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Huddle rooms create new meeting room management requirements

New video conferencing tools don't require high-level support from IT and AV teams, which allows them to take a more strategic approach to management.

Video endpoint management is a topic that can frustrate and confuse collaboration technology consumers. In this...

age of user-friendly technology, why do we need sophisticated tools and talent for meeting room management? If everything is advertised as click-to-join and equipment is intuitive, do we still need IT specialists connecting our video calls?

The reality is meeting room technology is being pulled in two directions. On one hand, it's getting simpler to deploy and operate video collaboration technology, so users need less hand-holding. But on the other, these tools are more powerful and feature-rich, which require IT and audiovisual (AV) expertise to optimize and integrate them into true collaboration environments. The result is a win-win for users and IT and AV teams.

Users can now access their collaboration spaces, start their meetings and use these new tools without needing help. AV and IT teams have had their talent wasted for too many years as they were required to sit in on meetings to operate equipment or dial calls. Now, they can use their skills to ensure the teams they support are really getting the most benefits from their overall AV environment.

Interestingly, this new dynamic has not eliminated the need for remote device management, although it has certainly changed the nature of it. Previously, video endpoints were limited to a few high profile locations, such as the boardroom. Remote endpoint management was often an active process. Someone from AV support would live-monitor each video conference, sometimes attending a call while on mute, to mitigate any technical snags. While that kind of remote support is still available, the reliability of today's video conferencing services generally makes it unnecessary.

The current state of remote device management isn't about operating a few high-profile, complicated, single purpose devices. It's about managing massive deployments of affordable, easy to use, multipurpose devices. It isn't the single $200,000 telepresence room; it's the thousands of multipurpose rooms with peripheral-based setups.

Meeting room management also includes software management

The goal and role of remote device management has changed because the need has changed. A meeting attendee doesn't need a remote IT expert to make sure the call works. The meeting attendee needs the remote IT expert to ensure that every device in the room is running the right version of software with the settings correctly configured, the correct integrations enabled, the right licenses applied and the appropriate user accounts and permissions assigned.

To further complicate the discussion, we no longer have to only manage devices; we have to manage software accounts, too. Many of today's top collaboration tools are software apps that run on personal devices as well as on meeting room equipment. These apps, accounts and licenses must be managed in much the same way as we manage devices. The challenge in remote software management is scalability as these apps are often distributed in large numbers.

Fortunately, the industry is responding in several ways to ensure IT and AV teams have the tools needed to manage video endpoints and users in large-scale collaboration deployments. Every enterprise-ready cloud video vendor offers some sort of admin portal with the essential remote management capabilities. Many of these offerings are quite robust, with the ability to display high-level usage data in various charts and graphs, as well as the ability to dig down into specific devices or accounts to troubleshoot and provide support. These tools specifically tie to meeting room management as the largest trend in cloud video has been software offerings for huddle rooms. Video vendors with room-based offerings generally offer enterprise-facing remote management tools as part of the package.

Vendors provide new video endpoint management tools

We are also seeing additional movement on the hardware side of endpoint management. Manufacturers of multipurpose devices are now leading the discussion with new cloud-based device management services. Device manufacturers are also partnering with cloud services to provide room kits with remote management capabilities. From both the software and hardware side, vendors seem to be well aware of the essential need to manage devices at scale.

As the nature of remote management has changed to accommodate large-scale deployments, the tools themselves must change. If you need to update software in five meeting rooms, it's fine if the remote management software requires you to click each room. But if you have to update 5,000 smart speakerphones -- each running a different suite of apps -- you need remote meeting room management tools designed to work at that scale.

Just because meeting room tools are easier to use, it doesn't mean they no longer require remote device management. We now need a different type of remote management, but it is no less crucial. Be sure that your IT and AV teams have the tools they need to properly support your users.

This was last published in October 2018

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