Written By: Randy Marcotte
The Art of Designing Collaboration Solutions: A User Experience Perspective
In today’s digital age, the realm of communication is constantly evolving. With the rise of video conferencing and collaboration tools, IT managers find themselves at the helm, navigating the intricate waters of technology implementation. But amidst the allure of high-tech features and the maze of technical jargon, there lies a fundamental element that often goes unnoticed: the end-user community.
Randy Marcotte, President of DCS Global, emphasizes that the true measure of a successful video conferencing strategy is its adoption rate among end-users. If the system is perceived as complex, non-intuitive, or unreliable, even the most state-of-the-art setup can become redundant. The challenge for IT managers is to strike a balance – ensuring that the tools are technically sound while also resonating with the users’ needs and preferences.
In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the essential do’s and don’ts when crafting a video conferencing and collaboration strategy. From engaging with the end-user community to ensuring cross-platform compatibility, and from avoiding generic solutions to prioritizing security, we cover it all.
But beyond the technicalities, the essence of digital collaboration lies in human connection. It’s not just about devices talking to each other; it’s about people connecting, understanding, and collaborating. And when this connection is fostered with care and understanding, the results are transformative.
Join us as we explore the nuances of designing collaboration solutions that not only function seamlessly but also enhance the overall user experience. Whether you’re an IT manager, a decision-maker, or an end-user, this guide offers valuable insights to elevate your video conferencing ecosystem.
Part 2.2: The Do’s and Don’ts When Designing Collaboration Solutions with the User Experience In Focus.
Build a Conferencing Space and Don’t Get Fired? Focus on the End-User Community
Welcome to this week’s post. It’s a bit longer as we wanted to take a deeper dive into some of the pitfalls- the “do’s and don’ts” that we have seen. And yes, I’ve seen some IT staff lose their jobs due to failures to execute a collaboration strategy that meets the strategic needs of a customer.
In the rapidly evolving landscape of digital communication, IT managers are often at the forefront of implementing and managing video conferencing and collaboration tools. However, amidst the technical jargon and the allure of cutting-edge technology, there’s a critical component that often gets overlooked: the end-user community.
The success of any video conferencing and collaboration strategy hinges on its adoption by the end-users. If they find the system cumbersome, unintuitive, or unreliable, even the most advanced setup can fall flat. As IT managers, it’s our responsibility to ensure that the tools we implement not only meet technical standards but also cater to the needs and preferences of the users.
Here are five things IT managers should DO and five things they should AVOID when building out a video conferencing and collaboration strategy:
- Engage with the End-User Community: Before implementing any solution, engage with the users. Understand their needs, preferences, and pain points. This will provide valuable insights into what they truly need.
- Prioritize User Training: Invest in comprehensive training sessions. Ensure that users are comfortable with the new tools and know how to troubleshoot basic issues.
- Opt for Intuitive Interfaces: Choose solutions that have user-friendly interfaces. The easier it is to use, the higher the adoption rate.
- Ensure Cross-Platform Compatibility: In today’s diverse tech environment, ensure that the tools you choose work seamlessly across various devices and operating systems.
- Solicit Feedback Regularly: Once the system is in place, regularly solicit feedback. This will help in identifying areas of improvement and ensuring that the system evolves with the users’ needs.
- Don’t Assume One Size Fits All: Every organization is unique. Avoid generic solutions and look for customizable options that cater to specific organizational needs.
- Don’t Neglect Security: While ease of use is crucial, it should not come at the cost of security. Ensure that the chosen solutions have robust security protocols in place.
- Don’t Overcomplicate: Avoid the allure of unnecessary features. While they might sound impressive, they can often complicate the user experience.
- Don’t Ignore Post-Implementation Support: Technical glitches are inevitable. Ensure that there’s a robust support system in place to address issues promptly.
- Don’t Set It and Forget It: Technology and user needs evolve. Regularly review and update the collaboration strategy to keep it relevant and efficient.
While the technical aspects of a video conferencing and collaboration strategy are undeniably important, the human element is paramount. By focusing on the end-user community and ensuring that their needs are at the heart of the strategy, IT managers can build systems that are not only technically sound but also widely adopted and appreciated.
Remember, in the world of digital collaboration, it’s not just about connecting devices; it’s about connecting people. And when people feel valued and heard, the results can be truly transformative.
Next, our team and I wanted to help you design a strategy based on some important lessons we’ve learned. We have seen two categories of issues- those impacting the mobile home user and those impacting the conference room. Both of these user “groups” are also dramatically changing as we review the hybrid workweek with Video Conferencing as a core technology for all users.
The purpose of this additional content is to provide some guidance in both of these areas and help you support great audio and an immersive, collaborative, and dynamic experience in your video conferencing ecosystem.
End User Considerations:
First, let’s address the end users. Here are 10 basic do’s and don’ts that help standardize and elevate the overall meeting and video conferencing experience, especially audio quality.
- Do: Remember manners matter. Mute your microphone whenever you’re not speaking — even if you’re alone in the room. Background noise can be an annoying distraction and stifle any meeting’s flow.
- Do: Be aware of your video’s settings. Check if your microphone is muted before delivering a two-minute monologue that no one will hear.
- Don’t: Position your camera too low, too high, or hooked onto a different monitor. Weird camera angles can be very distracting — and unflattering — during video conference calls. Make sure your camera is at eye level and on the monitor, you plan to use for the conference. If you are using a camera with a microphone, be sure to plug in a headset to mitigate any potential audio loop.
- Do: Consider what happens to sound in the space you are meeting. Do you hear any echo or are there background noise issues? Consider a headset if these come up for you.
- Do: Speak up if you hear an echo. The general rule of echo is that the person who does NOT hear the echo is likely the cause.
- Don’t: Run multiple video applications at the same time, assuming that your computer can toggle between cameras, headsets, and programs without needing a reboot. Run one application for video and reboot if you are not getting the experience you expect. When you reboot, have your USB headset and camera plugged in during that power cycle.
- Do: Test your microphone before you video call, especially if it’s an important meeting. Test it by video conferencing with your colleague before the meeting. Nothing is worse than trying to share something critical and not being able to communicate clearly because your audio clarity and volume are poor.
- Do and Don’t: Take the meeting from a coffee shop. If you do, know that the network may be slow. The best results are always doing a video with fewer applications running, tethered to an Ethernet drop, and using a USB camera and headset. If you go wireless and are in a neighborhood coffee shop, consider muting your camera after you have said hello, always mute your voice line, and consider dialing in with a cell phone if you have better audio on that rather than using the VoIP option on the video call.
- Do: If you’re in a group call without video, introduce yourself before you talk. Consider something like “Hi it’s Jim, I have a question.” While several programs will notify you as to who is talking, conference line numbers will not. Therefore, be polite and introduce yourself.
- Do: When you’re talking, look into the camera instead of looking at yourself talking on the computer screen. It will help others on the call feel like you’re 100 percent engaged and present. If you are using the camera’s microphone, this will also help it pick up your voice more accurately. Be sure you’ve turned off any annoying pop-up notifications or e-mail alerts. Nothing helps send a message that you are distracted more than you actually BEING distracted.
It’s important to remember that video conferences are essentially replacing or complimenting in-person interactions that allow businesses to communicate more effectively. Like it or not, video conferencing is a core component of all company internal and customer interactions and is here to stay.
At DCS Global, as noted above, we have found that reminding the end user that just because they CAN do a mobile video call from an airport, on speakerphone, while walking, without a headset- doesn’t mean that they SHOULD. Maybe you don’t get fired—but perhaps they create a sub-par experience for colleagues.
Conference Room Considerations:
Next – the expensive conference rooms. We want to make sure you get the value you promised the business. It is important to point out some of the key issues we face when looking at video conferencing audio issues in your conference room. For the purpose of this section, I will focus generally on rooms that may or may not need a sound engineer and equipment that accomplishes some digital sound processing. A video call with bad audio will create much dissatisfaction with even the best video conferencing solutions and undermine the entire deployment. With this in mind, here are 10 key Dos and Don’ts to consider when looking at your conference rooms and the equipment choices you make.
- DO: Make a clear decision about your budget and the expected results. Specifically, do you want a voice phone and a phone or set of mic pods for video conferencing or one solution that supports both? We often see poor audio experience in a room where great equipment is deployed in a situation that is outside of the stated specifications for that equipment.
- DON’T: Deploy a mixer and digital sound processor without the help of a partner or a manufacturer’s rep who knows the limits of the audio settings. We often troubleshoot rooms that fail because the pickup levels or gating levels are set incorrectly.
- DO: Test the room after installation with a variety of use cases, with a single person in the room and with a crowded room. Most of the equipment is tested in a variety of settings but if not deployed in your rooms with testing under real-world settings, you can get undesirable experiences.
- DO: Remember that (as mentioned above) often the cause of the echo is the party that doesn’t hear the echo. Be sure to test ahead of your big meeting, have a service contract with your VAR, and know how to mute the system.
- DON’T: Poke around too without support or reading the manual. Leave the audio settings alone unless you’ve talked to a support rep, have the expertise, or have done a backup of the system settings and can reset them. We often go into Customer locations having to first untangle a mess they created and then reset the system to normal levels. This can create annoying service invoices or change orders. If you have chosen and tested the system properly during deployment, it likely never needs adjusting.
- DO: Build the rooms with the right equipment and build within the limits of the equipment. We have a number of great USB and wired SIP phones that have great integration with video conferencing. On average these phones have a hearing radius of 15-20 feet. Use these products within the limits stated by the manufacturer.
- DON’T: If you ignore the environmental factors that impact sound, don’t be surprised when the system fails. Do you have hard glass walls, a solid tabletop, no wall art, HVAC vents that are loud, and open windows with street noise? Any of these can torpedo even the best microphones or audio settings.
- DO: Test the system with a variety of users with different speaking styles. It is important to involve a varied set of stakeholders and staff of different genders and roles. Often the physics of sound intersects with the reality of a diverse user population and the more you test across users, the better the results.
- DON’T: Everyone has an opinion, but that does not mean you have to listen to it. Subjective opinions about sound often create the most frustration for IT. If you know the equipment and its abilities, you can set the right expectations. Test with a known set of variables, limiting the external factors that could be contributing to bad audio. For example, we’ve had video customers dialing from the video system into another voice bridge and on that voice bridge a number of cell phone users had called in. It was those users who had issues with the audio. Was it their cell phone, their headset, the other bridge, or the video settings? Test to a known set of variables and baseline for success.
- DO: Remember, this doesn’t need to be complicated. Most of the video systems have DSPs (digital sound processors) and echo cancellation built into the software. With this in mind, you can expect that the audio quality is awesome. In more complicated rooms you can extend the range of mics and speaker zones with digital sound processors that have baseline settings out of the box. Expect that audio is part of the immersive experience and choose a team with experience addressing common audio issues so you get the results desired.
In conclusion, building a successful video conferencing and collaboration strategy requires a balanced approach. By understanding the specific needs of your organization and being aware of common pitfalls, you can craft a strategy that not only enhances communication but also drives organizational growth.
Remember, in the realm of digital communication, it’s not just about having the tools but using them effectively. With the right strategy in place, you’re not just setting up a conferencing space; you’re paving the way for innovation, collaboration, and success.
Please follow our blog series. In this series, we are glad to provide you with the essential tools you need to build an HD Video Conferencing Room that is PERFECT and not get fired in the process.
About DCS Global & Perfect Video Conferencing
DCS Global is a collaboration, consulting, services, and audiovisual (AV) integration company that provides various services related to digital signage, wayfinding, and kiosk manufacturing and deployment. The company specializes in creating interactive and engaging experiences for customers, visitors, and employees.
Their services include:
- Digital Signage: DCS Global designs, installs, and manages digital signage systems that help organizations effectively communicate with their audience. These systems can display content such as images, videos, and live data, and can be customized to meet the specific needs of each client.
- Wayfinding: The company offers wayfinding solutions that help people navigate complex environments such as hospitals, airports, and campuses. These solutions use interactive maps, directories, and other tools to guide visitors to their desired destinations.
- Kiosk Manufacturing: DCS Global designs and manufactures custom kiosks for various industries, such as retail, hospitality, and healthcare. These kiosks can serve a variety of purposes, such as self-service check-in, product information, and customer feedback.
- AV Integration: DCS Global also provides audiovisual integration services for businesses of all sizes. These services include the design and installation of audio and video systems, conference room setups, and video walls.
DCS Global offers a comprehensive range of services to help organizations enhance their communication, customer experience, and operational efficiency through innovative digital solutions.
Perfect Video Conferencing (#perfectvc) is an Audio Visual and collaboration services company that specializes in designing and deploying cutting-edge video conferencing and collaboration spaces. Recently, PVC merged with DCS Global, and together, they offer a comprehensive range of products and services that are guaranteed to deliver an immediate ROI for their customers.
With a strong focus on design and deployment, Perfect Video Conferencing is committed to delivering solutions that offer some of the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO) in the industry. Their team of experts works closely with customers to understand their unique requirements and design solutions that are tailored to their specific needs.
Perfect Video Conferencing’s solutions are designed to help organizations of all sizes and industries enhance collaboration, improve productivity, and drive business success. Whether it’s a small meeting room or a large conference center, they have the expertise to design and deploy video conferencing and collaboration spaces that meet their customers’ needs.
In addition to their design and deployment services, Perfect Video Conferencing also offers a wide range of products, including video conferencing equipment, audiovisual solutions, and collaboration tools. Their team of experts provides ongoing support and maintenance to ensure that their solutions continue to deliver value over the long term.
Overall, Perfect Video Conferencing (#perfectvc) is a leading provider of audiovisual and collaboration services, delivering innovative solutions that help organizations improve communication, collaboration, and productivity. With their recent merger with DCS Global, they are now even better positioned to help their customers achieve their business goals.
About Randy N. Marcotte
Randy N. Marcotte is an accomplished business leader and President of DCS Global, a leading communications and collaboration company. With a proven track record of success in the industry, Randy has a strong background in organizational change, sales enablement, and customer satisfaction.
Before his role at DCS Global, Randy was the co-founder and CEO of Perfect Video Conferencing, which merged with DCS Global to provide a broader range of solutions to their clients. As the former owner and manager of Change Experts, Randy brings a wealth of experience in driving growth and success for businesses of all sizes.
Randy is passionate about building lasting relationships with his clients and partners and providing innovative solutions that deliver exceptional value. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling the world, skiing deep powder, and participating in marathons. Randy has completed 22 marathons around the world and will be completing his 23rd marathon in Nice, France this fall.
With a dedication to partnership, value, innovation, and excellence, Randy is proud to join the team at DCS Global and looks forward to continuing to bring new solutions to their loyal customer and partner base.