The glory days of face-to-face meetings and old-school conferences are fading fast. Today’s workforce is increasingly mobile, divorced from both office and desk, with 84% working remotely once a month and 24% telecommuting weekly. They’re increasingly global, too – a 2014 survey by auditing and consulting firm Deloitte saw 79% of respondents outsourcing or planning to outsource IT operations, and 89% expressed their belief that off-shoring will continue unless legislation is enacted to limit it.
The business world, in other words, has become decentralized. Conferencing technology – video conferencing in particular – has only partially kept pace. In many ways, it’s still stuck in the past; trapped in the days before smartphones and tablets and WiFi.
The Irrelevance of the Physical
“You don’t need to have a lot of video conferencing rooms if everybody has an iPad, iPhone, or Windows machine and you’ve given them all videoconferencing licenses – which, by the way, are dirt-cheap,” explains Wainhouse Researcher Senior Partner and Analyst Andrew Davis. “To the extent that we’re all on mobile devices, by and large the conference room is becoming more virtual than it is physical.”
Unfortunately, too many companies continue to maintain expensive, little-used physical videoconferencing rooms. Even before the rise of smartphones and tablets, these rooms were already becoming irrelevant money pits. Why?
- The equipment is overly complicated. As IT ProPortal reported earlier this year, 56% of IT managers surveyed say the videoconferencing software in place is both outdated and not properly purposed. Worse still, more than half of those surveyed believed video conferencing tools are too difficult to use, and only 9% of respondents felt their current vendor provided ease of use.
- Interoperability is a concern. The older videoconferencing hardware used by many businesses is not designed to deal with the wide diversity of devices present in modern enterprise. This creates a nightmare for IT departments, adds to the management time (and cost), and further impedes upon the user experience.
- As a result of these two factors, said hardware often doesn’t see use. A 2013 survey by Wainhouse found that although 60% of attendees join conferences through a conference room, 93% of them primarily used personal laptops in-room to share data, and 67% of them have also used mobile devices to join. Further, 68% disconnected in-room equipment and hooked up a laptop to their room display.
- This would all be bad enough even without considering the cost. Room-based videoconferencing setups are pricey. Consider, for example, Cisco’s IX500, which is listed at a price of $299,000. And don’t forget the ongoing maintenance, licensing and IT management costs.
“Due to its high cost, telepresence has become the private jet of company boardrooms across the globe,” reads a guest post on Forbes. “Fortune 1000 companies, seeking to cut down on airfare and travel costs and have their employees speak face to face over high-definition video, have invested anywhere between hundreds of thousands and hundreds of millions of dollars on these complex videoconferencing solutions and the dedicated networks required to use them.”
“Now that HD videoconferencing can be delivered to any employee on any device, be it the boardroom or desktop or tablet or smartphone, the dedicated room feels Jurassic,” he continues.
Building Better Conferences
Given that mobile telecommuting is slated to rapidly increase over the next several years, and given the drive of today’s employee to always seek the most convenient solution to a problem, businesses need to update their conference rooms. They need to adapt to the changing trends represented by mobile and the consumerization of IT. The first step in this process is to seek out the right videoconferencing solution to everything together.
Such a tool must meet the following qualifications:
- Easy to use: If an employee is to attend a meeting, the last thing they want is to sit through an obtuse sign-in process or wrestle with difficult hardware. They want to connect immediately, and get straight to work.
- Low TCO: Traditional video conference rooms are extremely expensive, filled with specialized hardware and shored up with dedicated networking technology. Modern teleconferences require none of this equipment – so your meetings platform shouldn’t require it, either.
- Multiplatform and mobile-friendly: The average person carries 2.9 devices, and they could use any one of those devices to connect to – and engage with – a video conference. Your meetings platform must be capable of supporting these devices with minimal fuss. Again, it’s a matter of convenience.
- Built-in tools for collaboration: It isn’t enough for a videoconferencing tool to allow for video chat. In order to truly drive engagement, attendees must be able to interact directly with one another, sharing and manipulating data on their screens.
- Ease of integration: Last but certainly not least, a videoconferencing platform must integrate seamlessly with other architecture within your organization, including and especially its MDM systems.
The modern workforce is now more mobile than ever before, and organizations more dispersed. Traditional, physical conference rooms no longer meet changing organizational needs. Decision-makers need to realize this, and take the necessary measures to support mobile employees.
Otherwise, they’ll be left behind by the competition.