So what are the steps to True any device and any platform collaboration?
Can we really get to face-to-face collaboration from Skype to Business to any device or platform?
Let's look at those steps:
Here we examine the different stages of Microsoft Collaboration:
Stage 1 - Team Collaboration
Stage 2 - Siloed Collaboration
Stage 3 - Familiar Collaboration
Stage 4 - True Collaboration
This can easily be depicted in a graphic.
This is standard Skype for Business presents chat and face-to-face meetings internally within an organisation
This is a standard Microsoft feature which enables of company to federate or whitelist other Microsoft equipped organisations so they can have face-to-face meetings and collaborate
The next step, is where we cross the boundary towards True Collaboration, so let's talk about that boundary and why it exists. The step from silo collaboration to familiar collaboration is a significant one in the approaches utopia where are corporate team member can collaborate face-to-face on any device and more importantly on devices they are familiar with.
The secondary concern is that these familiar devices have already been expensed and belong either to the individual or to the Enterprise.
Two typical examples of this are the smart device belonging to the individual and for example video equipment that's already been invested in by the corporate, in familiar collaboration both of these devices can be connected to Skype for Business.
So what's now possible in familiar collaboration that wasn't possible in siloed collaboration?
In familiar collaboration you can connect to any device and by that we mean any device equipped to make a phone call or any device equipped to connect face to face be there a simple browser a Polycom, Cisco, Lifesize or Starleaf piece of video equipment, literally any camera and then and Wi-Fi enabled device and any audio device.
The benefits of familiar collaboration summarised:
- Connect any audio device
- Connect any camera enabled device
- Connect familiar devices that require little or no support
- Extend your collaboration reach beyond the organisation
- Extend your collaboration reach to customers partners suppliers to move faster
- Reduce your travel expense or challenge every travel dollar
- Increase your staff morale and mobility by enabling mobile working or flex working
- Boosting productivity dramatically
- Increasing the speed with which you get crucial decision input from team members who could be anywhere
- Sweat the assets and devices you already have rather than invest in yet another technology fad or fashion that could well be redundant in a few short years
So what did you have to do to activate familiar collaboration particularly with Skype for business?
You have to consider the collaboration options they could be Zoom or Blue Jeans if you want a plug-in based solution that doesn't connect to everything or you can go native and look at the Microsoft partners that provide plug-in free Solutions that require no new workflows.
In summary therefore 10 very good reasons why an organisation should look at familiar collaboration as an important step towards true collaboration. So now let's look at the final stage true collaboration.
- True collaboration is the achievement of collaboration utopia, why is that the case? https://blog.close.global/true-collaboration-what-is-it-all-about
Let's look at the graphic again and understand truly what it is trying to communicate.
- The big step which differentiates your choice of options in suppliers is there true collaboration separates itself from familiar collaboration by enabling not just every device to connect, but any platform.
- What do we mean by platforms we mean what we previously referred to as silos so that not just any device can't connect but whether you're on Apple, Polycom, Microsoft or Google has no impact or in no way limits your ability to connect face to face.
- A typical test of that would be crucial, firstly the ability to connect Google Hangout's, Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business to videos estates and each other.
- And once you get into the detail the ability to do that natively without the need for plugins that the IT department need to configure in a build, but with the alternative, a truly native solution.
- So what do we mean by native we mean using standard Microsoft features for example like the contact record, the invite and the method of joining from within Skype for Business. Let's look at exactly what we mean by native in the next chapter.
- What would crucially mean for the end user with a native solution is zero new workflows no need for comprehensive training programmes and rollout simply use the existing Microsoft or Google features to connect to anybody on any device and any platform.
- True Collaboration therefore is a huge stepping stone in that the considered IT director or CTO would be looking to create a frictionless collaboration environment, where decisions can be made quickly, because crucial input from team members, suppliers, partners or customers can be gained without the need for travel without the need for diary delays, required to organise important people and their hectic diaries.
- True collaboration for the finance director means they can challenge any travel expense free in the knowledge they have a viable face-to-face flexible solution that doesn't detract from the emotional intelligence advantages of a face-to-face meeting.
- The CEO head of department or team leader can move to an environment where they can truly establish a business performance culture that's inclusive for employees that doesn't require needless travel to the office or an event that means that every voice is heard every market and opinion considered and decisions are made quickly with the maximum 360-degree input without any delays and in a transparent way.
So to summarise true collaboration, we would say quite simply it is frictionless collaboration face to face from any device or platform than any supplier customer partner or contractor may have.
We can go further and say it should not cost a fortune, it should require no capex or business case because the palpable productivity advantages as well as the business benefits of speed and inclusive decision making mean that any investment in a native solution is minimal compared to the financial and momentum benefit that the organisation gains.
Putting that into practice and some of the basic steps that any IT director or CTO can take or consider in their journey towards collaboration and true collaboration.
Step 1 The first step is to extend face-to-face meetings from Microsoft to Google, Apple, Cisco or Polycom whatever you require and you in visage that your suppliers customers and partners may have. This unlocks the Microsoft silo so how do we go about doing that?
Step 2 We review our options to connect any device, the most crucial decision here is whether for Microsoft we wish to maintain native standard Microsoft workflows for the end user.
If we make that decision, to preserve the workflows, then we pre-select only Microsoft certified partners. It establishes the criteria for selecting a partner to extend Microsoft they must be Microsoft certified and then must have native connectivity.
Step 3 In step 3 we have to consider which platforms the Microsoft partner can connect to and the key decision here is which ones wouldn't we want to connect to ultimately the decisions and separators or whether you they can connect to Google Hangouts and if you have a requirement or can envisage one, this is a key separator. The second consideration is to future proof yourself, with a partner that is Microsoft certified for Skype for Business, but also for Microsoft Teams.
The first three tips we considered the platform considerations and now we'll extend those would looking at a Skype for Business specific viewpoint.
Step 4 The very basic essential requirement is can we add audio participants to a Skype for Business meeting, that can access that meeting from any country in the world, that has audio dial-in facilities. Here you want to ensure that you're working with a partner that works with only the very best and at the moment the very best is Twilio.
There are very few Microsoft partners that are certified for both Skype for Business and Teams that can also connect to Google Hangouts at a native level and have the ability to add Twilio audio.
What makes Twilio the best is there are a number of audio suppliers, and in our experience we want to remove the barriers to performance. The first being global coverage, the second being no capacity limits.
So that the matter how big the call, we don't run into any concurrent user issues and can cope with the volume of audio attendees. This is a key design consideration in Twilio as it has an elastic sip trunk which enables calls to scale up and down in size, with no delays and no limits.
Step 5 The key consideration here is the ability to connect to video equipment, but to do so in ways that optimise the flexibility of the use cases that you and visage.
So let's explain that almost any supplier you look at that has video interoperability for Skype for Business and will enable you to connect either an IP based H323, H264 video unit, which are all standards that Polycom, Cisco, Lifesize and Starleaf for example, recognise.
That is a pretty basic level of functionality, however where the field separates are those that rely on plugins.
Where IT considerations need to encompass the build of your Enterprise plugins or whether you prefer to bypass this and select a native Microsoft solution.
So let's expand on what we mean by native.
Step 6 Native connectivity has at the heart of it workflows the Microsoft user will understand and the three basic ones are the contact record, the Outlook invite and the Skype for Business chat and video connectivity.
What do you mean by Native contact record capability?
Here we be that you can use a Microsoft partner and enter the details of the gateway or virtual room in the Microsoft contact record such that a user simply has to search for a room using native contact searches that they are used to.
Here we'll use an example my room that we are creating called the Microsoft virtual meeting space and we will select to enter into the contact record first name Microsoft, surname virtual meeting space and email address Microsoft.firstname.lastname@example.org
So in the very first instance the contact record you can see how the virtual meeting space uses the native contact first name surname and email facilities to create a directory record.
Step 7 WebRTC : Skype for Business connectivity to the browser can be split into two camps, Camp one those that use the client or plug in and Camp two there's no download no plugins and use native webRTC.
Again if you want to avoid a complex life as a IT director you would naturally avoid any requirement for downloads or plugins that complicate your IT build infrastructure.
WebRTC or web real-time communication does not require downloads or plugins as all communication is run through the web socket, which removes the need for plugins and downloads.
A crucial consideration is how far the suppliers WebRTC capabilities extend, as browsers very in their maturity and approach towards webRTC. Microsoft for example have only just adopted webRTC in the Edge browser, where as Google Chrome has had webRTC capability for 5 years or More.
There are a couple of concerns that the IT director needs to address in their due diligence when reviewing a suppliers capability for webRTC communication, number one you need to check which browsers they have webRTC capability and whether those extend to presentation and chat as well as of obviously sharing video via the web socket. Number two, you need to check whether the browsers on mobile devices also have webRTC capability as they are by no means the same. for example Google Chrome on iOS is not native chrome and actually is a safari webkit, with a chrome badge. So the experience you're used to on Chrome on a desktop and on Android is very different on iPhone iOS.
This can of course be offset if Safari the native iOS browser has webRTC communication capabilities and the very best suppliers conquered this in iOS 11 onwards.
To summarise therefore decide whether you are going via a plug-in route or download or native webRTC and then consider the scope of webRTC functionality a presentation chat as well as video and then explore weather that the supplier presents the ability to use iOS safari WebRTC. this then covers your browser and Skype for Business face-to-face meeting capability and massively expand the range of devices and platforms they can now join your Skype for Business meeting on most desktop laptop and mobile devices.
Step 8 Is where you move into realms of more advanced Skype for Business face to face meeting interoperability and really start to separate the men from the boys when it comes to supplier functionality for either virtual meeting spaces or gateways.
Example 1 is dial out and by this we mean dial out from the virtual meeting space into a Skype for Business meeting connecting to the contact or host of the meeting. Whilst dial out is a very basic requirement dial out Skype for Business is not.
Step 9 The more elaborate advanced capability of any virtual meeting service that works with the the Skype for Business or Teams is drag and drop. So what do we mean by drag and drop we mean being able to create a use case where you can drag a video unit in a meeting room into a Skype for Business meeting using native Microsoft capabilities and leave the video user without complex things to-do. Likewise the Microsoft Skype for Business user simple uses the Skype for Business drag and drop capability exactly the way they would today.
So how do we get that to work and in which use cases does it had significant value?
Let's take the example of Microsoft.email@example.com that we already have set up in our system and directory but requires a tweak to work for drag and drop.
What we need to do is remove the complexity of the Skype for Business user connecting to that video unit and this is managed quite simply by allocating a virtual meeting space to the video unit and then setting an auto dial call route so that when the Skype for Business or anyone connect to the Microsoft.VMS then the virtual meeting space automatically dials the video unit. While it sounds complex it takes about a minute to set up.
So what are the benefits of drag and drop with a video unit and Skype for Business it can be summarised quite simply the Skype for Business user has no new workflows they know how to use drag and drop and they seem to use that with the virtual meeting service or space that is connected via an auto dial rule to the video unit.
The video user simply walks into the meeting room and sit down as all the work is done behind the scenes.
The IT director/ manager has a minutes admin to complete and that's it.
Step 10 summary.
So if you wish to extend Skype for Business to any supplier partner contractor or customer, who could be on any device and any platform, there are some simple checks to undertake. They ensure you select the right partner to work with to extend your investment in Skype for Business to crush travel expense and to boost productivity dramatically.
- Make the conscious decision that you're going to be able to connect to every device, for face-to-face meetings.
- Make the conscious decision to use a supplier of virtual meeting spaces or gateways that is Microsoft certified and uses native Microsoft workflows to connect other platforms that your customers or suppliers and Partners may use.
- Sure you can connect every platform for example apple mobile, Google Hangouts from Skype for Business and that your future proof where is Microsoft Teams.
- Make sure you can connect audio from any country with no operational chokes on the number of concurrent users and we recommend Twilio both Solutions as these have elastic sip trunks and can expand or contract as you wish.
- And that you can connect a video equipment using a non plug-in based solution that requires no downloads and the video solution can deliver the more complex use cases referred to later.
- Make sure your solution for your gateway or virtual meeting space uses the native capability of Microsoft and a contact invitation and Skype for Business journeys that uses I used to so that you don't need to educate users on new workflows.
- For browsers make sure you're not using plugins and you're using native webRTC compatible virtual meeting spaces that mean you can communicate through the websocket and communicate not just video but presentations and chat. the additional consideration for browsers is that iOS based browsers can be used for webRTC and safari so that you don't require apps and you don't fall foul of Chrome, which is actually a safari webkit.
- Ensure the virtual meeting space can dial out to SIP addresses and IP addresses to bring Skype for Business users or video equipment in on the fly whilst in the meeting or via an invite. This delivers additional flexibility to enhance adoption.
- Finally ensure that the virtual meeting space or gateway provider has also dial out so that you can use drag and drop native Skype for Business workflows to pull video units into a call and therefore make connecting 2 video units easy for both the Skype for Business user and the video user.