The Audio Conference Call is Dying. Here's Why.

angry lady yelling at phone

The traditional conference call has taken quite a beating over the past few years. This David Grady spoof was the first “laugh so hard, I cried” satire I came across. I think what struck me with this one was each time I thought it was getting old, he threw in something that made me laugh even harder… for nearly five minutes!

This week, the video “A Conference Call in Real Life” by Tripp & Tyler is making its rounds through social media. It’s funny too, although I think I’m still partial to the David Grady version.  And just today, I came across an article on “the existential despair of the conference call,” to which one of my colleagues replied, “I laughed, I cried, I kept watching! This would be a good clip of what can (and does) go wrong … unless you use Scopia.” She did include a “winky face,” but the truth of the matter is that Scopia does overcome almost all the issues identified in these conference call parodies. Not the barking dog, of course, and not the random background noise, but Scopia does take out A LOT of the guesswork.

Sometimes, I feel like I’ve been at Avaya for years, and other times, I’m blown away that it’s already been 20 months since the acquisition of Radvision. Where have the past (almost) two years gone? When I look back at the changes I’ve seen at Avaya, one of the biggest is that we have an incredibly strong video conferencing culture. And if you think I’m making it up, the proof is in the numbers below:

avaya scopia in house usage

Last month, we had almost 40,000 video meetings on Avaya Scopia with 340,000+ attendees. From June 2012 through December 2013, we had more than half a million video meetings and have surpassed the 3 million mark on number of participants. That’s A LOT of video, and that doesn’t even count the video calls I host (which often feels like another half million or so per year :) ).

Why is video usage so high within Avaya? I have a few theories, and they go to the core of the spoofs mentioned above.

  1. Get rid of the unknown: When I joined Avaya, conference calls were mostly audio-only. As a newbie to an organization of 15,000+ employees, I never knew who was talking. I was constantly IMing colleagues asking, “Who’s speaking now?” With Scopia video, active speakers are highlighted in the virtual meeting room, and names are displayed. There’s never any question who’s speaking, and all participants are clearly identified in the participant list.
  2. A picture is worth a thousand words: The ability to see who is speaking and to read his/her body language as well as the body language of other participants is huge. You get fewer interruptions, fewer questions, and richer communication because your meetings are taking place face-to-face.
  3. Get on the same page: Content-sharing is easy on Scopia, and content is displayed in high definition. There’s no more asking, “Are we looking at the same page?” or “Can you send the deck you’re referring to?” What’s more, participants can easily scroll through content that’s already been presented without interrupting the active speaker (a feature that is totally unique to Scopia).
  4. The power of mute (and more): With Scopia, you always know who the speaker is thanks to active speaker tracking. That means you also know when someone is “speaking” without meaning to… i.e. furiously typing on their keyboard, crinkling papers, having a side conversation, etc. The beauty of Scopia is that all users –whether in a conference room, on Scopia Desktop or joining via Scopia Mobile – have full meeting moderation. That means you can mute the noisemakers without interrupting the call. The ability to mute the far end can be beautiful thing when you have a lot of people on the line. And Scopia moderation goes far beyond mute – you can add or disconnect participants, take “control” of content-sharing (without having to ask for it), change your layout so content appears larger or smaller, etc.

Of course, I’d be exaggerating if I said every Scopia call goes off without a hitch. But when I read articles or watch videos like those mentioned above, I have to say, the death of the traditional conference call must be on the horizon. Why use audio only when you can use video, too? If you ask me, video conferencing is a no brainer, especially with the leaps we’ve made in personal video conferencing at the desktop and on the go.

What are your thoughts? If you use video, have your conference calls been more effective? I’d love to hear from you.

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New Age, New Requirements, More Innovation: Three Ways to Keep Up (Part 3)

The 2016 Rio Olympics may be over, but the excitement is still palpable. As I watched the performances from some of today’s most gifted athletes, I couldn’t help but think about this blog series on business innovation and the need to push further.

Think about it: U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky is a three-time Olympic gold medalist, yet she succeeded in smashing even her own world record in the 400m freestyle competition. Meanwhile, Simone Biles—the most decorated female gymnast in World Championships history—has a floor move named after her called “the Biles.”

My point here is that the very best in the world don’t become so without continually innovating and pushing themselves. In this same vein, businesses today must excel in an environment where not only keeping current but driving innovation is mandatory. In fact, nearly 60% of CIOs surveyed by IDG this year said that innovation is a top business mandate. If you take away only one key point from this series, I hope it’s related to this need to continually innovate within your business.

Part 1 and Part 2 of this series outlined how companies can evolve their contact centers and networking strategies to keep up with today’s rapid pace of innovation. But these are only two parts of a massive puzzle that companies must piece together.

As I mentioned earlier, it feels near impossible to cover everything that has changed within the last 25 years in technology and business. What I can tell you is this: the innumerable changes that have happened have led to what we here at Avaya call “digital transformation.”

Digital Transformation: A Mindset Fueled by Technology
Digital transformation is a belief that the greatest innovation is driven through digitization and simplification. By automating information, simplifying processes and connecting more objects through the Internet of Things (IoT), businesses can transform from the inside out.

It’s critical that business leaders understand the importance of reengineering their organizations in this way. Why? Because 75% of CIOs surveyed by Deloitte last year said that digital technologies will significantly impact their business. Because IDG’s survey found that more businesses are scrambling to prioritize budgets as a result of this deep focus on digital transformation. Because research shows that the IoT will consist of more than 34 billion connected devices by 2020.

This digital transformation isn’t just happening at the enterprise level, though. Take a look and you’ll see the changes that are happening all around you. For example, you may notice a smart meter on the side of your neighbor’s house that allows them to view real-time energy usage on their smart device. You may see cars parallel parking themselves on the side of the road. We’re seeing everyday objects, cities, campuses and hospitals becoming Internet-enabled in ways that were incomprehensible decades ago. I even tweeted recently about Wilson Sporting Goods getting in on the action with the “Smart Football,” which will quite possibly change the game of American football.

The Greatest Challenge of Digitization (and How to Overcome It)
Digital transformation opens the door to a smart new world where outcomes and possibilities are constantly being reimagined. At the same time, however, it’s creating more unique, industry-specific needs than ever before. These needs drastically vary and can be challenging to meet.

For example, healthcare organizations need to efficiently connect doctors with care teams via cutting-edge medical devices and communication capabilities. All of this needs to be done while remaining compliant with industry regulations.

On the other hand, financial organizations need to securely deliver anywhere/anytime/any-device account access to customers while ensuring fraud prevention. Meanwhile, educational directors need to deliver a next-generation learning experience as well as a safe campus environment for students. You see where I’m going with this? The list of vertical-specific needs goes on and on.

The problem we’re seeing is that many companies don’t understand that there is no cookie-cutter framework for digitization. Just like every Olympian’s tools and training are different, every company’s digital transformation will look different depending on its vertical-specific needs.

So, in a world where business needs are getting more granular by the minute, how can organizations keep up? How can they stay on top as true innovators and change seekers?

I can’t tell you in good conscience that there’s an end-all solution here, because there’s isn’t. At Avaya, we believe the key to mastering digital transformation begins with the right support. In other words, you need to find the right strategic partner/integrator who will work with you to determine your vertical-specific needs and how you can meet and exceed them. Better yet, find a partner/integrator who can also deliver the solutions you require to quickly adapt to your customers’ needs and capitalize on new opportunities. This way, you can avoid most of the leg work while keeping a leg up on the competition.

Your partner/integrator of choice should have a deep focus on such things as analytics, automation, networking, security and IoT. Above all, seek a partner/integrator that has a solid understanding of and passion for smart vertical solutions.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, the possibilities today for businesses are limited only by the imagination. Find a partner/integrator who’s ready to step into your world and come along for the ride.

Maximizing value from your support services investment

Commitment to 5 core practices will lead to peace of mind and growth.

In the world of support services we are always striving to reach that nirvana state where everything is perfect, and that requires keeping networks running at peak performance while contending with the onslaught of new employee technologies, cloud applications and mobile solutions.

As the leader of a global support services organization, I am constantly striving to reach this stable state for our customers. We are dedicated to harnessing the latest communications technology and processes to deliver an award-winning omnichannel support experience and help IT managers achieve the best benefits of automation while avoiding unforeseen problems.

Here are five actions that IT departments can take to gain the most value from their communications support services coverage:

1.       Take full advantage of automation. Automating remote diagnostics, alarm monitoring, and issue isolation and resolution can reduce preventable outages dramatically. In our experience, such tools can auto-resolve 90% of alarms requiring service requests without human intervention, while lowering outage risk by nearly three-quarters. If the systems are unable to resolve a problem, they automatically forward relevant information to a technician. By taking advantage of these advanced diagnostic capabilities, your organization can equip itself for proactive prevention, rapid resolution, and continual optimization of communications systems.

2.       Establish healthy connectivity. Realizing automation’s substantial benefits requires reliable access to remotely provided tools and services. Solid connectivity is vital to ongoing monitoring, accurate measurement and fast issue resolution. Adopting a standard remote connectivity methodology can help enhance security and enable more effective use of end-user and administrative controls, make for smoother and more reliable alarm validation and clearing functionality, and allow for more detailed logging and audit trails.

3.       Prevent and predict network issues onsite. User-controllable diagnostic tools can speed diagnostics while reducing costs and equipment requirements. Intelligent software agents continually collect relevant data and detect potential problems before they impact service. The tools equip system operators and their vendors to better diagnose, analyze, and address incidents remotely without compromising system stability. Based on individual Avaya and customer experiences, diagnostic tools can help resolve issues up to 50% faster.

4.       Tackle the outage top 5. The major causes of communications outages are no surprise. The surprise comes in not knowing which one will pop up, and when. According to our research, depending on the specific cause, one-third to three-quarters of reported outages could have been avoided by using industry-leading outage prevention practices:

  • Power outages: Regularly scheduled audits can help determine if facilities and uninterruptible power supply systems are capable of meeting power demands and warding off problems, with particular attention given to hardware that is approaching the end of manufacturer support (EoMS).
  • Lack of routine maintenance: Proactive health checks, disciplined system monitoring, and observed maintenance schedules can help IT departments catch the telltale signals equipment emits when a problem is approaching.
  • Software bugs: A sound patching strategy and proactive approach to patching to eliminate known issues can help maintain software performance and avoid software-related outages.
  • Hardware failures: Proactive upgrades of equipment approaching EoMS, audits to verify system redundancy, system health checks, and failover strategies for critical systems can help reduce hardware-based outages.
  • Network issues: A simple audit of the organization’s underlying network can often help identify where certain performance issues, such as jitter, delay and latency, exist. A network diagram can prove indispensable in isolating an outage, while rigorous configuration control processes can help keep system changes and refinements from inadvertently triggering outages and other problems.

5.       Confirm that your records are accurate. Support services providers can address issues faster if they know what systems they are dealing with and whether those solutions are up to date. If you have a disciplined process for accurately registering equipment, you can facilitate ongoing remote maintenance support, improve the accuracy of contract renewal price quotes, and help your support vendor update hardware inventory records and test device connectivity and alarming.

Achieving nirvana in the chaotic world of IT with its many moving parts, increasing productivity goals, and the ever-growing world of cloud applications requires a continuous commitment to these top five practices. But once achieved, nirvana can be sustained. It can lead to happier customers, more productive employees who are able to focus on initiatives that will move the business forward, and for IT managers, peace and stability.

The Key to Communication Enablement for Smart Business Applications

It’s undeniable: the cloud has revolutionized the enterprise with a more cost-effective and flexible solution that’s proven to drive more positive business outcomes. In fact, cloud services for IT infrastructure and applications is set to peak at $230 billion by 2019.

So, what is driving this continued market growth? How exactly are cloud services and applications transforming business? If you ask me, this can be answered in two words: communication enablement. In short, this means enabling any process, task, application or conversation at any given time within your business—right out of the cloud. This innovative capability allows businesses to deliver customized communications experiences like never seen before.

In a new Avaya video, I had the opportunity to elaborate on communication enablement, as well as what we are doing to help businesses better build applications that communication-enable critical processes and workflows.

As a business owner, think about the many processes you can communication-enable. Even in your personal life, imagine how you can benefit from more customized communications experiences. Imagine, for example, being able to start a video chat session with a doctor on the fly in order to hear the diagnosis of your father from 3,000 miles away.

In today’s smart, digital world, we are witnessing more experiences becoming custom-tailored to a specific company, team—even a specific individual. Leading businesses understand this need to deliver customized communications experiences among employees, partners, and customers. Doing so, however, is easier said than done.

So many companies today are still searching for a truly simple way to build new apps in order to communication-enable workflow functions. This is why now is the right time for Zang, a 100% cloud-based communication platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) solution that allows businesses to build communication applications in such a way that they suit their exact needs—whatever they may be—with a strong underlying focus on simplicity and ease of use.

Zang stresses open APIs to make application development as simple as possible for anyone, anywhere. The solution offers easy-to-use drag and drop tools, pre-built apps and security, and simple SDKs to enable rapid app deployment and, in turn, the ability to continually customize and reimagine the communications experience.

With nearly 80% of IT teams currently developing apps for customers, partners and employees, it’s not hard to see how businesses can benefit from Zang. The key to delivering an extraordinary communications experience that meets specific use cases is to simplify the way applications are built. Due to its simple nature, Zang is being strategically leveraged by businesses to solve very specific problems that are occurring within their walls. For example, using Zang, a company using Salesforce can build a virtual meeting room in real time that connects to the solution. This can allow users to immediately begin setting up and executing a campaign during the meeting.