At the center of the enterprise productivity wheel lies the employee meeting experience. To work collaboratively, the enterprise workforce requires a connected meeting strategy across all locations, devices, and meeting environments.
Executive leaders aren’t just looking to make meetings functional—they need to make meetings great. A great meeting infrastructure equips all employees with the right tools for sharing ideas, making decisions, and solving problems across disparate locations, environments, and devices. It also ensures these tools work seamlessly together to create a modern meeting experience.
What actually makes a meeting great, though?
The Meeting Experience team within Microsoft Core Services Engineering and Operations (CSEO) explored that question when modernizing both our onsite and digital meeting capabilities for Microsoft employees. In fact, the meeting experience was ranked as one of the areas of highest dissatisfaction among Microsoft employees even with an online-meeting and video-conferencing solution in place.
To solve that issue, we wanted to create a simplified, more consistent, and more reliable collaboration platform. Additionally, we knew we had to offer an integrated solution that could support collaboration needs not just now, but as our workforce habits evolve.
Using Microsoft Teams (Microsoft’s team collaboration application) and Microsoft Teams Rooms (Microsoft’s extended smart meeting-room solution), we built a comprehensive foundation to support modern meetings. Over 18 months, we implemented the solution across all of our meeting rooms and environments at our headquarters in the Puget Sound area.
In the process, we learned the three primary factors that create great, modern meetings.
Three core tenets of next-generation meetings
For IT leaders who want to enable more efficient meetings across their workforce, we found that reshaping the meeting experience should be based on three core principles:
- Offer a simple and productive meeting experience. As the workplace structure evolves, employees need one hub for collaboration that’s easy to access, use, and navigate. Resources remain available before, during, and after meetings so that participants can make choices and share ideas quickly. This increased availability also lets participants act upon content and context without requiring structured meetings.
- Scale a consistent, comprehensive meeting environment. Great meetings also require consistency across users’ environments. With consistent meetings, employees can expect the same level of collaboration no matter where or how they want to work. The implementation, administration, and support for these meetings can also be managed and deployed simultaneously and cost effectively across every meeting room and device.
- Maintain a reliable meeting infrastructure. A robust, reliable meeting experience is built on standardized connectivity, performance, maintenance, monitoring, and issue resolution. Moreover, reliability means modern meetings can be scaled on an enterprise level. Reliability also means new upgrades and features can be rolled out to every user, device, and meeting room, without sacrificing any part of the user experience across the organization.
Supporting great meetings ultimately comes down to enabling a collaborative, productive environment for every user and scaling that experience across all rooms, networks, devices, work scenarios, and environments. All of this functionality should be provided while maintaining excellent reliability.
Facilitating simple and productive meetings
When embarking on this project, we found that employees didn’t need just a meeting solution—they needed a more productive collaboration life cycle. Our goal was to support more effortless meetings but also provide employees with a fully collaborative experience beyond phone calls, video conferences, and other meeting events.
- Supports inclusivity. The collaboration and scheduling improvements offered through Microsoft Teams provided a singular experience for Microsoft employees, vendors, and outside collaborators before, during, and after meetings. With Microsoft Teams, remote workers experience the same environment as onsite collaborators with on-demand video conferencing connected to in-room video cameras. Employees across environments can easily schedule and participate in meetings and access documents as projects evolve and meetings occur.
- Captures collaboration context. With a single system for collaborative work, employees require fewer meetings to get work done and can work more transparently together beyond meetings. Persistent chat and file sharing allows collaborators to easily get up to speed, follow through, and communicate with all project participants. Employees no longer have to toggle between applications to share meeting content or understand the context of projects and ongoing discussions.
- Facilitates real-time productivity. Simple meetings support productive conversations by reducing the manual steps or barriers employees often encounter when trying to collaborate in real time. Meeting scheduling is versatile and responsive, and with one-touch join, employees can initiate meetings based on their environment rather than the specific application they’re using. Fluid file and screen sharing between mobile and onsite collaborators ensures collaboration flows smoothly from beginning to end.
After we launched the Microsoft Teams solution to 24,000 of our employees, our End User Services’ Meeting Experience and Team Productivity group immediately saw an uptick in employees’ preference for and usage of the Microsoft Teams system as well as a significant increase in user satisfaction.
Making simple meeting experiences consistent
For employees, a modern collaboration life cycle works only if they can expect the same meeting capabilities no matter where they are in the enterprise. With Microsoft Teams Rooms, the CSEO team has been able to deploy this collaborative meeting experience in 2,600 meeting rooms on our Redmond campus and 800 meeting rooms in our field offices.
- Guarantees that every employee has the same experience. By ensuring Microsoft Teams Rooms works for all employees, across all devices, in all eligible regions, employees have a consistent, reliable platform for collaboration every day. Whether it’s a small team room for six people or a multipurpose room for 200, the software experience across the conference-room portfolio is consistent and supports integrated and simplified collaboration.
- Scales meeting experiences cost effectively across tools, devices, rooms, and platforms. Instead of investing tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade video conferencing systems in just a few rooms, we can add Microsoft Teams Rooms systems to every room at a low cost and offer the same collaborative environment everywhere within the organization.
- Simplifies data governance across the enterprise. Because Microsoft Teams is directly integrated with Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Office 365, we can implement, manage, and track governance and policies around the entire meeting workspace at once.
Supporting a reliable meeting ecosystem
Scaling a deeply integrated collaboration ecosystem at an enterprise also requires a high level of reliability within both the end-user experiences and IT maintenance capabilities. A meeting experience that’s available everywhere offers little value if foundational elements can’t be easily and cost effectively expanded, monitored, and upgraded over time.
With Microsoft Teams Rooms, we discovered that remote manageability and monitoring enabled us to:
- Facilitate dependable service. Reliable meetings allow users to switch between networking environments. For example, they can switch from Wi-Fi to a cell signal without sacrificing the quality of connectivity. Our team saw a 40 percent improvement in meeting reliability through fewer calls dropped and better call quality, no matter how a user connected to a meeting.
- Offer proactive troubleshooting. Reliable meeting networks can track, manage, and monitor issues before they affect users’ meeting experiences, without requiring on-hand support for all rooms. Because all rooms and devices are connected through a PC-based system, we can remotely fix hardware or device issues before they interrupt meeting flow. This remote monitoring allows our team to catch and fix four times as many typical in-room issues while continuing to deploy Microsoft Teams Rooms into more meeting rooms. Even with this growth, customer support tickets dropped by 70 percent.
- Build a foundation for network evolution. Reliable meeting solutions maintain the same level of operating quality while integrating new capabilities across the network. Instead of releasing new code slowly into each meeting room, we can send new feature improvements, code, and updates to all Microsoft Teams Rooms–enabled PCs without sacrificing reliability. These instant updates enable us to continue incorporating Microsoft Teams Rooms systems into more rooms rapidly and onboard new capabilities across the enterprise at once.
Looking toward the future of meeting capabilities
To keep pace with shifting collaboration preferences, the Microsoft Teams platform can evolve the meeting experience even as internal collaboration needs and systems change. Upcoming capabilities that will continue to advance the modern meeting experience include:
- Proximity-based meeting join. The meeting experience will be simplified even further for users by allowing employees to bring their meetings to any available Microsoft Teams Rooms–enabled room nearby using Bluetooth technology.
- Digital whiteboarding and dual-screen systems. Collaboration processes will continue to become even less dependent on specific devices and environments. Dual-screen systems and talk-to-room capabilities will all work to support a constant meeting flow built on the existing Microsoft Teams infrastructure.
- AI-supported tasks. In the future, the meeting solution will be able to anticipate and automate support tasks such as scheduling, room finding, meeting transcription, note taking, and dispersing action items with minimal to no input from meeting attendees.
The integrated Microsoft Teams meeting experience makes it more cost effective for enterprises to introduce these technological advancements within existing meeting infrastructure. In fact, CSEO plans to finish rolling out the Microsoft Teams Rooms platform on a global level in 2020.
Making meetings a modern experience
Creating and supporting modern meetings goes beyond standalone calls, video conferences, or onsite events. Great meetings democratize a simple, consistent, and reliable collaborative experience for every employee, regardless of their location, status, or function in the enterprise. Great meetings are ones that can be scaled, supported, and innovated on using IT resources more efficiently. These new capabilities add up to an experience that delights, not delays, employees doing critical work.
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