May 27, 2021

What to consider before investing in meeting room hardware

Steve Bedwell
Consultant at Data#3 Limited
We know everyone loves to have the newest, shiniest devices. Meeting room hardware is no different – with many organisations making huge investments in the latest tech. However, as the saying goes, bigger is not always better!

We’re often contacted by customers who have prematurely purchased meeting room hardware only to find it doesn’t fit with a room, work with their existing collaboration software, or meet the particular needs or expectations of staff.

To avoid these common missteps, I’ve identified three key considerations that are essential to designing meeting spaces and ensuring your investment in collaboration equipment delivers the perfect solution.

1.    Match your hardware to your software

Microsoft Teams Meetings Rooms brings together HD video and audio to create a rich, video-enabled collaboration space. To get the most out of your setup, you must first examine the foundations of the software – how are you using Microsoft Teams?

The Role of Microsoft Teams

It’s important to have a strong understanding of how Microsoft Teams is used in your organisation, beyond the meeting modality. This is because a successful adoption of Microsoft Teams changes the way you collaborate and co-create – ultimately changing the way you use your meeting room hardware.

To test your Microsoft Teams adoption, begin by asking yourself – Do you know why you’re creating a team in Microsoft Teams? Most of the time, this question can’t be answered. The truth is, many users create a team with little rhyme or reason. As a result, users find themselves in tens of teams, yet only active in a handful. Left unchecked, this creates a Microsoft Teams sprawl issue, and a less than ideal user experience. Whilst a simple example, it highlights how a lack of governance, policy and training within Microsoft Teams can quickly hinder your staff’s ability to collaborate.

This flows into meeting room spaces too – if you don’t understand how powerful Microsoft Teams can be, then you’re seriously limiting what you can do within your collaboration spaces. High Microsoft Teams adoption can take a boring boardroom setup to a multi-functional space that can be utilised for everything, from formal meetings to workshops where ideas are free flowing.

If this sounds like your organisation, it may be worth investing in a Microsoft Teams Health Check or a Meeting Rooms Workshop to help you assess your current setup – before you start investing in your physical spaces and hardware.

Understanding software integrations 

To get the most out of meeting room hardware, it’s important to make sure your organisation is built to handle new devices seamlessly.

As an example, the Surface Hub 2 requires Microsoft OneDrive for file access – so if your organisation doesn’t mandate OneDrive for file storage, then use of the Surface Hub 2 will be greatly hindered. Yes, users can log on and still make use of the applications, but they won’t be able to access any of their shared files which is crucial for meaningful collaboration and whiteboarding.

2.    Identify the form and function of your space

It might sound like common sense, but the form, function and structure of meetings that take place in a physical space is often overlooked in favour of choosing a device that looks ‘cool’.

The boardroom, for example, is a formal environment where the main speaker on video conference normally sits the furthest away from the camera. This distance can be mitigated with pan tilt and zoom enabled cameras, and planned microphone spacing, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the meeting is formal – one person talking, everyone else listening. Nobody gets out of their seat.

Many would assume the large 85-inch Surface Hub 2 is best suited for the boardroom because, well, it looks impressive. But in reality, this type of room is a questionable fit for a Surface Hub. Whilst the Surface Hub 2 is a versatile, portable device – you can’t make the most of its superior collaboration features in a traditional boardroom where participants don’t typically get out of their seats. So, if you’re adding a Surface Hub 2 to a boardroom to act as a simple video conferencing device, it is an expensive option.

On the other hand, if you need to replace the traditional whiteboard or flipchart in the boardroom then it is worth considering pairing your Surface Hub 2 with a Teams Room system to get the best of both worlds. The Teams Room will be the main control for the very best audio and video. Moreover, with Coordinated Meetings the Surface Hub 2 will join a meeting with camera, microphone and speaker muted, but will be fully enabled for ideation and presentation thus providing meaningful collaboration and co-creation. Allowing you to take advantage of whiteboarding and moving it around to suit different meeting styles.

3.    Choose your meeting room hardware

Microsoft Teams Rooms combines the digital workspace of Microsoft Teams with a rich set of devices that bring powerful audio, visual and content sharing capabilities to every meeting experience – from small huddles, through to large conferences. Building out this experience is an enormous offering of certified hardware from Microsoft’s partners including compatible devices, speakers, cameras, consoles, microphones, and other peripherals.

Here’s a quick look at some of the options available to you:

Logitech Room solutions

Logitech’s solutions offer everything you need to run focused, seamless video meetings. Configurations can be mixed and matched, each pre-configured with a mini PC, Logitech ConferenceCam with RightSense™ technologies, PC mount with cable retention, and a Logitech Tap touch controller that acts as the brain of your room. These solutions include an online wizard to walk you through component configuration.

Creston Flex

Creston offers a Microsoft certified solution for every space. Every Crestron Flex device brings high fidelity audio and high-resolution video to every room so everyone feels like they are in the room no matter where they are. With High-precision, HD intelligent cameras with 150° field of vision that can do everything from focusing on who’s speaking to counting who’s in the room.

Poly G Series

Poly offers a variety of room collaboration options for users that range from huddle rooms to large conference rooms and multi-purpose rooms, while ensuring the simplicity and high-quality audio and video experience. Choose from pre-configured bundle configurations suitable for different room sizes or purchase the base room kit to combine with certified USB audio and video devices of your choice.

Lenovo ThinkSmart Hub 500

Built for informal huddle spaces to medium sized conference rooms, this all-in-one meeting room system features a built-in processor, integrated speakers, dual microphones, and an 11.5 inch touchscreen control display complete with 360 degree rotation and touch-to-join functionality.

Surface Hub 2

With a striking 4K touchscreen display, crystal clear video and native Microsoft Teams integration, the Surface Hub 2 offers the next-generation in collaboration – bringing together digital whiteboarding, video conferencing, and applications into a single appliance. All this comes in a versatile, lightweight form, meaning its perfect to move so you can turn any space into a team workspace – taking you from a boardroom to a huddle meeting.

Level-up meeting room hardware with Data#3

I can’t stress enough how important it is to carefully assess your existing environment and meeting room needs before purchasing your Teams Rooms hardware.

At Data#3, we have extensive experience planning and deploying Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Teams Rooms – it’s why we’re Microsoft’s largest Australian partner. If you’d like to discuss your specific requirements, I’m a dedicated Microsoft Teams Rooms Specialist with Data#3 and would love to help recommend solutions to improve your organisation’s collaboration experience.

Arrange a Free Microsoft Teams Meeting Experience Workshop

To help you get the most out of your technology investments, these sessions include detailed walk-throughs, use cases, and deep-dive planning into a range of areas from calling to meeting room setup and security. Contact us today to find out if you are eligible.