by Dave Smith

Make the paradigm shift from conferencing to meeting experience solutions

Mar 12, 2018
Collaboration SoftwareSmall and Medium BusinessTechnology Industry

To create better people experiences, think of digital workplace communications and collaboration as a lifecycle and continuum, with a rich ecosystem of applications, people and content that needs to be contextual.

phone communication listen talk low tech
Credit: Thinkstock

There is a rapidly emerging market for Meeting Experience Solutions, that is driven by the very real need of providing better meeting experiences for attendees and planners. The overarching force behind it all is the ever-growing momentum to support better conversational experiences to improve productivity in people’s work processes. Effective communication and collaboration is critical for business workflows, processes and creating conversational enterprises.

With regards to online meetings, for so long we looked at it as just a technology and forgot that the people who are in the meetings are having an experience. That is all of us! This experience can be horrible if the actual technology doesn’t work, or if it presents hurdles on entering, joining, or having productive meetings. We also forget that meeting planners and organizers are also having an experience that represents a continuum from the pre-procurement phase of choosing a solution, all the way through to its usage and measurable return on investment.

So, let’s take a look at what we’ve traditionally called web conferencing, video conferencing, online meetings and newer terms such as meeting solutions, video and visual collaboration, just to name some of the prevalent terms out there. The terms themselves were good at describing the technology and what it does but didn’t go all the way in addressing how it would accomplish that from the user’s perspective. Make no mistake, it has always been about the meeting experience itself!

What I’ve been encouraging enterprise planners to do is explore products and providers that actually support great meeting experiences. The products and providers themselves come from various backgrounds, including the traditional web and video conferencing areas. However, in my experience, users don’t really care what the technology or product is called per se, as long as it supports the experiences they are trying to have. It has to support the outcomes they are trying to arrive at. That outcome can be a collaborative internal meeting among colleagues, to arrive at a critical business decision. Would video be critical in order to get visual cues in that meeting? It could be a webinar or webcast to an external audience or large corporate communication to an internal audience. The meeting experience users want to have requires the technology to be seamless, flexible and super easy to use.

The market is going through a tremendous amount of consolidation and technology convergence simultaneously. Features and capabilities can no longer be thought of as silo components. People shift through different modalities throughout their work day and need to keep context. The need for a screen sharing use case can quickly evolve or escalate to requiring a whole geographically dispersed team to get on video for collaborative content creation and decision making. In that scenario visual cues will enhance the collaboration experience. So, the technology has to be flexible and able to support a wide variety of experiences without friction.

What if there are existing investments in video hardware infrastructure, can a provider’s solution integrate into that environment? The idea of breaking down product and provider evaluations into the desired experiences you want, will minimize the risk of getting too lost on features at the expense of solving real people communication and collaboration issues.

With the emergence of team messaging or what I’ve been calling Conversational Workspaces, such as Slack, Workplace by Facebook, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts Chat, Cisco Spark, RingCentral Glip, Unify Circuit, Atlassian Stride and Zinc, the overall collaborative experience can start from a chat session and may need to be moved to a live meeting in real-time with the right stakeholders. This requires a deep level of integration between collaboration applications to support a seamless experience.

In that vein, recent moves by RingCentral and Google to merge messaging and meetings with RingCentral Meetings and Glip and Google Hangouts Chat and Meet respectively, speaks to this growing trend of supporting conversational experiences. Providers such as Cisco with Spark, Unify with Circuit and Microsoft with Teams have already been going down this path to some extent. Again, since people continually shift modes from real-time to asynchronous interactions throughout their work day, they require tools that support conversational experiences, that integrate into their critical business applications and keep the context of their business workflows.

So, evaluations into Meeting Experience Solutions, have to take into account their level of integration into other collaboration and business applications. That integration can be between applications within a single provider’s portfolio as well. In regard to what I would consider a representative list of Meeting Experience Solutions providers, the following are currently on my radar: Adobe, Arkadin, BlueJeans Network, CafeX, Cisco, Google, Highfive, Huawei, LogMeIn, Microsoft, PGi, Polycom, ReadyTalk (a PGi Company), RingCentral, Vidyo, West, Zoom. Market consolidation and technology convergence often causes fluctuations that changes this list.

The focus for your evaluation has to be on the meeting experiences you are trying to support. If a provider is deficient in one required area, it would behoove you to remove them from your short list. Understand the provider’s roadmap for the product, in regard to support for additional use cases and integrations. Make sure they have a real story around meeting experiences and the customer references to verify that. To create better people experiences, think of digital workplace communications and collaboration as a lifecycle and continuum, with a rich ecosystem of applications, people and content that needs to be contextual.