It’s impressive just how much personal devices have influenced the way we work. What were complicated programmes years ago are now simplified apps – the focus is on simplicity and ease of use for the average person. This means that traditionally complex business tools are now more accessible than ever before.
This also applies to communication tools like video conferencing. While it’s been around for a long time, recent years have seen it adapt more robust technologies and services to make a better overall product. Apps like FaceTime are now part and parcel of the average lifestyle, rather than something used once in a blue moon.
How the average person is accustomed to this technology means they expect similar functionality and ease to carry over to their work lives. As the director at Ricoh Ireland and UK, Chas Moloney puts it, this has created a new work style.
“One of the critical things is these things stand or fail not by the technology but by people’s adoption of them,” he explained. “So managing things like training and change management while making people feel comfortable is important.”
Moloney said that when adopting such technology, it’s important the people really understand their capabilities. Usually, when people start, they tap into a small percentage of what it’s capable of and if they use it more, they’ll buy into it more. That can lead to significant gains for an organisation, and not just financial.
“If they do that, then the ROI [return on investment] becomes significant,” he said. “You’ll see that financial return, the productivity improves as you’re adopting a new work style effectively.”
The way video conferencing has evolved is that it's part of all the major cloud platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google G Suite. Since they take care of the heavy lifting the user can focus on managing it said Sean Holohan, managing director for Videnda.
“Ease of use for users is really important, so they can send out invites and colleagues can join calls, no matter where they are, on mobile, on desktop or in meeting rooms,” he said.
“That means the meeting room systems need to integrate seamlessly with the cloud platform, making it easy for everyone to join and get on with the meeting with the best audio, video and content experience.”
Changing physical spaces
Speaking of meeting rooms, the way they’re now used for video conferencing has changed significantly. What used to be devices that were limited to one room can now be used anywhere.
That doesn’t mean that said conferencing devices are no longer useful. Instead, there’s greater flexibility in the decisions a company makes. For Moloney, one interesting change is scalability, and how much that has changed the way we approach video conferencing.
“If you go back years, you had dedicated rooms that would be focused on conferencing, to do a video, you’d have to book the room [and so on],” he said.
“That’s still true to a degree, but we’re seeing changes around scalability. Large organisations may have rooms for conferencing but running on the same systems are portable platforms and devices that can be moved from room to room.”
According to Holohan, the use of huddle rooms, small conference areas equipped with audio, video and display system technology, will be the next phase for video conferencing.
It’s being embraced by companies such as Poly, which has introduced devices such as Studio X, an all-in-one video bar with quality audio, advanced camera capabilities and wireless content. The services are easy to use but it really doesn’t hurt to have advanced solutions in place if video conferencing is a regular occurrence.
“Systems are so easy to use now - as long as the correct devices and software are deployed,” Holohan. “Users can click on a meeting room link from their calendar with a single click to join. It is also important to have good noise block technology for remote users, and meeting rooms, for the best meeting experience.”
Dealing with unforeseen circumstances
While Moloney recognises that even bringing up the subject can feel like scaremongering, the news surrounding the coronavirus does bring up potential use cases for video conferencing.
A recent example was Indeed’s Dublin offices, which were temporarily closed down.There were fears an employee at its Singapore office had come into contact with someone who had the virus, and that meant that more than 1,000 employees had to work from home.
Tools like video conferencing services can shine in these moments and help people think about other ways they can be applied elsewhere.
“Organisations are going to want their people to travel less,” Moloney said. “That will reduce their costs, and it might mean not going to the US or Far East. but the principle is if you can carry out successful meetings, why can’t you do the same thing across the country?
“Things like the coronavirus are going to make people think about their travel plans and policies. Video conferencing is as close as you can get to the personal one-to-one, one-to-few, or one-to-many-type environments and create a meeting dynamic without needing people to travel.”
In saying that, it’s not necessarily a straight swap from regular meetings to video conferencing. There will always be times where being on-premise will be more beneficial, and as Holohan pointed out, the quality of devices being used can have an impact on the overall experience.
“The quality of the endpoint devices being used – no matter the application - is most important,” said Holohan. “Users generally want some flexibility – they do not want to be locked into just one cloud platform.”
Overall, the use of video conferencing does change the way people think about how it fits into their schedule. From a psychological perspective, people get the benefit of seeing someone face-to-face but there’s a greater focus according to Moloney.
“Generally the meetings are more punchy,” he said. “They’re more focused and it’s about getting the balance right because sometimes you do need that little bit of interaction as well so it doesn’t take that away completely. What it does do is you can have a 15-minute update, and it can be run in an agile way that makes things productive.”