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Telepresence For Everyone

August 22, 2011 | William Zimmerman
by Bernardo de Albergaria, via Eric Savitz, Forbes.com's CIO Central Blog

Bernardo-de-Albergaria.jpgYou might be reading this from the office, sitting on the living room couch, or sitting in a Starbucks. That probably wasn't the case 10 years ago, but almost certainly in the next 10 years, it will be the norm. The dispersed, mobile workforce will be a reality - a necessity, even - for almost every business in the not too distant future. According to IDC, 75 percent of the U.S. workforce will be mobile by 2013.

Some companies are already enthusiastically embracing virtual work styles. Others have shied away out of fear of losing the all-important Human Factor. It's totally understandable. Let's face it, that human connection is still a large part of how business gets done, the little spark of magic that makes two individuals a collaborative powerhouse or that tips a new business prospect over the edge. Lose that and we lose what makes many businesses great.

So the really big question is: how can you be an effective company when people rarely meet in person?  How can a company be truly dispersed without losing the H Factor and compromising the key elements of a successful business, such as innovation, morale, productivity, flexibility?

Video conferencing has long been touted as the solution to this problem, but so far has failed to deliver because the technology just wasn't right: desktop video has not been reliable enough for widespread use and telepresence systems are extremely expensive, often representing a six-figure investment for just one conference room, and therefore usually reserved for the C-suite.

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