it. We went through the usual pleasantries, covered what we need to discuss, shared our screens and discussed options and then said our goodbyes - job done.
So my personal view on video calling / conferencing - an absolutely winner and something I intend to make much more use of in the future.