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IT pros face hybrid work technology challenges

Enterprises need specialized video conferencing equipment for office spaces that are usually empty to accommodate both in-office and remote participants during meetings.

Hybrid work environments demand that everyone's video conferencing capabilities bend to the needs of the out-of-office worker.

Cisco's updates to its RoomOS cameras coupled with the vendor's new Webex cinematic meetings feature, enabling in-office conference room participants to get their own personal on-screen windows like remote users, is a primary example.

In addition to product unveilings, technology experts from various companies spoke about the hybrid work IT challenges at the Enterprise Connect communication collaboration conference, held in Orlando, Fla., March 27-30.

Offices used for virtual talking

During the pandemic, the University of Pennsylvania IT department underwent major office space renovations to consolidate all IT staff spanning multiple campus locations into one new building.

"And now that we're hybrid, this beautiful office space is empty," said the school's technical director, JoDe Beitler, during a panel session. "But yet, we're very hesitant to give up any of the space because we don't know where things are going."

While most of the conference and huddle rooms sit empty, challenges arise when they finally are used for meetings that include in-office and virtual participants.

The video conferencing technology needs to be sensitive to each participant's face and voice, and easy to configure to save time, all to accommodate the hybrid working experience, Beitler said.

As a result, the University of Pennsylvania is investing in this technology.

There's just not a lot of people in our office, and we've rationalized our portfolio. We are much more invested in platforms.
Brian DibrellVice president, associate technology experience, Humana

"I hated working remotely before because you felt like you weren't really part of the meeting," Beitler said. "Now, it's much more inclusive -- everybody feels like they are part of it -- but that tech has to work."

Many workers stay home

Only a small percentage of personnel at health insurance giant Humana work in the office full time, with more than half working at home full time, according to Brian Dibrell, the company's vice president of associate technology experience.

"There's just not a lot of people in our office, and we've rationalized our portfolio," Dibrell said. "We are much more invested in platforms."

Humana's strategy is to follow product developments by popular collaboration communications platforms such as Microsoft and Zoom, he added.

For on-site workers, Humana's plan is to make the office space as attractive as possible to draw workers back. Dibrell called it the "mandate versus magnet" principle.

Enterprise Connect 2023 recap

Whether employees are connecting from home or in the office, the paramount concern is having all the collaboration tools -- meeting, messaging, calling -- on the same platform, said Shival Seth, CTO at Grand River Hospital and St. Mary's Hospital in Toronto. The healthcare provider uses Cisco Webex and Cisco IMI.

"The last thing I want to do, or the organization would like to do, is populate too many applications for people," Seth said.

Mary Reines is a news writer covering customer experience and unified communications for TechTarget Editorial. Before TechTarget, Reines was arts editor at the Marblehead Reporter.

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