Telepresence: Reengineering Business Collaboration


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Telepresence: Reengineering Business Collaboration

  1. 1. Telepresence: Reengineering Business Collaboration A WhiTe PAPeR By TANDBeRG December 2009
  2. 2. Telepresence: Reengineering Business Collaboration TANDBeRG WhiTe PAPeR What You Will Learn From This Paper in recent years the need for rapid inter-organizational communication has grown dramatically. in light of this change, this paper will discuss what the drivers are for telepresence; why traditional collaboration technology is losing its way; and how telepresence is revolutionizing the way people conduct business today. Three key areas will be examined in this paper: 1. Why do we need telepresence? 2. What are the applications for telepresence? 3. What is the importance of a predictable high quality network in a telepresence implementation? The purpose of this paper is to help users to understand this new technology and to implement unique and independent solutions. Why Do We Need Telepresence, and What Is Changing? consider this hypothetical scenario: you are in helsinki at a meeting with one of your largest customers and you have just heard that they are about to select your competitor on a strategic bid. you have asked for and received extra time to resubmit your proposal, and you now have little more than one week to put together a completely new bid. The problem is that your main office is in Paris, product design is in California, and manufacturing is outsourced in the Far east. you need to bring together many disparate parts of your own organization and outside suppliers, to construct a counter offer in the required timeframe. it is down to you to make this happen, but how you do it? With the time constraints travelling is completely out of the question and using e-mail and telephone calls is not likely to get the job wholly complete. With telepresence, however, you can get all of these important meetings done from your local field office in helsinki, which has an immersive telepresence suite installed. This enables you to communicate visually in real time with the entire bid team. By utilizing telepresence, you stand a better chance of getting the deal done in time. Why? Because (not withstanding time-zone differences) you can communicate more naturally and efficiently, in real time, and CONFiRM understanding of actions and responsibilities. you can See if your outsourced manufacturing partner really understands the cost of the solution you are going to propose. Using telepresence gives you the best of both worlds: it combines the speed and efficiency of a phone call with the benefit of human interaction in a face-to-face meeting. it adds the realism and dynamic interaction that other collaboration tools do not provide. This is the power of telepresence-based collaboration. This need not be limited to within your organization. Over the last 20 or 30 years the internet and changes in global logistics have made conducting business on a global scale an effective necessity for most organizations. Today most companies outsource or move offshore significant sections of their business, for example manufacturing or back-office activity. This global dispersion of business structures creates an acute need to collaborate across great distances, and almost always with organizations outside of the firewall. Therefore in today’s global economy, people from one business need to meet with people from another business who are not in the same country, time zone or even hemisphere, and the usual suspects in the collaboration continuum (audio, email, and web collaboration) have matured and efficiencies from these tools have plateaued. p. 2/12 12 2009
  3. 3. Telepresence: Reengineering Business Collaboration TANDBeRG WhiTe PAPeR even companies that see themselves as fierce competitors need to collaborate and communicate effectively with each other at various levels. Time to market and productivity rather than just cost savings, are becoming more and more important. The telephone and e-mail are widely accepted and “familiar” methods of inter-organizational communication, but new technologies such as telepresence provide a more “natural” and extremely powerful tool to change the way businesses communicate and operate. in addition, many organizations that have deployed these traditional collaboration tools are looking to gain greater efficiencies as they maximize the benefit of maturing collaboration models. Another change is seen in the format and methods used in such interactions. Just several years ago only a few options were available for business interactions; now there is a complete collaboration continuum starting with e-mail and ending with state-of-the-art immersive telepresence solutions. The Collaboration Continuum At TANDBeRG, we are often asked: What is the difference between traditional video conferencing and telepresence? This section will address that question. Taken together, the technology components of a telepresence installation aim to create a lifelike, full-size meeting simulation. Like any simulation experience, a meeting is more natural when it is immersive. Consequently, a high degree of effort is put into designing telepresence suites, especially when it comes to environmental factors. The combination of high quality video, high reliability networks, specialist lighting and acoustics create the illusion of being in the same room as your counterpart. Traditional video conferencing facilities are often installed in multi-function rooms that are used for other activities. Therefore, the seating positions, camera placement, lighting, and audio are often not optimal for visual communication. A sub-optimal setup creates awareness of the technology and can be very distracting and tiring for the meeting participants. Another effect of using multi-purpose rooms is that its primary function is often something unrelated, so a user wanting to conduct a telepresence call may find that the room is in use for a local meeting. Telepresence also enables the social and behavioral aspects of communication. For humans to properly understand one another when physically separated, it is important to be able to exchange both verbal and non-verbal communication signals. This importance increases when communication is made across a cultural or language divide. The optimal environment created with a telepresence suite focuses on the aspects that make visual interaction possible. This subconscious level of communication is often lost when using traditional video conferencing, and is completely missing with telephone and e-mail. The ability to easily share data such as PowerPoint presentations and excel spreadsheets is also crucial in replicating a face-to-face environment, and is readily provided by using a telepresence suite. p. 3/12 12 2009
  4. 4. Telepresence: Reengineering Business Collaboration TANDBeRG WhiTe PAPeR Ultimately, telepresence creates a virtual, face-to-face meeting that closely simulates what participants would experience if they were in the same room. Key factors needed to deliver the most immersive telepresence experience include: • Discreet technology • Full high-definition video quality • A dedicated room (to maximize usage/ROi) • high-quality/high reliability dedicated network • Specialized lighting • Simple connectivity — with intuitive user interface for ad hoc calling • Consistent room look and feel it is important to note that all of these factors are necessary to create the experience described in this paper, however none of them alone are sufficient. The whole of these items taken together create an experience which is greater than the sum of its parts. Combined with an intuitive user interface, you get a tool that finally provides a true substitute for in person meetings. This new application doesn’t suggest that face to face meeting are not valuable or necessary, but rather provide a way to conduct them when time, geography, or crisis demand the need to keep people in their offices. Separating Telepresence From Traditional Forms Of Collaboration Technology Today the two main mediums for distance communication are e-mail and telephone calls or audio conferences. Overuse of these mediums and bad meeting etiquette has led companies to rethink the way such technologies are employed. Recently, audio conferencing has received significant criticism: employees spend hours sitting in on endless audio conferences but are not able to participate productively in the meeting. it is not uncommon to have audio conferences with dozens of participants where only four or five people actively contribute to the meeting. Additionally, the rise in popularity of instant messaging and the prevalent use of Smart Phones means that employees are not only failing to participate in meetings, but are also providing distraction to the group, thus amplifying the negative productivity. Other downsides of audio conferencing include: • Not knowing who is talking • Not knowing who is participating in the call • having participants call in from mobile phones in noisy locations • Participants being able to drop in and out of the conference, and • Participants muting the call and leaving. Few people would behave in this manner if they were in the same room, and having a face-to-face presence increases accountability and meeting productivity. Adding the video dimension to a conference call gives people the confidence that meeting participants are actually engaged and switched on to the task at hand. p. 4/12 12 2009
  5. 5. Telepresence: Reengineering Business Collaboration TANDBeRG WhiTe PAPeR Traditional video conferencing has broken down some of this behavior, but what the industry and advanced users of video conferencing have all accepted with the continued evolution of the telepresence application is that creating a life like, across-the-table, environment is even more effective than the traditional video application placed at the end of a long table. The authors of this paper are suggesting that while there is a clear benefit of traditional video conferencing over audio and web conferencing, there also exists an incremental benefit to users of telepresence above all other forms of collaboration technology. each application in the continuum depicted above has a time and a place for its use. Telepresence can enhance the experience, and in some cases has a unique and distinct usage profile. Applications For Telepresence This section examines the business processes that can leverage telepresence to increase productivity and reduce costs. As a first step, it is strongly recommended that users look upon telepresence as not just another communication technology, but as a business transformation tool. With this perspective it becomes easier to work on changing the corporate culture away from traditional methods of execution. Virtualized business models are increasingly common as internet technology becomes more pervasive and concepts like cloud computing hit the mainstream. Time is one of the main pressures facing many businesses today as we all try to squeeze maximum productivity out of each business day. General Business Manufacturing Processes Financial Applications Applications • Contract Negotiation • M&A • R&D Access • Sales Process • high Net Worth • Production Line • Supply Chain Customer Contact Access Management • Remote expert • Fault Finding • Job interviews • Virtual Branch • Supply Chain Access • Training • Video Contact • Quality Control • Project Meetings Center Educational Applications Government Applications Military Applications • Distance Learning • Remote Correctional • Command and Control • Remote Field Trips Facility Access • Remote Field-Based • Guest expert Access • emergency Response Presence • Parent–Teacher • Access to Rural • Personnel Assessment Conference Communities • Tele-medicine • Student interviews • international Contact • Field Based Family • Town hall Meetings Contact Pharmaceutical/Medical Applications Retail Applications Energy Applications • Psychiatric evaluation • Financial Service • Oil Rig Access • Remote Surgery Sales • Tele-medicine • Remote Patient • Remote expert Access • Supply Chain Assessment • in-Store Training Management • Regulatory Contact • in-Store human • Safety Training • Drug Research and Resources Development p. 5/12 12 2009
  6. 6. Telepresence: Reengineering Business Collaboration TANDBeRG WhiTe PAPeR Intercompany Telepresence here we will address some use case scenarios as they relate to intercompany video calling in general, and more specifically about the use of telepresence in B2B cases. in the next section we will depict technically how these call flows are implemented and managed. Sales Process Sales and business development are the two areas experiencing the most growth in intercompany telepresence. its top application is in negotiating important contracts, as telepresence injects more flexibility into this activity. Contract negotiation frequently requires third-party specialists such as lawyers and consultants. involving these third parties in an already complicated scenario often causes significant delays in signing. Utilizing telepresence (FiG 1 below) in this process can shorten the time frame by months and creates flexibility by not having to rely on travel. This can often save millions of dollars over the course of a year by reducing the time between meetings. Human Resources Another top usage for telepresence applications is in hiring senior staff. A face-to-face type of experience is crucial in such an important process, but audio conferencing and traditional video conferencing does not produce the quality needed for such key decisions to be made. p. 6/12 12 2009
  7. 7. Telepresence: Reengineering Business Collaboration TANDBeRG WhiTe PAPeR The interviewing process in hiring a key member of staff can take months and numerous meetings. Candidates are often working for other companies and a great deal of diary juggling is needed before a series of candidates can be flown to a particular site for interviews to commence. Utilizing telepresence (FiG 2 below) for these processes offers greater flexibility with diaries and enables more senior members of the selection committee to be involved throughout the process, even in the early stages. Recording the initial interview is also possible, enabling these to be reviewed by the selection committee. Supply Chain Management A third area intercompany telepresence can be used is in supply chain management (FiG 3 below). in the current economic climate, tight management of a company’s supply chain is key to business success. in this globalized world suppliers are often located many thousands of miles away from the home market. having the ability to frequently liaise with suppliers in a face-to-face setting is important for squeezing maximum efficiency from a supplier partnership. p. 7/12 12 2009
  8. 8. Telepresence: Reengineering Business Collaboration TANDBeRG WhiTe PAPeR Types of Intercompany Telepresence Networks intercompany video calling can be accomplished in a number of ways. Most organizations deploy high quality video collaboration applications on a private iP network with Quality of Service priority queues to give the network sensitive traffic the clearest lane across the Wide Area Network (WAN). Once you begin the dialog concerning video calling off that pristine, secure, purpose built network, the resulting behaviour from the network architects can be disconcerting. in light of this, the industry has responded with a set of industry accepted protocols to allow for safe and secure network traversal. This allows for call signalling and media to flow, in an outbound manner through the firewall and communicate with video conferencing and telepresence endpoints outside of the physical and logical boundaries of the corporate network. Of course, the next question that springs to mind when this network traversal is being discussed is the notion of retaining and end to end quality of service experience. Today, there are four main ways in which intercompany video traffic flows: • Public network off-net access (e.g. internet and iSDN) • Direct network peering between organizations. • exchange based calling • Community of interest Networks — CoiNs (Masergy Telepresence exchange Network, hP hVeN, etc…) each of these network connectivity options have their benefits and each come with a different level of complexity, cost, and management for the end user. We will explore each of them briefly below. Public Network Off-Net Based Telepresence Connecting telepresence between organizations over the internet is relatively simple, as long as the systems used have the ability to traverse a firewall. Typically, internet calls use Universal Resource indicators (URis) via Domain Name Services (DNS) as the address mechanism (for example London. This method is often time the first one attempted as it only requires the proper DNS registrations of the call control complexes and firewall traversal/session border controllers to be put in place. Using the internet as a transport mechanism for telepresence is an imprecise process mostly because bandwidth and packet prioritization are not guaranteed on the public internet networks. Being able to obtain a link of sufficiently high quality to conduct a long high Definition telepresence call can be difficult for these reasons, and organizations should bear this in mind when attempting calls on a best effort network. There have been scenarios where people have been able to conduct international multi- screen telepresence calls over the internet, though this is a rarity. This would typically require a lower bandwidth to achieve a successful call, meaning lower quality. Additionally, from a security perspective p. 8/12 12 2009
  9. 9. Telepresence: Reengineering Business Collaboration TANDBeRG WhiTe PAPeR there is no guarantee of at least a 128-bit encryption of all streams whilst using the internet as a transport. For those calls which are infrequent, and both parties are comfortable with risking the quality of the call, this can be a low cost method for doing intercompany calls. The figure below depicts a typical B2B call utilizing the public internet, coupled with session border controllers and the customer’s own call control complex. **Note, this is a high level depiction which is meant to illustrate the concept, and not be a complete diagram of all components necessary Network Peering Peering is the arrangement and routing of traffic exchanged between internet Service Providers (iSPs). Larger iSPs with their own backbone networks agree to allow traffic from other large iSPs in exchange for traffic on their backbones. This offers a dramatically more robust transport mechanism for Telepresence iP traffic. Network peering allows you to ‘semi’ manage the network link the video traffic is traversing, therefore getting some semblance of QOS. Network peering does require preplanning or, alternately, a service provider who can facilitate network linkage. There are various start-up companies that are putting their own technology into internet ‘carrier hotels’ to enable this type of network peering as a service. p. 9/12 12 2009
  10. 10. Telepresence: Reengineering Business Collaboration TANDBeRG WhiTe PAPeR Exchange Based Calling Businesses that are serious about utilizing the power of intercompany telepresence generally employ the services of one of the major carriers. The need for intercompany telepresence introduces a new set of challenges, mainly in the area of network consistency as different companies use networks with different ways of handling quality of service (QOS) and sometimes of varying quality standards. Many service providers, including BT, AT&T, Telefonica Verizon, and Orange Business Services, have developed their own interconnected business exchange services, dramatically multiplying the footprint of organizations that can call each other using high-quality telepresence. Crucially, these service providers offer a guaranteed minimum network quality and a degree of certainty that the call will be connected on time to the right sites. Additionally, because a carrier exchange network is generally private and does not route onto the public internet, security is also increased and can be managed. Another key function of a carrier exchange network is the ability to schedule and connect calls seamlessly. Carriers typically use internet based booking systems and call logging facilities that back themselves off to traditional scheduling tools such as Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes. Another benefit of utilizing a carrier is the ability of that carrier to arrange public telepresence rooms that can be added to the call. This is particularly valuable for participants who do not have access to any type of high quality telepresence. Once the call is scheduled is the user has only to attend the relevant room at the specified time and the carrier-based service provider will connect the call, all the while maintaining the integrity of the call throughout the meeting. Community of Interest Networks — CoINs CoiNs are groups of organizations that all agree to participate in a common network backbone and opt into a shared model whereby all other network participants agree to call each other. There are many examples of CoiNs with hP’s hVeN network and Masergy’s Telepresence exchange Network (TeN) being chief examples of these B2B calling networks. in this model, the user can typically only call other CoiN member organizations, but even this model is evolving to allow for hybrid B2B calling models where members are able to “hop off” the CoiN for internet based off-net calling, for example. p. 10/12 12 2009
  11. 11. Telepresence: Reengineering Business Collaboration TANDBeRG WhiTe PAPeR This model has clear performance based benefits, however as video becomes more and more ubiquitous, inclusion of many different types of endpoints on the CoiN becomes complex or prohibitive. The importance Of The Network in A Telepresence Implementation The core idea of telepresence is to create the illusion of the realistic, across the table experience,, and the underlying backplane to the whole application is the network that drives the entire experience, thus making network integrity paramount in any telepresence solution. having even a fractional percentage of dropped packets can be noticeable and may ruin the telepresence experience. Key factors with rolling out a telepresence network include: • Management of QOS to minimize packet loss, latency and jitter • Availability of the network allowing both ad hoc and scheduled access • ensuring adequate bandwidth is available between sites • having a low latency network to enable effective cross talk between participants • Secure networking and encryption between sites to promote confidentiality • Access to common directories and services, such as presence based information and dial plans. • Accessibility of other converged applications, such as web conferencing and VOiP When looking at wide area network options for a telepresence network, a connection-oriented packet- switched network (such as Multi Protocol Label Switching, MPLS) is widely regarded as the best choice. Utilizing such a network will allow the logical separation of telepresence traffic from other application traffic, minimizes jitter and operates resiliently during network outages. p. 11/12 12 2009
  12. 12. Telepresence: Reengineering Business Collaboration TANDBeRG WhiTe PAPeR Conclusion Telepresence and visual communication are now established as powerful productivity tools that enable global commerce and transformation of business practice. When implementing a telepresence solution, an organization should consider intercompany telepresence as well-- visual communication solutions for “inside the firewall. As more companies invest in standards-based telepresence solutions, high-quality intercompany virtual collaboration has become a reality. it will soon be the case that global businesses wishing to remain competitive will have to include visual communication mechanisms in their portfolio of external communication solutions. p. 12/12 12 2009