IT departments work diligently to research, vet and roll out video conferencing software that meets their high standards of security and reliability. And yet, it’s all too common for some employees to go rogue and download a random online video conferencing platform because their virtual meetings aren't going very well. The calls they're on just aren't fun.
Imagine the frustration of the head of IT after finding out a hacker breached the firewall because somebody couldn’t get on board with the new company standard.
The reality is that shadow IT applications — those not approved by IT — are far more common than many think.
“Most organizations grossly underestimate the number of shadow IT applications already in use,” said Brian Lowans, principal research analyst at Gartner, in this article. “A data breach resulting from any individual [business unit IT] purchase will result in financial liabilities affecting the organization’s bottom line.”
How can you get employees on board with IT-approved platforms and, at the same time, ensure the quality of meetings? (In other words, how can you make virtual meetings fun?) Here are some tips to improve virtual meetings at your organization.
You Need an Interoperability Strategy
Just like IT, individual users search high and low for the best virtual meeting platform on the market. Is there really a best? Well, yes and no. Roughly 80 percent of enterprise companies use two or more unified collaboration solutions in a hybrid environment (meaning, on-premise and cloud-based infrastructure). It depends on use cases, technical features, and personal preference.
To make things simple for users, enterprise organizations often face the challenge of making two systems work together. In other words, they need an interoperability strategy to ensure the systems work together seamlessly. As an example, for those organizations still transitioning from Skype to Teams, the two systems can work together to allow people to connect with each other using either platform, so Skype to Teams or vice versa.
Many organizations also use Microsoft-qualified CVIs, or cloud video interop solutions, to connect third-party H.323/SIP video conferencing systems, like meeting rooms or personal devices, with Microsoft Teams. These solutions make it easier to join meetings using an array of devices — no matter the brand or the platform.
As COVID-19 restrictions loosen, it’s important to consider how people will use new or existing video conferencing platforms as they return to the office or remain at home.
During the pandemic, remote workers relied on cloud-based virtual meeting platforms to connect with their co-workers who were all at home. With the transition back to work underway, more people will phase into the office creating a hybrid workforce — some at home, some at work.
If some people gather in a conference room at the office and need to connect with remote workers, is there a solution in place to ensure everybody can join that meeting easily by whichever means they choose?
If it takes a frustrating 15 minutes and troublesome 12 steps to join the call, an on-premise or cloud video interop solution can help simplify the process. When it's easy to setup virtual meetings, they're more fun — plain and simple.
Poly, BlueJeans and Pexip created CVI solutions that connect with Microsoft Teams as if they were natively built in. Using one of these CVI solutions allows users to schedule meetings using Microsoft Outlook, and then participants can connect to Microsoft Teams from a conference room or personal device using the one-touch-to-join link in the meeting invite or by dialing in.
Quick Tips for How to Make Virtual Meetings More Fun:
You've been on poorly run, dull meetings. To keep participants engaged, prepare your agenda, set expectations for your virtual meetings, and incorporate ways to encourage interaction. Start with these tips:
- Turn web cameras on (but keep mics muted)
- Use strong visuals during presentations
- Share useful content in the chat
Some people have introduced gamification techniques and engagement incentives that help make the virtual meetings more fun. Options could include polls or quizzes.
For smaller meetings, give every person a role — moderator, note taker, subject matter expert. Then, give clear directives to keep participants ready for their turn to contribute.
Take a Different Approach to Platform Management
Instead of maintaining a siloed approach to managing multiple video conferencing platforms, IT departments should consider how to create an ecosystem that allows people to use their preferred platform in a sanctioned and secure way. Achieving this makes IT look like a hero by giving employees what they want, while keeping company data secure.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, people were loyal to their preferred virtual meeting platform, whether that was Microsoft Teams, Webex, Zoom, Pexip, or BlueJeans. Because of that, it’s not uncommon for people to have two or three platforms downloaded to their computers or the apps installed on their phones.
Of course, IT teams prefer to manage fewer platforms because of licensing and security — especially if the platforms aren’t used consistently across the organization.
But after the pandemic hit and working from home became the norm, people needed a quick solution to their sudden change of environment. If they experienced friction with IT-approved platforms, they looked elsewhere, like Zoom, which made headlines during the pandemic because of the extreme growth it experienced.
In December 2019, average daily meetings for Zoom reached about 10 million for both free and paid subscriptions. In March 2020, that number leaped to 200 million daily meetings. People praise Zoom for its ease of use and accessibility, making it a natural choice for remote workers who needed to connect in a pinch. But what about now as employees return to the office? How does IT manage what might’ve been a fringe platform before?
As organizations select technology for their return to the office, it’s important to understand the meeting dynamics and use cases, and that includes which virtual meeting platforms people prefer to use.
Find out what people’s preferences are to determine the best way to provide a better virtual meeting experience. Start with these questions:
Which platforms do people use today?
How do they use them (remotely or in a conference room)?
Are there integrations between the platforms? (Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex and Zoom integrate with one another, so people can launch and join meetings within their respective platforms.)
Expand UC and Integrate Streaming Capabilities
When COVID-19 forced people to stay home, some organizations struggled to find a way to connect their entire workforce. Many didn’t have the video conferencing or streaming solutions in place. Some of those that actually did have platforms in place ran into issues, particularly with licensing. Prior to COVID-19, the number of licenses needed was low because organizations didn’t acquire licenses for every single individual.
Organizations added the licenses needed and then faced the challenge of training and onboarding, data storage, security, and permissions. When every minute counts, helping employees gain access to the platforms they needed at home proved to be its own major struggle.
For those organizations that were ready, however, executive leadership jumped into action to provide weekly or even daily company updates through live and on-demand video broadcasts. Employees hunkered down in their home offices, using their phones and laptops. The transition to remote work was, by and large, not so bad.
Now, as people begin transitioning back into the office, that doesn’t mean the newly acquired licensing goes away or the streaming capabilities are shelved. Quite the opposite.
Communication during a time of constant change helps provide clarity, and since not all will return to the office full time, virtual meeting platforms will continue to add value to a hybrid workforce.
IT departments should consider whether it’s best to expand their current unified collaboration infrastructure to accommodate remote work into the future.
Just as important, the need to offer internal and external communications in real time or on-demand will continue to play a role in the success of a healthy transition into the new normal. During this period, it’s best to optimize video streaming strategies by expanding data storage capacity, adding licensing, and creating a habit out of regular company-wide communication.
How to Actually Get a Better Meeting Experience
The best way to achieve better (and fun) virtual meetings starts internally. Uncover the nuances and the quirks. Identify how people use technology today and the way they wished it worked.
As you identify these use cases and workflows, you’ll find a clear path to improved meetings across the organization. And AVI Systems can help.
Our dedicated unified collaboration team works with organizations to match technical solutions with internal workflows and use cases to increase adoption rates of devices and platforms. Contact AVI to help improve the overall quality of your organization’s employee collaboration.