During this episode of the AVI-SPL Collaboration Space podcast, Dimitri Blondeel of Unify Square and Karen Klosinski of AVI-SPL discuss the ways organizations can support excellent meeting experiences for the hybrid workforce through unified communications.
This 15-minute conversation covers:
- How office meeting spaces are changing
- Supporting a positive meeting experience from any location
- Making sure UCC capabilities are a part of daily routines
- The importance of experience-level agreements
Anthony Salveggi: Welcome to the collaboration space. Pull up a chair in our virtual conference room as we share ideas on how you can create an engaging and productive workplace. I’m Anthony Salveggi, Manager of Portfolio Marketing for AVI-SPL. Join me and expert guests as we share ideas about fostering collaboration in the office and online through video conferencing.
Greetings, everyone, and welcome to this episode of The Collaboration Space. It’s the middle of April, 2021, and we are talking about a topic that’s been highlighted since the pandemic forced many of us to work from home, and that topic is hybrid work. Today we’d like to focus on what makes hybrid work work and what it takes to support it. When we talk about going back to work, I think what we often mean is that we’re going back to the office, at least on an occasional basis. And this is where the concept of hybrid work comes in, where we are working from different locations at different times. As we enter this era of hybrid work, organizations and their employees need the tools and services to help them collaborate by virtually connecting remote and onsite workers.
So our discussion today will focus on this question: how do we ensure a productive meeting experiences for this hybrid workforce? To answer that question, joining us today are Dimitri Blondeel, who is VP of Cloud Managed Services for Unify Square, and Karen Klosinski, VP of Products and Solutions for AVI-SPL. Welcome to you both.
Karen Klosinski: Thank you, Anthony.
Dimitri Blondeel: Thanks for having me, Anthony.
Anthony: Thank you, Dimitri, thank you, Karen. Karen, I’d like to offer this first question to you. What does it mean to prepare our workplace rooms for this hybrid work model we’ve been hearing so much about?
Karen: I think the most important consideration is that we have to recognize that return to work isn’t return back to pre-COVID, right. And and while conference rooms and collaboration space worked fine when most people are in the office, we really need to be prepared for specifically the interoperability solutions that are going to be required for collaboration to home workers, B2B communications, which may be conference rooms and home workers combined. So I think interoperability solutions has got to be top of mind.
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Anthony: Dimitri, what’s your take on that?
Dimitri: So it’s not only going to be a new world of work, there’s also going to be new parts of the worker population that are going to access the tools and the meeting rooms. So meetings that have been traditionally done in person will now include at least one remote participant. I think education will be key, there’s going to be people using the tools, using the meeting rooms, that have never used them before. And education will also change where previously users were educated once when they joined the company, once when the new technology was introduced. There’s going to be a need for continuous education when the platforms add features, when users use different capabilities of the tools. For example, my team never used to spend any time on educating end users, and nowadays we’re spending up to 15 percent of our time explaining features of collaboration tools to end users.
Anthony: So, Dimitri, you just touched on education. What are some of the other issues that companies and their users need to be concerned with when it comes to collaborating over Teams and Zoom? And for our listeners, keep in mind that this collaboration can occur when some employees are in the office, some are working from home and others are remote, for example, at the airport, a hotel or a coffee shop. Karen, do you want to take that first?
Karen: Absolutely. I think the most important thing here is we need to be able to provide all users a consistent, monitored and supported environment, no matter where they are. Their experience should be the same, whether they’re in the office, at home, at the airport. And this challenge is greater than it used to be. Again, because the mix of users in any different given conference is going to be more distributed. Hybrid work isn’t a static thing. It’s going to be a fluid thing. And there are days certain workers will be in the office, there are days those same workers will be at home and they’re going to have the same level of expectation when it comes to support.
Dimitri: I totally agree with you, Karen, and I think the partnership between AVI-SPL and Unify Square will hit the mark there. We are both specialists in our field and we can help our customers overcome challenges.
Anthony: So after the planning is done, how do we make sure these unified communications (UC) and collaboration capabilities are part of our daily routines, Dimitri?
Dimitri: So planning is key. And during the pandemic, a lot of organizations rushed to deploy those tools to all users without really putting much thought into planning. So now people have to catch up and they have to start thinking about closing some gaps, frankly. And those gaps exist mainly in things like policies that cover security and governance, things that cover user access, and more importantly, what to do with, for example, guest users that join remote meetings, what to do with offboarding employees that left the company, what to do to secure your documents when teams no longer exist.
And a second part of this is that more and more the business takes control of IT, but IT no longer pushes tools to the business, but the user actually pulls tools from the internet and it’s up to IT to support them. So control of that situation is going to be very important. But then, on the other hand, too much control is also not a good thing. You could, essentially, cripple the cloud platforms if you impose too many rules, if you lock the tool down to hard, so control, governance, security, user access is going to be key upon the return to the office.
Anthony: Karen, what are your thoughts on that, about security and user access being so important to ensuring the people are using these tools and feel comfortable using them?
Karen: Absolutely. And, you know, security is always top of mind and as well as ease of use, adoption. And that’s where I think really having real-time insights into user experience, into utilization, is going to be critical. And that’s also more critical because of the fluidity of the environment. You know, we expect that transition is going to occur over time. All of the past data that we had on utilization almost doesn’t apply anymore. We’re going to have to act in real-time to adjust for scheduling demand, network capacity.
On top of that, we’ve got companies that have deployed multiple solutions. What they should start to be looking for is their preference over one, over the other, is something more highly used. A third aspect of that, we really haven’t seen the unified communications and collaboration providers develop at the speed that they’re developing today. Features, applications, it is really incredible how quickly things are being introduced to the market. So I think business insights are really going to tell you, hey, which of those features do users adopt? Which of those features and resources are users really using? And so that you can do the capacity management, which all then drives to a better user experience.
Anthony: So, Karen, you were you were touching on the challenges to IT just now. And so this last question goes to the idea of supporting managed services. What can companies do to ensure that all employees have a positive experience regardless of their location?
Karen: So, root cause resolution, you really need to be able to have, again, back to the business insights, to understand what’s going on to your environment, track trends, drive it down to root cause so that when you solve it, you solve it for all. You know, with the high demand of video, it won’t be enough just to solve the problem for Joe or for Mary. You’ve got to learn from what’s going on in your environment and enact that intelligence across your platform so that you continue to increase the stability and therefore get the adoption that you need.
Dimitri: I totally agree. Measuring success is going to be crucial. I think IT departments are going to have to develop a set of meaningful experience level agreements to supplement their existing service level agreements. And those experience level agreements, or XLAs, you have to measure things like end-user perspective, reliability and user perspective, quality. IT departments are going to have to take a programmatic approach, as Karen mentioned, to solving systemic issues for large groups of users and also to measure success.
The end user is more and more central to the everyday job of an IT administrator. We no longer care about machines that are on or off in a meeting room or on or off in some data center. We care about end-user success today. We need to measure it. We need to have a pragmatic approach. And many service providers such as AVI-SPL and Unify Square are experts that have been doing this for a long time and we can help customers achieve their goals.
Anthony: Fantastic. Thank you, Karen and Dimitri, and thank you for the insight you’ve shared today. If I could share my takeaway from today’s conversation, here’s what I’ve heard.
People are going to be moving in and out of the office. That means UC platforms are going to have to connect us and keep us working together. These tools will be used more than ever, meaning more activity over the network and also meaning that people expect their experience of using unified communications and collaboration systems to be high quality. As Karen said earlier, UC companies are coming up with new features faster than ever before. That solves one part of the experience: having the right tools in hand.
Another part is how reliably we can access those tools and that falls to IT and those they partner with to ensure the experience of using the UC system itself is positive while also protecting company assets. So policies around security and governance and user access are going to be important for IT to manage. They’re also going to have to take a programmatic approach to experience level agreements, which was one of the points that Dimitri made, because only by measuring success can they ensure the user experience is high quality and that people are collaborating to their best abilities.
And to our listeners, if you’d like to learn more about the value of AVI-SPL and Unify Square when it comes to supporting the user experience of collaboration tools, please visit the User Experience Services page of the AVI-SPL website or the Meeting Room Management page of the Unify Square website. Thanks for joining us and have a wonderful day.