B2B Tech Talk with Ingram Micro
B2B Tech Talk with Ingram Micro

Episode · 2 months ago

Revitalizing Video Conferences & Addressing Hybrid Work Challenges w/ James McGuire

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Video conferencing has come a long way. Even so, there’s continuous room for improvement across all video-based software as businesses transition into hybrid work environments. 

New challenges arise, and with them, new solutions. What does that look like across hardware providers? 

Shelby Skrhak speaks with James McGuire , NA Distribution CAM at Lenovo , about: 

  • Addressing hybrid work challenges
  • How businesses are adapting to hybrid work
  • Ideal progress in conference tech solutions 

To join the discussion, follow us on Twitter @IngramTechSol #B2BTechTalk 

Listen to this episode and more like it by subscribing to B2B Tech Talk on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or Stitcher . Or, tune in on our website.

You're listening to B two B tech talk with Ingram Micro, the place to learn about new technology and technological advances before they become mainstream. This podcast is sponsored by Ingram Micro's imagine next. It's not about the destination, it's about going someplace you never thought possible. Go to imagine next, DOT INGRAM MICRO DOT com to find out more. Let's get into it. Welcome to B two B tech talk with Ingram micro. I'm your host, Shelby Scare Hawk, and my guest today is James Require, North America distribution camp for Lenovo. James, welcome, thank you so much. Shall be super happy to be here talking with you and all the folks of acron excellent. Well, you know, today we are talking about how Lenovo is is helping solve some of the technology challenges that the businesses are facing with both return to office and hybrid work. But, James, when we say Lenovo Smart Collaboration Tools, what type of tools are we talking about? Primarily, I mean is this the the hardware, like Mikes and cameras and speakers and such? Yes, it certainly includes all of the hardware that's needed. Like you mentioned, any of the mics and cameras and speakers, all the peripherals that are needed, and we also have the compute devices that are necessary to actually run the meeting group space as well. So we do offer a comprehensive hardware solution. However, we also offer the software and services that are needed in order to set up new conference rooms in addition to that, so we're able to kind of, you know, spec out new rooms or rollouts with our customers and prescribe them not only the hardware but all of the deployment capabilities that are going to be needed for their specific use case. We do have solutions for all sorts of different unified communication platforms. So we have native built hardware for Microsoft,...

...teams, zoom, Google Meat Solutions, as well as a few different third party solutions that we support as well, such as Cisco, Webbex but, you know, at the very end of the day, all of the hardware and software services that we do offer our integrated solutions, so they're all verified to work with each other. Um, we go through a very rigorous of any process with our platform partners, such as zoom and Google and teams, so that we can make sure that not only all the Lenovo hardware works together without any sort of issue, but that it also works with approved solutions with some of our other technology partners, such as Logitech out there. Gotcha, Gotcha. Okay, so let's dive into some of the specific challenges that businesses are facing. So we know that businesses are calling some of them are calling back the entire team into the office. Others are offering kind of more of a hybrid work model. So let's unpack the return to work model first. So how are I T teams preparing their office environments to really accommodate the whole team again? Yeah, so the biggest change that's happening is that, you know, everywhere collaboration is happening. At this point, video was becoming the expectant standard and there's a much greater focus on personal collaboration spaces. At the same time, organizations are trying to better put Home Office environments as well for better experiences. So making sure that all of us that are remote employees have the correct webcams, the correct software, the correct PECs in order to be able to run the meeting spaces that we need to remotely, but kind of, you know, going back to the inoffice portion of this. The main need is that the technology is easy to use. It needs to be so that employees that kind of have minimal experience with conferencing. Um, they need...

...to be able to walk into a room and start a meeting without having to call a bunch of people reach out to an I t administrator to help them figure out how to start the meeting or do trouble shooting. So luckily that's kind of where some of the things smart products come into play. You know, all of our meeting room solutions are one touch joint. It's all designed to sit and stay in specific conference rooms, so employees can walk in their meeting will automatically be in that room. They press joint, they're able to share their content and don't have a lot of issues, as far as you know, bringing in those I t administrators to help them through the process of getting set up and started in the event that there are still some issues that happen. Um, one of the other great features that the smart collaboration line has right now is our things smart manager platform, which actually allows I t administrators to remotely troubleshoots skinny problems with the hardware software in that room. So a couple of different aspects. The first is, of course, just reducing the probability of an issue occurring, but the second just being the ability to troubleshoe remotely and not only reduce the time to fix an issue, but not requiring on site personnelity be at each individual conference room in a facility. Right, and we don't have to tell this audience that the uh, you know, I t teams are are stretched thin and you know, attracting talent and retaining talent is uh is affecting. You know, basically how much time that I t professionals have to to really work on these types of tasks. You know when when that meeting room isn't isn't cooperating, as they say, there's already such a, you know, push and pull of all the different tasks that that I t teams are facing. So one less thing is is certainly a big deal. Yes, a really especially when you're an administrator of a...

...company with, you know, a hundred conference rooms or more and a thousand employees. You know, any any amount of time you can get back is a huge health and benefit to those to those people. Right. Well, so I wonder is there a lot of retrofitting happening. You know, retrofitting of of workspaces happening right now. I mean, I know the dated conference rooms of of your those aren't necessarily set up to do what we need them to do today, like you said, you know where video is expected. So how, specifically are I t teams updating these, these dated conference rooms and and doing so with tools, like you said, that are easy to use for both users and administrators? Yeah, so I think the first place that kind of facilities managers are looking at right now is, you know, how do you transform the current landscape of a quote unquote cube far on the majority of the floor, with a couple of large board rooms that kind of served as the meeting spaces in the past, and m companies are really looking at creating more meeting rooms, specifically huddle rooms, and a fewer large video installations. You know, traditional boardroom conferencing technology can cost, you know, could cost up to ten thousand dollars in the past, depending on, you know, how intricate and which components were involved in the installation. Now we're kind of looking at breaking those large rooms down into huddle rooms and equipping non a v rooms um with the necessary hardware for conferencing technology. You know it's easier said than done, of course, especially with organizations that, you know, have, like I said, thousands of employees. They're trying to make sure they all have spaces for them to go into when they do need to be part of a virtual conversation or meeting. So kind of what I t...

...administrators are trying to look for, I think, is an easy way to deploy the technology in a way that's cost efficient on a large scale a lot of times. So again, you know, Lenovo, along with some of our conferencing tech partners at Logitech and Jabra, we've created, Um, not only Lenovo specific solutions but solutions with Logitech and Jabra that are affordable and solutions that are ready to use right out of the box. So you don't specifically have to go through and custom design every single room. We certainly give you the capability to do that if you do choose to do so, but we do have several different pre built room sizes and designs of technology so that you can pretty easily scope out three, four or five different size rooms and Um, do a deployment over a short period of time. I need it. Yeah, well, so let's shift to the office with a hybrid work model. So, I mean what challenges are I t decision makers trying to solve for, you know, for those employees that maybe come into the office part time and need to need a way to easily connect, or the employees that are at home of the time? How can they connect to these meetings that are happening on site that are, you know, pretty critical for them to understand everything that's being said, everything that's being shown and uh, I really be a part of that meeting? The main goal for hybrid collaboration is definitely that equal opportunity for participation, Um, the equal quality of experience, regardless of where it happens. You know, some of the I guess like examples of inequality in a virtual conference space would be, you know, low bandwidth or low quality a V in a room where remote connections are perfect. It's...

...saying effective participation for those people that aren't in the main in person room, participants that, you know, aren't really able to hear or follow discussions for the on premises teams or see the white boarding sessions. We know that so much of the communication that happens in person is around body language. You know, even if you're in a room with ten or fifty people, there's always kind of side conversations happening, there's people writing stuff down and showing each other. So just making sure that everybody in the room gives that experience, making sure that the people that are on premise are seated in a way where their voices and their communication is packed up and transmitted to those people that are not specifically in the room and the cameras are capturing that body language so that the remote people are are getting to see experience. You know, when we get into a room that is not correctly outfitted, we do uh negative impacts for all of those involved. You know, participants become frustrated or kind of check out, you know don't really participate or bring forward ideas as much, especially for situations like where rainstorming is happening or for our you know, education in users Um and low quality connections can, you know, frustrate or cause negative perceptions among other participants. Even in, you know, sales type scenarios where you're trying to get a point across to a customer, you're trying to show your solution to and if you're not able to effectively communicate or the technology is not transmitting the points you're trying to make, you're definitely gonna end up losing that sales pitch, I guess, for a for a lack of a better example. Yeah, well, I think we can all relate to that, uh, that feeling when you are, you know, if it's a brainstorming session and you are pitching something and you're working remotely, you know you're able to gauge unwritten cues, unset cues from the table, basically if you're in...

...the room there, but when you're pitching something you know, basically from a from a camera and a microphone, that's a little bit more daunting because you can't really you don't see those very subtle nods or you don't see the the expressions that are on people's faces as well to be able to you don't know if you need to. Do I need to shift? Do I need to you know, kind of ended? Are they engaging? Do I need to expand more? That's a real challenge that I don't think people have before the pandemic and before now people have really addressed you. Do you agree? Yes, absolutely. I mean I think it's one of those things where I don't even think we realized how much body language and visual cues that we read into until we were forced to go to a remote environment. All of a sudden, you know, the entire environment changes and you know we're doing our best to kind of piece together the cues of the inflections, of people's voices, of what's going on, but again, a visual component of it is just so important and you know, that's why you need the the appropriate technology to be able to pick up all those things. Yeah, is that something that has Lenovo studied this and and I guess has there? Has there been a concerted effort for Lenovo to to create these meeting equity tools or knowing that that is that's been an unaddressed issue that we're now facing and we're now realizing that that is a challenge. Yes, I mean certainly a lot of research goes into all the new products that we bring forward. You know, on the kind of visual queue front, one of the things that we're lucky enough to have in our product portfolio is our our think smart camera, which is an AI enabled camera that allows you to track who's seeking and it focuses in on them automatically so that people that aren't in the room can not have to search around in a small stream that's in of them automatically goes to whoever seeking in...

...the room, or multiple people are having a conversation will pan out to include everyone, which can be super helpful for those for those visual cues and that body language. You know, we also have our our thick smart bar, which is one of our top audio products that's available right now. That has, for being forming microphones for clear, crystal clear audio capture on it. So that's another very helpful tool that we have an our disposal and Um, some of our like full room kits that include the video and the audio technology all if in a single package, including the actual computer that runs the meeting room. All of those comprehensive solutions are designed to fully leverage all of the meeting room and collaboration inclusivity features that are already built into Microsoft teams and zoom. You know, we're lucky enough to have these great platforms that are constantly improved in themselves and putting out new features and functionality and US seeing such close partners with all of those Um those technology organizations. Just make sure that we're able to fully integrate and utilize those those tools that they have. Yeah. Well, so, as we start to wrap up our episode, I wonder if we can get a little bit of the crystal ball out and tell me, James, where do you see technology, this technology, going in the next year? Yeah, so, I mean, you know, I personally believe that, you know, technology kind of always advances at the rate of necessity. I mean I don't think that if we went back two years then we would ever expect video conferencing to be where it is today. Obviously, you know, O e m manufacturers such as Lenovo have, you know, poured a ton of time and resources into developing our portfolios. But at the same time, you know Microsoft Team Zoom, they spent a lot of time and money as well making sure that they're solutions are more comprehensive to kind of...

...what I'm hoping to see in the in the near future is more cross platform hardware. Right now, most of the technology is the purpose built to a certain platform, such as the teams resoom. We're lucky enough to have some hardware technology that we can kind of use multiple platforms at once, but Um, it doesn't mean that it's native to that device. So, you know, seeing some of the conference technology be native to the same piece of hardware would be great. I think some new home specific personal devices are just on the horizon here, sub devices that kind of offload the conference necessity from your pc to a separate device, Um, such as our things. Smart view, which came out, you know, about a year a little bit more ago, is one of those devices. But I think that technology is can continue to improve. One of the things that I'm really excited, though, for is um later this year. This was just announced at Infocom. Two is that our thing, smart one bar Um will be launching this year, which is a all in one meeting room solution. It's essentially a bar that includes microphones, cameras and speakers, everything that you need to have a conference within one piece of hardware. And we all know that the less individual components that are needed, uh, is always a better thing, especially when you're outfitting huddle rooms. So I think the more one piece solutions are going to kind of be one of those things that are continually developed right well. So, for listeners who want to find out a little bit more about what we talked about today, how can they reach out? So Lenovo has, uh, several different micro sites for smart collaboration. Um, they're pretty easy to find it by just, you know, looking up, you know, smart collab on Google. You know, our partners at Ingram also have a Lenovo sites at imagine next dot Ingram micro dot com slash Lenovo. So there's some...

...great information on smart collaud there as well, and I'm always happy to talk with you know, customers or any of our fine folk at Ingram around you know what's the current in the collapse face and what's coming up. So you know, always feel free to reach out to me directly. My email addresses jade McGuire at Lenovo Dot Com. Excellent. Well, James, I really appreciate your your time and your insight. Thank you for joining me absolutely shelby, thanks so much for having me and uh, I hope to be speaking with you again soon. Yeah, absolutely. Well. Thank you, listeners for tuning in and subscribing to B too be tech talk with Ingram micro. If you like this episode or have a question, please join the discussion on twitter with the Hashtag B two B Tech Talk. Until next time, I'm Shelby Scare Hawk. You've been listening to B two B tech talk with Ingram micro. This episode was sponsored by Ingram Micro's imagine next B two B tech talk is a joint production with sweet fish media and Ingram micro. Ingram micro production hand by Laura Burton and Christine Fan. To not miss an episode, subscribe today on your favorite podcast platform.

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