Category AV Everywhere

Microsoft Teams and Surface Hub 2S: Collaboration Tools for Today and Tomorrow

Today, nearly five million people in the U.S. are working remotely. Well before the coronavirus disrupted work as we know it, we were being told that remote work was an essential part of doing our jobs and that remote workers would dominate the workforce. The proliferation of remote work articles popping up in the wake of COVID-19 have made this an even more salient feature of our work lives. Millions of people around the world have had to adjust to a new way of working — a way that requires them to be at home but perform as if they were in the office. 

One of the tools getting high-profile coverage is Microsoft Teams. Whether I’m in the office or working from home, I use Teams many times a day. It’s how colleagues chat me up with ideas and suggestions. It’s how I share editable documents that a specific work group can view and edit. It’s where I can scroll through a conversation to refresh my memory about where we left off a certain project or deliverable. And it’s where I attend video meetings with colleagues to brainstorm, share ideas, and get work done in real time. Let’s look in greater detail at how Microsoft Teams helps me — and can help you — work from home and anywhere else.

How to Work Remotely With Microsoft Teams

For the past couple of weeks, Microsoft Teams has taken on more prominence and importance as my colleagues and I work outside the office. Working remotely doesn’t have much meaning or benefit unless we’re being productive. And Microsoft Teams is supporting that productivity. Since so much of the work we produce is the result of collaboration, it’s easy to see why Microsoft calls Teams its “hub for teamwork.” You could click a link and see the kind of features and capabilities it offers. But for me — I hope for you as well — the best way to share what Microsoft Teams can do is to speak from experience.

Like you, I work on a lot of projects that involve collaboration with a wide range of colleagues. Within Microsoft Teams, I can create (or be added to) a group that is named for a particular project. For example, we formed one project to gather content for our forthcoming podcast. Within these dedicated virtual spaces, we can add files that anyone can edit and download. We also added a section for conversation topics. To those topics we can attach our names and notes so that we know who has responsibility for recruiting guests and scheduling their appearances. It’s a great way for me to remind myself what I’ve done, still have to do, and my deadline. 

Another great reminder is the Posts tab, which includes the typed chats we’ve had about a topic. I frequently reference these conversations if I need to refresh my memory about what was discussed so that I know to work on a task or follow up with someone about theirs. This persistent chat is visual proof of our brainstorming, questions we’ve asked and answered, and announcements we’ve made to each other.

And speaking of visuals: It’s easy to jump into a video call with anyone in my contact list, which includes everyone in the company and anyone that I add. Once in a call, I’m two clicks away from recording the session, an essential tool when I’m interviewing a partner for one of AVI-SPL’s white papers. For most of these meetings, at least one attendee needs to share their content in the Teams window for all to see and understand. Another great feature: how easy it is schedule a Teams meeting from Outlook. I can schedule meetings from within the Microsoft Teams window, but I’m a creature of habit and I’m used to using the Outlook calendar. Whichever way you prefer, know that Teams accommodates your work style.

It’s worth noting that I’ve used only a fraction of Microsoft Teams’ capabilities. There’s plenty of apps that you may find helpful to support your work style or needs, including Stream, Wiki, OneNote, and a host of other built-in Office 365 applications.

I know I’ve given only a taste of what Microsoft Teams can do. Talk to one of AVI-SPL’s experts and you can ask about a host of other features like third-party solutions, the ability to integrate workflows, and the Teams developer platform that works with your business apps. If you choose, we can also take a deep dive with you into important benefits like security, manageability, and compliance, along with the room devices from our manufacturer partners that bring Microsoft Teams into the meeting space. With all I’ve shared, I’d be remiss to not include this overview of its key features:

  • Works across desktop, mobile, browser and a wide range of devices
  • A digital whiteboard (which I’ve never used til I started writing this post. It was a breeze to start.)
  • AI capabilities
  • Interoperability with other video systems
  • The features that ensure a quality audio and video experience
  • Actionable IT analytics

There’s much more to cover, but here’s the takeaway that I hope resonates with you: whatever industry you’re in, Microsoft Teams can improve your operations and processes when it comes to work and collaboration.

How to Be Productive in the Office With Surface Hub 2S

As we get back into the flow of on-site meetings and collaboration sessions, we’ll want to be in the same conference rooms and huddle spaces to connect with people who are in those areas or working from other locations. I don’t have the personal experience with Surface Hub 2S that I have with Microsoft Teams, but I’ve seen the demos — enough to know that it’s the kind of tool that you want in your office when it’s time for groups in and out of the workplace to get together on a shared, high-resolution canvas. And it’s not just any digital canvas, but one that has all the power of the Windows 10 operating system and has the great Microsoft Teams software built in. Going back to what I said earlier about the value of familiarity and comfort in the way we work: This is another way that Microsoft is delivering that kind of experience.

Surface Hub 2S is an interactive device that acts as a meeting platform, digital whiteboard, and so much more. Bring it into a conference room, huddle room or open area and you’ve created a space for teamwork. That includes the ability to use Microsoft Teams to collaborate with remote workers, replicating the great experience you’re used to from your PC. It also includes video conferencing so you can see your teammates while working on shared content in real time. Here are just a handful of the features that make the Surface Hub 2S so valuable:Surface Hub 2S image

  • 4K camera and 4K screen
  • Wireless content sharing
  • Microsoft Whiteboard
  • Window 10 OS
  • 50-inch display size
  • Cart or wall-mount installation

The Surface Hub 2S is the tool you’ll want to have to bring your remote teams together, work from anywhere in the office, and have an easy, fluid collaboration experience among the talent that drives your company’s success.

Talk to AVI-SPL’s Advocates About Microsoft Teams and Surface Hub 2S

If you’re new to Microsoft Teams or Surface Hub 2S, or you’re new to remote collaboration, there are experts at AVI-SPL who are ready to answer your questions and give you guidance. Whatever questions you have, ask them, as our representatives can discuss:

  • Product demos
  • How to migrate from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams
  • Planning and designing an enterprise-wide Teams launch (including network assessment, device strategy and migration planning)
  • Microsoft Teams meeting-room configuration with certified devices (Crestron, Poly, Yealink, Logitech, and others)
  • Training and adoption services
  • Room system and device management
  • How Microsoft Teams can help your specific industry
  • Integrating the Surface Hub 2S into areas across your enterprise

It can seem like a lot to take in, but keep in mind that all of these features and benefits are meant to serve your clear goals: better team collaboration and a better way of organizing you and your teams’ work. I would venture that a lot of us are looking forward to the day we can get back into the office and have that in-person experience. But for those of us who are set up to collaborate from home, we know how easy it is to be just as productive and contribute just as much from wherever we choose to set up our personal devices. Our current circumstances will pass; what will remain is the freedom, flexibility, and support that tools like Microsoft Teams and Surface Hub 2S bring to our work lives.

As AVI-SPL and Whitlock Merge, the Customer Remains the Focus

In recent weeks, the offices of AVI-SPL have been buzzing with activity — much like the buzz that was generated when it was first announced that AVI-SPL and Whitlock would merge into one digital workplace services provider. The number one and number three companies on the SCN Top 50 of systems integrators were joining forces. And as you might expect, the news reports focused on the economics: the value and size of the new corporate giant

Much of the activity, particularly at AVI-SPL’s Tampa headquarters, has been focused on ways to bring the companies’ operations together while providing the same high levels of service that clients of AVI-SPL and Whitlock have come to expect. In a letter to customers, AVI-SPL’s EVP of Global Sales and Marketing Dale Bottcher did more than reassure them about the dedication and support they expect will be there. He let them know that the services and solutions they’ve come to rely on were going to get even better. He emphasized the need to pair collaboration spaces with the support services that lead to the best possible experience for end users and IT operations.

Actions are backing up his words. The constant flow of meetings and training sessions among AVI-SPL and Whitlock reveals the commitment to maintain and build upon the excellence that have made both companies so valuable to their clients around the world.

Bottcher’s letter expresses the practical value the merger will have not just for current customers, but those who are seeking a partner for their digital workplace transformation: the ability to quickly reach their collaboration and business goals. Research has shown that the number of video-enabled meeting spaces in the business world continues to grow — and for good reason.  Organizations that value video collaboration are able to optimize their investment in office space while offering the flexibility to work from anywhere and tap into the knowledge of teams working together. And because of these benefits, companies are positioned to attract and keep the talent that drives their growth.

If you’re seeking a partner for improving or building from scratch a workplace collaboration experience that benefits the entire company, I encourage you to let AVI-SPL know your challenges. I also encourage you to review AVI-SPL’s thought leadership on workplace collaboration. A great starting point is our 2019 Concept Catalog, which offers advice on how to build a digital workplace committee to ensure your workplace solutions align with business goals and the necessary user experience.

How to Design Huddle Rooms for Your Organization

Today’s workers want the ability to collaborate from any location, anytime. Impromptu meetings — whether face to face or via video conferencing — is the new normal for today’s workforce.

While there’s still a need for large meetings in formal conference rooms, many employees are choosing huddle spaces to collaborate and share ideas. Rising real estate costs are also motivating companies to provide spaces that can accommodate small groups of people and connect them with colleagues around the world.

When equipped with the right audio, video, conferencing, sharing, and scheduling capabilities, modern huddle spaces can significantly increase work efficiency and improve productivity. 

In the HARMAN Huddle Space Design Guide, you will learn about topics like:

  • Why dedicated meeting spaces are ideal for group collaboration
  • Rooms designed for inspiration and productivity
  • How to show everyone on a video call
  • Tools that improve the audio experience
  • One-click meeting start
  • Easy document access
  • Room scheduling

To learn more about how you can create inspiring huddle spaces that people will want to use, complete the form in the link below to download the design guide.

Download the HARMAN Huddle Space Design Guide >

Benefits of Staff Support for Your Collaboration and AV Technology

For those times when you wished you could have a robot clone of yourself (or at least a third or fourth hand), AVI-SPL Managed Services is here to help create a strong end user support experience while doing the heavy lifting to keep your systems functional.

How can AVI-SPL Managed Services strengthen your operations?

Improved Response Times

When we place our staff on site, whether augmenting your current support staff or providing staff in a remote office that needs it, we’re removing the phone call barrier to support.  The ability to walk into a conference room and demonstrate how to conduct a meeting, and to begin troubleshooting immediately when an issue arises builds your workforce’s trust in their collaboration technology and improves their experience.  We’ll even provide backfill when your employees are out for a day – ensuring you always have a smiling face with expert knowledge available to help. 

Improved Staff Capabilities

As the industry and technology evolve, you need staff who can support your current and future environments.  AVI-SPL has some of the most knowledgeable staff in our industry, and our size and scope make us a top prospect for potential employees.  All AVI-SPL employees, including those at your site, have access to our internal training initiatives, as well as partner and industry training.  We remove the cost and time associated with employee training from your budget, while providing staff who are extremely capable and incentivized to continue learning and improving.

Best Practices of the Industry

AVI-SPL follows documented industry best practices.  This means that your organization will benefit from processes that provide the best operational efficiencies, security, and lifecycle management.  Our ITIL-certified staff are experts in IT as well as collaboration technologies, ensuring clear communication with your IT department and compliance with their standards. We also follow best practices with regard to the training and development of on-site personnel, so that you are assured of support from staff members who follow mutually approved documented processes. Your on-site staff effectively coordinate the response to incidents, collaborate with your teams, answer their questions, and make recommendations to your operations and technology based on their qualified assessments.

Even More Efficiency with Symphony

Beyond just managing your day-to-day collaboration estate, our patented AVI-SPL Symphony remote monitoring and control application can provide operational efficiency and reduce staff costs.  Integrating all your workflows into a single workflow provides easier management, while also automating previously manual procedures.  Our Room Sweeps provide a daily health check of each space, alerting you to issues before they impact an end user.  Beyond daily support, Symphony provides analytics and actionable business intelligence to ensure your current and future systems continue to meet your collaboration goals and unlock business value. 

With over 350 employees on site at client locations daily, AVI-SPL has the operational experience to support small, one-location organizations up through multinational Fortune 50 enterprises.  We have the standardized roles and the flexibility to create a role for your specific needs. so tell us about your support staff challenges and let’s begin strengthening your operations with AVI-SPL Managed Services.

Coronavirus Highlights Value of Remote Work

With the recent news of the coronavirus dominating world headlines, this is a good opportunity to evaluate your company’s emergency plans. We’ve already seen the effects of the virus, also known as COVID-19, on the global markets. On Thurs, Feb. 27, the Dow fell almost 1,200 points, its highest one-day point drop in history. Much of that is being attributed to the effect of the virus on supply and demand. As a result, some of the largest companies in the world are restricting their employees’ business travel while also allocating more resources for virtual work

At around the 3:40 mark of this TechCrunch podcast, the speakers discuss Zoom and its ascent in price from the low $70s just a month ago to reaching over $120 in early trading on Friday, Feb. 28. That notable rise is occurring as video conferencing has become not just attractive but necessary. The TechCrunch discussion notes a number of major conferences – including Facebook’s F8 – that have been cancelled out of caution against the coronavirus.

Whether the cause is a virus, natural disaster, or some other disruptive event: How you will handle interruptions and minimize a negative impact to your business?

Uninterrupted Workforce Collaboration

Branch office locations need to function even if a main office is closed, and employees need a reliable, agile collaboration environment to enable them to work from home without missing a step.  AVI-SPL’s digital workplace solutions can ensure your workplace has the collaboration tools to handle any challenge and keep your talent and operations connected even amidst a crisis like the one we’re currently facing. 

By deploying a solution such as Microsoft Teams or Cisco Webex Teams, your workforce can continue to communicate regardless of distance or time zone.  These platforms also provide video conferencing to enhance the collaboration experience.  Popular cloud-based solutions like Zoom and Pexip can be easily integrated with these collaboration platforms.

A Better User Experience of Collaboration Technology

Some offices may have to close because of an event like the coronavirus.  But that circumstance only underscores the need to support those offices that are still open for business. AVI-SPL Symphony enables you to keep your operations functioning and your workforce productive – even when some of them can’t be at the office.

You can remotely monitor and control all collaboration technology from any of your locations. By leveraging Symphony, either as a managed service or Symphony as a Service, organizations can manage their meeting scheduling and launching. They can also monitor their meeting health status while it’s in progress by monitoring connection status and giving staff the information they need to provide in-meeting support without being in the room. You will know what rooms and devices are ready for use and can make fixes before the participants are impacted.

Be Prepared – And Reap the Benefits at the Same Time

Digital workplace collaboration can’t just be part of a contingency plan in the face of rare – we hope — emergencies. This is the way we work today, and it’s a big reason why companies can so easily expand into locations and markets and attract the talent that drives their success.

How can you ensure that your investment in collaboration is having the desired impact? The key is having the data. AVI-SPL Symphony provides tactical and strategic business intelligence through analytics as customized insight through Build Your Own Reports. You can then make informed decisions about room construction/repurposing, technology refreshes, and addressing issues like technology adoption.

Not only will you gain more insight into your environment, but AVI-SPL digital workplace solution deployments will help your organization save time and money.  In 2018, Forrester Consulting’s “Total Economic Impact of AVI-SPL’s Digital Workplace Solutions” found a meeting productivity increase worth $11.9M over three years for a large enterprise organization, and savings of 122,500 hours per year due to meetings that start on time.  In an uncertain economic environment, these savings will help your organization maintain its agility to meet the ever-changing climate.   

While we all hope that no emergencies ever impact our offices, events like the coronavirus bring into sharp relief the value of collaboration technology. Build your digital workplace, and your company will have more than a set of just-in-case tools; it will be equipped to compete in today’s business environment by empowering your people to share the ideas and create the value that leads to growth.