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Conference on Teleconferencing Examines the Industry's Status.

Teleconferencing is on the move, according to speakers at Teleconferencing '85, the 9th annual Conference on Teleconferencing and Interactive Media.

In user organizations, it's moving from the cost-avoidance to the revenue-generating side of the accounting ledger; and within the industry itself, it's progressing from the technology to the applications stage.

To be truly accepted in the office, though, where experts see much of the industry's growth, teleconferencing media must be better integrated with other office-automation and management-information tools. And to continue its progress, teleconferencing must heed some old lessons, remarked one keynoter.

These are some of the highlights of Teleconferencing '85, recently held in Madison, Wisconsin. The conference was sponsored by the Center for Interactive Programs at the University of Wisconsin--Extension, and attracted 500 attendees, 125 speakers and 30 exhibitors.

Conference speakers pinpointed several significant developments during the past year in the teleconferencing industry, including a decrease in transmission and equipment costs, with an increase in product features; improving trade links between the US and Japan; more personal computer-based systems and integrated workstations entering the market; a growing fiber-optics capacity that will spur teleconferencing use and help cut transmission rates; and the advent of more corporate networks for teleconferencing and other voice and data uses.

Teleconferencing Makes Money

"We have to see that teleconferencing does not save anything," Elliot Gold of TeleSpan told a general-session audience. "It makes money; users profit from teleconferencing."

AT&T Communications' Peter deTagyos said some of the ways users are making money with teleconferencing is through its use is sales and marketing applications. SmithKline Beckman, for example, uses teleconferencing to give it a competitive edge in marketing drugs to farmers.

Merrill Lynch and Janssen Pharmaceuticals use video and audio teleconferencing respectively to introduce new investment options and to market drugs to physicians. Said William Garrett, vice president of marketing, central US, for AT&T Communications: "In these cases, teleconferencing reduces time and money expenditures and increases sales."

"No one buys something to save money," concluded speaker William Drykos, director of marketing for CEAC Incorporated. "People are stimulated to buy teleconferencing by [the prospect of] making money."

Many conference speakers agreed that productivity, marketing and product-distribution edges can be gained by the wise use of teleconferencing. By not categorizing teleconferencing as a secondary replacement to face-to-face meetings, managers are evolving and expanding its use as a profit-making tool.

Growth Mirrors Computer Industry

Users and vendors looking into the near future see teleconferencing as an industry that's growing up; many speakers drew comparisons to the computer industry of 20 years ago.

Lorne Parker, director of the Center for Interactive Programs, said teleconferencing is still a young industry that will experience substantial growth after 1988.

Drawing upon market research gathered during a two-year study, Parker told a conference audience that in 1984 74 percent of teleconferencing vendors had sales of less than $500,000. The majority of companies, though, report annual sales increases of 10 percent to 20 percent and are optimistic about future market growth.

"This is very similar to the computer industry 20 years ago or the auto industry in the 1900s," said Parker. He added that the teleconferencing field has a large number of small, highly technical companies, many of which lack the marketing resources to drive the industry.

Richard Smith, president of Isacomm, which operates a shared network of videoconferencing rooms, said that videoconferencing in particular has similarities to the computer industry.

"Currently, there is no general perceived need for videoconferencing, like the situation in 1974 for personal computers," Smith told conference attendees. "This will change. The same things will happen with videoconferencing as did with PCs. . . . The technology is so sound, it works so well, that it is just a matter of people understanding what it will do."

Smith added that it is still a question of when--not if--videoconderencing will blossom.

Richard, Harkness of Compression Labs predicted a moderate growth for videoconferencing rooms in the next two years. He said the major obstacle to faster growth is an unfamiliarity at the top-management level with what videoconferencing can do beyond reducing travel.

Many conference speakers agreed that the emergence of switched 56-kb/s networks and desktop video and graphic products makes the business office an ideal market for teleconferencing. They warned, however, that the industry should be integrating its products with mainstream office-automation tools.

"We have bypassed other office and management-information systems," said Elliot Gold of TeleSpan. "We need links with other office systems."

Mary Boone, a partner with N. Dean Meyer and Associates, pointed to the lack of teleconferencing vendors at office-automation trade shows as evidence of the vendors' need to diversify.

Boone, along with Geoffrey Dunbar, president of Interand, suggested several teleconferencing products that would help bridge the gap from conference room to office desktop. Noting that people need to share documents during conferences, Boone saw the need for "shared-screen teleconferencing," where such office-automation tools as computer-generated spreadsheets can be shared among distant sites.

Dunbar termed his suggestion a "universal media interface," one enabling meeting participants at distant sites to interactively and comfortablly use any of the materials they would normally bring to meetings or work on from their desks.

Said Dunbar: "The industry has to focus less on selling boxes than on transferring different media in useful ways. Look at what people bring to meetings. They have hand-drawn copies, blueprints, x-rays, machine parts--and they need to work comfortably with all of them. The teleconferencing industry is just beginning to address these issues."

According to several conference speakers, teleconferencing is now turning the conrner from a technology-based to an applications-driven industry. Wayne Mullins of IBM's Communication Products Division, for example, explained how IBM organizers an annual conference for users of its 100-site freeze-frame video system. Users receive technical updates and various awards.

To successfully complete a shift toward applications, though, teleconferencing vendors must not repeat mistakes made by other growing industries, urged speakers.

"Many of our problems are indigenous to all embryonic industries," said Interand's Dunbar. "We're coming into a stage where the technology is beginning to no longer chase applications, where the user perspective will emerge as much more important in the next decade."

Keynote speaker John Titsworth, president of Titsworth Associates and a former vice president for Xerox, Control, Data and Lear corporations, stressed that teleconferencing should heed the lessons learned by other high-tech industries.

It Takes More Than Good Product

"It takes more than a good product to make a business," said Titsworth. "Don't become so enamored with the engineering features that you miss the right application for your product."

Titsworth told the teleconferencing users and vendors that their industry is a relatively new one that's trying to change the ways people do their jobs. He said, that in a market that took 22 years for consumers to accept instant coffee and 24 years for radio, teleconferencing people should not be discouraged by seemingly slow progress.

One of his strongest messages to the conference participants was to move cautiously and expect problems. "Be sure you plan for adversity," warned Titsworth. "There are delays in product acceptance, design problems and bad economies; just be quick to react."

In 1979, Titsworth began a job that illustrated many of the dos and don'ts of introducing new products to the marketplace. He was hired by Xerox to put it back in the office computer market, and soon became involved in the company's efforts to push office-automation systems.

"At Xerox, we knew what it took to automate the office, and we knew how to launch new products," said Titsworth. What Xerox did not understand, he added, was that the office was not ready to be automated.

With the popular press applauding office automation and market analysts projecting a $100-billion-per-year market, many potential users jumped on the office-automation bandwagon. However, most of them--and the executives who were to pay for the system--did not truly understand it.

"We launched [our system] worldwide, and almost no one bought it," said Titsworth. "It sold for $100,000 on up, and we were selling to people who typically bought $1,000 typewriters."

What Xerox learned in relevant to today's teleconferencing industry, Titsworth pointed out. "Such drastic changes in the order of things are not easily understood or wanted," he said of the office-automation experiment. "They are quietly and effectively resisted; and that's true today. It takes a long time to change a culture, whether in a country, a company or an office." Moreover, "don't assume that because you have the right product to solve a problem that the problem wants to be solved," he added.

Titsworth offered several bits of advice for teleconferencing users and vendors--for vendors, be patient, because the window of opportunity is open longer than you think; for users, make a commitment to teleconferencing and start on a small scale to change a culture.

Panel Underscores Applications

The need to be application-oriented was underscored by a panel of teleconferencing users, who discussed their experiences with system planning. They emphasized that teleconferencing system managers have to look beyond technology and match the system to a particular corporate climate.

Panel member Robert Raszkowski of the University of South Dakota School of Medicine said his work with a 68-site audio-teleconferecing system has convinced him that change is a process, not an event. He said implementing a system involves a series of steps. The last several steps, those leading users to the most-effective use of a system, may take years.

At Sears Communications Company, related Communications Specialist Jan Sellards, arriving at a full-motion video room design that matched her company, related Communications Specialist Jan Sellards, arriving at a full-motion video room design that matched her company's corporate culture was a critical part of implementing a system.

A 1981 pilot program of two full-motion rooms at Allstate Insurance, a Sears subsidiary, put the company on the right track. It is now building the first two redesgined rooms based on reactions to the pilot. Sellards said that the completed Sears/Allstate network should include 26 videoconferencing rooms.

And at J.C. Penney, said Manager of Company Communications Russell Longyear, fitting teleconferencing to corporate culture is so important that the use of outside consultants should be limited. Penney operates a network of videoconferencing rooms.

"Over the past five years, we have used consultants and supplier representatives to build our network and our videoconferencing application," said Longyear. "But outsiders cannot fully understand our company's culture, and therefore, all the business needs of the company. So we've worked hard to be the communications professionals ourselves."
COPYRIGHT 1985 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Rex, S.
Publication:Communications News
Date:Aug 1, 1985
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