Has video conferencing crossed “The Chasm” to the mainstream market?

Cisco Market analysisThe amount of video on the internet and on our networks is growing significantly.  Here is a view of the business market from Cisco and projections for total traffic growth from 2012 to 2017.

Video, represented by the light blue colour, will grow from 2,519 PB (petabytes) in 2012 to over 12,000 PBs in 2017.  It will be bigger than the other two areas combined – ‘Web and other Data’ (darker blue colour) and ‘File Sharing’ (purple).  Of note, video in the business space does not include Netflix in its numbers, which is the biggest part of video bandwidth consumption in the consumer space.  Video in the business market includes; video streaming (on demand/live), video conferencing and CCTV video.

Author Geoffrey Moore is probably best known for his book, “Crossing the Chasm”, in which he describes the stages of adoption a technology must go through if it is to be used by the vast majority of people.

The chasm, is a critical section in the “Early Adopters” stage where a technology either makes the critical leap or never makes it past the “Early Adopters” stage.  The diagram below depicts “The Chasm”.  There are many technologies that never make it through the Early Adopters stage and eventually stay niche or die out.  The Chasm is a critical point to get by and signals whether the technology has what it takes to be adopted as a mainstream technology tool.

Geoffrey Moore's Crossing the Chasm

Technologies, like mobile phones and the Internet, made it through all the stages of technology adoption and have become part of our day-to-day lives.

So what about video conferencing?

Where is video conferencing in the technology adoption cycle and more importantly has it made the jump over “The Chasm”.

If we look at the same technology adoption curve in a different way it may give us some better insight to answer the question.  This view breaks the curve up into the Early Market before the Chasm and the Mainstream Market after the Chasm.

the chasm 2

The Early Market is made up of the Technology Enthusiasts and the Visionaries while the mainstream market is made up of the Pragmatists, the Conservatives and the Skeptics. Looking at the market this way let’s us better determine whether or not we crossed the Chasm.  Another way of asking this is, “Are we past the Visionary Stage and on to the Pragmatist users?”

Making a definitive call is difficult, but let’s look at some of the evidence from a few different perspectives.

Consumer Video Conferencing Market vs Enterprise Video Conferencing Market

Video started from two completely different perspectives in these two markets.

Skype defined and is still the leader in the Consumer video market.  The most recent Skype video stats I could find are from Sept 2012, stating that 40% of Skype calls are video to video.  The most recent high level Skype data, shows that Skype continues to grow International traffic by 36% in 2013.  If 40% or more of those calls are still video, that is impressive and suggests that we are certainly not in a Visionary market adoption stage but clearly in the Mainstream Market.  We are also seeing more and more popularity in other consumer video conferencing technologies like FaceTime and Google Hangouts.

The Enterprise video market became practical when room systems with dedicated codecs and dedicated video bandwidth made video calls reliable.  However, the cost associated with the “dedicated” resources for video meant that only those organizations that could justify this investment could implement corporate video conferencing.  These market conditions did not lead to mass adoption.  Room-to-room video calling is a niche communication market.  These solutions used to be expensive, were not intuitive to use for the average user and required a lot of management to keep the infrastructure operational.

The Gartner Group view of the development of a new technology is a little different than Geoffrey Moore’s, Market Adoption curve.  They call this the “Gartner Hype Cycle.” It illustrates the phases a technology goes through from the time it is first developed to when it becomes a practical productivity tool.   See figure below.

Gartner Group

A technology is simultaneously going through the “Market Adoption” phases and the “Gartner Hype Cycle”.

The low point in the Gartner Hype Cycle is the “Trough of Disillusionment”, a point where the technology cannot yet be considered a practical tool; this point may coincide with the Chasm.   I think this is the point where Enterprise video was stuck until 2012.

In 2012 Enterprise video conferencing collided with another technology in the enterprise space that was making its way up the “Slope of Enlightenment” – Unified Communications & Collaboration (UC&C).  UC&C incorporated peer-to-peer video calling and the ability to connect to room systems.  All of a sudden we have the foundation for a broad market technology and a way for the technology to cross the Chasm and make its way up the Slope of Enlightenment.

However, there are still some hurdles to overcome in order to get up that “Slope of Enlightenment” and onto the “Plateau of Productivity” to gain mainstream market adoption.  For the entire Enterprise market to adopt video calling as a standard way of communicating there are four main areas that must be addressed or enabled by any organization.

  1. Corporate Culture – what is the attitude toward video as a communications tool within the organization
  2. Network Readiness – the company network must be ready to handle video calling
  3. End User Adoption – people need to have the tools and be trained to use video communications
  4. Easy to Manage and Connect – enabling video without major investment in infrastructure and the resources to manage the infrastructure and connections

I believe enterprise video conferencing has made it over the Chasm and is moving from “Early Adopter” stage to the “Mass Adoption” stage.  I am going to talk about the 4 points above in my next blog(s) to further explore how you can assess your organizations readiness to adopt video calling and reap the many benefits video calling provides.

Once you experience video as your main communication tool, there is no going back to the days of voice only.

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