Two recent surveys have shown that people in Australia are reluctant to meet online — we prefer real-life interaction. That's all very nice, but it's likely to impact our productivity.
In the ZDNet 2010 IT Priorities survey, 20 per cent of respondents said they were planning to implement a video-conferencing solution in the next six months. That puts us on a par with Europe, but well behind Asian countries. In China, 28 per cent are pushing ahead in this direction within six months and almost three quarters within the next two years.
The figures are similar for online meeting. In this part of the world, as with Europe, 43 per cent have no plans of implementing the appropriate software in the foreseeable future. Only 27 per cent of Chinese businesses surveyed were not considering a solution to enable their staff to meet online.
These statistics echo the findings of research commissioned by Citrix Online last month. In its report "The International Language of Business" it claimed that 77 per cent of Australians believe seeing each other is crucial to encouraging participation. That compares with just 29 per cent of Germans. Yet video-conferencing, which allows you to see each other, is used by only 13 per cent of our workers, compared to 28 per cent in France.
So it seems we are a little behind the crowd when it comes to meeting online. Strangely the sector least likely to be implementing a video-conferencing solution is IT. The ZDNet IT Priorities survey shows that 14 per cent of respondents in this sector plan to implement a video-conferencing solution in the next 12 months, compared to 30 per cent in telecommunications and 27 per cent in the education sector. In China, the IT sector leads the way.
The Citrix research says that web-conferencing is used by only 10 per cent of Aussies versus 28 per cent in the US. Yet these solutions are relatively easy to implement.
Tools to enable online meetings, with screen sharing and video, are becoming far more common. The cost of these applications — often as low as $50 per month — is easily outweighed by the benefits of reduced travel cost and improved productivity. The proliferation of excellent quality high-definition desktop cameras coupled with cloud-based video applications means that web-conferencing can now be implemented without the expense of traditional high-end proprietary systems.
The rate of development in this space leaves you asking "why wouldn't you take it up?" The only conclusion is that we like in-person meetings because either a) we like a good chat or b) we can fade into the background and nick off work for an hour or so. I worked at Telstra once, where everyone loves to meet as often as possible, and I know that I was guilty of the latter on more than one occasion.
And that's the problem with high-definition video-conferencing — it's very easy to see who is dozing off. Perhaps that's the real reason we are shying away from it. Yet, with the time we'd save foregoing lengthy in-person get togethers, we'd all get home earlier and get a decent night's sleep. That's got to be a better outcome hasn't it?