In present scenario, IT industries are facing various business challenges to create & sustain the competitive advantage over their rivals. The increasing no. of dispersed & virtual employees, high cost & stress associated with business travels, the need to make critical decisions quickly and the responsibility towards environment are some of the issues faced by them. This makes it necessary to find alternatives to in-person collaboration and ensure better corporate communication. Telepresence offers the perfect solution to the above problem by providing a true life-like experience of in-person meetings. It helps organizations to deal with business challenges in a way other video collaboration tools can’t; often becoming the difference between success and failure for highly critical or strategic meetings.
Why Telepresence in IT industry?
Some of the key factors in the favor of adoption of telepresence in IT industry are:
- Global Service Model: As the regional boundaries & borders are broadening, the requirement for delivering of seamless IT-enabled services from global locations is increasing. Global delivery is becoming a standard model for delivering IT services. Various new services like remote infrastructure management, data warehousing, product engineering, consulting, and testing have become the integral part of the Global Delivery Model (GDM). For example, Infosys operates globally from 65 cities located in 25 countries.
- Need for Global Collaboration: The no. of remote employees in IT service providers is increasing day by day due to their global presence. For instance, IBM employees stood at 433,362 as in March, 2012. Global Collaboration provides a simplified common way of working irrespective of the location of the employees. It also lowers cost and simplifies the business model.
- Increased Client Sophistication: Clients are becoming more mature and knowledgeable about IT services. They are becoming aware of the nuances of outsourcing and have greater concern for quality of service, cost & time efficiency. It has led to greater importance of value based pricing model, productivity and strategic relationship with clients.
- Opportunity for reducing on-site workforce: IT services providers often deploy their employees at client site to work closely with them and understand their business processes. This leads to increased cost and less efficiency of the employees. The employees can stay at their offices or homes and interact with clients through Telepresence medium. This will also reduce costs at client’s end.
- Increased Scale of Service Providers: IT service providers are growing continuously in terms of technology, global presence, range of services and quality of service. Telepresence provides sustained competitive advantage over other firms and helps in acquisition of larger deals in the global market.
Benefits of Telepresence in IT firms
- Enhanced Global Collaboration: Telepresence ensures better collaboration among dispersed employees of IT firms all over the globe. The immersive experience of being in the same room helps employees to even work from their home. Many IT firms such as IBM, Accenture, Cap Gemini etc. are expanding globally and making use of telepresence to improve talent utilization and coordination of remote employees to collaborate on large projects efficiently.
- Faster Decision Making & Increased Productivity: The critical-decisions in the IT firms require insights and approval from higher authority. Telepresence can be very useful in conducting strategy level, project management and senior management level meetings of IT firms. It will lead to improved relationship and faster decision making between headquarter and remote branches. It also increases the productivity of remote employees by 30% through instant meetings via telepresence. The time saved from travelling to remote offices can be utilized for better business opportunities.
- Cost Savings: The travel and per-diem expenses of business trips in IT firms can be reduced considerably through telepresence, increasing productivity & efficiency of the firms. It also saves the expenses required for the R&D discussions & project management through virtual meetings.
- Hiring and training: Telepresence helps in both hiring and training of IT professional. IT services firms can hire best talents across the globe and train their employees to same standards to ensure quality. It shortens the lengthy recruitment process of IT firms and interviews become easier through virtual meetings. The training in an IT firm can be very costly due to the team-structure of IT firms. But through telepresence, an expert sitting in London can give quality training to new hires sitting at various other offices across the globe. It also helps in better flow of ideas and increases the creativity of the team.
- Increased Client Retention: Due to the adoption of multi-sourcing in IT firms, teams across various offices and even countries have to work on various projects which require continuous interaction with clients to deliver services. Telepresence can prove to be very helpful in ensuring better relationship with better communication to solve their problems. The inputs of client can be taken into consideration bringing the engagement of clients leading to the trust & loyalty. Moreover, IT firms can remain in touch with existing and prospective clients without spending time and money on physical travel.
Challenges faced by IT firms to implement Telepresence
Some of the key challenges faced by the IT firms using Telepresence are:
- Immersive systems are expensive: Immersive Telepresence systems are very costly to implement and require high capital investment initially. They also need dedicated rooms for telepresence conferencing. Immersive telepresence costs at least $200,000 per room. This limits its usability in most of the medium-sized and many large-size firms. The high cost also limits greater penetration in the IT firms.
- Interoperability : Most of telepresence products are not interoperable with products from different vendors. For example, most of the Polycom telepresence products are not interoperable with those of Trellis. This is the major issue faced by the IT firms considering that IT employees generally work from home or at client site; and offices are distributed across the globe.
- There are low utilization rates of telepresence system by traditional clients who prefer face-to-face meetings to virtual ones. Informal interactions such as get-together, site visit, shared car-ride etc. are the key for the persuasion of such clients to get the better deals.
- Due to the global delivery model of IT firms, quite often it becomes difficult to maintain the quality of communication over multiple endpoints in the telepresence meetings. There is development of lag & latency as data & control signals can’t travel faster than the speed of light.
- Immersive Telepresence system require quite large bandwidth for high-definition video & stereo audio quality to provide real-life like experience. This requires additional cost of a thousand of dollars for broadband connection, which limits its implementation in small offices of medium-sized IT firms.
While there are challenges, it is evident that telepresence will play an important part in strategy of IT industry in future. This is not only because of cost savings but also because of strategic and organizational advantages associated with it.