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Unifying Unified Communications Platforms

Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, WebEx are all “unified communications” (UC) platforms.

Trouble is, while the platforms themselves are unified (which is great for everyone on the respective platforms), there is not any unification between the platforms.

If this type of environment existed with our phones, it would mean an iPhone user could call anyone else using an iPhone but could not connect with anyone using an Android-based phone.

As such, if you are a Zoom user, you cannot connect directly with someone who is accessing their communications through Microsoft Teams. Which is why we now have this little game in deciding who is going to schedule a meeting and send the invite. If this were a sport, being the scheduler is the equivalent to having “home court advantage,” leaving the other side to download a browser plugin or software and become familiar with the other system’s user interface.

For me, I am a Microsoft Teams user. Every time I join a Teams call, all of my settings are perfect. My camera is detected, my default microphone is correct, and it knows exactly where to route my speaker audio. When I join a Zoom call, those settings do not always work right out of the gate.

In the seconds before a meeting starts, I often find myself trying to choose the correct camera, click the “blur background” setting, check to see if the right microphone and audio are selected, determine if I’m joining with camera on or off and if my sound is on or muted. Luckily, I have a second-degree black belt in AV nerd and can quickly run the gauntlet.

But we have all participated in meetings where not everyone is deftly adept at using an unfamiliar user interface on the fly.

The easy answer to all of this is interoperability. But, as the saying goes, “easier said than done.”

In 2016, Microsoft was the first to announce it would offer UC interoperability. They started to rollout these services internally between Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams in 2018. That extended to Slack and WebEx in 2019. With some extra provisioning by company IT administrators, interoperability made it to Zoom Rooms in 2020.

While it has been a slow, bumpy road with occasional setbacks, as a whole, it is great progress for the industry.

And not a moment too soon. The “work-from-home” (WFH) phenomenon driven by the COVID-19 pandemic has put pressure on all of these platforms to put the peddle to the metal, so to speak.

Even better news - with the expedited expansion of these platforms comes the ability for them to work with your integrated conference room systems more seamlessly.

If you have joined a Zoom, WebEx or Microsoft Teams meeting recently, you may have noticed extra features that allow you to “connect to a room audio system” (or similar, depending on the platform you use).

If you have an installed AV system with speakers and microphones, maybe even a camera in your office conference room, E1AV can make that work with your next Zoom, Teams or WebEx call. This means using the installed system along with your PC. It creates an immersive and collaborative space for remote and local participants.

As we slowly get back to working in the office, or maybe realize that remote work is the way to go, it’s safe to say unified communications is here to stay. But now, more than ever, interoperability is becoming the key to a better user experience.

Which now leaves you with a couple of choices: Let E1AV help you take advantage of unified communication and interoperability…or…become a second-degree black belt in AV nerd. LOL…good luck with the latter.


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