Unified Communications (UC) has been around for the last 15 to 20 years, maybe longer.
When I first heard about UC, it was about how IT and Telecom would come together. Fast forward to today and IT & Telecom have come together – in more flavours than most Baskin & Robbins stores carry. There is no single, clear path that every organization can follow to get to a UC platform. In fact, in most organizations there are different paths. It depends on where you are starting from and where you want to go. There will be an upcoming blog article discussing the different paths an organization can follow to implement UC.
More often than not, an organization starts with a patchwork of technologies. To capture the numerous benefits (ROI) from UC, that patchwork has to be transformed into a tapestry.
The benefits of UC are significant and are realized when you focus on solving business problems instead of applying technology.
But you still need the technology. And it is not apparent how rooms systems and conference room design are an integral part of UC and the broader picture UC&C, where the second “C” stands for Collaboration.
The systems that are found in boardrooms, meeting rooms, training rooms and other types of corporate meeting spaces were traditionally the realm of the Audio Visual (AV) world and managed by corporate Real Estate Operations. Those rooms have become connected beyond the Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) line, and the responsibility for the technology in those rooms has been/is migrating to IT.
Today those rooms need to be connected for 4 types of conferencing:
- Audio conferencing
- Video conferencing
- Web conferencing
- Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) / Smart Board conferencing
Deciding which of these conferencing technologies should be available in a meeting room will determine the level of collaboration that the meeting room is capable of enabling. I will be doing a blog post shortly on conferencing technologies enabling collaboration.
A best practice for implementing UC&C is to identify your user base and group them into User Classes. You should have between 3 and 12 User Classes. A lower number is better, even for very large organizations. Having the defined User Classes lets you move to the next step – mapping the technology each user class requires to do their job – PC (desktop / laptop), telephone (fixed / mobile / soft), tablets and other (headsets, etc).
So, how does UC&C tie into audio visual communication room systems?
The same best practices to implement UC&C hold true for room systems. Meeting rooms and spaces require a clear definition of what collaborative technology is required in the room to support the four different conferencing technologies listed above. But they need to support those technologies in relation to the UC platform deployed. For example, this means that the video in the room system needs to be compatible/integrated with the video used in the UC platform.
Having the ability to connect remote participants into the room technology conferencing modalities to support the level of collaboration required is critical in a UC&C environment. Being able to easily connect workers seamlessly into the room/meeting spaces is paramount to capturing the benefits and ROI that UC&C can bring.
To facilitate the collaboration and innovation in your organization you need to:
- Allow workers to easily connect with their UC technology platform, into the meeting rooms or spaces – UC to C, with all the different UC media types that are used by the workers; voice, video, desktop sharing, IM.
- Make the remote experience as good as being there
The penalty for poor implementation is not taking full advantage of collaborative technology ROI.
People will continue to travel, resulting in lost savings and productivity reduction. Also, real estate reduction benefits will not be realized because the workers will still come into the office. And those lost benefits can be huge.
If there are many meeting rooms in an organization, it makes sense to create room standards for up to a dozen meeting room types and implement those standards throughout the organization. This will make the technology decision for the rooms simpler, consistent and easier to use and support. An upcoming blog post about the benefits of creating room standards for multiple meeting rooms will be coming soon.
The benefits of tying your UC platform seamlessly into your room systems are significant. Doing it right requires proper planning, standards, integration and training. If you have any questions about connecting your room systems to your UC platform, contact us.