Consumerization is one of the most essential Information Technology (IT) trends of the last 50 years. It describes the re-focus of IT designs toward end-users, as opposed to enterprises and businesses. In other words, it’s a design principle that supports the development of technologies that don’t require extensive knowledge or training to use; consumerization favors plug-and-play devices with intuitive user experiences.
Many analysts believe that IT consumerization started with the invention of the personal computer in the 1960s. However, the trend really began to gain traction in the mid-2000s, when individual consumers overtook business as the largest buyers of technology. Around the same time, Gartner declared that consumerization would be “the most significant trend affecting IT in the next 10 years.”
In today’s world, consumerization is the norm. People expect that the technology they interact with will be pleasant and easy to use. And since COVID-19 drove many business operations completely online, technology’s role in many industries is more significant than ever. Therefore, the expectation of consumer-friendly IT can be challenging for office managers. At work, employees expect technology to be as intuitive and user-friendly as it is at home.
Nowhere is this expectation more present than in video conferencing.
The consumerization of video conferencing
Indeed, when social distancing mandates were abruptly thrust upon people all over the world, people who had never even heard of VoIP were suddenly forced to live large portions of their lives through video conferencing platforms. Business executives, teachers, colleagues, and clients quickly adapted to virtual whiteboards, breakout rooms, and more.
But even though large-scale social distancing mandates are primarily a thing of the past, increased reliance on video seems to be the new norm. And that means that companies must provide a modern, crisp and easy-to-use videoconference experience that’s less enterprise and more consumer-grade.
Expectations of a consumer-friendly UX quickly separated the wheat from the chaff. Uses and organizations gravitated toward easy-to-use video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype, each of which saw exponential growth. Enterprise-focused video conferencing platforms experienced growth as well, though it was not as explosive as their consumer-focused counterparts. Since consumers, rather than companies, were the primary users of these platforms, their interests drove the market.
The popularity of user-friendly video conferencing platforms has become particularly apparent now that many employees are returning to their offices. After months of working from home, people are used to the ease of their at-home video conferencing setups. The video conferencing tools and platforms in office buildings can be cumbersome in comparison.
Unwieldy, hard-to-use tools push employees to seek DIY workarounds that compromise the quality of the company’s online streaming capabilities. IT and office managers can combat rogue IT usage by using reputable AV installers and purchasing products and services with an excellent user experience.
On a practical level, this means that video conferencing equipment…
- …Must be easy for employees to use. Ideally, initiating or receiving a call should be a one-step process, even if multiple cameras or microphones are involved in your office’s setup. When you’re purchasing hardware or software for an office, make sure that the products and services you’re buying were built for easy use by end-consumers.
- …Must be reliable. Everyone knows how frustrating (and unprofessional) it can be to work with faulty equipment. Therefore, choose the video conferencing software that best suits your company’s needs, and make sure that a professional AV installer has set up your audio and video (AV) equipment.
- …Must be aesthetically pleasing. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is. The consumerization trend has driven demand for products that don’t just work well–they have to look good, too. The more pleasant and fun your office’s video conferencing setup is, the more likely it is that employees will use it.
Most importantly of all, your office’s video conferencing setup must also make employees look and sound great. Because so much business is conducted online, having a highly professional video conferencing setup is crucial to impress clients, partners, and colleagues. And if employees know that an office’s video conferencing equipment produces far better image and sound quality than their own setups, they’ll be much more inclined to use it.
What’s the most user-friendly video conferencing setup for your office?
Striking the perfect balance between excellent technical capabilities and superior UX can be a challenge. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:
- A touchscreen controller can make operating your video conferencing setup much easier for employees. Think of it as a center of command: instead of hooking up and taking down personal computers, iPads, and phones every time they need to make a call, employees can simply push a few buttons to start a conference.
- Consider an all-in-one video conferencing solution. These kits take the guesswork out of choosing the right cameras, microphones, and touch screens. They’re designed for easy setup and easy use, which can save a lot of time and energy on the front end (and make troubleshooting much easier!) These comprehensive solutions are designed for conference rooms of all shapes and sizes, so you can easily choose the setup that’s right for your office.
- Neat boards and other interactive tools add a collaborative layer to remote collaboration. They enable employees to digitally take notes, make sketches, and display meeting materials–making meetings more engaging, informative, and (in some cases) fun. And, since collaboration is a must-have tool for the hybrid workplace, these interactive boards preserve one of the best parts of the office: working closely with colleagues.
- When you’re choosing audio and video equipment to integrate into your company’s video conferencing setup, make sure you choose cameras and microphones that have been designed for online streaming. While it’s technically possible to integrate AV tools made for other purposes (ie, recording film or music), those off-label products make video conferencing more challenging to use.
- Invest in huddle rooms, which are small-to-midsized spaces used for more intensive team collaboration. These rooms keep distributed teams closer to each other while also providing the powerful technology usually reserved for larger conference rooms.
How to take advantage of modern video conferencing at your office
As you craft the hybrid workplace technology that drives productivity and collaboration, it’s important to find the best balance that’s appropriate for your office. If you have any questions about the tools that are best for you, schedule your complimentary AV consultation with Travis, our co-founder.
Prior to your call, check out our Zoom Rooms Guide to click here to develop a customized video conferencing plan. To learn more about how video conferencing is changing businesses everywhere, click here.