So you're in the market for a Video Conferencing solution. Your VAR has no doubt put on an excellent demo, showcasing all the fancy Video Conferencing features and collaboration add-ons. I'm sure everything worked perfectly, and your Execs are all amazed at the possibilities and eager to pull the trigger for deployment.
Now cast your mind back the "ooh/aah" moment at the beginning of Jurassic Park.
While things might not end quite as badly for you, the key here is to be aware that all this new technology doesn't always play quite as nicely in reality as it does in the demo lab.
Here are some key lessons learned from my experiences with Video Conferencing, take heed and avoid the mistakes of those who have fallen before you.
This is not Hollywood. The user experience is not going to be like IMAX, BlueRay or DVD. Set user expectations as low as possible and be sure to write up Service or Operational Level Agreements accordingly. The last thing your operations team needs is P1 tickets being opened for "issues" such as those that follow:
HiDef is not always HiDef:
You have 4K TVs hooked up to HDMI ports running @ 1080P, so what? Often the underlying video codec is H.264, which is a "lossy" codec, by design. Therefore the image captured at one site is not the exact same as the image delivered to the other site, it's been compressed, and there will be a loss in quality.
Pixelation, it happens sometimes, get used to it.
Maybe someone moved to quick, there was a glitch in the TV or Codec unit, or maybe, just maybe, you had some packet loss in the network. Either way, you had some pixelation. It happens, and unless it occurs often and predictably, it's almost impossible to trace. And of course, everyone likes to blame the network and push it back to Network Ops for resolution.
MICs, you can please some people some of the time.
End users will never agree on MIC volume levels, never. Someone shuffles papers next to the MIC, and you get a ticket to turn it down. Next day a full 12 person conf room can't hear the other site over their own background noise, you get a ticket to turn that same MIC up. On and on it goes.
Speaker Track, sometimes it doesn't work as expected, that's OK.
Users can and do, get upset if speaker track doesn't capture them. They take it almost personally like they're being deliberately ignored or shunned by the technology. However, it does happen, so be prepared.
Key Items to consider.
The video conferencing experience is "personal" by design, so expect user response (good or bad), to be very personal, even emotional.
The physical environment is key, it doesn't take much to throw the system off, poor acoustics, user behavior, reflections etc.
Set user exceptions as low as possible, write up and publish your SLA/OLAs accordingly.
Engage the Networks team as a stakeholder, early in the design phase. Video Conferencing can add significant load to the network which is difficult to predict due to the bursty nature of the video codecs.
Engage Facilities as a stakeholder, they often have good insight to location environmental factors that may impact solution performance.
Work with your VAR to properly deploy the solution as defined by the Vendor best practice. Many vendors have detailed room setup guidelines. This will help ensure each Video Conference room is configured for optimal performance.
Ensure Users have a clear path for support. The Service Desk should be trained and aligned in advance, with a clear path for escalation. Setup a dedicated intranet site and provide clear end-user guides both online and with a hard copy in each room.
Allocate on-site trained SMEs at mid/large locations during turn-over/cut-over activities. Users often need a little hand-holding during the first week of new service, and that local personal touch goes a long way.
Incidents such as pixelization, speaker track or volume issues should not be P1s, and Problem Management should only be invoked if sufficient incident thresholds have been reached.
Invest in an intelligent network analysis tool such as NetBrain. This will help the network team quick identify related traffic flows for troubleshooting activities.
In the world of Video Conferencing, Under-Promise/Over-Deliver (UPOD) is your best friend. Hopefully, these tips will help you avoid some of the common pitfalls in delivering a Video Conferencing service. Good luck.