Enabling High-definition Video Collaboration in Huddle Spaces

Todd Abbott, CEO and President, Tely
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Todd Abbott, CEO and President, Tely

In the last couple of years, the Unified Communication and Collaboration landscape has grown significantly. Prior to that,what existed were a series of point applications with very little integration between them. These point applications were not able to communicate or collaborate between them, requiring users to end a messaging app and move to screen sharing or voice collaboration. With UC&C, the industry has begun to integrate these point applications allowing users to seamlessly move from email to chats to screen share to voice to video collaboration. As a result, employees now have the ability to do much more enriched and impromptu collaboration. And with this, the demand for UC&C has grown exponentially over the last few years.

“The Unified Communication and Collaboration industry is finally addressing the cost and usability of video conference & collaboration to bridge the gap between the desktop and large conference room deployments.”

One of the biggest trends we’re seeing is the growing demand for video communication. This stems from the fact that 50 percent of communications is visual. Companies have an increasing disparate work force of remote offices and a population of workers who are telecommuters. Companies are realizing they need to bridge the distance between the disparate physical world by enabling their employees to stay connected and collaborate via the virtual world.

Having managed large sales team all over the world, I have found that I am incredibly more effective via video vs. phone. When I’m on a teleconference or web conferences with my team, customers or partners, I am at a great disadvantage, because I can only hear them during an interaction. Hearing and seeing during the interaction allows me to read the body language cues,just as if we were in a physical face-to-face meeting. It amazes me why more sales and support organizations are not pushing for this enhanced level of communication with their customers.

Another trend is companies are starting to address the need for group collaboration in the many small conference and huddle rooms that have no technology deployed. Until recently, unified collaboration deployments for personal devices had enjoyed center stage, which is great for one-to-one communication. But there is a gap when it comes to group collaboration. Only 5 percent of conference rooms are equipped with video, usually the large rooms for executive meetings. Yet most of the collaboration happens in small groups of 2-3 participants across the employee base.

More and more, we are seeing a lot of leading companies that are creating “huddle rooms” or “huddle spaces” so people can collaborate on an impromptu basis. IT has been reluctant to deploy technology into these spaces as the cost has been too high interms of capital and support costs. Even more importantly, the user experiences have been poor, resulting in very low utilization rates of most video conferencing systems. We are now seeing leading companies bringing technology into these spaces to enable more effective collaboration.

Ideally these rooms should have two screens - one for sharing content, and the other to maintain the visual image of the remote participants. Single screen deployments that relegate the video image to a small window while screen sharing defeats the purpose of video collaboration. Participants need the ability to continue to monitor the physical cues during the meeting, just as they would in a physical meeting.

Challenges Facing Companies in the UC&C Space and the Impact of Cloud Solutions on the Landscape

I think most would agree that the arrival of video conferencing in corporate settings has been more of a pain than a boon for CIOs. I like to call it the “career limiting application,” because as to-date, the UC&C industry has done a very poor job in making this technology easy to use and easy to deploy. CIO’s don’t get a congratulatory or thank you call when a video conference goes well, but they certainly get the call when the technology does not work well.

The number one challenge facing UC&C companies today is getting users – in particular millennials - as comfortable using video conferencing in a meeting room as they are on their own personal devices. Today’s workforce is very comfortable using video on their laptop or mobile devices. Yet, if you bring them into a room for a video conference, they get very nervous. Whether it is the latest $20,000 technology on the conference wall room or yesterday’s archaic equipment, both prove too intimidating or difficult to use. Most everyone has had a bad experience, which results in anxiety and worse case, employees staying at their desk for a group collaboration and losing the benefit of group collaboration for those in the same office.

The bottom line is the legacy video conferencing technology has created a bad perception of room based video conferencing. The industry needs to make video collaboration in the room as intuitive and as easy as it is from a personal device. We need to deliver technology that is so simple, that people can simply share content, invite remote coworkers and collaborate on the fly without the support of a large IT support staff.

Up until recently, cloud based video conferencing adoption has been lagging behind the UC&C market adoption, but that is changing rapidly. A number of companies are now disrupting the legacy video conferencing market. They are delivering much more cost effective video conferencing and collaboration solutions as well as a much improved user experience. Just as the new UCaaS entrants have disrupted the legacy PBX companies, the same is now happening in the VC market.

With Videoconferencing as a Service (VCaas) solutions companies are now moving away from the on-premise based legacy solutions. Initially the VCaaS solutions enabled interoperability between legacy premise based VC solutions, but they quickly enabled connectivity from personal devices into the legacy video conference enabled rooms. These VCaaS providers are now enabling the complete functionality of the legacy VC technology but at a much reduced price and with an easy to use interface for the broader workforce.

The Future and Adoption of Video in Meeting Spaces

We see many of the UCaaS providers beginning to develop their ‘room based’ solution. These vendor solutions have delivered great functionality to desktop and mobile devices, but have been lacking at bringing this functionality into the conference room where group collaboration is required. Companies need to leverage the benefit of the physical world collaboration into the virtual world; desktop collaboration on its own loses this capability. By enabling virtual meeting rooms and small group collaboration, companies foster better, faster and more effective decision-making.

Like a lot of industries, when legacy companies are slow to address the cost of usability of the technology they provide, that’s when disruptive companies come in and address those scalability and usability challenges. I believe that if the industry makes room based collaboration technology easy to use and easy to deploy at an affordable price, we will see the 5 percent video penetration rate to move to 20+ perecnt. The good news for CIOs is that the industry is finally ready to enable broader deployment of video collaboration into the huddle space, ushering in a new era of real-time collaboration for their employees, be it across the office or around the globe.

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