Collaboration benefits go beyond just cost reduction

The primary driver for high-definition collaboration technology is a reduction in a company’s travel costs and carbon footprint. However, building and supporting real-time collaboration across multiple regions and time zones is also emerging as a key driver.
To realize the full benefits and value of collaboration technologies, businesses still need to review and align their business objectives with their technology goals. For a collaboration solution to offer significant business benefits beyond the obvious savings, the decision must be based on an attempt to resolve a business issue or process need rather than a technologically driven initiative.
With the right solution, organizations can quickly respond to changing business needs in markets where they do not have a physical presence. While a high definition collaboration solution will never replace face-to-face meetings, the technology has already made virtual meetings acceptable in Asia, where personal interaction is highly valued.
Other benefits include extended communications with those at the edge of the collaboration infrastructure such as mobile workforce staff and key suppliers, and integrating video collaboration into business processes such as project and supply chain management, interviews, training and development to increase efficiencies.
Companies also benefit in terms of better employee satisfaction with consistent technical support across time zones and continents through a common, user-friendly interface with one-click dialing and conferencing capabilities. Further, companies are enabled to introduce communications-enabled business processes and to respond rapidly to critical business issues.
It is also worth considering the long-term benefits of implementing a fully managed, multi-tenanted cloud-based collaboration solution that is integrated into a service provider’s network. In addition to decreasing the capital investment of building the collaboration solution, it will also offer increased economies of scale and reduced operational costs, guaranteed availability and end-to-end service level agreements, rather than having to integrate piecemeal solutions from multiple IT partners and vendors.
With these solutions, it is important to keep in mind the increased need for managed interoperability across a broad range of non-telepresence endpoints such as low definition, desktop and mobile video. The bandwidth upgrade to the corporate WAN and internet access should be calculated to support these endpoints, and the business must also ensure that the technology is scalable and flexible enough to support developments in unified communications technologies.
With collaboration technologies constantly evolving, working with the right partner will be critical to the successful deployment and management of an effective collaboration solution. Ideally, your partner should be able to offer an end-to-end telepresence solution that covers room and network assessment, network design and implementation, room equipment provisioning as well as installation and network transport.
New trends that will impact businesses planning to implement a collaboration solution will continue to emerge. Consolidation trends in IT will increasingly force businesses to move towards cost effective ways of collaborating. The pressure to improve or simplify business operations is also likely to result in improving employee collaboration initiatives and extending communications tools to all levels of staff. 
Considering the geographical distribution of countries in Asia and the emphasis on personal touch rather than conducting business via phone or email, Asia is likely to benefit the most from businesses that are increasingly extending communication with partners and customers outside the corporate firewall, and the increasing adoption of IP and next-generation data offerings such as 4G and LTE.
Michael Koay is head of collaboration services at Telstra International.