In order to help Microsoft’s own employees utilize Microsoft products like Skype for Business and Surface Hub, Microsoft created capital expense plans, support and operations plans, and change-management strategies. These plans helped Microsoft deploy technology pilot programs for new products.
Microsoft shared some information that helped its employees on the company website. There’s a ton of great information in the post, so let’s break it down:
Skype for Business in Meeting Spaces
Microsoft has partnered with companies like Logitech, Crestron and Polycom to offer multiple technology options for deploying Skype for Business. These partnerships have created a new generation of Skype Room Systems – scalable, cost-effective systems to upgrade existing meeting spaces to full HD audio, video, one-touch-join Skype for Business.
Skype for Business devices connect directly to the network with no need to connect to a PC. This means high bandwidth, preconfigured audio experiences, fewer dropped calls and less lag.
- Microsoft IT has set device standards based on room size. From the Microsoft site:
- Cost-effective speakerphones, such as the Logitech Connect, for small rooms (two to four people)
- Powerful center-of-table devices such as the Polycom RealPresence Trio for medium-sized rooms (six to fourteen people)
- In-ceiling integrated audio solutions for large rooms to reach multiple rows of meeting attendees
- Audio devices are connected directly to—and are controlled by—the next generation Skype Room System console, so employees don’t need to worry about learning how to use different devices.
Skype for Business meeting rooms also cater to remote employees.
Skype for Business meeting rooms are designed to start video automatically with preconfigured devices. Content sharing is easily projected, and when projected it is shared with remote employees as well as meeting room participants.
Skype Room Systems have been created as complimentary to the Microsoft Surface Hub. They work together because they were built to do so.
Employees can see their scheduled meetings displayed on the Surface Hub and start them with one tap. They can also invite attendees straight from the console.
Surface Hub offers whiteboarding that enables participants to collaborate on a large, 4K UHD, touch-enabled display. They can save and share work at the end of a meeting simply.
Surface Hub also features Inkback, which saves any modifications to a file on the screen to the original device the file came from, and Touchback, which lets you control a laptop or mobile device connected to the Surface Hub from the Surface Hub’s screen.
You can natively run Office applications and Windows 10 apps meant for the large screen, as well as save whiteboard content to OneDrive to send to participants by email.
Planning Meeting Deployments
Microsoft IT has determined that there are four crucial pieces when outfitting multiple meeting rooms:
There are two scenarios when planning capital for scaling meeting room upgrades. There will either be a one-time technology upgrade for existing rooms, or there will be new construction and a periodic lifecycle refresh of legacy technology.
When new construction and lifecycle refreshes are the goal, it is important to allocate budget correctly:
Microsoft IT and business planners allocate budget for all new construction and for regularly refreshing outdated equipment in meeting rooms. A rolling, four-year (25 percent per year) refresh cycle gives us a predictable capital allocation for meeting technology and the ability to continually update meeting spaces with the latest technology.
With Skype for Business, even when the hardware evolves the user experience remains the same due to the software. So employees don’t have to learn a new technology room to room.
For one-time upgrades, Microsoft notes that Skype Room Systems can be added to an existing room with configuration starting at less than 2,000 dollars.
Microsoft IT has developed a standards-based system to ensure consistency across meeting rooms. First they classify rooms:
- Focus rooms (two to four people) and team rooms (six to eight people) are unscheduled meeting spaces dedicated to a team’s daily use. They allow the team to meet on-demand throughout their work day.
- Small (six to ten people), medium (ten to fourteen people), and large (fourteen to eighteen people) conference rooms are scheduled meeting spaces that host a variety of meeting types, often between multiple teams.
- Extra-large (20 or more people) and multipurpose rooms facilitate large, formal presentations with large groups. Extra-large rooms may have a center table with two rows of seats. Multipurpose rooms have movable seating for very large group activities and presentations. Such spaces need custom, integrated audio and advanced room controls.
After classifying rooms, sites can be classified based on business criticality, number of employees, and geographic locations.
If you don’t wish to rely on the same standards set by Microsoft IT, it’s not a problem. The Microsoft standards teams handle requests using a deviation governance process that, when reasonable, allow requests to be approved.
All potential meeting technologies go through a technology pilot process for Microsoft before becoming design standards. These pilot programs are measured by user experience, deplorability, and supportability.
Support and Operations
As part of the pilot process, Microsoft looks to improve supportability continuously.
Most organizations rely on reactive support because it’s difficult to find a problem before the user experiences it. Therefore, support must be timely as to not disrupt business practices.
With Skype for Business meeting room solutions, we have a goal that when users walk into a conference room, they can be confident that all systems will work correctly and will deliver a quality experience. If there’s an issue, it can be detected and resolved before users encounter it. Support personnel are alerted about failures and problems are either addressed automatically or someone is dispatched to fix problems before anyone sees them.
Skype for Business meeting room solutions use standard Microsoft management technologies such as Microsoft System Center, Microsoft Intune, and Microsoft Operations Management Suite, so our support teams are using the same familiar tools that we use to manage and support our employees’ computers.
Helping users adapt to these new changes in meeting rooms is critical. If users can’t utilize the system then it is, effectively, worthless.
Typically the user interface and one-touch connection methods are enough for Skype for Business, but Microsoft has also developed a short course called “Meeting Masters” to teach employees about Skype for Business room solutions.
It is also important to ensure effective signage is utilized. Microsoft offers three locations that are best for sign placement:
- On the outside of the door. Our experience has shown that people tend to notice the sign and learn about the new meeting solution not when entering the room, but when they are walking past the room. This is a great opportunity to develop basic awareness.
- On the table. Put a sticker right on the table, next to the Skype Meeting Room touchscreen. Users naturally look there when trying to connect, so it’s a great place for a few basic instructions.
- Next to the projection surface. The other place that people look is to the front of the room where the image is projected, so putting a sign there is also effective, especially when it has a single, clear message.
Meeting room signs should be short and to the point, directing users to perform simple actions and providing easy links to the meeting room web pages for additional details.
For more information about deploying Microsoft meeting room systems in your business, you can read the full report here.