There are a few basic principles ensure that visual communications deployments are what they supposed to be. In the past, these video conferencing roll-outs were relatively simple. They were mostly confined to meeting rooms, with only a few desktop end points reserved for executives, and they usually connected colleagues either to one another at the office or, occasionally, to home users. Today that’s all changing and the key catalysts are Unified Communications (UC) and Activity Based Working (ABW).
There’s a rapid shift towards video everywhere. Networks are expanding to include 4G and high speed internet connections, and employees are starting to use WiFi. Meeting environments are transitioning from rigid old meeting rooms, to video available on laptops, tablets and smartphones. The people we connect with are no longer just colleagues but now clients and suppliers as well as connections to home and mobile workers. The landscape is completely different from what it was.
This ‘explosion’ in video demand and usage is forcing many businesses to think more carefully about managing the user experience, which will drive wider adoption of visual communications solutions and, in turn, ensure better return on investment. The best approach is to consider the fundamentals of successful visual communications and move forward from there.
The key is to recognise and accept that the number of video calls will increase rapidly over the next few years, as more smart devices become video-enabled, and demand to use them skyrockets. Eventually, you may have as many as three or four devices per person, plus your usual meeting rooms, all demanding access to video facilities. Scalability is therefore all about whether your infrastructure and support processes can grow as fast as the increasing demand. Will you continue to provide a good user experience regardless of how rapidly the solution scales? One solution to management scalability the “as-a-service” model turning the whole solution from capital intensive to a consumption based OpEx model.
As demand increases, the service scales accordingly, and does so faster and more smoothly than businesses can do so internally. Another possible option is outsourcing the infrastructure itself. Platforms like Microsoft Skype for Business Online can now be used with legacy video endpoints for example to provide an elegant, cost effective solutions. If the business needs to scale the number of end points, the supporting infrastructure grows accordingly with no additional capex, no need to wait for change controls, and no arduous procurement processes.
Business buyers are beginning to see that visual communications services involve more than purchasing a software licence or a piece of hardware. It’s about the whole solutions (end point, the infrastructure, management, installation, Audio/Visual accessories and support) so that the outcome is quality and uniform across the organisation.
The key challenge for business today is achieving the same standard and quality of visual communications across all of their office locations. Often, the experience is fair at its headquarters or major offices, which usually have high-touch support on hand. But it’s not the case with remote sites or home offices. As a result, the utilisation of visual communications at headquarters sites is often much higher than at remote offices, and the user experience is equally better.
Uniformity requires the fundamentals to be in place, such as having a single directory, making sure the correct architectural controls are implemented, and then delivering the service consistently wherever the user’s may be. This is often easier said than done for a business whose key focus is not communications technology. A visual communications service provider like Generation-e that’s able to deliver such services can do so at a fraction of the cost that the business can provide internally and without the risk of employing, training and retaining personnel to do so.
Adoption & Change Management
Much has been said about the importance of user adoption and change management in the success of visual communications. Again, the uniformity of the user experience across locations contributes to both ease-of-use and increased usage. It’s important to keep your most “luddite” users in mind − those who show an inherent reticence for using unfamiliar technology. A concierge service may be an option to help these users, enabling them to enter a meeting room and simply meet but training and familiarisation is really the best approach. If employed, the concierge meets and greets the participants to ensure that the call is set correctly. The concierge then leaves the meeting, but keeps monitoring the call, and can re-join if necessary.
It’s always worth considering a formal usage and adoption programme so that you people get the best out of the technology. This helps sustain users’ awareness of the benefits of the solution, as well as assisting the business to understand what their users want and need from the solutions.
Video end-points will increase rapidly over the next few years, as more smart devices become video-enabled and as workers become more distributed.
What users want today may be very different from what they expect in future. It’s important to maintain the improvement of the visual communications strategy on an ongoing basis. The balance between what’s ‘cool’ and new versus what’s practical and truly useful. Previously it would have been questioned that there was real value in connecting to socially driven networks such as Skype. Today, with the massive adoption of such platforms, it is mandatory so we can communicate with our customers.
Any visual communications strategy you develop should tightly integrate into the businesses broader unified communications strategy. Look out for ‘walled gardens’ solutions, in which you’re only able to call within their infrastructure or you may have no choice but to use that provider’s services which are often expensive or the provider may quite simply not support that call. The net result is that visual communications often remains a poorly adopted technology. Consider partnering with a managed service for provider like Generation-e that can provide advanced services and utilises an open-standard architecture which can integrate into your overall unified communications approach.