Following the sudden and swift ramp-up of virtual collaboration globally, it’s now time to think longer-term about the overall audio experience.
New ways of working enabled by remote collaboration and audio capabilities have been readily adopted over the course of 2020. In many instances, they have provided an opportunity to rethink business models and plan a different approach to delivering services, education, and technology support.
Shure’s Felix Alpstaeg, Sr. Manager Market Development, is among the millions of people worldwide who have adapted and seized this opportunity. “The pandemic has been a catalyst for change,” he says. “The idea that I could sell a complete conferencing system and manage its delivery and installation remotely would never have occurred to me in the past. But I’ve had no choice.”
It’s meant thinking differently and adopting virtual collaboration as the new normal. And, like our teams here at Shure, our customers have been willing to adapt. As an example, Felix arranged for a system to be delivered to a customer with all the required interfaces (e.g. with Microsoft Teams and Zoom) pre-configured so that it was simply a case of ‘plug and play’.
Of course, there was more to it than that, with user support needed to ensure everything ran smoothly from day one. Once again, remote collaboration came to the forefront, as Felix explains: “We set up a Teams call and shared the screen so that I could give a tutorial on how the system worked. I would normally do this on-site with only a handful (or just one) of end users, but the fact that people could join remotely meant that I had a much bigger audience.
“So, by using remote collaboration, my customer was able to bring more people on board with the new solution right from the start.”
While nothing beats face-to-face contact, seeing the value of conducting business remotely has meant it is likely to be here for the long term. “Do I need to get into my car to explain how a new mic works?” asks Felix. “Well, no. So, I can cut my mileage and spend my previous commute time being more productive online.”
There is a correlation between being productive and great audio. If you are spending many hours a day in virtual meetings, concentration easily wavers if it’s difficult to hear every word said by every participant. According to a new report by consulting and research firm Frost & Sullivan: “The importance of equipment, such as headphones and earphones with built-in microphones, will become even more prevalent for the larger than ever work-from-home segment, so should be considered in a company’s overall virtual conferencing plan”.
This investment in audio has taken an interesting turn, according to Felix. Senior decision makers gradually returning to the physical workplace are taking a closer look at their in-office audio solutions and how they support seamless collaboration with people working remotely. He explains: “They discovered while working from home that the audio solutions they’d previously perceived as ‘fine’ simply weren’t up to the task. Having experienced virtual meetings, during which they were connecting with colleagues in physical meeting rooms, the challenges of poor audio became clear.”
This is evidenced by a report on the state of remote working and virtual conferencing published in February this year (before the COVID-19 outbreak). At that time, 96% of the professionals surveyed said they were frustrated with their virtual meetings, with four out of the top five frustrations being related to audio.
Now that they’ve experienced these frustrations for themselves, senior execs are looking to upgrade their end-to-end audio solutions. “We’re seeing an increase in enquiries to improve the overall audio collaboration experience,” says Felix.
This interest is also prompted by the knowledge that working-from-home looks set to become a permanent feature of the future of work. With that being the case, what type of solutions are organizations looking for?
Felix says: “There’s demand for all our in-room systems as part of AV upgrades, but an interesting aspect is the need to ensure end users on their own devices can easily interface with the office technology. So, for example, can collaboration platforms such as Teams, Zoom and Cisco be integrated with Shure systems? And the answer is, of course, yes. This is an important factor in the decisions our customers are currently making.”