Smile for the Camera

July 26, 2011 - 1 Comment

Humans are inherently resistant to change. In the workplace, we’re most comfortable using technologies that have been made available to us, as long as they are convenient and easy to use. Rarely do we want to stray from business norms. It’s this human behavior that makes the cultural aspects of a business video strategy the most challenging to execute.

Users create the way they communicate and collaborate based largely on the tools they have at hand. Typically in this environment, if you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. So, users will tend to solve problems based on a few available communication tools versus asking themselves, “What’s the right way I’d like to approach this?” Getting to this state requires users to open up and expand their collaboration toolbox. More importantly, it requires organizations to prime users on all the opportunities open to them, and empower them to operate in the ways most comfortable to their work style.

Cisco doesn’t push video technology and expect that users will start to catch up. We continually try to show users what video can do for them and then nudge them along the adoption curve. Exposing users to the different collaboration options is the first step in helping them become comfortable with new communication modes such as video. Cisco IT approaches video as an inherent part of the workplace rather than a bolt-on media type. Our goal is to create a pervasive video environment, where video has become automatic and doesn’t require any type of user intervention.

Even at Cisco, the willingness of employees to adopt video as a valid means of communication, especially from the desktop, has only recently started to gain momentum. Take WebEx Meeting Center, which provides automatic, high-quality video conferencing. But how many people actually turn on their video during WebEx? About 5 percent. We all know why:  users’ desire to multitask during meetings outweighs the video. Effective multitasking is equated with productivity. People simply don’t want to IM, respond to emails, or take calls while being captured on video.

There’s also personal comfort associated with being seen on camera. When people go into a non-video meeting with others, they don’t think about whether their hair is messed up or shirt is shirt untucked. Yet, if they’re going to be on a video call, especially from home, then they are frequently more apt to question how they look. Why is it so hard for people to think that they could wear a T-shirt instead of a button-down for a work meeting?

It isn’t easy to buck business norms or shift workplace perceptions. These things require cultural changes in the organization, usually taken with baby steps. But the faster you can start to break down the barriers that inhibit people’s willingness to try different modes of collaboration, the greater the number of users who will become comfortable with exploiting the business value of video.

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  1. So true! I have to say once you become accustomed to video conversations, nothing can replace it. Coming to Cisco through the Tandberg acquisition, I really value the face time I have as a remote employee using video. That visual connection is very important during some conversations. Granted there are always those calls that you just don’t want to share video, though – especially when there are a lot of participants and not everyone is actively engaged.