As (some) people return to the office (some of the time), you’ll need video call-friendly meeting rooms. But should you optimize for Teams, Zoom or both? Hybrid work environments require a nuanced approach. Here’s what that looks like.
Cast your mind back to the heady days of Spring 2020. Home working was still a novelty. The sun was out every day. The virus would be gone by Summer. Life was one long video call (okay, that part hasn’t changed).
When it came to video conferencing there was really only one show in town. Zoom had become one of the fastest-growing tech stories of the pandemic, with the number of average daily meeting participants soaring 3,000 per cent from 10 million in December 2019 to 350 million today.
It seems we did everything on Zoom, from stand-ups to sales pitches, pizza parties to poker nights. The company earned $2.6 billion in 2020, an increase of 317 per cent year on year.
And it’s a small wonder. It had the best features, the most robust platform. Everyone had an account, enticed by a Covid-friendly free option. It responded quickly to privacy and security concerns (remember Zoom-bombing?), reassuring corporate IT managers and company bosses.
Competitors just couldn’t seem to get close to them. Zoom was making the weather in terms of features and subscriber numbers.
But Microsoft, in particular, wouldn’t give in without a fight. It began to reel Zoom in feature-by-feature, benefit-by-benefit. It benefited from a significant strategic advantage – tight integration with Office 365 and long-standing relationships with company IT departments.
Teams added close to 100 million users in 2020, doubling the number of daily active users to 145 million. Analysts estimate revenues of $6.8 billion last year, an increase of 700 per cent on its performance in 2019.
Fast forward to today and we find a fractured marketplace for video conferencing.
Many companies favour Teams because it integrates video calls into a broader communication and collaboration ecosystem that includes file sharing, chat and voice. But they face resistance from users (including senior managers) who prefer Zoom’s ease of use and baked-in video features.
This friction was tolerable while staff were working from home. Departments and teams could pick a product based on what worked best for them and IT either didn’t know or didn’t much care.
But it creates a few challenges as employees return to the office. Not least: how should companies set up their meeting rooms for hybrid working?
It’s clear that people will continue to work from home for at least part of the week. For that reason, many companies have invested tens of thousands in state of the art video conferencing systems in their meeting rooms.
For consistency, value for money and ease of use, most have chosen a single platform to power their video calls.
Zoom rooms are renowned for their simplicity, with kit that makes it easy for anyone to set up a call and invite others to join. Extensive app integrations open up wireless screen sharing, white-boarding and room scheduling. Standard features include user favorites like auto-generated meeting transcripts, meeting recordings and virtual backgrounds.
Meanwhile, Microsoft Teams Rooms benefit from a consistent, familiar interface. They bring into play other collaboration tools like file sharing, voice calls and IM chat. It boasts proprietary features like Proximity Detection which lets users spontaneously connect to the room using Bluetooth from any Teams-enabled device. And IT teams can manage the rooms and update equipment remotely.
Either platform powers next generation hardware featuring HD cameras that follow subjects around the room and intelligent microphones that provide the best possible audio experience for remote participants.
Both allow users to ‘invite’ rooms to meetings, meaning starting or joining the video call is as easy as touching a button on the hardware interface.
All the leading hardware providers work with Zoom and Teams. Both platforms are feature-rich, reliable and user-friendly.
The problem comes when people come to use the meeting room and want to use a different platform. Here are a few examples.
• It’s a Teams room, but the CEO prefers the simplicity and gallery view functionality of Zoom.
• A customer wants to conference-in his boss from his laptop.
• A particular type of workshop requires functionality only offered by a different platform.
• A department requires a different type of functionality to the rest of the organisation.
The way your company communicates and collaborates is about as strategic as it gets. As we enter a new, hybrid way of working with distributed meeting participants, setting up meeting rooms in the way that best suits your business is critical.
Begin by answering a few simple questions.
• How do you currently manage virtual meetings? Are you heavily invested in a Teams environment, tightly integrating video calls with Office, Sharepoint, etc? Or are you a Zoom shop, reliant on the functionality offered by its app ecosystem?
• Let’s assume you decide you’ll be more productive by choosing one primary platform in the meeting room. How important is it to also let users seamlessly connect to the other? Will you need to offer customers, partners and employees seamless access to Zoom in a Teams room, or vice versa?
• If you go with one as the primary provider, you won’t get the full experience of the other. Are you okay with the compromises that entails?
• Or would you prefer a user-controlled environment? A decentralised, agnostic approach to video calls in meeting rooms. If that’s the case, BYOD (bring your own device) is the way to go. In BYOD-enabled rooms, users can connect their laptop to the same high spec hardware (cameras, microphones, etc) via wired or wireless connection. They’re free to use whichever platform they prefer.
These aren’t simple questions to answer. It might help to partner up with a provider that understands hybrid communications strategy. Someone like us perhaps!
We can do more than go over the pros and cons of different platforms. We have the creative and strategic skills to create bespoke solutions to meet your business’ unique needs, as well as the technical skills to implement them.
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