Meetings aren’t what they used to be. Gatherings that previously happened around conference tables have transitioned into something more complex. Attendees now are as likely to be in an office across the continent as they are sitting across the room. Travelers participate via video chat on smartphones, while corporate teams attend via room-based systems that include digital whiteboards and the ability to share and edit content and files.

At the same time, the boundaries of traditional meetings have widened. From scheduling and setup to post-event interaction, meetings are no longer discrete events as much as they are waypoints in persistent conversations. Text, voice, email, video and shared application environments — both fixed and mobile — drive continuous engagement and interaction.

This approach to collaboration is based on a bold vision, and getting there takes some work. A 2015 report by conferencing analytics firm Vyopta said that the biggest challenge organizations face with video conferencing is getting workers to actually use it. That’s frustrating, because conferencing and collaboration solutions are proven to reduce costs and improve productivity as well as to streamline interaction and decision-making.

Overcoming Collaboration Challenges

At CDW, we see organizations struggle frequently with a hodgepodge of collaboration solutions that have been implemented, but not necessarily adopted, over time. Further, they must deal with users’ growing expectations for seamless mobility. Conferencing solutions that may have been “good enough” four or five years ago now face complaints from users that they lack polish, don’t offer native clients for Android and iPhone devices, or don’t allow attendees to transition from a mobile device to a room-based system during a call.

We also see, from a broad view, a common scenario where IT teams are struggling to provide solutions with the necessary business value and to deliver them at the speed necessary for success. Typically, organizations lack full understanding of the goals for the various lines of business (LoB) and the workflows that affect their outcomes.

To address these concerns, organizations should engage in spirited fact-finding exercises that focus on three key areas: defining desired business outcomes and relevant use cases, assessing the current collaboration/unified communications capabilities and surveying the user base. The driving force of the overall collaboration solution should be its ability to satisfy or enable the use cases that have the most impact on the success of the business.

LoB leaders should be engaged to help IT staff document and understand the use cases that maximize the ability of the workforce to collaborate and get work done. IT teams should seek to have an assessment of their existing collaboration systems completed so that proper consideration of existing infrastructure and licensing can be made when formulating a strategy for the future.

An all-too-often overlooked opportunity is to poll the workforce to gauge satisfaction with the current collaboration experience, specifically the meeting experience, and how it can be improved. IT leaders should work to measure the quality and impact of conferencing solutions and activities in the workplace. The human element is just as important as the technology when it comes to driving end-user adoption.

3 Factors of Effective Collaboration

As IT teams move forward, they must stay focused on the continuity of collaboration, to ensure that users have an effective, productive and intuitive “perpetual” meeting experience, regardless of their location or client hardware. This effort should focus on three essential factors:

  1. Collaboration platform: A cohesive platform integrates and supports all methods of meeting participation, such as call control, video conferencing and content sharing. The platform must support the devices, both mobile and fixed, that an organization uses, and IT leaders should look closely at cloud solutions that can ease the burden on IT staff and improve flexibility.
  2. Physical environment: Organizations should provide collaboration-friendly spaces for video interaction, with good acoustics, favorable lighting and minimal background noise. To deliver this, IT staff must assess how they can achieve better results from conference rooms where collaboration gear is deployed. Digital whiteboard solutions such as Microsoft Surface Hub or Cisco Systems’ Spark Board can further enhance interaction.
  3. Mobility dynamics: IT departments should prioritize the collaboration experience of smartphone users to ensure that this growing cohort remains engaged and productive. Enabling seamless transitions among channels (smartphones, tablets, PC clients and dedicated systems) ensures continuity.

Certainly, other factors should be considered to establish effective collaboration, most notably those based on user behavior, but the factors listed here are fundamental in the current “work anywhere” era.

CDW Enterprise Collaboration Consultants help organizations take on these challenges. These experts run collaboration workshops that help customers assess challenges, identify goals and formulate actions as part of a broad collaboration strategy. Leveraging their experience can make all the difference in a collaboration rollout or upgrade.

To learn more about how CDW’s solutions and services can help your organization improve collaboration, visit CDW.com/collaboration

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