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Choosing the Right Meeting-Room Technology for Remote Collaboration

October 13, 2017


Collaboration is a key part to all types of work, from working with a team at your workplace to working on a team with coworkers in another country. In recent years, enterprises have found a distinct need for collaborative spaces in order to improve communication and make collaboration more effective.

AV/IT managers are important partners required in order to accomplish the implementation of collaborative spaces, like meeting rooms. Before designing a collaboration workspace, managers need to identify what is needed in order to modernize a room for these purposes. The requirement for and use of meeting rooms, the usage of digital devices that involve remote attendees, and mobile capabilities are a growing market. According to a recent Wainhouse research report, half of respondents believe that the amount of huddle rooms required will increase within the next two years. Ninety-five percent of respondents also state that meetings are becoming more effective with additional involvement of remote attendees and devices.

Because of the rapid development of video technology, many devices found in existing meeting rooms are simple, lack integration capabilities, and often cannot interact with other devices, and this often leaves remote and mobile workers out in the cold. When designing collaboration workspaces for today, it’s important that value-added resellers (VARs) help guide their clients to understand who will be using these spaces; where they are; and what they need in terms of equipment, networking infrastructure, and collaboration simplicity. VARs should help their customers address the following considerations during the design phase:

Understand Meeting-Room Device Connections

VARs should take the time to meet with the IT department in order to understand the organization's network security protocols and various methods of network connectivity that may be needed. Devices should be flexible enough for IT to customize as needed, and they need to be secure enough to prevent security concerns.

As network security continues to be a top concern among businesses of all sizes, meeting-room technologies need to have adequate configuration capabilities that allow IT departments to customize based on their organizations’ unique security protocols. For example, while some devices offer simple USB connectivity, some organizations prefer not to use USB devices in order to prevent the removal of proprietary information by employees. When it comes to network connectivity, it may be important to select devices that offer various methods of network connectivity; having the ability to switch between a hotspot or virtual private network is a controlled way to administer which network functions are needed depending on what type of information is being shared.

Take Into Account Integration and Synchronization Needs

UCC also boosts productivity in a variety of ways. Whether the UCC solution is implemented on premises, in the cloud, or in some combination of both, SMBs can use any of a host of collaboration tools, including email, instant messaging, Web and video conferencing, and fax. Users can save time using a single, simple user interface as opposed to checking multiple interfaces in order to get messages. In addition, the built-in unified messaging capabilities of UCC allow for seamless connectivity between different modes of communication. As an example, unified messaging can send a voice message to a user’s universal inbox so that he or she can either play the message directly from the email message, play an audio file attached to the email message, or read a transcribed text of the message sent in the body of the email. In order to further improve productivity, any of these message types can be easily forwarded to other users, freeing up time for other tasks.

Integration with Existing or New Tools 

IT managers can make meeting spaces more collaborative by ensuring meeting displays, laptops, and other mobile devices are able to connect with commonly used meeting-room devices and applications. According to the recent Wainhouse research, 63 percent of IT staff concede that Web conferencing applications have the most comprehensive use in organizations, followed by room video conferencing systems at 51 percent and Skype for Business at 50 percent.

By remembering to keep integration and synchronization at the top of the list, remote and mobile workers will be able to join collaborative sessions from wherever they are at the time. IT managers should also understand digital technologies that are device-agnostic; in some cases, a device may appear to be able to interact with other technology, but may require the same brand of equipment in order to do so. Becoming “locked in” to one brand becomes expensive and leaves little in the way of flexibility. Device-agnostic technology can prevent this lock-in issue.

Know Thy Audience

When selecting devices for a meeting room or huddle space, display size and functionality are important. VARs can show IT managers flat panels, which usually offer higher resolution, but may be expensive and difficult to move around. Projection displays and interactive digital whiteboards are typically more cost-effective and allow display sizes to be changed so that all participants can see and contribute to the meeting with a more interactive way of sharing notes, brainstorming ideas, or sharing presentations. If the display size is too small, the technology may simply become a wasted investment.

Whether building new or upgrading existing collaborative meeting spaces, IT departments will need to ensure that the chosen technology is secure, flexible, and easy to use. It also needs to be able to be implemented easily using existing networking infrastructure. The increase in live and remote collaboration using video and Web conferencing capabilities shows the need to choose the appropriate technology that will serve collaboration needs now and in the future. Ensuring that technologies have the ability to interact with other hardware and software, provide an adequate screen size, and offer open configuration, IT executives can provide their organization with innovative tools that appeal to today’s connected workforce within existing network infrastructure.

Does your business find that clients are looking to add or retrofit collaboration workspaces to help include remote and mobile workers into meetings? Please comment below.