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Can You Get to a Single Meeting App?

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Someone working from home
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Nearly 40% of organizations support more than one meeting application, according to Nemertes’ Workplace Collaboration: 2019-20 research study published in June 2019. It seems on the surface that the ideal scenario, in terms of minimizing cost and simplifying management, is to standardize on a single meeting application. However, preliminary data from our upcoming Visual Communications and Collaboration: 2020-21 research study shows that few enterprises that currently support more than one app are planning to consolidate to just one.
 
These data points beg two questions: Why do companies support more than one app? And if the trend will continue, what is the optimal operating model for supporting multiple apps?
 
Historically, our data tells us that companies support (or allow) more than one app for a variety of reasons, including:
  • Legacy platforms that haven’t yet been phased out
  • Mergers and acquisitions bringing additional apps into the organization that haven’t been consolidated or eliminated, or that IT continues to allow to operate
  • IT allowing, or even supporting, the ability of business units, and even individual users, to obtain and use their own apps
  • Business units and/or workgroups are unhappy with the primary enterprise meeting app and therefore obtain a different app on their own
  • Organizations must support multiple apps to engage with customers and partners
  • Meeting apps are available bundled with other apps in use
 
In some cases, organizations simply haven’t settled on a single meeting app.
 
For those without a standardized, high-quality application in place, the rush to work-from-home has underscored the need for a proactive approach to provisioning a video-enabled meeting app. Without an already available capability, many users are taking advantage of free offers from almost every meeting application in the market, so virtual teams can engage remotely with one another. This creates potential chaos and security issues, as IT loses control of the virtual meeting environment.
 
For those supporting multiple apps, there are two pathways forward: continue to support multiple apps or consolidate onto a single enterprise-wide app. The former offers the potential to reduce costs, simplify the user experience, and ease management requirements, whereas the latter provides the greatest flexibility and end-user choice. Standardizing on a single app will only be successful if that app can provide a high-quality meeting experience, and users don’t feel that they are giving up needed capabilities to use the corporate-provided app.
 
For example, an organization that has picked Cisco Webex Meetings as its company-wide meeting platform may find that employees still need to use GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams Meetings, Zoom, etc., to join meetings hosted by partners, customers, suppliers, etc.
 
Fortunately, the vendor market is responding to this new reality. Video conferencing endpoint vendors are increasingly offering flexibility in their room systems to enable them to be used for multiple services. Many room system vendors, at a minimum, now support the ability for meeting attendees to connect their own laptop to the room system so that the system can be used with whatever app is on the user’s device.
 
Some room system vendors even now offer the ability to launch multiple native clients for different meeting services, allowing meeting room participants to choose the meeting service they wish to use for each meeting (though room scheduling can be problematic in this scenario). Alternatively, meeting integration vendors can enable participants to use their company’s standard meeting app to join a meeting, regardless of the meeting app that other participants are using on their own devices or within their meeting rooms. Recently, Cisco and Microsoft announced plans for meeting app and room interoperability as did Microsoft and Zoom, meaning that solutions for supporting multiple meeting environments should improve over time.
 
The reality is while one meeting application might make some sense, user and business needs will likely drive an ever-expanding need to support, at a minimum, the ability for employees to join meetings using other services. Success will come from enabling meeting spaces and interoperability capabilities, to ensure a seamless ability to join any meeting, from any location, via any device or application.

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