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Streaming Solutions Must Evolve Published:2017-10-18

It’s time to get Gilligan off the island.

For years, streaming video has played the role of castaway in the evolving world of enterprise communications. Simply put, streaming capabilities at many organizations have existed on their own technical island, deployed as stand-alone solutions put on display only on the rare occasions when top executives wanted to employ a webcast to make a splashy announcement to employees.

The nature of these deployments unfortunately relegated streaming to the sidelines at organizations without the will or the skill to employ webcasting as a central tool in disseminating key information to employees, customers and stakeholders.

But the years of streaming’s isolation in the enterprise may be coming to an end. Corporate America’s growing interest in the field of “unified communications” sets the stage for the technical equivalent of a search and rescue mission capable of bringing online video into the fold and transforming it into a key piece of any worthwhile enterprise communications strategy. 

The term “unified communications” (or UC) refers to the emerging set of solutions that aspire to bring instant messaging, voice and video calling, data sharing and a host of other business communications technologies together and make them available to workers in a single user interface. Still at an early adoption stage of development, the vision of unified communications represents a type of “north star” guiding the evolution—and integration—of a range of communications technology solutions.

For many executives, the integration of video ranks as a top priority for UC development. The idea of initiating one-to-many video events from a unified communications platform is appealing to many.

More than three-fourths of respondents (76%) in a survey of 1,201 executives conducted by Wainhouse Research in the fourth quarter of 2014 say that they are either “very interested” or “somewhat interested” in using UC platforms to create one-to-many, live events incorporating video.

The demand for this type of video integration into unified communications only grows as employees become more exposed to webcasting capabilities. At companies that use online video in 50 or more live events annually, 95% of respondents say they are either “very interested” or “somewhat interested” in using UC platforms to create one-to-many, live events incorporating video.

But this type of integration can only happen if traditional streaming platforms are rescued from their customary isolation as islands of technology. Rather than serving exclusively as platforms for powering webcasts, streaming solutions must evolve to work as engines driving video through a range of applications.

To do this, streaming platforms must be designed to work in concert with other communications platforms already deployed in the enterprise. Today, this is a work in progress.

Many platforms have already taken the first step in this process by developing ways to capture and re-distribute content generated from traditional video conferencing systems. Some platforms have taken the next step, offering broader integration of their streaming capabilities with established web conferencing services, such as WebEx and Citrix GoToMeeting.

And today, an increasing number of platforms are working to enhance the way they integrate with applications closely associated with the unified communications universe, such as Microsoft’s SharePoint and Skype for Business solutions. Microsoft itself has announced plans to offer one-to-many webcasting capabilities in an upcoming version of the Skype for Business solution, as well.

Put it all together, and the resulting mosaic shows a world in which streaming platforms do more than just provide a workflow for capturing and distributing webcasts. Rather, these solutions emerge as a tool for collecting content from sources commonly used by business communicators and converting it into offerings that are more broadly accessible on a range of devices.

No longer islands of technology unto themselves, streaming platforms are evolving into solutions that will be a key part of the future fabric of unified communications. As the capabilities of web conferencing, video conferencing and instant messaging continue to converge into a single platform, the unifying role of video-enabling technologies will only grow.

But like Gilligan and his fellow castaways, patience will be necessary. This is no “three-hour tour.”  The evolution of these unified communications trends will take years—not months—to unfold. But the trends are unmistakable. Streaming video will get off the webcasting island over time and play an increasingly central role in enabling innovation in business communications.

Steve Vonder Haar is a senior analyst with Wainhouse Research and can be reached at svonder@wainhouse.com.