A video conferencing policy is more important now than it was a few years ago simply because more organizations rely on the equipment to do business. But with more people using the equipment, it's hard to make sure it's always available and that people are using it strictly for business. However, by spelling out procedures for scheduling and operating your equipment in a policy, you can prevent potential conflicts and abuses of the organization's video conferencing capabilities.
If your organization doesn't have such a policy, now's the time to develop one. TechRepublic has developed a model video conferencing policy that can be downloaded and modified to meet your organization's needs.
Included in the download is a copy of the University of Louisville's video conferencing policy. Marc Echternach, communications specialist for the university, allowed us to include it as a sample PDF for your review.
What a video conferencing policy should do
Like most technologies, video conferencing is getting easier to use as the technology matures, though the simplicity is not quite there for some organizations.
The purpose of a policy is to present a methodology for using the video conferencing facility and to prevent conflicts in the use of the equipment. Having a trained technician to set up the video conference is only one of a number of issues your video conferencing policy should cover.The essential elements of such a policy include:
- Scheduling and priorities
- IT staff involvement
- Payment procedures
- Acceptable use
The importance of having such a policy became clear to Echternach even before the university joined with telecom giant BellSouth and the state of Kentucky in 1991 to test various video conferencing systems.
The university was using a complex satellite communications system before video conferencing became available, he said. Difficulties developed while preparing the system for an international conference once, he recalled, and before he and other techs discovered that incompatible systems were at fault, there were some hurt feelings expressed from one area of the globe.
The satellite communications policy was developed to avoid future problems. When video conferencing came to the university, Echternach was told to develop a similar policy for it. He developed the policy in 1993-94, and it's worked ever since.
Scheduling and priorities
The area that has the greatest potential for problems is the scheduling of the use of the video conferencing equipment and how requests will be prioritized.
In most locations, there are multiple places where meetings can be held, but only one or two places with video conferencing capabilities.
"Scheduling is done through the standard conference room scheduling tool on the intranet," said Justine Nguyen, manager of support for CNET Networks, which includes TechRepublic. "If someone needs the video conferencing unit and the conference room is booked, they negotiate among themselves to work it out."
While this method may work for many medium-size organizations, priorities might need to be clearly defined in others. The University of Louisville policy spells priorities out in detail.
"We reserve the right to bump people," Echternach said. "But we've never had to do it."
IT staff involvement
As Echternach learned the hard way all those years ago, it's important to have IT staff at all locations of the video conference make sure everything is functioning properly.
The university hosts a number of international meetings, quite a few classes, and some engineering meetings via its video conferencing facilities each year, he said. A technician comes in, turns the equipment on, establishes the proper connections, sets up digital telephones, and then leaves.
Payment procedures and acceptable uses
Your video conferencing policy also needs to address how your organization accounts for internal expenses. There are connection costs typically associated with the use of video conferencing equipment, unless it is done strictly over internal TCP/IP connections.
Requiring the costs of use to be accounted for may restrict the use of the equipment to those with a business need, but spelling out who can use it and for what purpose will remove any remaining ambiguity.
Do you have a video conferencing policy?
If you don't, maybe you should consider one for your organization. Download our sample policy if you need a place to start. If you have a policy, compare it with ours and let your peers know what you think in the discussion below.