Microsoft Teams Insider

The Importance of Standards & Room Design with Microsoft Teams Rooms with Greg Jeffreys

January 17, 2024 Tom Arbuthnot
Microsoft Teams Insider
The Importance of Standards & Room Design with Microsoft Teams Rooms with Greg Jeffreys
Show Notes Transcript
  • Greg emphasizes the importance of thinking critically about each component of a room and using standards as a guide
  • The importance of standards and proper room design for Microsoft Teams rooms and technology-enabled spaces
  • The real-world challenges of room design, the need for audio quality and the opportunity for improvement in remote experiences
  • The ROI of investing in technology-enabled spaces

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Hi, welcome back to the show. Really good one for you this week. We've got Greg Jeffries, who is a consultant and director at Visual Displays and is really focused on rooms and meeting room design, but not just from a technology standpoint, from a holistic approach. So I had a really good conversation with Greg around room design, the importance of standards. And when you're doing Microsoft Teams rooms, what are those things to consider beyond just the kit? So I hope you enjoy the show and many thanks to Crestron for their support of Empowering Cloud and this episode. And if you're listening to this at time of release, do check out Crestron at ISE in a few weeks. I'll also be over there. So if you're there, hope to see you there, on with the show.

Tom:

Hey everybody, welcome back to the show. I've really been looking forward to this conversation. It's stretching a bit beyond my kind of core knowledge in the Microsoft team space and Greg's the person I reach out to when I want to get a real kind of proper AV perspective on things. Greg, for those that don't know you, could you just give a bit of an intro and background?

Greg:

Yeah, sure. I'm Greg Jeffries. I wear three hats, really. I, one is as a specialist consultant in the areas that we're going to talk about today. The second is as a co owner of Visual Displays, who's a company making projected displays for the sort of team's room and the whole hybrid workspace area. And then the third part of this is my volunteer life. have been involved with the leadership of of Avixa for many years, Infocomm as it was back in the day. I've been on the board of ISE and various of the companies that the organization has. But really my big thing has been standards. I've been involved in the leadership of standards for a long time. And I've also led or co written a number of the standards, including the ones we'll probably touch on today.

Tom:

Awesome. Yeah, thanks for joining us on the pod. I'm excited to get your perspective on things'cause you've always got good opinions and I see a lot from you on LinkedIn and other socials where you throwing thoughts into the conversation. I think today we wanted to zero in that, that medium and large scenario. Obviously Microsoft teams rooms are flying. And a lot of that is in different use cases, but certainly. They're being pushed for larger scenarios. So I guess starting with kind of that, what's your opinion on the Microsoft Teams rooms and the different use cases and where the fit is?

Greg:

I think things in general sort of leap they leapfrog and I, at the moment I feel that the technology and the innovation we're seeing from the brands and the vendors is incredible. It's really amazing and it's very exciting times. I'm genuinely looking forward to ISC because there's a lot of stuff I really want to have a good look at, and I never used to feel that about ISC.

Tom:

Yeah, it's interesting, isn't it? Like it's a, there's real innovation happening in the space at the moment. And every year I'm looking forward to it as well. Every year you go, it's Oh, I want to see that thing in action. And cause there's nothing like getting onto the kit and then having a look.

Greg:

100 percent and also the opportunity to back it if you like, walk from one booth to another to compare and contrast and it's a unique opportunity. But here's the but, so the but in that conversation is that the the room design and the standards that apply to room design they've they're lagging behind. It's totally understandable because the industry did a genuinely incredible job during the pandemic of making all these spaces into these hybrid workspaces. It wasn't pretty. Some of it was pretty ugly, but damn it. They made it work. And that was that's a kind of a hats off thing. However. A lot of those sorts of habits, if you like, and the lack of thought about the room layout and design that's really showing up now. And I have concern because the I think that, as we go down the line now there's, there is so much development and focus. Ongoing from Microsoft and all kinds of people in the ecosystem, some of these rooms, even though they're on paper, very well equipped, are actually going to show up their shortcomings and that's my thing as an evangelist for standards and then in the work that I do in consulting is helping people to to get things right.

Tom:

So what let's dig into that. So like, where are you seeing real world challenges there?

Greg:

The, some of the challenges are structural, really, and have no fault of the players involved. Not that fault or blame is a, is an intelligent way of doing it. It's just that we're in a very new scenario now and the kind of the imperatives the needs from that are developing out. Like I say, some of the things are A structural, all organizations are really heavily siloed. I I've consulted over the years for, shall we say a large search engine company? And, they're just as they're just the same as other companies. The, facilities management, building management will be sitting in a different cubbyhole to AV and IT management. And you have this, so you have this sort of paradox where people have spent good money on expensive lighting, which they're overdriving and killing the displays in the room. So you've got a kind of a lack of awareness and a lack of cohesiveness. And,

Tom:

seeing AV and IT come together now? Cause even that is relatively new. Certainly from my past doing, Lync and Skype for business projects. It was. AV and IT were very separate and I've seen projects where the room systems got bought and they were literally incompatible with the UC system because they hadn't talked to each other.

Greg:

yeah. Within the AV industry, within Avixa, we, we've taken the view that, the two things have combined a long time ago. It's just taken, taking a while for people to, see what huge opportunities that, that actually means for AV. But I think as a working proposition, You have to regard the things as already having combined.

Tom:

Nice. So it's now that next leap of AV, IT and space design facilities like that. That's holistically.

Greg:

Yeah, the holistic thing is very much, my, my thing. Because the thing with, the thing about room design is it's a very it's very multi layered and complex thing. The heuristic that we use in the consulting arm is to disaggregate the thing, to break the thing down into its component parts. And then to, as far as possible, use some kind of marginal gains theory where you go, okay this is the audio. What can we do to improve it by five or 10%? This is the display, this is the lighting, and you take that kind of approach. And there, and and there are standards that apply to all of these elements but they have to be used. They have to be used critically.

Tom:

Yeah. Yeah. And I feel like audio, again, you keep me honest here. It's neglected, certainly coming from the it side of this world. Like I think there's a lack of understanding respect for the audio component, even the video component. The video is a bit easier because people can see the impact of change. But I think audio, if you're not. Thinking critically about it. It's often hard to judge and I even see silly things like people choosing room systems Not testing the remote experience and it's that's the point of the system, right? So you need to hear it and see it on the remote end

Greg:

yeah. 100%. The more I do this the more you realize how absolutely imperative it is to understand what the remote experience is. It, that kind of manifests. manifest itself in all kinds of, in all kinds of ways. But the audio is the main thing. If you think back to the day when we sat around that starfish thing in the middle of the table before, before we all got into the poly, the polycom thing in the

Tom:

Yeah

Greg:

It all starts with audio and tip, the thing is that in reality. If the video breaks down, that's not a game changer, but if the audio when we're sitting in an airport and we've got, crap bandwidth we'll kill our cameras. That, that's not a problem. But if the audio isn't there, it is a really big problem. And so that as a proposition in itself, yeah. Is a really important thing, but really understanding how your space is self presenting at the other end is so important. So many of these of the calls that are made from one organization to another how you present yourself, whether you're selling or you're trying to make the status of the of the organization. It's really mission critical. And there's so much opportunity there to improve things just by going through those processes.

Tom:

Yeah, that's a really good point. Your marginal gains thing is interesting there. I think it comes to mind. I'm working with a legal firm at the moment, and they've got, the big fee earners working from different spaces and working from home now. And they're charging big money for these review calls, whatever they may be. And it used to be they'd you'd get wheeled into the London office and you'd have tea and biscuits and big oak desk. And there was a status to that. And now I'm having conversation. I'm like, you need to spend. A few hundred pounds here on decent kit for the home workers, because it's going to make I'm surprised it's even a budget conversation. I'm like that they earned this and they're on calls with your customers. Get them good

Greg:

Yeah. The thing is that I the model I see for this, it's like the emperor's new clothes. It's just that it, until something gets pointed out it's effectively, group thing, or it's like a it's a group held illusion that something's okay, because it's always been done like that. But if you hold the mirror up and you go, hang on a minute, what about this? Then. Ah, then the penny drops.

Tom:

also the pandemic thing, isn't it? Like the whole world got like a very. Can do make it work attitude. So everybody got very accepting of sometimes I have to turn it off again and it's not going to be optimal and we'll deal with it. And I think that was actually net good because like innovation has gone up. People trying new things has gone up, but it does mean that criticality of Oh this really isn't great. We should refocus on it. It hasn't gone away a little bit.

Greg:

no, that's absolutely right. And I think this is not necessarily an argument to spend loads of money on it. It's about actually addressing the basics, which is why my whole thing about standards is is why I feel it's so mission critical. You can have really quite inexpensive equipment giving a good result and you can also, knock the stuffing out of some really expensive kit by having rubbish lighting or, really poor acoustics. For me it's an, it's a no brainer, but, if people are used to doing something in a certain way, it's not until you hold the mirror, I'm going, did you really want to be like this?

Tom:

Yeah. Yeah. So are you seeing with the projects you're involved in, that have Microsoft Teams rooms, are you seeing that as an opportunity to have the wider conversation? Because certainly sometimes I'm seeing it's like, Oh, this is an MTR project. We're doing 50 rooms and it's straight into kit selection and rollout. It's not use case driven. It's not what's the business objectives here?

Greg:

Yeah it's the thing is that, there, there is such a thing as gravity. There is such a thing as constraints, there is such a thing as budgets and so on. And on the one hand for people looking to do large deployments, then, classifying room as small, medium, large. Et cetera that, that does, you have got to, you have got to do that kind of practical thing. But no I think that the, there are a lot of opportunities there to have a bit more, have a bit more focus on it. And the thing is it's Pandora's box. Once you start to notice these things, you can't stuff it back in. Once you've noticed that the. The display is too small, it's too bright or it's shiny. You can't take that perception away. But yeah, I think it's, it is just about specifying the right things or getting the room right. So that the equipment will do it. In effect, there's a bit of a sort of conspiracy, but it's just this sort of tacit agreement between. Because we're all, let's face it, we're all nerds, we're all technologists. And it's very natural both on the purchase side and on the the supply side to think in terms of technology it almost it doesn't matter what the question is. What brand are we gonna use? What model are we gonna use? Hang on a minute, because there's a whole pre-technology thing to think about. Be before you get there. And like I say, it's not about spending shed loads of money because you actually might be able to save a lot of money. If you if, both in terms of capital costs and running costs and the lessons from, from UX, which is another thing I'm involved with, human centered design is it never finishes. It's an iterative thing. How, if you have these awareness, you have these, periodic reviews, how are we going to improve it? What isn't quite right? What do we prioritize?

Tom:

Also, it's good. It's good for the, it's good for the industry if that stuff is thought through, because we know this is the way that you say it gets driven. It's commercial and technical. The vendors will deliver what the customers end up wanting. And if the customers say they want more AI and more of this, that's what you get more of, if they come back and say, these are our business objectives and these things matter, that will go into design specs.

Greg:

Yeah. Yeah. I, my feeling is that we're going to see a lot of movement there and the drivers come in, different ways because typically AV is brought in very late into the process. Which AV can't do much about, but,

Tom:

is that like the classic like, we built this glass cube, we don't want wires anywhere, good luck AV.

Greg:

Yeah, no, that's it, because the thing is that the, that, that is absolutely on the money, that, that comment, because what typically happens is that the architect, hands over this beautiful, pristine building to the client, and Then the AV consultant is letting the tradesmans entering downstairs. Here you come and this do, stick your TV on the wall and, wipe your feet on the way out. Whereas in reality, buildings now have to be the technology enabled spaces. And so the technology has to be thought of at, at Reba stage one. You know when the building is being, is first being ideated.

Tom:

What's interesting is again, thinking of current projects at the moment is I'm seeing like the whole intelligent buildings, green initiative, what people are like Cisco and others are doing around how you wire the building. That technology conversation just managed to infiltrate the design conversation much more than the AV one has. Like the AV one is still by and large after.

Greg:

yeah.

Tom:

there's an opportunity to combine those conversations. Like you say, what was your phrasing? Like technology enabled.

Greg:

Technology enables spaces.

Tom:

Yeah. I love

Greg:

that's what we're working

Tom:

I love that because that puts the key at the front and like now build the space around the use case and technology enables it. That's great.

Greg:

yeah, no, it's it is a big thing. And, if there's one, if there's one word that will make an AV person spit, it'll be it's architect. And but on the other hand and particularly when I've worked on projects, which use uses the well standard, which is an environmental and well building standard. And, where where everybody. is incentivized because you can, you score points for doing things right, including AV. At that point, when I've been involved in projects where, the architect and the technologists and, everyone's around the same table and so you just have these conversations. None of this is rocket science, but it's just setting, it's setting yourself, self up to. To succeed rather than to fail. I always see these things as about removing obstructions. It, it's how you help the water flow down the hill and it's setting things up in, in those kinds of ways. But it's an awareness, but in the end the argument for this is financial because it, because you want whoever's, whoever puts the money up for a building, they want the building to be built, in most economic ways possible. They want to have the, The best efficiency and use of the building, get the highest rents for it. And if you if you get these and like I say, that is the thing. Buildings now have to be technology enabled. If you get that you can you, it's a win thing. That it's a show me the money moment, isn't

Tom:

Yeah. Yeah. Also, I think we were, we're getting to the point where with new hybrid working, the number of people in the office is undoubtedly down. We can argue over the percentages like leases are going to start coming out. People are, I've seen people reducing floors. If you're the building that's thought through the experience, like you're the more likely building to get the next lease, to get the tenants because you it's the experience people need in the modern work.

Greg:

Yeah. No, it's changing the whole thing about what a building needs to be and what it needs to look like, I you take the train into London and you, as the train pulls into St. Pancras, these, acres of glass and all of these empty desks where the acres and acres of hot desks where people would be once upon a time being Be competing to get a desk. And now that's just the rolling acres, isn't it?

Tom:

Yeah, it's right. It's radical what a change has been. I mean you feel it coming back now I'm in a couple of maybe once a week or twice a week into London. It's but it's nowhere near peak

Greg:

No it, it's the new, it's the new reality. And it's very exciting, but it, there's still a bit of backfilling to be done in terms of the just it's asking the right questions, isn't it? It's it's procuring. It's how to spend your money. Well,

Tom:

Yeah. Yeah. So like we've talked about largely about like the theoretical approach to this stuff, what as we wrap up, what's I imagine a lot of this audience are involved in this space doing projects. What's a practical takeaway for the, I liked your kind of percentage increases approach if we're doing a project or we're thinking about doing a project, what's a very practical thing we can think about?

Greg:

yeah. The first thing is to think about standards because although that's a very, it can be very daunting and you think of them as being these great big volumes that sit on the shelf and you get them down and you do it that in practice, they can be used really very easily. But I think taking this disaggregated approach is the simplest way, because if you think of the room in terms of all of its attributes, it's the room finishes, is the table shiny, all those sorts of things the acoustics, the lighting, the display, the audio quality, the video quality, you just break it all down and just think what's my approach going to be for this? And then to get to that point where you where you you know where you can think of the space and the technology in a way that could, where you could actually procure the right thing.

Tom:

Awesome. I feel like you've just laid the gauntlet down for our next podcast, which you said the standards seem really daunting, but they're easy to work through. That sounds like the next podcast.

Greg:

But that would be great. I'd love to do that. I'm, as you might've gathered, I'm a total evangelist for it and would be delighted to do that.

Tom:

Awesome. Thanks for joining today. Definitely some great insight and food for thought there. And yeah we'll revisit and do it other way, but we'll walk through those, one of those standards or the various standards, because I'm learning on that side of the fence too. So that would be really useful.

Greg:

Thanks for having me on. I really enjoyed this conversation. A really nice thing to do. Thank you.