“Is this thing on?”

Unfortunately, that’s a question we hear all too often from folks engaging in online and video meetings. Although collaboration tools promise to revolutionize the way we work, there remains a gap between the technology’s promise and its actual execution.

A common complaint is that audio and video meetings aren’t easy enough. On average, nearly a third of a 30-minute meeting is eaten up just getting the technology to work. Technical glitches, bandwidth constraints and mismatched devices can lead to dropped connections, garbled audio and frozen video.

User frustration was illustrated recently in a survey about workplace collaboration experiences conducted by Dimensional Research. Of the more than 1,500 business professionals surveyed, 85 percent said they’ve had poor experiences, 74 percent said they weren’t happy about it and 66 percent said they’d be willing to switch vendors to get a better solution.

For the average business user, these tools that are supposed to improve their productivity are having the opposite effect. More than 40 percent said the tools are overly complex and meetings are too difficult to join. A quarter said they routinely spend more than half their day in such meetings.

As a measure of the complexity, consider one firm’s suggestions for steps users should take when encountering problems with a conference call. It suggests adjusting bandwidth and resolution settings of the device and software. Users are also advised to check for software updates and install any that are available. If those measures don’t work, the firm says restarting the conference might help.

Clearly, those are time-consuming steps that will frustrate nontechnical business users who just want to confer with colleagues about onboarding a new customer or launching a new marketing campaign. Such issues create frustration that cause employees to either overwhelm IT with support calls or simply stop using the system altogether.

Analysts say the continued development of Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) technology can resolve such challenges by eliminating the need to configure devices, update software or adjust settings. WebRTC is an open-source API that dramatically simplifies cross-platform communications by enabling real-time voice, video and data communications through a web browser on any device.

According to a market evaluation by Zion Market Research, the market for WebRTC solutions is expected to grow by 43 percent annually through 2025, reaching a total valuation of more than $21 billion. Gartner analysts forecast that WebRTC-enabled solutions will account for 15 percent of enterprise video and voice by the end of the year.

WebRTC is compatible with HTML, TCP/IP and HTTP protocols and uses multiple codecs for smooth transfer of voice, video and data. is supported by most browsers, including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge. Apple was a longtime holdout but announced last year that it is adding WebRTC support to the WebKit engine that powers its Safari browser.

Beyond improved employee collaboration, the contact center is also seen as a prime use case for WebRTC by allowing easy escalation from online sales channels to the contact center. Customers can use a web page link to engage customer service through voice, video and file sharing. Simplified support communications and the use of high-definition voice and video not only improve the customer experience but make contact center agents more effective as well. Because agents can take calls inside their browsers without the need for phone system integration, they can work from any location and any device. This also can reduce capital and operational costs for the organization.

With WebRTC, conferencing and collaboration no longer needs to be a complex, frustrating and time-sucking experience. By enabling browser-based audio and video, it dramatically streamlines the process. There’s no need for any additional software or plugins — you simply click on a link to join a meeting. Technology that’s easy and effective is always the right way to boost productivity.