In spite of the advances in communication technologies of late—face-to-face video, instant messaging, mobile applications and more—it can be easy to forget that audio conferencing is still the cornerstone of collaboration. All of the video chats and online meetings in the world are useless to your organization without consistent, high-quality audio tailored to your company’s unique needs.
Audio remains a bit of an afterthought in light of the complexity and innovative promises of your other communications software. Or, more commonly, you're simply continuing a legacy audio purchase. However, audio conferencing has grown increasingly more complex (albeit not as visibly as some of our other collaboration technologies), and making an informed purchasing decision is more important than ever before.
Here are several key things to consider when evaluating an audio conferencing solution:
1) Ease of Use
While it would be easy to assume that dialing a phone number and tapping in a few pin numbers and passcodes is sufficiently simple, it can still be a frustrating user experience, particularly for guests. Instead of digging around in email looking for an invite with numbers appended, today's audio tools can auto-connect users via Voice-over-IP (VoIP) or even automatically dial-out to you or your guests as soon as you’ve joined the conference via desktop or mobile. It may seem like a small time-saver, but multiplied across all of your meetings throughout your organization, those few minutes saved add up to significant costs saved—and time.
In addition, audio conferencing apps for both desktop and mobile provide visibility and feature access that is normally somewhat obfuscated on conference calls, such as a list of participants; indicators of who is speaking and access to volume, muting and subconferencing controls. Normally accessible through a somewhat archaic list of “*” commands, having them visible on your computer screen or mobile device creates a more intuitive, efficient conferencing experience.
2) Hybrid Network Support
In addition to more intuitive user-facing features for conference calls, the underlying network infrastructure that makes those calls possible has also grown increasingly complex. Hybrid audio support, which allows for seamless mixing of VoIP and traditional PSTN within the same call, is essential to facilitating freedom and choice for your employees as well as any external guests. Without hybrid support, you may overly complicate your audio conferences by forcing a particular connection method.
3) Integration with Existing Tools
In order to avoid needlessly overcomplicating your employees' lives, it's important to consider collaboration tools that seamlessly fit into what we like to call a user's "inertia;" in other words, how does a tool integrate into existing tools and workflows? If your audio conferencing solution and existing web and video solutions don't play nice together or force users to navigate multiple interfaces and tools to get a conference together, you've done a poor job optimizing their collaboration. Any audio conferencing solution you consider for your organization should offer seamless integration paths for your existing communications.
Or, if you’re considering either adding or switching your web or video conferencing, the purchasing conversation may change to a web solution that includes audio conferencing, giving your employees the freedom and flexibility to meet how they want, without the additional costs of traditional per-minute audio models.
There are a lot of shiny new communications tools out there, and many of them have matured to the point where they're ready to enter the enterprise. However, don't let audio be on the backburner, or you may ultimately be hindering collaboration.
To learn more about advances in collaboration technology, including audio, download our free eBook “The Future of Business Collaboration: 2015 Edition” today.