The unified communications industry – including videoconferencing software providers, hardware manufacturers and service providers like AV integrators – is doubling down on the hybrid work trend, and that is evident by how recent industry virtual conferences are full of sessions on hybrid work.
Take the recent Enterprise Connect virtual event earlier this month, for example. The vast majority of sessions touched on the role of unified communications in the hybrid work model and how the videoconferencing industry needs to adjust to meet the changing needs of its customers.
One session, “The Future of Videoconferencing: Business Value, Not Just Features,” touched on how videoconferencing software providers have been releasing features at a rapid pace since the onset of pandemic-induced remote work and what new features and advancements will actually provide value to your customers and help them adjust to a new way of working.
Host Ira Weinstein, founder and managing partner of Recon Research, said many in the industry agree that “we’re starting to enter feature overload.”
“We do this for a living,” he said. “We are videoconferencing and AV folks, and it’s even becoming hard for us to figure out which solution brings which capability. And it’s starting to make us wonder, when you think about features, are they really the path to value?”
Health and safety must be taken seriously
According to expert panelists, customers want their meeting spaces to be safe places that address their concerns around health and safety protocols in the wake of the pandemic. To address those concerns, new videoconferencing features including hand-free controls, meeting room occupancy sensors and virtual receptionist features can address some of those concerns.
Beau Wilder, vice president and general manager, video collaboration business unit at Poly, said occupancy sensors can help enforce room capacity limits or trigger a cleaning of the room.
“That’s all real value add,” said Wilder.
Brad Sousa, the chief technology office for integration firm AVI Systems, said the health and safety factor cannot be overlooked.
“The emphasis on safety is actually very real,” Sousa said, adding that solutions providers have to demonstrate that they are taking those concerns seriously. One way to do that is through analytics, he said.
“We can make all the policies that we want and try and drive people back to the workplace, but they’re not coming back unless they feel safe there,” Sousa said.
Good AV quality is now baseline
With the world now fully aware of the benefits of videoconferencing, most meeting rooms should be outfitted with video as these tools are moving beyond boardrooms that are used for just a few hours each week.
“It’s going to be basically every meeting room for pretty much everything,” said Simon Dudley, director of product strategy for Logitech.
Videoconferencing has evolved from a nice-to-have piece of technology to a mission-critical piece of technology, according to Dudley.
“For 30 years, videoconferencing was not mission-critical. … If it stopped working, no one was going to stop being able to do business. Moving forward, that will be the case.”
According to Gary Sorrentino, the global deputy CIO for Zoom, a good AV experience in a meeting room is now the baseline.
“A good AV experience is table stakes,” he said. “Now, it’s everything else.”
That’s especially true if organizations want to bring employees back to the office. If the quality, simplicity and ease-of-use doesn’t match their experience home, customers will have a hard time achieving their goals, Sorrentino says.
Now that customers are fully aware of the bells and whistles of videoconferencing tools, their expectations are sky high once they come back to their robust videoconferencing systems in the office. Those expectations, according to Sousa of AVI Systems, are based on their experience from home.
“They’re expecting those same experiences – if not better – at the workplace,” he said.