Summary: AVI’s Unified Collaboration Solutions Practice Director, Rob Whatley, shares seven UC trends he sees on the horizon – all built to create more workplace productivity.
While Unified Communication (UC) tools have been around for two decades, their adoption accelerated at a dizzying pace from March 2020 through 2021. Now, most companies view UC tools as essential – whether employees work from home, the office, or a combination of both.
Recently we sat down with Rob Whatley, our U.S. director of Unified Collaboration Solutions, to get his take on the most significant trends shaping UC in the post-pandemic workplace. Below you’ll find seven trends Rob believes are critical to enhancing productivity in the modern workplace.
Trend #1: Artificial Intelligence and Automation
Of course, artificial intelligence (AI) is on Rob’s list of trends, but not in the way you think. See, while generative AI is making headlines (and generating those Teams and Zoom meeting transcripts we all love), other back-end AI tools are being used with much less fanfare.
One capability seeing significant growth and adoption is using AI to monitor UC systems and identify potential problems before they occur. If problems are detected, AI tools can alert the company or managed services provider so they can act before the issue causes an outage.
AI tools also help companies understand how their employees use UC platforms, including how often, how long, and what features are used most. This data helps companies make better decisions about their collaboration tools and how to use them more efficiently.
Trend #2: Less BYOD
In the early days of the pandemic, most customers wanted “bring your own device” or BYOD conference rooms – especially for smaller huddle spaces. BYOD rooms have basic equipment like displays and speakers and require only an HDMI plug-in to connect from any device to any UC platform (e.g., Zoom, WebEx, Microsoft Teams).
Today, we’re getting fewer huddle room and BYOD requests. Instead, more organizations are investing in high-impact medium and large conference rooms for 7-20 people.
What makes a room high impact? Here’s how Frost & Sullivan define it:
“Features of High Impact spaces, such as automatic camera switching and beamforming ceiling microphones to eliminate throw-away space at far ends of meeting rooms, remove friction for human interaction from hybrid meetings and draw on-site users away from the proximity bias of too-easy communication with neighbors. It's about inclusion and creating the feeling everyone can participate.”
Rob says this trend is being driven by two things. First, most companies have now landed on their preferred UC platform. So, BYOD is less necessary than in the pandemic’s early days when so much was up for grabs. In addition, when employees come into the office, they want to meet face-to-face with their colleagues for a sense of community.
As a result, companies are reconfiguring (or building) more conference rooms with plenty of seats specifically designed around high-impact collaboration experiences.
Trend #3: Space Utilization
Another growth area is tools that help companies monitor their space utilization and make informed decisions about using their space more efficiently.
Room monitoring and occupancy devices can provide real-time data on space utilization and offer insights into which spaces are highly utilized – and which are not. This data helps facility managers see where additional investments are needed or where they can reduce expenses.
For example, say your office building has three floors. Using space utilization analytics helps you see that all three floors are busy and fully utilized on Tuesday through Thursday. But on Mondays and Fridays, everyone onsite could easily fit into one or two floors. So, you decide to close the unnecessary space on those days to save on utility costs and create a more fully utilized feel on the remaining floors.
Trend #4: Workspace Reservations
Workspace reservations are another emerging trend for customers without assigned employee cubicles. Customers want solutions that make it easy for employees to reserve a workspace and peripherals for their onsite workdays.
As this need has grown, more manufacturers, including Crestron and Logitech, are creating products solely for this purpose. Crestron’s desk scheduling device is just one such solution. These compact touch screens are designed to enhance and simplify desk scheduling across an enterprise. They can be installed at any desk to provide a clear indication of whether it’s available to schedule. In addition, entire platforms like Thing IT and Calven are also popping up to meet this need.
These workspace reservation tools make it easy for employees to reserve everything they need to work onsite, including docking stations, phones, and headsets.
Over time, Rob expects more manufacturers will offer all-in-one solutions that make it easy for employees to reserve the devices they want and need to be productive in the office.
Trend #5: Security and Privacy
We’re in an era of data. And while humans generate most of it right now, AI is quickly adding to our collective data volume. In response, more manufacturers are enhancing their security features to help companies protect their sensitive data. In fact, Rob notes that security and privacy are some of the fastest-growing areas for UC-related applications and data.
While security and privacy are important for all companies, they are mission-critical for companies in highly regulated industries or those that must comply with guidelines or regulations such as GDRP or HIPAA.
AVI’s role as a systems integrator is to make sure we’re identifying the manufacturer solutions that offer the level of security our customers need. And to install and maintain those solutions in a way that will not compromise data security and privacy.
Trend #6: Integrating Collaboration Tools into Workflows
When discussing the importance of integration, Rob jokes about the difference between adopting and adapting to something.
When you ask employees to adopt a new platform, you’re adding something new to their workflow, and they need to change what they’re doing to take advantage of it. In contrast, adapting means adding functionality to your existing workflow that makes it more efficient.
This distinction illustrates why it’s crucial – especially for enterprise-level companies that use a variety of UC tools – to ensure their tools are integrated and work together to improve efficiency and productivity.
Examples of effortless integration can be as simple as a click-to-join Teams room or as complex as connecting digital signage across an entire corporate campus.
Trend #7: Microsoft-Certified Solutions
The final trend Rob closely watches today is how companies like Microsoft are opening up their software platforms to UC manufacturers. This open-source approach drives major advancements.
For example, with access to Microsoft’s software, manufacturers can create workflows and solutions that align with Microsoft’s framework. This allows Microsoft to certify that manufacturers’ solutions are compatible with their platform. Using certified peripherals helps ensure these features work seamlessly together.
The Logitech Rally Bar is an AI-powered camera and speaker system designed for large meeting rooms. It features a 4K camera with automatic framing and tracking and a speaker system with 360-degree sound. Its features are easy to use and work seamlessly because the Rally Bar is certified for Microsoft Teams.
Your Partner in Trending UC Tools for Enterprise
These are just a few of the latest trends in unified collaboration (and trust us, if you sit down with Rob, he’ll share more). As unified communication tools continue to evolve, Rob expects to see additional innovative ways to collaborate in the future.
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©AVI Systems, Inc., 2023