How to Evaluate Video Providers
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HOW TO EVALUATE VIDEO PROVIDERS
INTRO Unless your company decided long ago to communicate by carrier pigeon and carrier pigeon only, you already know how important video conferencing has become for today’s companies. As workforces have become more and more distributed, video conferencing has gone from boardroom luxury to cross-company necessity. That’s probably why you’re reading this right now, eh? Selecting the right solution for your company is critical. In a recent survey, we found that satisfaction with solutions is down at a shocking 17%. But our survey also showed that finding the right solution, one that suits your business model and has the flexibility to scale, can actually drive adoption at exponential rates. Maybe you’re one of the whopping 83% who are fed up with your current video solution. Maybe your company is just making moves to video conferencing. Whether you’re considering ditching your current video conferencing provider or just ditching your old carrier pigeon network, we have a few tips on how to tell when it’s time to make the change and how to make sure you’re making the right change.
KNOWING WHEN IT’S TIME TO FIND A NEW SOLUTION DETERMINING YOUR EVALUATION CRITERIA
OUTLINING YOUR SOLUTION SELECTION PROCESS FINDING VENDORS
JUSTIFYING THE PURCHASE WITH FINANCIAL MODELING AND A BUSINESS CASE
KNOWING WHEN IT’S TIME TO FIND A NEW SOLUTION Chances are your employees are already using some sort of video solution, even if it’s not something IT specifically implemented. Maybe they’re beating down your door with complaints, suggestions, and requests for help. Or maybe they’ve been so beaten down by the inertia around your legacy system that they’ve decided their collaboration goals will never be fully realized. Try these tips to find out how well your current solutions are working or why they’re being ignored:
1 - GET THE USAGE DATA
2 - GET FEEDBACK FROM I.T.
Your current system’s software should be able to produce
Not only can they clear up any questions about the specs on your
customizable, user-friendly reports on your real-time usage data.
current video system, but they’re uniquely positioned to tell you how
From these reports you can get a sense of baseline usage and
the solution is working across the company. If IT reports that they’re
outliers within your company and across departments.
being routinely invited to sit in on meetings “just in case something
Baseline usage will tell you whether your system
happens,” that’s a clear sign it’s time to make a change.
is generating value company-wide. Outliers will give you an idea of where to look for exceptional use cases.
3 - GET EMPLOYEE FEEDBACK
4 - WHEN IN DOUBT, GO TO THE SOURCE.
A survey is a great way to get a representative sample of sentiments
Employees can’t always articulate the issues they’re having or the
from across the company. But also consider including those outlying
alternatives they’d prefer. Check out the conference room calendar
departments and stakeholders in a few focus groups to make sure
and ask a meeting leader if you can be a fly on the wall the next
you have a full sense of what is and isn’t working.
time they fire up the video conferencing system. As you observe the
If you have a department using video conferencing at three times the average rate, they may have insight on how to make
meeting, keep half an eye on the clock. The amount of time lost to technical issues is a strong metric of the system’s weaknesses.
the system work well. If you have a department that almost never uses it, they can probably articulate some important reasons the system is failing them.
DETERMINING YOUR EVALUATION CRITERIA Now that you’re sure it’s time to make a change, it’s time to decide how you’re going to choose a new solution. This is undoubtedly one of the most critical steps of the process. If you’re not crystal clear on why you’re changing and what you need up front, the results you get from your new system are going to be equally muddied. There are three key things you should do to determine your evaluation criteria:
GATHER FEEDBACK FROM END-USERS
ORGANIZE AND DOCUMENT THE REQUIREMENTS
PRIORITIZE YOUR REQUIREMENTS
1 GATHER FEEDBACK FROM END-USERS It’s pretty much a given that each department will be using video
Is HR planning to conduct preliminary
conferencing for different purposes and in different ways. After all,
interviews with candidates via video?
if everyone was doing the same task in exactly the same way, they wouldn’t really need to collaborate with one another, right? Before you contact your first vendor, make sure you know which departments are going to use your solution and for what. Ideally, you’ll identify the early adopters within each department, those key end users who are most excited about using video. Engaging them early in the decision-making process will give them added incentive to bring their teams on board
Is Support/Success hoping to roll out a video chat service to offer customers face-to-face solutions to their concerns?
quickly when the new system is in place.
Perhaps Sales wants to be able to give You’ll know best which fine-grained questions to ask,
eye-catching presentations by video so they
but here are a few core questions you shouldn’t overlook:
can expand the reach of their product demos.
How do you communicate and collaborate now? Why video? How will you use it? What is holding back your productivity now? What’s not working about your current video options? What could you do better with a different solution?
Maybe Marketing and Engineering have decided they need to set up weekly standup meetings to keep on the same page and easily share data.
What new capabilities would a different solution give you?
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
How will people schedule meetings using the new solution?
2 ORGANIZE & DOCUMENT THE REQUIREMENTS
How will people join the meetings using the new solution?
What do remote meeting attendees need to be able to do
during a meeting?
When you’re seeking detailed feedback
What does a meeting organizer need to be able to do?
from a wide range of stakeholders, that
What devices will people be joining meetings from?
feedback can get out of hand in a flash
How often does your team screen share during meetings?
if you’re not ready to receive it. Knowing that you’re going to get complex, perhaps even contradictory inputs from across departments, it’s a good idea to have an organization and documentation system in place well before you send out your
EASE OF USE & END-USER EXPERIENCE
How do people feel about the process they go through to create and join calls? How do people feel about what they have to do to accomplish their goals during a meeting?
first survey. You can start by organizing
How long does it take to do basic tasks?
your evaluation criteria into buckets,
How much explanation and training is required?
leaving space to break those buckets into subcategories and to record the details of the end-user feedback you receive. Here
Is there a set budget for video conferencing? How do the benefits of the new solution compare to the costs?
are some typical buckets and a few ideas about the details to look for in each category:
SETUP COMPLEXITY, TIME AND COST
How long does it take to install the new solution? What equipment is required to install the new solution? Are there network modifications or upgrades that will be necessary? Are professional or implementation technical services required? Are construction or building facilities services required?
What is the quality of the hardware? How good is the audio and video quality in typical operating conditions? What are your conference room acoustics like? Are there glass walls? What size are they? Is there significant background noise outside your conference rooms? Are you using video conferencing in huddle rooms, open spaces, larger conference rooms? Do you have a lot of remote employees? What devices will they use to access your video service? What limitations to sound quality might those devices create?
SOLUTION RELIABILITY, VENDOR REPUTATION & VENDOR SUPPORT
What is the uptime of the solution, if using cloud-based software? How responsive is the vendor when there are issues? Is there a SLA? How satisfied are other customers with the solution? How does the vendor offer support - what channels are available, what are the support hours, typical response times and satisfaction ratings?
3 PRIORITIZE YOUR REQUIREMENTS So you’ve laid the foundation for your search and scaffolded out the needs of your key stakeholders. Now it’s
TOP EVALUATION CRITERIA
EASE OF USE
time to decide what shape your selection criteria are going to take. Are you building a skyscraper by focusing on one crucial criterion and aiming for the highest possible result? Or are you building out a mixed-use development that does a few different things reasonably well? No matter what, you’ll have to prioritize requirements because most likely you won’t be able to find a solution that has exactly everything you want. It can be a daunting task, translating stakeholder feedback into clear evaluation criteria. We suggest understanding which bucket of evaluation criteria is most important for your company, and then identifying the must-have requirements in each. From a broader industry perspective, a survey we recently conducted found that companies are making ease of use and quality their top criteria today:
20 19 15 10
AUDIO QUALITY %
FEATURES& FUNCTIONALITY 10
OUTLINING YOUR SOLUTION SELECTION PROCESS OK, we all know it ain’t over til the fat lady sings, but congrats nonetheless! With a clear set of criteria based on an accurate needs assessment and a solid business strategy, you are more than halfway to a great new video conferencing solution. Now it’s time to make a plan to implement those criteria in your solution selection process.
SET A TIMELINE AND DIVIDE IT UP INTO CLEAR STAGES FOR THE EVALUATION PROCESS. How much time do you need to search for vendors and do demos? What will your trial/proof of concept look like? How much time will you need for that?
IDENTIFY THE KEY STAKEHOLDERS THAT WILL BE LOOKING AT SOLUTIONS AND TRYING THEM OUT If it’s convenient, try to work with as many of the key stakeholders you previously interviewed when you were establishing your criteria. Again, this will feed the excitement
for the new tool among early adopters, fueling company-wide onboarding.
MAP OUT WHO WILL APPROVE THE PURCHASE AND WHAT LEVEL OF INFORMATION THEY WANT Will you need to present a formal business case, or will it be a more informal chat? Even if you only need to have that informal chat, it’s still smart to put the selection process and timeline in a document that you can easily share with all stakeholders to make sure everyone understands their role and expectations.
FINDING VENDORS Chances are you already know of a few vendors that make video conferencing solutions. And while no one ever got fired for buying IBM, it is worth looking broadly to find some of the newer, more innovative players in the space. Here are a few suggestions to kick off your search:
Vendor websites. Kind of a no-brainer, but you might be pleasantly surprised when a simple internet search brings back a few companies you’d never heard of.
Tech and Business Journalism. From media stalwarts like WIRED and Fast Company to online-only journals like The Verge and TechCrunch, there is no shortage of valuable reporting on the state of the market and the innovations vendors are bringing to the table.
IT forums and consumer review sites like G2 Crowd and Spicework’s community page bring you unbiased (or at least less biased) accounts of how vendor’s have performed IRL.
Consultants and analysts. Research firms like Wainhouse and Nemertes specialize in analyzing the value of business technology. This is a particularly useful approach if you’ve already identified a few equally promising options and you need a detailed analysis of their relative strengths and weaknesses.
Conferences and Tradeshows. Even in this digital age, sometimes there’s just no substitute for the face-to-face demos, networking, and tip-swapping you can get at a good old-fashioned tradeshow.
As you evaluate each vendor, make sure to keep track of how each solution stacks up against your requirements. If you can fold this data into the evaluation documentation you shared with all your stakeholders, so much the better for your future roll out.
JUSTIFYING THE PURCHASE WITH FINANCIAL MODELING AND A BUSINESS CASE As we mentioned before, the folks approving your purchase will require different levels of formality when it comes to your business case, but no one ever says no to hard numbers. Even if you’re just having an informal chat with the decision makers, it’s always good to have a sense of the costs and benefits of the solutions you’re considering.
Once you have a firm, steely-eyed understanding of the costs, it’s time to consider the benefits. This is a lot more fun, but the challenge is, the benefits are often much harder to quantify than the costs. Here are a few places to start:
Time savings. Stack up the answers
Productivity gains. It can be
New capabilities. If you have
to the following questions against the
especially difficult to correlate collaboration
departments that are itching for a new
performance data of your proposed
and productivity in hard numbers, but
video conferencing solution so they can
solution, and you’ll start to get a sense
consider these findings:
launch new business initiatives, be sure
of time savings you can expect. To translate this time savings into a dollar value, calculate the hourly dollar value of each employee who is currently in a meeting, cursing at an inscrutable control console. In each of your meetings right now, how much time is being spent on getting the tech up and running? How much time is spent on troubleshooting?
One division’s global network of technical project managers generated annual savings of about $1.8M as a result of collaboration between divisions. Identifying and building connectivity
to work closely with the leaders of those initiatives to factor their potential value into your business case. What kind of savings will HR achieve by running more initial interviews via video?
between specialists in other groups
How much new business can Sales bring
helped a large construction firm raise its
in by giving more and better remote
revenue to $275 million, from $80 million,
in a single year.
Can you quantify the increase in
If figures like these are hard to calculate
customer satisfaction and loyalty that
How long does it take to get screen
in your case, another way to get a firm
a customer-facing video support service
sharing figured out?
quantitative grasp on this benefit is to
How much time does your IT staff spend getting called in to fix conference room problems?
consider the per-employee cost of the solution. Do you believe that implementing a better, more seamless collaboration solution will allow them to produce at least as much added value as the per-user cost? 17
A FEW LAST THINGS TO THINK ABOUT By now you’re homing in on a few standout solutions, and you have a pretty clear idea of how they stack up in a cost-benefit analysis.
QUESTIONS TO ASK EACH PROVIDER:
But before you click purchase, take a moment to consider what
How long does it take to learn to operate
Rollout. The user adoption strategies you
Your infastructure. To ensure your system
Does your system require training for
use to present this new tool to your company
operates at peak levels with no embarrassing
employees to use it? If so, how is it
can dramatically affect the value you get from
lag time, check the speed of your network.
deployed? How quickly can I set up and
it. Will your vendor help you roll their solution
You need to be running at or above 5 mbps
deploy your system?
out to the company? If so, how? Will customer
in ensure HD video quality. You’ll also want
success teams come onsite to help lead the
to consider how your office is currently wired
What guarantees do you offer?
transition? Does the vendor provide you
and whether you want to use existing TVs and
How do you support your customers?
with onboarding materials to help you follow
projectors or purchase new ones. If you have a
How much maintenance am I responsible
through on initial training?
BYOD policy, how will that affect installation or
for with your system?
rollout of the new system? This is also a good
Can you give me examples of how your
Vendor support. Let’s face it, today’s
time to revisit the research you did into the
video solutions are in a sorry state. Our survey
variety of conference rooms, huddle rooms,
found that 40% of meetings are plagued by
and other meeting spaces your company uses,
software or hardware issues, and it takes an
making sure your proposed solution is going
References are important to me. I’d like to
average of 12.3 minutes to resolve those issues.
to provide the flexibility you need.
talk to a customer who loves your system,
system is better than (insert name of another company you are considering)?
Given all that, you need clear answers from
as well as a customer who has had an
your vendor about how they handle technical
issue with your system that you resolved.
issues. Beyond the level of support they provide, be sure to also get a sense of how responsive are they when you file a ticket. In a world where uptime is everything, you can’t afford to be waiting days to get the answers you need.
CONGRATULATIONS! It’s a big job, finding the right video conferencing solution. At times it can feel a lot like juggling torches, blindfolded. But you built your search process on a solid business strategy, and you engaged with the right people to determine your company’s needs. You prioritized your evaluation criteria, empowered key stakeholders throughout the selection process, found a strong roster of vendors, and built a compelling business case for the outstanding candidates. Once you’ve got all your last questions
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