The world of IT is changing. In the last 5 years, we have witnessed the long-anticipated shift on how IT services are provided to an organisation. Software as A Service (SaaS) delivery of traditionally on-premises capabilities such as office productivity suites, email, telephony and conferencing services are no longer the exception to the rule, but rather the default approach. Cloud fit is the term I use to describe this trend.
Dealing with mostly corporate and enterprise customers (with a large smattering of government) we typically see productivity suite choices as either Microsoft or Google/Cisco (the latter would be a stretch). This is important in determining lots of future decisions, specifically around workflow, ease of access, information governance and management, security and compliance.
These are things you cannot take for granted and must put in the hard yards in researching, evaluating and deciding on a future direction for your workplace and your users. This should involve a healthy dose of user input, profiling, persona development (if you’re into that) and just some good old-fashioned jawboning about what they really need to do, to do their job (i.e. how do you make the technology go away so they can just work as productively as possible without compromising security and increasing risk and make them effective at their job). This is important, because it will define decisions around HOW your employees talk, share files, share documents, and generally arrive at consensus or a decision based on their day to day work.
Assuming you’ve done all that, and like most organisations in industrialised society, you’ve probably chosen Microsoft. Whether this is a new Microsoft 365 or Office 365 experience, or you’ve inherited a slew of products hosted on-premises, you’ll generally have some exposure to Microsoft be it on the desktop or in the datacentre and places in-between.
With this, we see Office 365 as the primary SaaS offering employed by organisations around the globe. It’s hard to deny that, for most organisations, Microsoft has been the core provider when it comes to Operating System, Productivity, email and many other IT related service offerings.
Why does this matter when sizing up Surface Hub and Spark Board?
Traditionally when looking at Audio/Video solutions to deploy into meeting rooms, the focus was purely on video conferencing capabilities. The typical use case was relatively static: people sit around a table, video is presented, with content sharing the only other medium typically supported. When it came to interop with back end infrastructure, this was typically limited to scheduling: we wanted the meeting room device to display calendar information, as well as give us a streamlined way to join a scheduled meeting.
Collaboration Device: a new category
The release of the Surface Hub introduced a new category of device: the collaboration device. Whilst Surface Hub has video conferencing capabilities baked right in, this is only a fraction of the story. An organisation that’s taking a journey along the Modern Workplace path wants more than just conferencing.
Deciding a Collaboration Device? Here’s what you need to know.
This isn’t designed to be a pro-Microsoft or pro-Hub article, it is a collection of anecdotes and experiences that we have collected over the last 18 months whilst designing, deploying, managing and measuring adoption of modern workplace solutions. These are salient points that our customers have given us as reasons for choosing Surface Hub over Spark Boards and others.
- Acts as an extension of the Office 365 platform – this cannot be understated! The Hub works as a native collaboration device for Office 365, be it consumption or creation. The integration story, as likely one of your decision points to go with Microsoft, is second to none and the Hub is really a first-class citizen when it comes to consuming and collaboration on Office 365.
- Native Document Support. If your users are going to be authoring, reviewing, commenting and sharing a document – typically this is a Microsoft format and is generally universal. Heck, even Google Mail lets you open Word files.
- Native support for Miracast. This means Windows 10 and Android devices can natively share content to the Surface Hub, typically with a PIN code, ensuring people can just walk in and share their desktop or an application seamlessly and without complication. AirPlay is nice, but it typically doesn’t play nicely on enterprise networks or guest WiFi. Another complication. Insync recommends using AirServer as an application for Hub, to allow a segmented AirPlay network emanating from the Hub itself to minimise exposure to the corporate LAN.
- Bi-directional Control – being able to share a document via Miracast and control your input using the Surface Hub screen, for collaborating or simply providing feedback, inking or commenting directly on documents. This is then written back to the laptop and into the users OneNote client.
- Meeting Creation Workflow – one of the key reasons customers choose Hub is the simple process of booking a Hub enabled room – either scheduled from their Outlook client or front the Hub itself if the Hub is not in use. 9 times out of 10, this simple process for joining a meeting and the corresponding Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams call sells itself. We are big on reducing friction – this simple workflow reduces meeting setup times to seconds instead of minutes (if not longer)!
- It is not an out of band experience – I use the apps I know, the tablet or laptop I use, to get my job done! I don’t need additional applications, clients or accompanying devices to get my content into the meeting. In fact, I can preload attachments to my meeting and have them natively available on the Hub itself – no device required.
The ability to manage as a Windows 10 device - No longer is the IT management experience a total out of band (and require skills customers don’t have) experience – I simply manage the device like my other Windows 10 devices, using Intune. If you don’t have Intune, you can use System Center Configuration Manager or your choice of MDM, provided