Integrating Collaboration Tech from Multiple Vendors: 5 Experts Share Insights with IT

Many IT and facilities professionals have the technical pieces of their collaboration solution—the room-based video conferencing assets and a UCC solution such as Microsoft Skype for Business or Cisco Spark. What they need now is a way to put the puzzle pieces together when integrating collaboration technology. We asked experts from Cisco, Crestron, Biamp, NEC, and AVI-SPL to share their insights and advice for companies trying to create a unified collaborative enterprise.

Overcoming challenges when building a connected and collaborative workspace.

Question 1: What is most challenging about building a connected and collaborative workplace?

“Most challenges are about supporting consistent experiences, about making things user friendly. The end user has no idea why a small room would act any differently from a large, full technology room. To them it’s just confusing when things don’t work the same way.” Dan Jackson, Research & Development Manager, Crestron

“Successful adoption…if it’s not intuitive to use or there is no adoption program, users get annoyed. And they give up on the technology. We don’t want that conversation. We want them to say it worked great. We wore out all the buttons. The screen is grey now because we used it so much.” Lou Chiorazzi, Vice President, UC&C Solutions Engineering, AVI-SPL

“User adoption and user experience—organizations often overlook this and don’t plan well for it. When you are trying to build a connected and collaborative workspace, this is a critical component to success.” Mike Thomma, Technical Marketing Engineer Manager, Cisco

“From a technology perspective, you have to make sure everything works well together. Until it is tested, you won’t know if it will work correctly. You also have to make sure the space is actually being used. If it’s too complex, too cumbersome, or not user friendly, the end users are not going to use it.” Rich Ventura, Vice President of Business Development and Solutions, NEC Display

“Sometimes when you’re building collaboration solutions, it’s easy to focus on the video and overlook the audio. But audio is really the most critical component of a video conference. If the video goes out, you can still have a meeting. But if the audio goes out, all you have are mimes. And mimes don’t belong in the workplace.” Sally Blank, Sales Development Director for Unified CommunicationsBiamp Systems

Question 2: IT teams struggle with multi-vendor solutions that are not well integrated. How can they create a more unified collaboration environment?

Helping IT get over multivendor integration issues

“Crestron's overall philosophy is that you want to minimize the number of vendors. Nothing’s been guaranteed to work together. Minimize the number of different vendors that you have and minimize the permutations of rooms you build. That minimizes the unique interface points.” Dan Jackson, Research & Development Manager, Crestron

“Companies want it to be as simple as possible. They want it as turnkey as it can be with fewer moving parts and want a strong services and support offering. So build a consortium of very key, integral partners. Having a true partnership and having service agreements is extremely important.” Rich Ventura, Vice President of Business Development and Solutions, NEC Display

“The simple answer would be stick with one vendor instead of multi-vendors. The standards we use today have been in place for a long time, so they are very mature standards and almost all the vendors across the board support them.” Mike Thomma, Technical Marketing Engineer Manager, Cisco

“There’s no one size fits all. We create a unified collaboration estate by using either premise technology, cloud technology, or a hybrid of the two, whether it’s public or private. AVI-SPL is more of a systems integrator because we’re not just focused on multi-point video. It’s about the full spectrum of their collaboration tech requirements.” Lou Chiorazzi, Vice President, UC&C Solutions Engineering, AVI-SPL

“With Devio we considered how you can make use of what’s already in a small huddle room and ensure its compatibility. You may already have a display or a phone that is still usable. You can bridge the phone into the audio call, your web call, soft client call, or simply use Devio’s beam forming mic and speakers as an add-on to your phone. If you have a USB camera, you can incorporate that as well.” Sally Blank, Sales Development Director for Unified Communications, Biamp Systems

How to get your team to embrace a collaborative workplace solution

Question 3: The benefits of digital workplace, collaborative workspace solutions cannot be realized if users fail to adopt the solution. What will help increase user adoption rates?

“Supporting consistent experiences. See what users have at their desk and use the same exact equipment in the conference room. Understand how your users work and what they do all day. Understanding utilization is key.” Dan Jackson, Research & Development Manager, Crestron

“Engagement, training, getting feedback on what people’s jobs are and what would make their jobs easier. It’s really understanding the pain points. We end up prescribing before we diagnose. You need to understand how people will utilize the solution and acknowledge that you will not be able to please everybody.” Rich Ventura, Vice President of Business Development and Solutions, NEC Display

“Working with vendors who can provide access to collaboration tools on the multitude of devices users interact with throughout the day, and provide a consistent and intuitive experience across the different devices.” Angie Mistretta, Director, Collaboration Product Marketing, Cisco

“The approach has been try to make it more intuitive. The Surface Hub is intuitive. So manufacturers are constantly shooting for more intuitive, approachable systems that don’t need much explanation. If that’s not an attribute that the technology has—to be intuitive and easy to use—you need a well thought out user adoption plan and campaign. It’s not just one training day.” Lou Chiorazzi, Vice President, UC&C Solutions Engineering, AVI-SPL

“Entering a room and figuring out how to connect your computer to the existing setup can, in some cases, be a daunting task. If you are faced with a mess of cabling connections, you can be very put off or become frustrated before the meeting even begins. Biamp designed our Devio solution to allow the user to quickly and easily connect to the room with a single USB connection.” Sally Blank, Sales Development Director for Unified Communications, Biamp Systems

Question 4: What does IT need to know about collaboration solutions to determine the anticipated impact on the network?

What is the anticipated impact of our new collaborative solution on the network?

“Who and what is on the network and who can see the network traffic? Security is a big, big deal. You need to understand the security policies and understand where the security policies are going. SSL that was secure five years ago is not considered secure at all anymore. As these standards are constantly being upgraded, where is your network organization going next? As more AV moves onto the IT network, it is going to increase the impact.” Dan Jackson, Research & Development Manager, Crestron

“Bandwidth, software requirements, and security. Many of these solutions will change how IT works with technology. Being flexible and willing to work with multiple teams are key.” Rich Ventura, Vice President of Business Development and Solutions, NEC Display

“The number one question we always get is: How much bandwidth is this going to take? Defining the use cases and how they actually plan to use collaborative technologies is the number one step.” Mike Thomma, Technical Marketing Engineer Manager, Cisco

“We ask a number of questions such as: How did you implement your LAN? How did you implement your call control? Where is the position of your bridge? How much bandwidth do you have under normal circumstances? And then we gather empirical data that shows whether you have enough bandwidth or your QoS is configured wrong or something like that. And that’s video conferencing. When you look at Skype for Business, it’s even exponentially more complicated.” Lou Chiorazzi, Vice President, UC&C Solutions Engineering, AVI-SPL

“With the growing prevalence of software conferencing apps or cloud-based conferencing services, bandwidth requirements cannot be underestimated to ensure video call quality. Remote management tools can help the IT team monitor room conditions and confirm the AV equipment is in proper working order. Also, the System Administration Utility software included with our Devio supports SNMP alerts to send notifications that a call is in progress and whether far-end audio is present. In addition, we are able to schedule remote firmware updates to help manage an entire fleet of Devio units on the network.” Sally Blank, Sales Development Director for Unified Communications, Biamp Systems

Knowing when your team is ready for a cloud migration, and what impediments there may be to the process.

Question 5: Migration to a cloud requires careful planning and execution—what indicators suggest that a company is ready to migrate to the cloud? What would impede that migration?

“People don't want to move to the cloud because of a perception of cost. It’s a monthly revenue model. They see that number and they say, ‘I have to keep paying this.’ Security is second. What data do we have access to and what is the real risk? What are the benefits of the cloud? At some point, almost everything ends up on the cloud once all the factors have been evaluated—if not today, then soon. Remote offices often do not have support staff and that is where management software like Fusion is really going to have the biggest impact.” Dan Jackson, Research & Development Manager, Crestron

“Are all your applications cloud based? Look at their applications and the versions being used. What are they using from a day-to-day operation? All of those things will dictate whether they are ready to go to a cloud or not. It’s important to understand their business. Companies can be blended, they do not have to be 100% cloud based. Look at the make-up of the organization—if they are a software and service organization, they tend to be a lot more focused on cloud based.” Rich Ventura, Vice President of Business Development and Solutions, NEC Display

“There is no rush to get to the cloud. Lots of customers have invested heavily in on premises solutions. Take a careful look at the business and again how their usage is evolving. Most importantly, what a customer needs to think about in their journey to the cloud. Is my old stuff going to continue to work if I move to this new future? They need to choose a vendor wisely that can help them bridge that gap.” Angie Mistretta, Director, Collaboration Product Marketing, Cisco

“Pretty much all companies are ready to move to the cloud. The hesitance is security or a fear of people losing their jobs which is not always founded. Instead, the company usually gets back capacity of that individual and can use them in different ways. The company can focus on its core competency and make video a utility.” Lou Chiorazzi, Vice President, UC&C Solutions Engineering, AVI-SPL

“Technology is changing so fast. Sometimes they’re almost afraid to take a step in case something better is going to come along. That’s why it’s important to stop making technology proprietary and start using standards that aren’t going anywhere.” Sally Blank, Sales Development Director for Unified Communications, Biamp Systems

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