The world of work is changing. Major advancements in IT and AV have transformed the office, influencing employee working patterns and improving collaboration, even shaping workplace design. In this article Nigel Morris from BDO’s Technology Advisory Services (TAS) team assesses the direction and benefits of the convergence of AV and IT and provides guidance for non-technical decision makers.
AV has become an integral part of IT strategy
Once the domain of facilities management, concerned with overhead projectors, projection screens and cables, AV is now highly functional, easy to use and an integral part of any company’s IT infrastructure and strategy. When you’re responsible for IT at board level, steering your team and your business through the IT/AV minefield of video conferencing, audio conferencing, professional displays and wireless presentation solutions can be a challenge. Video conferencing has moved beyond the boardroom, huddle spaces are prevalent and almost any device can share content on a communal display. Many organisations expect employees to work from any location, within or away from an office, connecting to cloud services using laptop, mobile phone or tablet. Fortunately, improvements in network connectivity and video/sound quality, decreasing equipment costs, the ubiquity of wireless technology and significant advances in functionality have made AV easier to implement and use, promoting effective collaborative working and improving productivity.
Planning for the office of the future
There are three key long-term trends that should be driving your technology choices when planning for the office of the future. Flexible office spaces, the rise of huddle rooms and the move to mobility are where most of the measurable difference can be made. How you plan your AV will impact all of these growth areas. According to a recent study by research firm Futuresource Consulting, almost two-thirds of employees who use conferencing technology spend up to three hours in meetings at their desks every week. Half of them spend another three hours in meeting rooms using conferencing technology to speak to a remote participant. That’s almost one day out of every week. For managers at all levels, these times are even longer. With one in five owners, partners and senior managers spending over 60% of their conferencing time in external contact, the technology needs to deliver.
The changing role of meeting rooms
With videoconferencing now accepted as a mechanism for regular communication, meeting rooms and huddle spaces have evolved into a collaborative ecosystem. Professional displays are central to this move, but wireless presentation solutions also include room hubs, software, content sharing devices like Clickshare, microphones, cameras and headsets.
When sharing content on a conference call, Futuresource research reveals that teams are looking for other ways to get the message across faster and more clearly. High quality video streaming and the ability for participants to share content simultaneously are the two items that top the list of desired features, closely followed by the need to edit shared documents. This requires investment. As a result, video conferencing hardware sales increased by 50% in 2018, reaching 1.4 million units, and will continue to grow at a 27% CAGR through to 2022. If you don’t have a long-term video conferencing and collaboration strategy built into your purchasing plan, you should be exploring the options or you could be left behind. Worse still, you could be investing in disparate items of equipment that become a burden instead of allowing your workforce to perform effectively and build profits.
Exploiting interoperability improvements
As video conferencing has moved mainstream and companies use it to interact with each other, there’s a good chance your video conferencing platform will be different to that of your clients. In the UK, according to Futuresource, 44% of companies use Skype for Business, 23% use Webex and 20% use Microsoft Teams. Google Hangouts, Zoom and other providers are used by a relatively small proportion of companies. This mix of platforms can mean you’ll need multiple accounts, switching from one provider to another throughout the course of a working week, depending on the preferences of your clients. Until now, it hasn’t been possible to join a session from one provider by using the platform of another. This is not only a nuisance, but can also impact your company’s profitability.
The good news is that, in late 2019, Microsoft, Cisco and Zoom announced that all their platforms will work together seamlessly. It’s a move that makes your IT department’s job easier, reduces support issues and ensures a smoother experience when your employees are video conferencing with clients and contacts.
Your next steps
Collaboration has come a long way from people sitting around a table looking at a projector while a team member presents. AV and IT are converging to create an ecosystem of data and idea sharing that makes companies faster, more profitable and ready for action. Regardless of your company’s size, collaborative technologies are on the rise. Improvements in web conferencing tools mean you can present a better image to the outside world, while the rise of the huddle space means that collaborative working environments have never been easier to achieve. To make the most of the opportunities available to you and your business, designate someone to revisit your AV/IT strategy and explore the possibilities for business growth.
The BDO difference
Here at BDO, we understand the challenges that the non-technical board member faces when they become responsible for IT. Our Technology Advisory Service (TAS) team has an extensive hands-on track record of delivering strategic, operational and technical IT advisory services. We’ve developed our services with the non-technical board director in mind and we provide management and support services to suit each client’s needs.
Get in touch with Nigel Morris to find out more about our practical independent advice and IT support services.
You can discover more about our IT Support for business here.
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