Give credit to Arrive ( for coming up with the term “edgeless media” as it will soon become common vernacular to describe achieving end-to-end collaborative product portfolios. In the very near future, all elements of video and graphics sharing infrastructure, including endpoints, cameras, displays and content management systems will achieve a level of practical interoperability, delivered by service providers as turn-key solutions. The challenge is that the while the products that go into edgeless solutions are inexpensive, traditional support models do not scale well against the low cost of entry. Successful implementation of an edgeless experience requires closing the fissures in the enterprise help desk, previous designs that maximized efficiency are counterproductive for supporting unified collaboration technologies.

A significant milestone of the edgeless experience that is just coming to fruition is connecting wireless devices to displays and sharing content. Take one of the many solutions on the market today, Intel’s WiDi as an example. This product is one of the more suitable solutions for the enterprise to deploy. Implementing WiDi into the business environment requires Intel Ultrabooks with the most recent Intel’s Wifi modules, WiDi adapters at the monitors in the collaboration spaces and configuring the company’s wireless network to support the Intel Pro WiDi protocol. Equipment and room installation easy; engaging the networking team on WiDi configuration and resolving the security concerns present significant hurdles. In the end, this solution will only work under the specific conditions just described. Although not universal, WiDi does give us a peek into user Utopia: Intel powered laptops are commonplace in the enterprise, Miracast is shipping inside several brands of flat panels thus eliminating the dongles, and Windows 10 includes the necessary wireless display adapters. This trifecta is an example of why wireless display sharing will become commonplace in very short time.

WiDi is an edgeless collaboration solution because it is affordable, intuitive, easily configurable and reliable. Unfortunately, if the number of forums that have sprung up on the internt to answer all the questions about what can go wrong are any indication, the enterprise support teams are not prepared to support the coming demand.   The key point is that WiDi is simply the connection point and the real requirement and expectation is the application sharing that occurs, which is the point of connecting to the display in the first place. Therefore, edgeless support is a necessity. The front line help desk must have extensions into all the software applications, including voice, video, messaging and presence. Otherwise, who is the user expected to alert when they cannot share their content? Should we forward the call to network support, multimedia or the application-sharing team? From the level two perspective, how is the WiDi solution monitored and can anyone perform proactive ready-for-business checks (RFB) across a global deployment?

Conduct a budgeting exercise for supporting collaboration spaces and one quickly appreciates the harsh reality compounding has on sourcing Help Desk services.  Take the example of simple system with a flat panel, a room PC and a (wired) laptop connection. Assuming a conservative hardware failure rate of 4%, the labor cost of performing weekly RFB checks and forwarding calls to the appropriate tire-2 team will cost around $50 per month, or $10,000 per month for 200 rooms. Unlike production and installation where greater quantities can gain efficiency, adding systems to support models increases costs even if the failure rate remains flat.

Is this a sustainable model? The cost of a simple collaboration space is $10,000. Depreciated over five years and ending with a $0 salvage value, straight-line expense works out to $2,000 per year. After the third year, the book value drops to $4,000 but continues to require $600 for support. This is still a reasonable price for service, considering the very low cost of entry compared to $100,000 for a  complete multimedia conference room and the the comparative increase in employee productivity that collaboration spaces provide.

Now drill into to the WiDi solution: After configured and installed, eliminating the cable and providing this wireless capability will not lower that $600 yearly cost for collaboration room support, in fact service call may go up. The entry price of $10,000 for collaboration spaces provides some adoption resistance, which means as demand increases the support model can expand to match the growth.  But with Miracast built into displays, the dongle is eliminated and no additional hardware costs for the use, the expectation is the solution will work in the office just as it does in the home. Thus, the demand for wireless connectivity to even the simplest display set up will proliferate at an alarming rate.  Support services must be in place to meet the increased utilization.  

How do we solve for this? First, we re-invent the level two support teams that emerged from 20th century assembly lines and the concept of maximizing efficiency through technology specialization. The new generation support engineer is cross-trained in all the collaboration disciplines, and uses these same collaboration tools to escalate challenging problems to subject matter experts. Second, as the systems component costs continue to drop, the product design teams must be disciplined and have managerial support to only productionize the most reliable solutions and keep the deployment consistent. UCC product managers need to resist the pressure to shave pennies on hardware and installation and focus on solutions that drive down day two support costs.  Since help desk staffing is driven by support calls, answers are found by mining service tickets and analyzing trends in an effort to reduce the 4% failure rate down to zero and achieve edgeless support Utopia.

  TURNING POINT is Mark Peterson's personal take on innovation and collaboration influencing today's corporate strategy. To have a conversion about what takes to implement collaborative solutions efficiently and at enterprise scale, contact Mark Peterson