Notes From the Trenches

Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with dozens of AV and IT professionals tasked with deploying and supporting enterprise video conferencing. Although every project is different, a few themes seem to be consistent across all my conversations, and so I’ve come up with the following “notes from the AV/IT trenches.”

Projects are driven by the need to support a rapidly changing workforce.

Whether the project is an upgrade, greenfield or expansion of an existing deployment, a common theme driving projects is the need to support an ever-changing and evolving workplace.

Whether you call them millennials or digital natives, a new generation is changing the way we work, not to mention where we work. A global Fortune 50 company recently told us that they’re anticipating up to 30 percent of their workforce will be remote. Those workers will be based in home and satellite offices in an effort to abolish long commutes for their employee base. Another large enterprise customer told us their corporate headquarters is nearing 100 percent occupancy. The high cost of real estate is a motivating factor in driving them to also look workstyles/flexwork.

But it’s not just traffic congestion and real estate costs that are helping drive IT and AV deployments. It’s also the desire to enable efficiencies. Many employees would rather jump on a video call than walk 15 minutes across campus to attend a 30-minute meeting. Given the structural and cultural changes impacting the way people work (especially remote workers), our customers are adapting their collaboration capabilities and spaces to support smaller, shorter and more ad-hoc meetings.

Adoption remains an issue.

In a sort of yin and yang paradox, while IT and AV teams are moving to accommodate the demands of a changing workplace, they still struggle with some reluctance to use video, at least from a subset of their internal customers. One customer told us that behavioral changes are their biggest challenge and that many employees are still only hosting audio-only conference calls, even when high-quality video is readily available to them. They noted that this is is especially true of senior management who may not have the time to adopt new methods of doing things. Another customer who already has a large deployment of legacy on-premises video said that some of the resistance to video comes from negative experiences with older systems. For those folks, video is perceived as too complicated. The good news is that video is now MUCH easier to use thanks to features like one-touch join and auto-framing. But the fact remains that it takes time for the nay-sayers to come around.

The cloud rules.

We all know that cloud and everything-as-a-service have been industry buzzwords for years, so it should come as no surprise that every single company I have talked to, large and small, is moving toward the cloud. While that in of itself is not surprising, I am surprised by the velocity with which they are moving. This is not the sort of glacial change we saw when VoIP deployments slowly encroached on traditional PBX deployments. Where we once used to hear customers say, “We’ll wait until we have fully amortized our investment in the system,” we’re now hearing they’re ready to move to the cloud to eliminate complexity and significantly reduce costs. In fact, one Fortune 100 customer mentioned they plan on migrating all applications and infrastructure to the cloud by 2020.

Management at scale must be simple.

The last theme is around deploying at scale and the ease with which our customers can do so. AV teams consistently say they have to get out of “white glove” mode. One AV manager told us they used to have an AV person on-premises to troubleshoot the systems and provide in-person support for every call. This is obviously neither practical nor scalable — especially considering this is a large enterprise with hundreds of sites around the globe. Their goal is to standardize on a solution that is uber-intuitive for users and one that can be centrally and remotely managed.

Speaking of management, we’re also hearing from several enterprises that they are looking to move the day-to-day management of video systems to general IT managers so they can free up the AV pros to focus on strategy, architecture and project management.

So take heart AV pros, going forward your time and talent will be directed towards strategic planning and architecture rather than being on call to start the video call.

Of course these are just a few of the themes we’re hearing. I’d love to hear what all of you — who are truly in the trenches each and every day — are experiencing as well!