So here we are. Twenty years on from the turn of the century and the ‘Millennium bug’ or ‘Y2K bug’ scare.
Back then, online collaboration was via good old audio, web conferencing, and separate video room systems, and although the Y2k bug fears were misplaced and nothing bad happened, maybe you were one of those people who sadly missed the millennium celebrations because you were on duty in some conference ‘war room’ in case of a catastrophe.
Twenty years ago, we were at the very start of the SaaS business model with companies like Salesforce.com leading the way. In fact, millions of us were already using SaaS with Hotmail or Yahoo mail accounts, without knowing it would be renamed ‘cloud computing’ by genius marketers. We had to wait for 2006 with G Suite to really go mainstream with cloud and datacenter stories.
These days, collaboration solutions are robust and mature. Almost everything is unlimited: your bandwidth with optical fiber and 5G; your storage with elastic cloud drive; your call plans and collaboration usage with monthly recurring fees for ‘all in’ subscriptions. Video and audio are not just HD-ready but truly HD.
Yet, despite these advances, collaboration technology does not get the use it deserves in the workplace. It’s a pity and so with progress in mind, here are my three collaboration wishes for 2020.
- Switch on your video – and show your face
- Stop using your smartphone Bluetooth headset
- Set up the right huddle room at your office
Let’s run through these…
Wish 1: Switch on your video!
In 2020, I’d like to see your face when you call me for a 1:1 or we are together in an online meeting. I really would prefer to see you than just your ‘initial’ or your ten-years out-of-date photograph for an hour.
I’m going to say it right here: if you don’t activate your video in 2020, you are either a ‘has been’ or else just not polite. Turn on your video! Many vendors have invented or integrated the very latest and greatest video codecs to ensure high quality video so whatever the bandwidth you have, your video will look good.
If you’re not comfortable sharing your interior design showing off your flowery wallpaper or if you haven’t tidied your room, then you can always choose to blur your in-meeting background.
You will also be able to choose a custom background, something which will allow you take the meeting from wherever you are – and appear to be somewhere else.
Where you actually are, well, that’s not my business – but please do activate your camera. Let’s be video first; video always!
Wish 2: Stop using your smartphone Bluetooth headset!
Your Bluetooth earphones and earbuds that came with your smartphone are perfectly good for listening to streaming music and video – but during a video meeting, irrespective of the video quality, audio is king. The quality of the audio you send, your voice – and how well or otherwise you can hear the other participants really matters. I want to listen to you with no background noise, no Larsen effect, no volume difference. I also want you to hear me clearly, despite my ‘terrible’ French accent.
Smartphone headsets are not designed for professional collaborative calls or meetings. You may believe they will do the job but, really, these headsets don’t do a good job. Thousands of great engineers have worked hard to develop business-ready devices for just this purpose.
At the time of writing, I encourage you to check-out these devices: the Sennheiser MB 660 UC MS or SDW 5016 (which, personally, I use every day), or the Jabra Evolve 75, Poly Plantronics Voyager 5200 UC or the Cisco 700 series.
A great headset will change your experience and what’s more it will also protect my ears! I know that one day I’ll need audio prosthesis – thanks too much music, and too many meetings – but the later the better.
If you don’t like headsets and want to keep your head clutter-free but do need to attend or host lots of meetings every day, then you can use speakerphones as an alternative, via the same vendors noted above. They’re tiny, are plug-and-play devices and deliver premium voice quality, specifically for online meetings.
C’mon! Work your sound in 2020!
Wish 3: Set up the right huddle room at your office!
Workspaces are changing and if you have good Wifi you can take or make video calls from nearly anywhere in the office. This offers great flexibility, but of course it’s not as if you are going to your confidential budget calls or contract deal meetings in wide-open space, or the office kitchen! What you do need for such important conversations is the right room, perhaps a ‘huddle room’ or two?
A huddle room is a small and private area for holding meetings, with enough room for maybe three to six people and which has tele- or video- conferencing and collaboration technologies ready for use. It’s likely the ideal size for your meeting, and you won’t need to either hog that larger, oversized meeting room.
And what your huddle room really needs for the job is a ‘room system’. These are great – and work perfectly with all your favourite collaboration applications that you can run from your laptop or other mobile devices, and are very affordable, compared to high-end video room systems designed for board rooms.
With most of the products on the market – The Dolby Voice Room® from BlueJeans is a great example – you simply enter the room and there will be an automatic association between your device, your application, and your calendar, meaning you can connect quickly and begin collaborating, enjoying a meeting with high quality 4K video and HD audio.
Officially certified for MS Teams, we’ve tested and successfully deployed the latest MVC500 from Yealink, a great, simple, and very effective product.
There’s also with the innovative PanaCast (as shown above in the Huddle room example) which delivers an amazing 180° angle that really makes your video look cool.
Within the Cisco Webex family, you get a unique user experience thanks to the Room Kit Mini and the latest Cisco Webex Desk Pro.
And then there’s my own personal favourite, which remains the Webex Board that I’ve been using for the last three years.
Every employee deserves to work with devices such as these.
There’s more to come…
Aside from all the benefits outlined above, most of the applications and devices from our partners now onboard advanced AI features and leverage face and voice recognition. You can talk to your devices; you can ask an assistant to record meeting notes and provide summary highlights of the meeting. AI assistants improve the overall quality of the meeting and take care of tedious post meeting tasks, you save time, you just focus on the essentials. There is more to come with 3D augmented reality video, hologram, live subtitle translation. It’s working already in the labs – it’ll come to production soon.
In the meantime, if you want clear advice on how to make the most of modern collaboration, we’re here to help at the Cloud Communication division of NTT. Don’t hesitate to contact any of our offices around the world – we have adoption experts to advise and consult with you, but most importantly they are all using these fantastic solutions in our company every day.
I hope my three wishes will come true, and if so maybe I’ll have the pleasure to see and hear you in HD this year!
All the best for 2020!