At Enterprise Connect 2020, Ira Weinstein (Founder, Recon Research) reported that Recon Research’s latest study shows how COVID-19 has cemented web conferencing as the future of the workplace. Indeed, three major web conferencing solutions – Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom – each saw dramatic increases in their meeting minutes due to remote work:
This sets the stage for the future of the workplace. Whereas web conferencing was less common before the pandemic (60% of respondents rarely used or did not use web conferencing before March 2020), remote work has normalized its frequent use. All respondents now said that they used web conferencing to some degree, with an increase from 4% to 25% of regular use (more than once a day) after the pandemic hit.
It is unlikely that web conferencing use will decrease to pre-pandemic levels, given how remote or hybrid work has become normal. This has several implications for the workplace, especially regarding how meeting rooms will be used as employees return to the office. Organizations will need to video/audio-enable their rooms to ensure inclusive meetings for those both in and outside the office. This may not have been not front and center if only the occasional employee had to dial in. But if a significant number of employees are working from home, equalizing the meeting experience for those in and outside the room will be critical. Organizations will need to understand their various use cases and prepare to standardize their web conferencing capacity and hardware.
For further information, watch Recon Research’s session on “Meeting Rooms & the New Normal.” This session is available online through to December 31, 2020, at Enterprise Connect 2020.
While web conferencing app use has certainly skyrocketed, so has the potential for a cluttered collaboration toolset. As SoftwareReviews’ data quadrant shows below, there are plenty of web conferencing apps to choose from. Without a well-defined collaboration strategy, organizations may find that their employees will either download their own app of choice or have to switch between apps depending on the use case, and they’ll eventually grow frustrated with a lack of standardization.
Source: Web Conferencing Data Quadrant at SoftwareReviews. Accessed: August 27, 2020.
Organizations should bear several things in mind when choosing a web conferencing app. First, do you already subscribe to an office productivity suite that has a web conferencing solution that can be used? If you already have Office 365 or Cisco Webex licenses, Microsoft Teams and Webex Teams become the natural go-to. If you have both Microsoft and Cisco licenses, this will call for a broader conversation about rationalizing your collaboration toolset.
Second, think about your end-user requirements. Web conferencing tools that are part of a broader office productivity suite tend not to be best-of-breed solutions. If your web conferencing needs do not call for advanced capabilities (e.g. breakout rooms) then this will not be an issue. However, if your users suggest the need for certain capabilities that go beyond your in-house tools, this may be grounds for bringing in a best-of-breed tool. Of course, you will want to do this in a strategic way to avoid only reinforcing the confusion of having different web conferencing apps available to your users.
Finally, consider what hardware your meeting rooms have. Some software is not going to be as compatible as others with certain hardware, while some hardware is built for specific software in mind (e.g. Cisco Room Kits and Webex). This decision factor may either help narrow down the search for the right software or provide an opportunity to choose a preferred software and an upgrade of your meeting room hardware.
For further information, see Info-Tech’s Rationalize Your Collaboration Tools to start building your collaboration strategy.