Audio Conferencing in the Mobile Age

Original Post by David Guthrie

The evolution of mobility and cloud-based technology has dramatically altered our expectations for user conferencing ad

All the information we could ever want in our personal lives is never more than a tap or swipe away. And finally, after years of the typical business software inertia, the repercussions of these shifts are starting to be felt in the workplace.

Take, for example, the humble conference call. I’d wager that if you walk by any conference room in your organization today, there’s a conference phone sitting on the table. They’ve come to symbolize workplace collaboration and all the pros and cons that accompany it.

It would be easy to assume that little has changed about the conference call, and in some ways you’d be right—the overall experience is largely the same as it’s always been. But the impact of the mobile age is being felt as mobile apps and SaaS solutions transform the conferencing experience. In addition, there have been significant under-the-hood infrastructure changes designed to keep your calls consistent, high-quality and secure.

Let’s take a look at how audio conferencing is evolving:

BYOD and BYOA Have Changed User Experience

Workers have been bringing their own devices and apps to work for some time now, a trend that, in spite of its challenges, seems unavoidable. With an average of 3.5 devices per worker, people are coming to expect the same kinds of experiences at the workplace that they’ve become accustomed to in their personal lives. When you’re used to connecting with people with a single tap, digging through an email for an audio conference number and passcode seems clunky and antiquated.

The demand for BYOD and BYOA isn’t just about flexibility. It’s the workforce looking at their favorite consumer apps and asking, “Why can’t work be this easy?”

As a result of these shifting expectations, mobile conferencing has finally begun to remove the friction from the experience. The same design and UX principles that are found in your favorite consumer mobile apps are making their way into business collaboration: one-touch access, actionable notifications, even wearable integration.

However, there’s much more to the evolution of conferencing than just simpler interfaces.

Infrastructure Improvements

You’d be forgiven for overlooking how far audio conferencing has come in recent years because a great deal of the evolution has been behind the scenes. While the day-to-day user still expects to “dial a phone” (taken literally, or meaning connecting via VoIP or other means) and hear voices on the other end, the actual improvements to networks and infrastructure making conference calls possible have been dramatic.

Think about how much more complex a conference call can be today. In the past, you dialed in with a traditional telephone and that was that. But today, you can have traditional dial-in participants, guests joining from smartphones, using VoIP on tablets, laptops or desktops and more, and it all has to be seamlessly mixed together in a single, high-quality audio experience. That’s some serious heavy lifting on the back-end and has created a need for new hybrid audio networks, global accessibility and audio bridge distribution and improvements in VoIP quality and reliability.

VoIP in particular is becoming less of a fallback and more of a daily driver, as Enterprise-quality VoIP and IP telephony networks are improved and optimized. While there are a lot of potential factors that can impact your experience, today’s VoIP connections can match if not surpass the quality of PBX audio. And of course, the ecosystem of devices around audio—mobile device hardware, headsets, etc.—are improving as well, leading to a more intuitive and quality experience.

The conference phone may not be extinct just yet, but with these sorts of seamless experiences available via mobile, it’s no wonder why smartphones and tablets are quickly becoming our business collaboration devices of choice.


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