Meetings no longer just take place in boardrooms with whiteboards and minute taking. In this era of remote work and dispersed workers, our ability to connect and meet from anywhere is more than just “nice to have.” It’s a necessity.
Today, business doesn’t happen face-to-face as often as some would like. To do business we all spend time communicating on conference calls, via endless email exchange, and on messaging applications. This can make it challenging to get to know co-workers, partners, and customers.
With so many employees working in virtual teams, many business relationships depend on collaboration technology. And that’s not a bad thing — if people are using the right technology in the right way. At work, it really comes down to something simple. We’re all just trying to get stuff done! What that “stuff” is for each of us may be very different. But at the end of the day, we’re all trying to outsmart and outperform the competition. So, if we can use digital technologies to help our teams to do their stuff faster, we win!
So, the real question now is how do you find the right technology provider? With many options, it can be tough to sift through endless feature comparisons, pricing options, and general industry FUD. So how do you decide? Start with this list to define your needs:
Are your meetings for internal teams? With clients? Partners? Vendors? All the above? Companies have a lot of meetings.
Make sure the solution you choose offers options for users to customize the experience. People are more likely to adopt a conferencing solution that lets them connect their choice of devices such as laptops, tablets, mobile phones, video devices, and video-enabled desk phones. That way your employees don’t have to adapt to the solution – it lets them work the way they work. Recording options, auto call back, and the ability to use with scheduling tools like Outlook make it simpler to use and integrate with their existing tools and work styles. The ability to initiate meetings on demand gives people the ability to connect quickly and easily, whenever inspiration strikes.
Solutions that offer the most breadth will help you avoid a “patchwork” solution where you have to engage multiple vendors to meet your feature needs. In a multi-vendor situation, implementation, troubleshooting, and support become much more challenging.
Consider your company’s policies and need around secure communication. Be sure to weigh the strength and track record of each conferencing vendor in this area as well. Along with all that’s great about our digital world, it also comes with hackers and malware.
The modern workplace is mobile. If not extinct, the days of “everyone in the same room” meetings are on the endangered species list. Enabling workers in multiple locations is essential, whether remote offices, living rooms, or coffee shops. To be most productive, employees need the ability to use the device of their choice – and move easily between devices. Limitations or complex systems mean employees are often wasting valuable meeting time troubleshooting rather than focusing on work.
Simple options for starting and joining meetings keep meetings on schedule – and teams productive. Functions like single button start and Call Me (where the meeting calls you) can keep meetings running on time.
Limiting distractions or interruptions during meetings is also important. A new innovation from Cisco offers background noise detection, which recognizes sounds including sirens, typing, or barking dogs. If it detects background sounds on a user’s line, WebEx pops a notification that encourages the user to mute.
Using video can also make meetings much more productive. Workers feel more connected, focused, and engaged, while also retaining more of the information shared by others.
Here’s the big one: The way we work has changed. Everything is agile. We do more with less. We work in small teams of six to ten people but on hundreds of parallel work tracks. We stretch our tools to the limits!
Take email as an example: In the “old” days, it was normal to expect a response to an email within 24 hours. Today, people expect a response in minutes. How many of you have gotten the “Did you get my email?” call when you didn’t respond to someone within an hour? We are basically using email as a chat tool. It was designed for the work in the 90s, not for today’s pace.
So, speed is a big deal, everybody wants to move faster! And they need the tools to do it.
Consider which vendors offer the most comprehensive solution and the easiest integration across your communications portfolio. The alternative is juggling vendors or having to patch together multiple systems. This is where niche providers pose the biggest challenges. Choosing a provider that offers only a basic, limited meeting solution can lead to operational and troubleshooting challenges, especially with integration or as your needs grow.
Broader, more integrated solutions can also increase solution adoption and decrease support cases.
With the speed of change in markets and business trends in general, it’s hard to predict future needs. How fast will you grow? Will you have more partners in different regions a year from now? Today’s needs are important, but tomorrow has to be part of the equation.
Smaller providers come and go. And when they go, where do their customers go? Choose a vendor with a solid balance sheet and a strong solution roadmap.
A proven ability to innovate is important. If your provider’s solution stagnates, how do you keep up with competitors and customer expectations?
Now that you’ve outlined your needs, be sure you properly research your top provider options.
Always verify vendor claims, both in terms of what they say about their own solution and what they say about competitors. It’s no surprise that companies can (and will) stretch the truth when it best serves them. In fact, in my research, I noticed that another conferencing vendor claims on its web site to have the “#1 web and video conferencing solution.” However, it wasn’t based on any publicly available source.
More and more organisations have the need to work independently of location, space, and time zones. Agile, digital businesses are moving faster than ever before. There is tremendous pressure to move faster. But now, you can integrate everything and connect through the cloud. And when you do, unbelievable new opportunities open!
In the end, experiences matter. Whatever any of us create, we need to work back from experiences to the technology that supports them. Talk to us at Unifi Communications to see how Cisco deliver the next-generation collaboration tools that do exactly that.
Unifi Communications have 15 years experience designing, installing and managing leading collaboration solutions. To discuss how we can help your business, please get in touch.