Organizations were already well on their way toward a cloud-based unified communications and collaboration (UCC) model and have been for years as the cloud services replace traditional on-premises client servers. However, COVID-19 is forcing organizations to quickly adapt to the reality that a unified communication and collaboration strategy is critical in a world where employees and customers rarely see each other in person.
“COVID has now caused a reason to accelerate,” says Julian Phillips, senior vice president of global workplace solutions at global AV integration giant AVI-SPL.
“So pretty much wherever we are on a journey with a larger customer … on a Microsoft 365 or Microsoft Teams migration, they might have pre-COVID said, ‘This is a journey we’re going to start rolling out and it might deploy eventually in 2021.’”
Collaboration solutions and meeting rooms, accelerated
With millions of workers out of the office and working from home due to social distancing guidelines, organizations need cloud-based communication and collaboration tools that allow end users to access coworkers, data and information from anywhere in the world.
“They’re now coming back and saying we need this done in 2020,” Phillips says.
Collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom, GoToMeeting and Google Meet are skyrocketing in use due to the pandemic, which in turn is raising the profile of meeting room technology and infrastructure that can support it.
That transition to cloud-based architecture and UCC is also accelerating the deployment of meeting space technology that is expected to see heavy use once offices reopen under cautious guidelines that will undoubtedly see many employees still working remote.
“We now need to accelerate the deployment of UCC-enabled meeting spaces, public spaces and the infrastructure that is required for that, as well as supporting remote users in their use of UCC — not just remotely, but with each other in a physical space as well,” Phillips says. “That’s really where the opportunity is for the traditional AV integrator.”
Your customers have already made the decision to go down the Microsoft 365 or G Suite path. Now, it’s the responsibility of technology providers like AV integrators and IT firms to help organizations accelerate that migration and solve problems around security and integrating into legacy systems, Phillips says.
“We don’t have to justify why they should or shouldn’t do it – they’ve already made that decision,” Phillips says. “They make that decision because all of their applications, data and workflow that the organization has needs to be in that call.”
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An ongoing opportunity
Although many organizations are rapidly scaling up their UCC operations to support their remote workers, end users will still need the expertise of AV integrators long after that transition to cloud-based UCC tools is complete.
“You can’t suddenly throw a switch and everything just works,” Phillips says. “You can do it quickly, but most organizations are still defined by their legacy systems.”
Those legacy systems include video, audio, business telephone systems and others. “There’s a whole range of different technology they’ve traditionally had to rely on,” Phillips says.
It’s the job of AV integrators to help customers transition to UCC, but also maintain and get value out of those legacy systems.
“Managing their existing legacy, making it work within those assets and integrating that if possible and delivering that integration into a UCC interface,” Phillips says.
Now, organizations want to harness the full power of UCC systems and are asking for integrators to replace their old legacy Cisco systems with Teams-enabled devices. That represents another opportunity to help organizations modernize their meeting rooms.
Along with managing meeting rooms and codecs comes supporting individual users, Phillips says.
“It’s not uncommon for us to shift from a paradigm where we’ve talked to an organization about supporting maybe 400 video rooms, and all we’re doing is supporting 400 video rooms,” Phillips says. “But now they have 20,000 Teams users using video and audio from their personal device.”
Now, organizations need help managing those users.
“That just opens up a whole new opportunity to support not just technology in rooms, but actually the software that people are running on their own devices as well,” Phillips says.