Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything (John Kenneth Galbraith)
A recent global survey conducted by Plantronics looks at the issues surrounding business meetings, including the high costs and frequently poor outcomes. It also addresses issues around technology, particularly in relation to web meetings.
Firstly, let’s consider the scale of the problem. This survey found more than half of respondents spent 5-10 hours per week in meetings, while almost 40% spent between 11 and 30 or more hours a week in meetings. That’s a staggering amount of time, but as well as the time involved in attending meetings, the total cost to business includes costs associated with planning and follow-up, as well as venues and travel.
The Plantronics report quoted Michael C Mankins (in Harvard Business Review) who calculated that a weekly executive committee meeting in one corporation resulted in a total of 300,000 hours of time spent each year.
But it’s not just about the cost. The other issue is whether meetings are effective, and at times, whether they are required at all. So while it’s one thing to control the cost, and perhaps the frequency of meetings, it’s even more important to ensure meetings are effective.
Virtual meetings: anywhere, anytime on any device
With a rapidly accelerating trend towards mobile working, business meetings increasingly are virtual meetings. To be successful, virtual meetings depend on a range of technologies, including fast, reliable internet connections, cloud-based collaboration services, a wide range of mobile devices and advanced audio equipment. The aim always is to provide technology that enables participants to connect with each other as if they were in the same room.
7 technology considerations
The Plantronics report outlines seven technology issues, and considerations, for virtual business meetings. They are reproduced verbatim in the following section.
Mobile usage continues to grow, and with it, users demand to be able to use personal devices. And it’s not just BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) anymore—it’s also BYOA (Bring Your Own App). Users need to know they have the ability to communicate and collaborate remotely under almost any conditions, whatever the technology, the distance, or the environment may be.
Considerations: The ability to support multiple personal devices may require too many IT resources to be feasible. A mobile strategy helps address which mobile devices will be supported, which apps are needed, and how to provision security for each supported device.
You cannot underestimate the importance of sound quality when it comes to virtual meetings. Large spaces tend to make speakerphone conversations all but impossible for virtual attendees to understand. And background noise introduced by virtual participants can quickly derail a meeting. If the meeting participants are not intelligible to each other, their level of frustration mounts as the level of productivity plummets.
Considerations: Poor acoustics in a conference room can often be offset by echo-cancelling speakerphones. For those calling in, wideband supported headsets with noise-cancelling microphones are essential. And the ability for those who are not speaking to mute their microphone helps make the conference call much more intelligible—and productive.
Videoconferencing is being increasingly adopted around the world, and seen as an indispensable tool for bringing people together. Successful implementations enable people to view and interact with each other seamlessly, with no apparent barriers.
Considerations: The ability to integrate videoconferencing with unified communications helps to provide greater flexibility for staff, giving them the ability to host, schedule, and join conferences while offsetting the need for additional hardware.
4. NETWORK CAPACITY
The goal is to make every virtual meeting look, sound, and feel as natural as possible— but to do it successfully requires the right network capacity. A bad connection can significantly affect meeting productivity.
Considerations: To accommodate the demands for HD video and audio quality, dedicated high-speed bandwidth is required. Reliability with minimal latency is critical to maximize uptime across all video endpoints, conference bridges, and firewalls. At the same time, it’s important to inform remote users about best practices in WIFI, to help ensure, for example, that upload and download speeds are sufficient to accommodate the demands of a web conferencing tool.
To help ensure a secure environment, strict security protocols need to be in place for data transmission and data storage.
Considerations: Choose wireless products with security features built in, for example, encryption and the latest DECT security standards. Headsets with noise-cancelling microphones help reduce the transmission of private side conversations.
Unified communications by definition creates a need to implement multiple software, hardware, and networking technologies. Helping to ensure compatibility among these technologies can be a significant challenge.
The International Multimedia Telecommunications Consortium provides the industry with implementation guidelines, such as interoperability best practices and pre-testing.
7. HOSTING, SERVICE, AND SUPPORT
To help ensure maximum uptime, universal access, and ease of deployment, more companies are choosing managed services and hosting for greater flexibility and scaleability.
Considerations: Outsourcing helps provide greater IT bench strength by offering services such as 24/7 global customer support, guaranteed uptime, and training when required.
Ensyst: helping customers with their web meeting experience
We’ve been helping clients promote mobile working and build collaboration to increase productivity. For example, we worked with Goodman Group, an integrated property group with operations throughout the world, that wanted to support an activity based working platform. Ensyst initiated a greenfield Lync installation, a unified communications platform that integrates IM, presence, enterprise telephony, audio and video conferencing and collaboration functionality into a single client. This was combined with Plantronics headsets and Polycom video conferencing products.
Building better meetings in the modern workplace
A partner of both Microsoft and Plantronics, Ensyst is pleased to advise of this free webinar. Attend to gain valuable insights from the Plantronics global research and hear discussion on how to build better meetings with new Office 365 services and Plantronics audio devices certified for Skype for Business. REGISTER HERE