The Good, Bad and Ugly: A Collaboration Industry Analyst’s Online Meeting Experiences, Q1 2016

May 09, 2016

As collaboration analyst, I spend a lot of time in online meetings. Due to the frequency and breadth of solutions experienced, I have become more of a power user and unafraid of using all the features presented to me.  In fact, I’ve become so accustomed to a multi-media experience, that I find it difficult to maintain focus in audio-only sessions.

The platforms I use vary widely – clients and prospects like to use their own platforms when speaking with the analyst community (or drink their own champagne/dog food, depending on the result). At last count on April 28, I found 27 different clients and plug-ins installed on my PC for various online meeting solutions. The variety of platforms I use, as well as the topics and size of the meetings I attend, greatly impact my user experience.

After months of making promises to do it, I began logging my experiences in Q1 this year. When looking through my notes recently, I thought it would be both fun and important to share them. There are a number of caveats, however.

First, these are not product reviews by any means, only short notes and observations logged during or directly after my meeting sessions. With one exception, audio-only calls are not included (should they be?). There are 25 entries for multi-media sessions, which are not exhaustive, but still represent a reasonable sample of my experiences. I have removed the names of the providers and platforms to protect the innocent. That said I’m typically a squeaky wheel when there are issues. It should not be too difficult for providers to recognize which entries refer to them. Finally, there have been occurrences where I experienced local internet issues, and have made notes accordingly. 


I joined via Chrome WebRTC access over WiFi on PC. Good   a/v quality in 1-1 session. I was able to change my audio peripherals   mid-meeting.


Chrome required a download so I switched to FireFox that I   already had a plug-in for. Joined via FireFox over WiFi on PC. No audio or   video problems for me. The audio was not top notch. Team members noted poor   audio quality.


Joined via desktop client. There is new version but I was   not yet prompted to update. No audio issues. Good screen sharing. Some   latency in video.


Joined via FireFox web client w/ stereo headset. Presence   and settings supported. Excellent audio quality. No IM, screen share, or   chat.


Joined via PC client and stereo headset. Used screen   share, public & private chat. No video available. Good resolution and   quality.

Jan 19-22

Joined via iOS (iPhone 6 ). Vendor created an environment   for discussions at their analyst conf. Few people used it. I only used chat   and pic upload, and created a new discussion. Vendor also created an app for   personal schedules, which created multiple places to look for info, chat and   post.


Joined via desktop client. Far end party was in a conference   room. Good audio & video quality. Toward the end of the call the far end   could not see my video but could still hear me.


Joined via PC client & a/v USB peripherals. Very good   a/v resolution and content sharing resolution.


Joined via web client. Trouble joining to start-likely due   to local WiFi strength limitations. Rejoined via PC Ethernet to router. No   issues. Used embedded PC cam & audio with decent quality. Content sharing   used with good resolution. No chat support in this meeting.


Joined via web client using PC and USB peripherals. Good   audio & video quality. No chat or content sharing used.


Joined via PC client & USB peripherals. Good a/v   quality. Chat used. No content sharing used. Minor issue joining as far end   participant joined the same time I click on "join meeting", which   created duplicate sessions. I had to disconnect from both and re-initiate   one.


No PC voice, video or chat capability in this meeting.   Audio quality was fine.


Joined via web client, USB peripherals. Good audio &   video quality. Content sharing used w/ good resolution.


Joined via desktop client & USB peripherals on PC. At   meeting start video repeatedly froze. Problem resolved as the meeting   progressed. Content sharing used w/ good resolution.


Neat virtual meeting environment. No avatar options this   time for me. I joined via PC w/ USB peripherals. Once way video and content   share resolution is good. Chat works fine for 1-to-1 and multiparty, but no emoji   or paste support. Lots of other interesting features in what appears to be a   competitive multimedia web events platform.


Joined via web client with USB peripherals. Was able to   change USB cams mid-call w/ no disruption. A/v began fine but degraded over   time. Screen share and chat worked well.


No PC voice. No one else used chat except for me.


Good multi-party video. Cannot connect to PC audio. Dialed   in via mobile phone. Public/private chat, screen share and recording worked   fine.


Could not join via PC audio. Dialed in via cell phone.   Presentation sharing and private/public chat worked fine. No one used video.


Joined p2p session via PC. Upgraded to new version   seamlessly. Simple contact clean up. Used p2p chat and file transfer w/o   issue.


Easily joined via FireFox browser on PC w/ USB a/v   peripherals. No issues w/ video, public chat, audio or screen share.


Joined via PC client and USB headset w/ mic. Took 4 mins   for client to initialize and sign in. PC audio cut out- may be a bandwidth   issue. Rejoined via PSTN audio. Used multi-party chat.


Invite listed Blue Jeans and Hangouts. I tried to join   both via Chrome. With no response I dialed the bridge via phone to be told no   content was being shared anyway, so the web meeting was never initiated.


Joined via desktop PC client and a/v USB peripherals.   Minor issues with my audio output to other participants, but only for a limited   time. Otherwise good a/v & screen share quality.


Joined via Chrome browser client. Meeting was easy to   join. Used a/v USB peripherals. Used public and private chat. Solid   experience all-around.

My User Experiences

  • The Bad: 13 of my 25 sessions, yes 52%, are noted to have some technical difficulty or participant error. That is not exactly a stellar performance. The issues span my Internet connectivity, variously poor audio and video quality, painfully slow plugin downloads and client updates, peripherals confusion (likely stemming from the myriad of cameras and headsets I trial) and more.


  • The Good: On the positive side, the overall the reliability, quality and robustness of online meeting solutions is improving. Many solutions have enhanced features that give users more control and personalization. The browser and WebRTC clients I’ve used generally perform as well as thick PC clients and the former are notably improving in range of features supported. Audio and screen sharing remain the top features utilized in the online meetings I join, followed by chat. Video is gradually being utilized more frequently.   


  • Looking Forward: I have recently been thinking quite a bit about all the enhancements providers can add to their solutions to make them more engaging (chat emoji’s, copy/paste into chat, recording, user profiles with pics or avatars, social network integration, personalized meeting IDs and web links, etc.).  In reviewing my own experiences from the past quarter, however, I realized that providers really must work to shore up their checklist features as well because without reliable audio, video and screen sharing none of the other capabilities matter when a meeting goes wrong.

When it comes to real-time communications, the user experience is everything. A good experience improves the productivity of a meeting, but a bad experience will linger on long past the end of the meeting. User perception, in terms of understanding the value of collaboration tools, and their willingness to adopt them as part of their workflow, is directly impacted by a bad conferencing experience.

For the most part, I think my experiences are typical of intermediate users of these solutions, in particular of users who do not have local IT support.

I hope to achieve better results this quarter after making some changes to my home office network set up. I may start using my dedicated hardware-based video conferencing endpoint and include entries on the experience using that in these meetings as well. In addition, I’m open to trying more solutions and providing feedback on those too.

As an aside, if you are a provider who thinks you might be on my list, please feel free to touch base with me for a candid conversation. 

Category : Cloud, Enterprise

Robert Arnold


Sixteen + years of experience in enterprise communications markets. Particular expertise in: Competitive and market intelligence, Market trend analysis and forecasting, Solutions development, marketing, sales and service support strategies.

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