How to inspire collaboration through simplified video conferencing
Why user experience is non-negotiable for productive VC
National Manager of Ricoh Connect & Collaborate, Todd Vandenberg, discusses the extraordinary shift to video conferencing and how a new perspective on collaboration can shape a workplace culture where technology empowers productivity and people.
We pride ourselves on preparing our customers for the unexpected, but natural disasters and the pandemic took that to a new level. Necessity is often the mother of invention and adoption — industries have disrupted themselves with fast moving technology changes that may have taken months or years in a pre-pandemic world.
As workforces went remote, unified communications technology and use of video conferencing have skyrocketed. Microsoft Teams grew from 25 million to 75 million active users in two months, 130 million meetings are held every month using Cisco’s WebEx, and cloud-based platforms like Zoom are on the table for business.
The world may have shifted, but the need to keep up with the modern mobile workforce and customer expectations hasn’t changed. Rather than pause tech investment, businesses are prioritising smarter meetings and workspaces through Unified Communication platforms and video conferencing — acknowledging the need to see and hear each other for effective collaboration and communication.
Inspiring collaboration in a video conferencing revolution demands management of an abundance of technology, understanding true collaboration, and taking people with you to develop your video conferencing culture.
Managing an abundance of connection techThe transition to video calls — particularly with up to 5 generations in the workforce — needs an expert touch to keep connection simple, inclusive and productive.Despite the recent surge in demand for video conferencing, research shows 62%¹ of organisations were already using three or more video conferencing solutions. Even with existing tools, they weren’t necessarily equipped to roll out remote work as seamlessly as anticipated in their business continuity plans.A key problem our team identified is that mobility has us spoilt for video conferencing choice — often until we are in a meeting room. You might access your Microsoft Teams or Skype Business video conference directly from your phone or laptop, but connecting in the staff meeting room gets put in the too hard basket. We’ve all been on calls where 5 people are crowded around a laptop in a stuffy conference room. No one can see and hear well, everyone is distracted. You need enabling tech that can be used in any space by any user, without all your eggs in the remote basket.
As you work your way through the options for UC solutions, we’re faced with a bigger challenge than connectivity; embedding a culture of virtual collaboration. Everyone in your business needs to be able to join a meeting and be seen and heard. Even if your business standardises to one platform to boost accessibility and encourage adoption, you need to manage access to different platforms. Do you limit yourself to your chosen platform and risk relationships by bending everyone else to your will, or try to keep a toe in every VC camp? The less clicks to your conference, the faster we get to productive collaboration.
Understanding true collaboration
Reflection on your voice and video technology in this new era comes with a new recognition from businesses of the human element: technology isn’t the centre of collaboration. People are. If the tech is enabling collaboration — then what does that collaboration look like?
Collaboration which bears fruit is made up of:
- Communication — how we actually communicate through audio, visual and other means
- Coordination — sending invites and scheduling workspace use
- Culture — creating a user-first environment with clear expectations
Our why in the Connect & Collaborate Advisory team is to simplify complex collaboration through Communication and Coordination. That's what we do and why we do it. Culture is more complex and reflects your own business priorities, values and long-term objectives. Our Design-Construct-Care model includes support to promote adoption.
Take people with you
The Workplace Innovation Index 2020, released pre-COVID, saw business leaders cite staff resistance as one of the top 3 challenges to innovation alongside budget and security concerns.
Australian organisations are still lagging when it comes to keeping staff informed about digital transformation. Only 50% of businesses ‘sometimes’ evaluate staff needs and technology rollouts often don’t involve staff input — staff frequently feel collaboration tools are handed to them with little explanation or assessment of their needs, leading to ‘shadow IT’.
The 2020 study showed no improvement with only 25% of middle management agreeing they are regularly consulted about collaboration tools.
That culture shift for video conferencing starts with talking to your people, and asking them what they need, how they want to collaborate, and how you can make a positive difference to their working day.
How do you run your day?
What works well and not so well when you’re booking a video conference?
What do you wish you had more or less of?
Just as important as the space and technology questions are those centred on people — video conferencing can be emotionally loaded from the user perspective.
How do you feel when you can’t connect in a meeting?
How do you feel when the tech fails in front of the boss?
How do you feel when the meeting organiser mutes you?
If you don’t ask your staff what they need, they may not tell you.
Creating a productive video conferencing culture
Video conferencing is second nature for many but not all — and you can’t afford to leave anyone behind. Keep communicating with your team even if you’re ironing out some video wrinkles, so they know they’ve been heard, and their needs are a priority.
To pinpoint the culture you want to build around video conferencing and remote working, put the technology aside. Think about the outcomes you want for your business:
- productivity without distraction
- collaboration with purpose
- business critical insights from anywhere.
How do we achieve these things? By engaging with the people who use these tools to support adoption, providing simple ways to be productive with these tools, and championing use. That means mirroring the culture you want to embed from leadership teams down; let your people see the CEO working from home and engaging in productive video conferencing.
We’ve learnt on the run alongside customers this year, but we’ve been listening to Australian businesses for much longer. Research with industry and working businesses last year allowed us to dig into pains and challenges in the meeting room. The message from business then was clear, as it is in 2020 — complexity is the enemy.
Game changing interoperability
Technology is an enabler for your team’s collaboration — but it can be a distraction if solutions get convoluted. Ricoh has partnered with Pexip for one-click conferencing connection.1. Source: The State of Group Video Conferencing - 2018, Wainhouse Research