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Enterprise Connect 2014: The Future of the Conference Room

The nature of video conferencing is changing. The old days of dedicated equipment located in dedicated rooms running on dedicated networks are rapidly coming to an end, replaced by the mantra of "mobile, social, virtual, and visual."

This evolution is aided and abetted by a variety of technological developments (perhaps best capsulized by the BYOD movement), as well as by cultural shifts as the "Facebook" generation or millennials (digital natives rather than digital immigrants) enter the workplace. All of this is causing concern as enterprise conferencing and collaboration managers, channel partners serving those enterprises, and vendors selling video-centric solutions try to adjust their plans for the future.

Up until now, conference room video conferencing has been the focus of every aspect of the industry. Conference rooms present several opportunities for:

1) Customers to deploy showroom facilities consistent with a high-quality executive experience and to foster remote collaboration sessions while saving on travel at the same time.

2) Channel partners to sell professional design, integration, installation, and support services.

3) Vendors to sell top-notch video conferencing appliances, providing a near-telepresence illusion.

The $64,000 question, then, is what do today's technology and cultural trends herald for the future of the conference room?

To probe into some of these issues, Wainhouse Research recently conducted a survey of videoconferencing and UC end users. One question, which probed directly into the issue, specifically asked, "If your organization were to deploy large numbers of personal and web-based video conferencing systems (video-enabled laptops, desktops, tablets, smartphones), what impact would that have on your organization's interest in room-based video conferencing systems?"

This question was part of a survey in both 2011 and 2013. The only significant change between the two survey results is that the number of "don't know" responses declined, while "no impact" grew. This suggests that people involved in video conferencing, even as late as last year, still believe there is value in conference room-based video meetings.

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Telephone interviews with several conferencing managers, however, suggest that the main interest has shifted from high-end rooms for executives to low-cost "huddle rooms" deployed in larger quantities for the use of everyday information workers. If this transition occurs, then the market opportunity will shift away from hardware resale and room design/ integration services to network and device monitoring.

A separate question in the survey asked conferencing managers whether they were receiving pressure from new workers to deploy new solutions at the enterprise. When presented with a list of five pressure points, only 12% said they were seeing pressure for "none of the above." 75% said they were being pushed to deploy mobile solutions and 55% said the same for video.

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Clearly, as the workforce evolves towards more "social-experienced" knowledge workers, their comfort with personal devices combined with the convenience of mobility stands to challenge the conference room's importance and future in the enterprise communications stack.

These and other issues will be explored in one of our Enterprise Connect video sessions entitled "The Rise and Fall of Conference Room Video." Moderated by Wainhouse Research, the panel will include representatives from well-known vendors Logitech and Google and one of the world's largest AV-IT integrators, Dimension Data.

The eight-session video track at Enterprise Connect offers a peek into the future of enterprise video and an exploration of the critical issues facing decision makers today.

Discover more about video at Enterprise Connect Orlando 2014!

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