I recently read this excellent post over on The Webinar Blog, considering some of the difficulties involved with the use of Voice over IP (VoIP). I would encourage you to read Ken’s post, and I agree with most of what he says in as much as they’re all real issues, but I can’t help feeling that the root of the problem isn’t being addressed.
None of the issues raised are really about VoIP itself, which is a relatively mature and very usable technology. Internet speeds are continually increasing, and the quality achievable with VoIP is at least as good as a regular telephone.
As is so often the case with technology solutions, the real issue is with the implementation. Too often, the implementation is considered a success once the software has been rolled out across the organisation. In fact this is when the real work should begin.
Employees must be provided with the right equipment; if you want to use VoIP, make sure they have good quality headsets. Ensure that every user knows how to set up and use that equipment. Despite what vendors tell you, none of the tools are so intuitive that people can be expected to use them without some support and training. Invest the time at this point to check that everything technical works, and I do mean everything. Set up a pre-recorded webinar and get every user to log in and make sure they can navigate through it and that their audio and video works. This is a much simpler thing to deal with if you plan for it and ramp up your helpdesk support for the testing period. It’s certainly easier than trying to deal with the issue on an ad-hoc basis once someone is supposed to be taking part in a live session.
Even with this much better level of implementation, it still pays to have a fallback for every session that is being run. If you’re using VoIP, always make sure there is an alternative conference call number available. When a problem does occur, you don’t want to waste valuable time trying to fix it if you can provide everyone with an alternative.
The tools are there to make communication easier, and they do work. Let’s make sure that we invest the time in making sure our people really have what they need to use the tools effectively.