The Case for Telepresence: commentary from Forbes.com - Disponible seulement en anglais
02 août 2010
The Case For Telepresence
08.02.10, 6:00 AM ET
The days of nurturing client relationships through hosted lunches, cocktail hours and in-person meetings have fallen by the wayside as the current global economic climate has made efficiency paramount. However, the business relationships we build today are no less important than before. In fact, one could argue that in this increasingly globalized and fragmented business and communications landscape, businesses that wish to gain a competitive advantage need to re-evaluate and reinvest in their client relationships by leveraging the tangible and intangible effects of the "human factor."
As an IT director in a leading law firm, I am keenly aware of businesses' reliance on technology to communicate with clients, facilitate client interactions and effectively trouble-shoot client issues. In the legal industry, like many other client-service organizations, the balancing act of maintaining high levels of client service while efficiently managing budgets, billable hours and work-life balance has become challenging to the say the least.
I've seen three key challenges emerge, specific to the legal industry yet applicable to other client-service organizations: managing client expectations, collaborating across geographically dispersed locations and professional bandwidth.
As before, clients expect a level of unparalleled flexibility, mobility, connectivity and productivity from their legal counsel. While these trends and expectations are not a new phenomenon in our industry, the scale of each has grown in the digital age. To meet this level of expectation, the ability to connect with a client at any time has become more crucial than ever before. As technology facilitates communication day and night, law practices are now on-demand, 24/7 businesses. As firms expand overseas and serve clients with similar global operations, the ability to provide a "mobile" workforce to solve client problems is crucial.
Additionally, as legal firms become more geographically dispersed, they increasingly face the challenge of maintaining the same level of collaboration and client service. Clients have grown to expect immediate access to specialists or experts, regardless of location. To add to the myriad challenges facing the industry, clients are (rightly) demanding more justifiable billing by hour and by minute. At the same time, lawyers are bearing larger client loads than ever before, and firms are under pressure to improve work-life balance in order to retain the best talent.
With all this in mind, how do we go forward? How does the industry overcome these challenges, prepare for what's next and ultimately remain ahead of the curve?
Firms like mine are utilizing a suite of video-enabled collaboration tools that facilitate uninterrupted communication, allow for seamless collaboration and offer real-time access to industry expertise available anywhere within their network. When building a suite of tools to provide these solutions, priorities should include interoperability, security and quality. With these priorities come a few considerations. Here are three to keep top-of-mind:
How many people do you communicate with in a single workday? Count the people in your office, executives and team members. Then think about any colleagues in remote offices, home workers and those who are traveling. Add in vendors, clients and partners from outside organizations, and you've got a full Rolodex of folks on hand.
The ability to leverage video collaboration tools seamlessly with your entire Rolodex depends on the adoption of standards-based, interoperable solutions. By making interoperability a top priority, firms can create an inclusive community, rather than disparate islands of communication--and set themselves up for future success and maximum return on investment.
While visual communication is immensely powerful for maximizing collaboration, it can also be extremely distracting if participants are using low-quality or unreliable solutions. If you've ever experienced "frozen face syndrome" or incessant call drop-off, you can probably relate to how poor quality can lead to frustration and quickly derail a meeting. But those issues are problems of the past. Today, with advancements in HD video quality leading to the development of a new category of video collaboration--telepresence--we've changed the way we experience video. And when it comes to executive-level discussions and client meetings, there is no room for miscommunication or communication barriers.
With our increased adoption and reliance upon visual communication to effectively collaborate with clients and colleagues, however, comes the enduring question of security. In fact, network administrators cite security as one of their highest concerns in managing communication tools.
Given the highly sensitive information that is exchanged daily between clients and colleagues and the sanctity of attorney-client privilege, the legal industry is arguably under more pressure than any other to provide highly secure communication solutions to safeguard confidential information. By addressing the issue of security at three levels--authentication (the process for determining who has the right to be on your network), policy (how your network's resources are to be allocated) and encryption (the way of scrambling data so that only those who know how to unscramble the data get access to it)--firms create a complete solution that protects the integrity of their client relationships. These steps are necessary to stay in control of the global network and to assure above-adequate levels of privacy and security.
The ability for team members at all levels of your firm to connect instantly with colleagues, clients and partners is invaluable for accelerating decisions, increasing efficiency and productivity, and bringing the human factor back to the core of business communication. With high-quality, interoperable and secure video collaboration technologies, decision-makers can easily access all the resources your business has to offer--without leaving the office.
Vince Cordo is the director of IT service delivery at White & Case LLP.