This content is part of the Essential Guide: Reaping the business benefits of collaboration tools

Room-based video conference software aids workflows, management

Huddle rooms, or small meeting rooms, can benefit from room-specific video conferencing software that enhances collaboration workflows and IT management.

Video conference software for meeting rooms is a relatively new concept in the world of business video conferencing. Hardware video systems have traditionally dominated meeting rooms, while video software was reserved for desktops and mobile devices.

The arrival of interoperability services to connect hardware and software meant users could join meeting rooms from anywhere, and we had reached business video nirvana. Or, had we?

In recent years, one piece has been missing in the business video puzzle: huddle rooms. Working teams are now meeting in these small, ad hoc spaces, and they need quality video to connect to remote teammates. These spaces do not have the budget for traditional meeting-room video appliances, as huddle rooms require something more affordable and flexible.

This demand is met by today's huddle room meeting kits supported by video conference software. You can purchase or create a huddle room video hardware kit from today's high-quality peripherals. In those kits, a small PC, or NUC, is an essential element.

So, why not simply install your existing desktop video conference software on these kits? If you have a Windows PC, any person in the room can simply browse the web and log in to the existing desktop video account, right?

Unfortunately, that approach has two major problems: workflow and manageability. Fortunately, both problems are solved by software video room services.

Huddle room series

This article, part three in a three-part series on huddle rooms, examines video conference software. Part one focused on huddle room costs. Part two addressed hardware considerations.

Simplify the start of meetings

Individuals may not feel comfortable logging into their personal accounts on a public PC. Even if they did, remote workers would need to know which local user's account to call to join the meeting.

To solve this problem, the room should have its own account, and remote attendees can simply call the room, regardless of who is in it. While you could buy a standard desktop account for the room, you would still have some workflow problems.

For instance, the first workflow problem would be how to start the meeting. You can't assume every meeting attendee is trained on the video conference software. As a result, the ease-of-use needs will be even higher than desktop apps.

Fortunately, software meeting-room services can include touch-to-join capabilities, as well as calendar integration. Even a video novice can figure out what to do when faced with a pop-up message in the room saying: "2 p.m. meeting starting now. Touch here to join."

Different than the desktop 

Cloud video providers -- such as Zoom, BlueJeans, Skype and others -- have helped to introduce video conferencing to the masses, said Joan Vandermate, head of marketing for the collaboration business unit at Logitech, based in Newark, Calif. These providers have made video affordable with freemium options and simplified the steps to join a call.

"Video conferencing used to be expensive, intimidating to use and limited to boardrooms," Vandermate said. "Video is becoming pervasive, and I believe it will completely overtake voice-only communications in the next few years."

Even after a meeting has started, users can find many room-specific features they wouldn't expect to find in desktop video software. One example is wireless device share, allowing local meeting attendees to share their files and apps on the meeting-room screen.

Quite simply, from start to end, a meeting-room video experience is very different from a desktop video experience, and it requires different software to support a different workflow.

Huddle room software eases management

Video is becoming pervasive, and I believe it will completely overtake voice-only communications in the next few years.
Joan Vandermatehead of marketing for the collaboration business unit at Logitech

Huddle room video deployments require centralized monitoring and management, just like any other audio-visual (AV) IT resource. To properly support end users, AV IT teams need high-level insight into the environment.

If meeting-room attendees use their personal video accounts instead of the room software, IT could not track the problems in an individual room. Any consistent problems in the room would show up spread across multiple accounts of multiple people who are using multiple rooms. If each room has its own video conference software account, then any problems can be traced to that specific room on your AV IT management software, regardless how many rooms are in the environment.

A key advantage of software-based conference rooms is the pace of innovation, said Oded Gal, head of product management at Zoom Video Communications Inc., based in San Jose, Calif. By focusing on software, companies have the flexibility to select the right hardware for each room. Some companies might have thousands of meeting rooms, so the software needs to be easy to use, manage and scale.

Management is a higher priority for room-based software than desktop software, because more is at stake. If a desktop service fails, the user can generally reboot, dial in on audio or self-address the problem without really disrupting the meeting. If the meeting-room video fails, all remote attendees are locked out, and the meeting is a failure.

Video conference software tracks usage

The AV IT team needs to identify and resolve issues before meetings are affected -- and that can only be done through centralized management.

As the number of huddle rooms grows, so does the challenge of managing them, said Kabir Choudry, vice president of technical sales at video conferencing provider BlueJeans, based in Mountain View, Calif. IT needs the proper visibility to troubleshoot problems, whether it's networking, versioning or hardware. Solid, insightful management tools are essential for huddle rooms to function effectively.

Centralized management of meeting-room video can also provide workflow improvements. For example, IT can use this data to identify which rooms are overused or underused. The underused rooms can be examined to find out what is blocking usage, while facilities can try to ease the burden on overused rooms.

For too long, companies have used the wrong tools for huddle room video meetings, such as laptops with personal video accounts. The results have been poor experiences with no manageability. This clearly can affect the productivity of your working teams. With today's room-specific video conference software, we now have the right tools for huddle room video conferencing.

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