In the not-so-distant past (that may be yesterday for some organizations), setting up video conference calls could be a fairly arduous task for users in enterprise environments.
All participants had to have the same type of system to communicate with their fellow workers. Plus, someone from the IT department typically had to show up 10 to 15 minutes beforehand to set up the conference and make sure technology novices didn’t mess it up or get frustrated.
Now, a long-standing partnership between Polycom and Microsoft is eroding that complexity for large-scale video conference users. By combining the collaboration and content-sharing capabilities of Microsoft Skype for Business with Polycom’s audio, video and content solutions, the two companies are making it easier for the average office worker to roll into a meeting room and start a video conference.
Moreover, they’re also working to simplify the user experience to provide the same look and feel for end users (no matter the platform) and to let users join meetings with a single click. Because many organizations use Skype for Business for instant messaging and presence, it’s an obvious place for users to begin and conduct their meetings. Plus, many companies already have Skype for Business available through Microsoft Office 365, making it an ideal option as an enterprise collaboration platform.
Dig In to the Details
The challenge for many organizations comes with understanding that there are multiple components that all need to mesh for enterprise video conferencing to work smoothly. These include licensing, hardware, audio, video and best practices. Taking time to understand the components and how they work together is imperative for a successful implementation.
The sure-fire way to set yourself up for failure is to install a Skype for Business server without adequate research and planning. My CDW team members and I take on this role for customers because CDW has long-standing partnerships not only with Polycom and Microsoft, but also with AV consultants and deployment specialists, too. That means we can offer you help for an entire project, or just part of it.
The first step is to identify what collaboration means within your organization. Do you need better communication across boundaries? Are you looking to cut costs by reducing multiple technologies? Once you identify your collaboration requirements, then you can focus on how to use technology to get work done.
Next, organizations need to decide whether they are going to implement a video conferencing solution on-premises or in the cloud. An on-premises solution will require hardware and architecture that can communicate across different regions and groups of workers; a cloud solution will rely on infrastructure that resides at Microsoft rather than within the organization’s own facilities.
But even with a cloud services approach, there’s still the meeting room equipment that’s needed; that’s where the Polycom piece comes in. The integration initiative with Microsoft gives users of Polycom a way to tap existing (or new) gear for a seamless video conferencing experience within Office 365.
Compare the Hard Costs
Organizations will need to take a hard look at the investment they have sunk into video conferencing systems. One of the big questions I ask IT managers is, “Where are you spending money in collaboration already, and how are those investments overlapping one another in functionality?”
Many organizations are using several video conferencing platforms. All of them do roughly the same thing. An organization must price out total cost of ownership for these technologies and then compare and contrast the options with moving to a cloud approach as part of its Office 365 installation.
Because organizations often have deployed multiple tools over many years, it’s easy for the IT and management teams to become paralyzed by the options. The trick is to look at the hard data. If you can cut your tool use and obtain cost-savings at the same time — while also simplifying user experience — you’re in the sweet spot for change.
Now, one last thing: Be sure to help your users with awareness and training as you move to a new collaboration approach. Remember, that’s one of the components that requires upfront planning too.
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