The Future of Video in the Virtual Collaboration Market
The global pandemic propelled work into video conferencing mode, forcing employees to meet and collaborate virtually, oftentimes without any real experience. At the time, many hoped and believed the transition would be temporary.
In the two years since, not only have workers become skilled at using video conferencing tools to accomplish daily tasks, they have also become reluctant to let them go and return to in-person work.
That dovetails with data on the growth of the market. Recent data from French technology firm ReportLinker shows demand and requirements for video conferencing expanding due to remote work and geographically dispersed businesses. The emergence of new technologies such as IoT, cloud computing, VR, improved video compression and AI are helping to boost the market.
While there may have been concern about a fall-off once "normal work" resumed, ReportLinker's Global Web and Video Conferencing SaaS Industry Report shows the market for such products is positioned for continued growth. According to the data, the global market for web and video conferencing SaaS was estimated at $3.5 billion in 2020. This same market is projected to reach $7 billion by 2026. Corporate, one of the segments analyzed in the report, is projected to reach $4.1 billion.
Al El-Nattar, president of Reston, Va.-based Rivet Logic, said although many companies still haven't yet chosen their preferred work model for the future, the overwhelming acceptance of remote conferencing tools shows the video conferencing market is here to stay.
Digital Transformation Driving the Market
Digital transformation has been a hot topic since the pandemic hit. It was a pressing matter for organizations before COVID-19, but it became a clear necessity with the pivot to remote work. What companies learned during that process is that consumer behavior — and that of employees — is fickle. Companies that can get ahead of pain points and innovate on traditional products and services come out ahead.
Similarly, companies in the video conferencing space cannot rest on their laurels despite their recent accelerated market growth and projected future. The successful vendors of the future will be those who invest their R&D budgets in the right areas, with a focus on customizability, usability, accessibility, artificial intelligence and security to ensure they're meeting clients' needs — regardless of those clients' chosen work models.
“These leaders will also take advantage of technologies that enhance the video conferencing experience beyond the current confines of the two-dimensional screen, adopting capabilities such as virtual reality and augmented reality,” El-Nattar said.
Hybrid Collaboration and Tech Innovation
Businesses have experienced the value of video in keeping employees connected and engaged, regardless of their physical location. Ben Chodor, president of New York City-based Notified, said the gradual return to in-person work — or in-person meetings at the very least — is unlikely to diminish companies' reliance on video conferencing and virtual collaboration solutions. In fact, in his view, the new workplace is still in the early innings of realizing the full potential of this technology.
There are potential disruptors, though. Artificial intelligence in particular has the potential to disrupt virtual collaboration and event products for two reasons:
- Data Access: Data is king in today's era, and employers want access to the data that AI-enabled tech can provide. This type of data can help businesses understand everything from whether a video technology product is valuable, to attempting to prevent overwork and burnout by understanding where, when and how employees are engaging with it and with each other.
- User Experience: AI can also enhance the user experience by boosting productivity and removing menial tasks, from transcribing meetings to improving audio quality, to adjusting lighting and background and even noting action items and next steps. These capabilities take the burden of the technology out of the hands of employees, allowing them to shift focus where it counts.
There is also momentum when it comes to augmented and virtual reality capabilities. Headset technology has dramatically improved and there is increased interest in the metaverse.
“While I think it's soon to say what impact this will have on the workplace, everyone from event planners to brand marketers to chief technology officers are exploring immersive ways to engage their audiences — far beyond dialing into a video meeting,” Chodor said.
In addition to this, demand for experiences that blend in-person and virtual collaboration will continue to drive the video conferencing market in the coming decade, as businesses now require a higher caliber of event technology to create more inclusive and inventive experiences.
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Redesigning the Office as a Collaborative Hub
While it remains unclear what percentage of workers will return to an office setting, businesses that do head back will need to establish guidelines to navigate the new workflows created by hybrid work.
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According to Hellene Yelda-Garcia of New York-City based video device designer Neat, the office is likely to be more a place of collaboration. Gone are the days of sitting at a desk all day. Those who come to the office will do so to engage and collaborate with peers. As a result, businesses will put a greater focus on creating more meeting and huddle rooms to foster discussion and innovation.
“With technology that is in place to support productivity and innovation specifically for a hybrid workforce, both businesses and employees benefit,” she said. “Businesses are positioned to be more resilient and efficient, while the hybrid workforce can enjoy more flexibility, greater engagement and improved wellbeing.”
While companies have had to adapt to virtual tools, the tools have also had to be adapted to the new reality of remote working, said Marie Lamonde, content marketing lead at Remo, a Canadian virtual event technology company. The primary use case for video conferencing tools like Zoom and Teams was short meetings and conference calls. They were not built for daily remote team collaboration.
As a result, Zoom fatigue is a real problem. The solution is video tools that humanize interactions by recreating the physical workspace. That includes technology tools employees can use to walk around the office, go from one meeting room to another, talk to colleagues at the water cooler or coffee machine, and then go back to their office space.
These tools typically consist of a web interface with a virtual office space where people can interact like they would in real life. This enables real-time conversations, helps with employee engagement and humanizes video conferencing. It's not just a video call or a meeting anymore, it's going to the office from home.
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Focus on the Bigger Collaboration Picture
Video conferencing is just one aspect of virtual collaboration that companies need to examine, said Peter Jackson, CEO of Bluescape, a collaboration software company based in Redwood City, Calif. As hybrid and remote models become permanent, companies will need to further invest in the tools they provide employees. Too many companies raced to implement software at the onset of the pandemic that would supplement meetings, project management, collaboration and file storage.
“Now, too many teams are working with a Frankenstein workspace, piecing together different tools that get the job done, but they don’t promote efficiency or collaboration, and they certainly aren’t easy on the user," he said.
While technology will continue as a primary driver of collaboration and team-based work, it's incumbent on companies to look at how it all works together, not just now, but into the future.
“While the future of work hinges on software, too many companies are still working from the short-term workspaces — cobbled together by different SaaS tools simply needed to get the job done at the start of the pandemic," Jackson said. "With remote work a permanent feature now, managers need to look at the bigger picture."