As enterprises struggle through the transition to hybrid work — whatever that winds up meaning — one area to watch will be the role that video communications play in helping us get to whatever the next “normal” becomes.
When remote work was ubiquitous, so was video. There seems to be a general assumption that remote workers will always be on video when they meet with colleagues, regardless of whether those colleagues are likewise remote or in the office. But what are the right tools and techniques that best satisfy end users’ demands?
A couple of posts on No Jitter this week look at video’s evolving profile in the enterprise. In a news item
on updates to Slack’s Huddles feature, my colleague Ryan Daily reports that the company is adding video capability to the tool, which is noteworthy because Huddles’ initial calling card was that it’s audio-only, aimed at keeping meetings “lightweight.” Slack says
users have embraced Huddles, giving it a 95% customer satisfaction rating, and that adding video will allow meetings that start out as Huddles to become “deeper” collaboration sessions with video.
How we mix audio and video in our meetings will likely be an opportunity for more of this sort of innovation. People have strong feelings about how they show up in meetings — whether they use video and what they (and their environment) look like when they do turn the camera on. Tools like Huddles give people more choice about the nature of the meeting, and likewise, we can expect all the collaboration vendors to continue using AI to enable refinements of features like background blur and audio capabilities, to fine-tune the experience of attending meetings as a remote participant.
Similarly, as enterprises continue to push at least some of their workforce back into the office, the focus for video will likely shift to the conference room. On this topic, Irwin Lazar of analyst firm Metrigy has a No Jitter post on Building the Meeting Room of the Future
, in which he spells out some key factors in optimizing the video experience for those in conference rooms as well as the remote colleagues with whom they meet.
Lazar highlights one key topic to watch: "Meeting rooms must support multiple meeting apps." At Enterprise Connect (EC) 2022 in March, among our most popular sessions were a pair led by Jim Kelly of Recon Research and Jim Burton of CT-Link and BCStrategies, focusing on meeting room interoperability. This has been a real pain point, as enterprises have struggled to get rooms based on the different platform providers’ systems to talk to each other. At EC, the vendors discussed efforts they’re making in this area and promised to continue working on the problem, but interoperability is always a challenge with any technology that’s a battleground for the strategic vendors. So, enterprises would be well advised to continue monitoring this issue and keep the pressure on their vendors.
Lazar concludes with a piece of advice that suggests the way budget priorities may continue to shift. “Just 38% of our research participants refresh their meeting rooms at least every three years. That needs to change,” he writes. And since meeting room audio and video are one of the hottest areas for innovation, it deserves to change. But emphasizing investment in meeting room technology may mean finding places within the office of the future where investment can be scaled back or costs saved. Such tradeoffs were more straightforward when the office was a more homogenous place where every worker had basically the same setup. The hybrid office of the future will likely be anything but homogenous.
So, whether you’re equipping remote or office-based workers, video won’t be a static investment. Users’ expectations, the technology, and the management tools you’ll have to meet these demands will continue to evolve. Watch this space.