Dedicated VC environments vs. BYOD rooms

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies to rethink their business operations, IT infrastructure, and company policies. Remote collaboration, through necessity, has become the standard way of working. Many corporations are taking the leap and embracing the pandemic way of working; a combination of remote and on-site workers which McKinsey has labeled the “hybrid virtual model”.

Benefits of the hybrid model

There are several reasons for embracing a hybrid workforce model. The pandemic has demonstrated how being forced to work remotely when being unprepared can throw a stable business into volatility. Such a working model can be seen as a risk management operation to better prepare companies for future disruptions. By removing or reducing the physical office limitation, companies are also free to attract new employees from a global talent pool. Having no physical offices also reduces the costs associated with the property, equipment, and depreciation. Finally, a large body of research shows that the flexibility provided by remote working increases employee’s motivation, productivity, and satisfaction.

Disadvantages of the hybrid model

Implementing 100% remote working policies or the hybrid model is not something that companies started to think about in 2020. Quite the contrary, several corporations have tried – and failed – to implement such models in the past. The major issues were a lack of common culture, cohesion, shared identity, purpose, and trust in the organization. In mixed models, there was also a lack of power balance, where the in-person managers and workers dominated, thanks to the benefits of being physically together. These corporations have experienced workers’ satisfaction, and performance deteriorated the longer they were working in these conditions.

Fostering collaboration through video conferencing

Despite the advantages and disadvantages of remote working or hybrid models, this future is unavoidable. Nothing can completely replace face-to-face interaction and the experience of collaboration and social cohesiveness when being physically together. Technology – and here we are specifically referring to video - can provide the next-best experience. It’s up to the IT/AV department to equip workers with the tools they need to work and collaborate effectively.

This article will look at the two major, polarized trends in the market for video conferencing solutions for corporate environments: Dedicated VC (videoconferencing) environments and BYOD (bring your own device) rooms.

Option 1: Dedicated VC environments

One major trend in the market for video conferencing solutions is the dedicated video conferencing hardware built around a specific platform. One example is Cisco, which has created its own video conferencing universe consisting of a variety of hardware and software for online meetings and team collaboration. Other players on the market, namely Microsoft Teams and Zoom, have taken the SaaS approach. Their business model is based on partnering with hardware vendors who create certified meeting room/videoconferencing solutions for Microsoft Teams Rooms or Zoom Rooms. These certified solutions are produced by vendors such as Logitech, and Lenovo.

Advantages

User-friendly – simple to use 
A dedicated VC environment typically consists of a touch interface as the central point of interaction. The other peripheral devices that make up the solution would include a display or interactive board, speakers, webcam, and a microphone. The touch interface provides the few functions needed – join a meeting, start a meeting, make a call, present, turn the mic, camera, and speakers on/off. The interface design on the touch panel is a standard design made by the VC software vendor. 
Some solutions, such as Cisco’s Telepresence Touch, can be modified, expanding their functionality to include in-room device control functions. Learn more about Neets integration with the Cisco Touch 10 panel. 

IT security 
Having dedicated video conferencing environments in meeting rooms encourages employees to use the chosen and approved collaboration apps. Most environments have high levels of security and compliance capabilities, meaning that employees can communicate securely. Furthermore, all the major platforms have admin platforms where admins can manage access, configure settings and policies, manage devices, and more.  

Guaranteed high-quality audio and video 
Dedicated video conferencing hardware is typically created by manufacturers with a long history in the AV industry. These manufacturers are heavyweights in the industry and have a proven track record for providing high-quality equipment. Furthermore, equipment that is specifically designed for one application – such as video meetings in corporate environments – would have the ideal combination of features and specifications to perform at a high level. This contrasts with products from consumer electronics vendors, who tend to manufacture one-size-fits-all products. 

Perfect for internal communication
Overall, dedicated video conferencing solutions tailored to one specific UC platform are ideal for larger corporations. Such organizations are interested in standardized solutions across multiple sites, so such a solution makes sense financially, for the IT team (one system to onboard and support) and for the user (one system to learn). 

Disadvantages

Limited flexibility
A dedicated VC solution as previously described is perfect for more video meetings where people use the same platform and only need to discuss a topic. However, the system is rather limited when employees wish to speak to external partners.

What if the external partner works in an organization that uses a different dedicated VC solution? What if their organization has policies that ban the use of other video conferencing tools on company-owned devices? 
The diversity of users, stakeholders, and the wide range of video conference service offerings means that users require flexibility in their choice of video conferencing tools to be able to collaborate effectively.

One must look at use scenarios in meetings when making a purchasing decision about AV equipment for meeting rooms. How many people attend meetings without bringing their personal devices? How many people have meetings where content is shared, and what about compatibility issues between various brands?

Most dedicated VC solutions eliminate the need to use personal devices such as laptops, which results in a lack of possibilities in terms of using various equipment, such as webcams, speakers, and microphones for other VC platforms like Meet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc. In order to do so, users then must connect their device to the display with an HDMI cable, which can result in different issues. One could be compatibility issues with Macbook. Most solutions on the market do not currently support wireless screen-sharing solutions. Therefore, you would require a display with multiple inputs and a control system such as the Neets Control – UniForm to switch between different inputs. 

Shadow IT 
In large organizations, Shadow IT refers to IT systems that are deployed by individuals or departments other than the central IT department, to work around the limitations of the primary systems. While Shadow IT systems can lead to innovation and inspiration for future central IT solutions, they also increase risks in the organization with regards to control and security. 
If employees feel limited by the current video endpoint solutions offered in their meeting rooms, they might opt to not use those meeting rooms and find workarounds being downloading non-approved solutions on their personal devices. This can potentially increase the risk of security breaches in the IT system and waste the investment in meeting room solutions.

Costs
Dedicated video conferencing solutions have different price ranges, depending on the manufacturer and the application (e.g. huddle room vs. conference room). Furthermore, some solutions require a monthly license per device for device management and monitoring. For instance, the license for a Microsoft Teams Room is $15 per device per month for the standard offer or $50 per device per month for the premium offer. For larger installations, the costs can quickly add up.

Expanding the capability of dedicated VC environments with Neets Cisco Telepresence Touch Integration 
Cisco has several video conferencing solutions (made up of codecs, speakers, webcams, interactive boards, and more) that can be controlled by the Cisco Touch 10 panel. The panel acts as a central point of interaction for the user. By integrating a Neets control system to a Cisco solution, the touch interface can be expanded, enabling the user to control in-room peripheral devices (such as lights and curtains) as well as the video conference, from the same interface. 
Learn more about the Cisco Telepresence Touch Integration here >

Option 2: BYOD video rooms

The opposite trend on the market is BYOD (bring your own device) video rooms where users bring their own personal devices (and their preferred videoconferencing application) to the meeting room, connect, and get started with the meeting room.

Advantages

Flexibility 
The concept of BYOD video rooms provides a lot of flexibility to the IT department to create systems that match corporate requirements and users' needs. In a way, the options are limitless. In BYOD video rooms, the IT team has the freedom to piece together systems made up of different devices from different vendors that will work together seamlessly. A BYOD room can have multiple connection options (e.g., wired and wireless) to increase compatibility with different device brands. BYOD's principle also means that the hardware does not limit the applications users wish to use during their meetings.

Solvo by Neets lets users use a wide combination of different devices and brands. Participants in the video room simply bring their own devices and connect their laptops to the system using the provided USB 3.0 cable. The CEC technology turns on and off the connected display and power manages all the connected equipment automatically upon signal detection from the user’s laptop.   

Price
The flexibility of the BYOD video rooms means that the IT department is empowered to create solutions that satisfy stakeholders’ needs while sticking to their budget. Video conferencing systems that are built on the principle of BYOD can be scaled up and down as needs develop and as budgets change over time. A dedicated VC solution’s costs are typically higher because the need for additional equipment is required, such as a microphone, webcam, and speakers. The BYOD video rooms are lower in costs. Indeed, it does depend on the room's size and specific demands. Still, with the possibility of connecting different devices and brands to a hub, the need to invest in additional equipment and specific UC-platforms is gone. 

Disadvantages

Possible complexity for the user 
In software development, a major issue is “feature creep” – a tendency to increase project requirements during the development process beyond the original ones that were agreed on. The same thing can happen when developing specifications for a BYOD video room. The flexibility it provides can make it tempting to add more requirements and devices, which might unnecessarily tech up the meeting room. 
Having too many devices and options to connect or share content in a meeting room can make it complex and confusing for the user. This will also cause more support tickets and increase the workload for the IT team.

Key takeaways

Generally, a dedicated hardware solution is more suited for internal communication. Depending on the needs, a dedicated hardware solution offers more security and a standardized experience in terms of UC platform - a one size fits all model.'

However, flexibility and pricing are key when determining the solution going forward. BYOD video rooms remove the locked experiences by vendors by providing flexible conferencing support for the majority of communications platforms that are out there, these include Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, and many more. BYOD video rooms offer organizations the possibility to use their meeting spaces to host and accept video conference meetings through any of these platforms. External meetings are easier to get on the road, as users simply use the preferred UC platform - and that leaves a positive effect on productivity. The hosts simply just launch video conference meetings using their own laptop, bridging the room technology to the meeting and remote participants, who then take part in the same collaboration experience. 

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