The Collaboration Evolution
West talks video collaboration and intelligent huddle spaces
Collaboration is probably one of the biggest buzzwords in the communication marketplace. As the workplace grows more dispersed and remote, companies need to make sure that they’re keeping the connections between members of their team as strong as possible. This means introducing new modes of digital interaction.
West is one of the companies leading the way for new communication and collaboration experiences, through solutions powered by Cisco – a world leader in UC. I caught up with Brian Trampler, the Strategic Business Development Manager of West Corporation, to find out more. Brian is the product manager for the video portfolio, and he deals with several crucial relationships in the West ecosystem.
How Has Conferencing Evolved over the Years?
With decades of experience working with West, Brian is in an amazing position to comment on the evolution of conferencing and communication in the workplace. As he put it: “I’ve watched video grow up over the last 20 years.”
According to Trampler, the audio conferencing market was one of the first areas that West explored, starting with outbound dialling and contact centre support. Gradually, the company began to move into the Unified Communications side of things, implementing audio and data sharing on that side too. “In the last three to five years, however, we’ve started to see the focus shift more towards being able to share web content, collaborating on a screen and using video to have face-to-face interactions.”
Brian told me that people are gradually realising that video has the potential to improve teamwork, shorten meetings and help them get more done in less time.
“We’ve seen incredible growth for video and collaboration over the years. About 10 years ago, video devices started to move away from being huge devices that required an entire room dedicated to them”
“At the same time, networks were being developed to give us more bandwidth to use these tools.”
The next stage in the development of video conferencing, according to Trampler, was the changing workforce. “New generations in the workforce were constantly exposed to Facetime, YouTube videos, and video chat. Everyone got used to being on video.”
What’s Driving the Adoption of Video Collaboration?
According to Brian, we’re now living in a world where anyone can access high-quality video wherever they are. There’s amazing access to quality connections out there, and the opportunities are just getting better.
On the one hand, people are embracing video because they’re starting to see that they can get more done at a quicker pace when they’re fully immersed in the collaborative experience through video. However, on the other hand, video adoption is also being driven by changes in the workplace environment. “We’re seeing new trends in the way facilities are available in the office. People aren’t just using cubical farms for their employees anymore. They’re changing those cube out in exchange for a space that’s agile and diverse – allowing any kind of connectivity, from audio to video and more.”
Brian told me that in this new workforce, the only way for companies to support their employees is to give them an all-in-one unit that allows for easier collaboration and communication. The rise of the huddle room is evidence of this. “Huddle spaces allow us to power up a unit and start working together in an immersive space within seconds.”
When Will We See the Next Step in Video Collaboration?
Huddle room solutions like the Cisco Webex Room Kit Mini are already making the huddle environment more accessible to the average workspace. These solutions are simplifying the video conferencing experience by using high-grade computer chip technology combined with video to help people meet with their colleagues more effectively.
“One thing that’s particularly important is that the tools we use need to be able to work well with a range of different software and solutions. Collaboration companies don’t always collaborate with each other very well. What I like about the Cisco kit is that it works perfectly with Cisco Webex Teams and other Cisco solutions. However, it also comes with a USB cord so I can plug it into any other system as a high-grade webcam too.”
According to Trampler, the next stage in video collaboration will come when companies start focusing on making sure that their offerings don’t just work well in their own environment – but with other tools too. “The consolidation that we’re bound to see over the next couple of years is going to be interesting as customers try to transform their workspaces into huddle areas.”
“Companies aren’t going to stand for having to deal with disjointed services anymore. They’ll need consolidation in the industry”
Will the Future be Driven by Open Standard Video?
Brian told me that he hopes to see more open standards and flexibility in the future of video conferencing. “Like with VoIP and PSTN, we need the industry to lay out a set of standards that manufacturers can focus on to make it easier for people to use services and solutions.”
Trampler noted that going forward; he thinks that the next big communication battle is going to be for control of the desktop. This is an area that video tech vendors will need to focus on, making sure that their solution works with a wide range of operating systems. “It’s going to be hard to take the next step in the marketplace until the world settles on some standards that we can all agree to.”
For Brian, the critical thing to look at today when it comes to making the most out of video conferencing is the transformation of the workplace. “We’re exploring where and how people are working to consolidate capabilities for people and deliver the solutions they need.”
What’s more, by offering intelligent solutions like the Cisco Room Kit, West can also make sure that customers have access to the next-generation tools in the market, like AI with solutions for facial recognition built in. “In the future, we’ll have real-time translation and voice recognition eliminating problems with things like personalised experiences and global collaboration. However, to get there, we need to break down the barriers between tech solutions first.”