by Michael Shapiro | September 10, 2010

Microsoft is now measuring the effectiveness of its telepresence suites in product development, according to an article that appeared this week in one of M&C's sister publications, Business Travel News. The company is now comparing product development time between projects where Microsoft employees collaborate using the telepresence suites and those where they don't, said Microsoft's EMEA travel manager at a conference this week in Lisbon, Portugal. Thus far the company has established telepresence suites in Seattle, Singapore and Reading, U.K.
I hope Microsoft will be willing to share their results, because this is precisely the kind of data that will shed more light not only on what the ROI is of virtual collaboration, but the ways in which meeting virtually may matter the most. It's my impression that most corporations that have invested in elaborate videoconferencing suites are, at the very least, tracking cost savings as a result of travel avoidance. Travel management companies and booking-system vendors have helped in this respect, by integrating videoconference-booking capabilities into the same platform employees use to book their trips. But in an industry where meeting face-to-face is still so important, we need to learn more about the right ways to use virtual collaboration tools, and when doing so makes the most sense. Measuring time-to-market for tech product development is a great step; in that case, we're likely talking about employees -- engineers and developers -- who don't travel as often as executives. So we're really gaining additional insight into the effectiveness of videoconferencing as a way to meet with your colleagues more often, not simply as a substitute for traveling across the world to meet in person. It's hard to measure the qualitative effects of this kind of meeting, of course, and time-to-market provides just a little peak into the overall effectiveness of the gatherings. But it will be interesting nonetheless to see just what kind of effect telepresence has in speeding up the process.
I'd love to hear how other companies are measuring the effectiveness of their video collaboration tools. Post your comments here or feel free to e-mail me directly.