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Top Video Collab & AV Trends to Watch for at EC19

Video collaboration and AV today isn’t about the technology itself, but the business workflow, as Ira Weinstein, Enterprise Connect Video Collaboration & AV track chair and managing partner at Recon Research, told me in a recent interview.
 
“You can’t change something with just technology,” Weinstein said. Of course, we still need the technology advancements to keep on coming, he added, but the prevalent mindset is that technology alone won’t do it.
 

Weinstein and I were discussing some of the larger trends happening in video and AV that we can expect to see evident next week at EC19. This conversation has become somewhat of an annual tradition, as we had a similar discussion leading into last year’s event. Some trends have carried forward, while others are newly emerging, as Weinstein shared.

 
Huddle Up
One trend that is still going strong from last year is huddle – and “not huddle rooms per se,” Weinstein said. “Huddle room is a demonstration of the trend, which is to huddle,” he said.
 
“Users have discovered that sometimes they don’t need to have a formal meeting; it’s about the team getting together and getting things done. The huddle room is intended to have a small group of people to have an informal session, but you can also have a huddle space within a huge area. The concept is informal, ad hoc -- it has basic technology that lets me work. It’s driving the need for more [collaboration] spaces, and it’s driving the need for new offerings to empower this [huddling] at scale.”
 
Cisco is a good example of a company that is aware of and responding to the huddle room trend, said Weinstein, pointing to the company’s recently released huddle room solutions that include directional mics that allow creation of huddle spaces within larger settings like cafeterias. Logitech is another company that’s become a powerhouse in huddle, and Polycom has its new Studio offering, a USB device that you can just drop in a room for huddling.
 
That’s the essence of the huddle room. But look for more to come, as “quite frankly, it’s early” days here, he said.
 
Cloudy Video with a Chance of Premises
While last year Weinstein told us that he expected to see video collaboration and AV deployments trend more toward cloud, this year we’re still talking about the great cloud vs. prem debate – and will be for many years to come, he said. This is simply because cloud doesn’t fit every situation. “There are many organizations, large and small, that for whatever reason are not comfortable with the cloud,” he said. “We need this variety of solutions, but over time, more organizations are deciding to give up some things in order to simplify their environment.”
 
And the discussions he’s having around the cloud aren’t rooted in costs like they were in the early days. Rather they’re about whether cloud is a viable, cost-effective solution that does what the enterprise needs it to do. “It takes a long time to change a company’s mindset,” Weinstein said. “Nobody is more paranoid than IT folks. That’s because people are your power, and if the tech is down, the organization is down, so it needs to be done carefully.”
 
But ultimately, cloud is the direction the industry is going, Weinstein added. Yes, to go cloud, you often need to give up some control and features, but you gain simplicity, speed to benefits, decreased burden, scalability, and more, he said. 
 
Getting Smart About Video
A third trend that Weinstein sees as having “huge implications for the future” is artificial intelligence (AI) -- in the meeting room, embedded in systems, and added on for further benefits. But don’t get too excited yet… as Weinstein noted, “we are just now as an industry waking up to this potential.”
 
Is AI in video collaboration in use today? Absolutely, Weinstein said. Is it widespread and actually changing the meeting? Absolutely not, he added.
 
He pointed to Cisco again as one vendor that’s ahead of the curve on presenting AI functionality in its solutions. But there are many other companies -- Google and Microsoft to mention just two -- working to bring AI solutions to the table, he added.
 
I’ve Got an Idea
“Ideation” isn’t a word used in everyday discussions, but it’s good way to encapsulate the process of creating and developing ideas -- an evolution of the good old-fashioned whiteboard, Weinstein said. Ideation goes beyond collaborating to contributing, he said. “When I unlock the power of you to contribute, I get a 1 + 1 = 5 situation.”
 
We’re seeing this in our market in two main ways -- fancy, often expensive ideation systems like Microsoft Surface Hub, Google Jamboard, and Cisco Webex Board on the one hand and on the other devices like the Kaptivo whiteboard camera that takes a picture of one of those old-style whiteboards and turns it into a digital image so remote workers can engage with the content.
 
Depending on your organization, either could work – but it’s not for everybody. “It takes time for people to change their mindset, so you need to develop those people and train them to do it in a way that makes them comfortable,” Weinstein said. And ideation doesn’t make sense for a company that is just focused on real estate closings, for example. But for others, “what a great opportunity to get more brains to the table,” he said.
 
A Quick Thought on Software
Weinstein made sure to save some discussion time for software-based video solutions during our conversation, because they’re important, he said. “What matters is not that it’s software. What matters is that it allows an IT-friendly way of providing collaboration. … There’s something warm and fuzzy about a PC-based solution that the enterprise chose from vendors [it] knows and trusts.”
 
Essentially, Weinstein said he sees the appeal of software in that it lets users do what they would normally do -- it’s comfortable. It’s also a perk that software-based video solutions are cost-effective, and allow enterprises to bring in and integrate some of the other tools they use. Not only are software-based video solutions IT-friendly and IT-familiar, but standard systems manageable via standard management tools, he said.
 
Video and How It Fits in the Workplace of the Future
The final trend is around the workplace of the future. As more enterprises take a more holistic view of the workplace, you see scenarios where enterprise IT is working with their counterparts in HR, real estate, and facilities to craft workspaces that improve collaboration and productivity, Weinstein said.
 
All of a sudden, everyone started talking about open office environments -- “open everything,” he said. “I’m a fan and a critic of that because I spent so much time talking to enterprises about this. … We are right in the middle of this -- you can get whiplash from this tug of war!” he added.
 
We will continue to see growth in open office environments, he said, but enterprises can really only succeed with open office plans if they have a lot of ready-to-use meeting spaces for people to collaborate and interact. And so we come full circle, with the huddle room trend linked to this more holistic workspace future.
 
“We’re definitely seeing companies that went open all the way come back a little, trying to find the right place on the line -- the right balance,” he said.
 
Explore all these trends at Enterprise Connect next week! As you can see here, the Video Collaboration & A/V track is full of sessions that touch on all these topics, and more.