More and more businesses are adopting communication technologies that make them more productive, efficient and ultimately, more successful. For many, standardising on a Unified Communications platform, such as Microsoft Lync/Skype for Business or Cisco CUCM and Jabber has offered a way to provide a simple user experience that is intuitive and engaging for employees, especially at the desktop.
However many teams have also realised that although communications at the desktop has been greatly improved, communications within the meeting space and boardroom has not – and in some cases, has been negatively effected.
Why? Many organisations have tried to “scale up” a desktop solution onto a large screen in a large room, causing a whole host of issues with video and audio quality, and a great lack of common boardroom features that have come to be expected by experienced video users means that meetings in the boardroom are not performing as well as they should be. Plus, with some communications platforms such as Skype for Business not conforming to standards, many customers are finding that they are unable to communicate as freely as they could before, especially when it comes to business-to-business interaction.
To solve these problems, many organisations are choosing to deploy a professional video communications solutions that works hand in hand with their UC platform that means the experience in a meeting room is seamless and highly superior to the consumer desktop experience, whilst still enabling users to connect with the clients they choose, and communicate with customers, clients and colleagues wherever they are based, on whatever device they choose.
So what can you do to enhance your Skype for Business experience in the Meeting room?
1. Deploy Professional Video Conferencing Endpoints with Cameras & Audio Designed for the Meeting Room
Recently, we have been receiving calls from organisations who have attempted, and mainly failed, to scale up a desktop style deployment to the meeting room. Putting a PC in the room and adding a webcam to the top of a screen may sound like a smart DIY idea, but it’s proving to be the fastest way to a #BoardroomFail that we’ve come across in recent years.
But why isn’t it working as some may expect?
A webcam is generally not designed for more than one person. The quality of video can be great for a close up face – a few inches or feet away at most – but trying to capture multiple people, with enough detail to make a conference successful, a wide enough angle of view to capture the room, and of good enough quality to be able to zoom into the current speaker so that facial gestures can be seen… well a webcam just isn’t designed for this.
And how about audio quality? The quality of audio is of uttermost importance when holding an important meeting. Most problematic situations that have arisen from the DIY approach are due to the lack of audio clarity, the inability for the far end to understand the speaker, and the lack of pick up of the far end room. Plus, a Windows PC isn’t designed to handle echo-cancellation, especially when bandwidth, distance and networks can have a continually changing effect on latency and lag. Microsoft recommends wholeheartedly to use a certified & qualified headset for Microsoft Lync/S4B calls. Maybe a little strange to do as they say when sat in a meeting room, but there’s a reason they recommend it.
A cheap webcam and the lack of an acoustic solution? Well it’s the Video Communications equivalent of buying a moped and entering into a high speed drag race. It’ll get you from A to B (probably), but the most you’ll be winning is the wooden spoon.
Professional Video Conferencing Codec’s have been designed with the professional meeting room in mind. Specialist Video Conferencing cameras with pan/tilt/zoom functionality, auto zoom and focus and speaker tracking alongside echo-cancellation, microphone arrays, audio mixers, speakers and sound bars all need to be taken into consideration to ensure the video and audio quality are as expected. How large is your room? How many people will it hold? In what format will your teams generally sit? What materials effect the room acoustics? Do you need to provide for audio conferencing or integrate with a PBX? And who do you need to communicate with?
Choosing a solution that provides good quality video & audio and interoperates with Skype for Business AND everyone else, means that your meeting room can function as expected, and your virtual meeting won’t be a flop. And although Skype for Business doesn’t directly integrate with standards-based Video Conferencing codec’s, there are plenty of options for combining a standards-based system with Microsoft’s solutions that can provide a seamless experience for the user, whatever device they are calling in from. And with a professional codec, you’ve the ability to speak to everyone around the world without constraining yourself to a Microsoft only island.
Still want to go the DIY approach anyway? We recognise that for some, professional quality needs to be compromised to meet tight budgets. If that’s the case, we’ve done a fair amount of testing in our labs and can recommend some of the better quality webcams and additional accessories for audio that will at least ensure your meeting can go ahead in an acceptable manner, even if not at the level expected by the pro’s!
We continue our series, “4 Ways of Enhancing your Skype for Business Video Communications” in our next post by looking at using a dedicated Cloud solution to bring Skype for Business into the meeting room, whilst pulling together islands of technology via seamless integration. In the meantime, we’d love to hear how you are improving your Skype for Business experience in the meeting room, and which endpoints you are using to improve collaboration across your workforce.