A decade ago, the only person in an enterprise worried about managing and maintaining a fleet of headsets was the contact center manager. Unified communications, VoIP, video conferencing and the rise of a mobile, remote workforce has changed that game as the UC portion of the headset market is expected to exceed the size of the entire contact center segment within a few years. In a recent conversation with a colleague at Microsoft, I learned that they have over 100,000 headsets deployed, only a small portion of which are related to their various contact centers. When a new employee comes on board, a headset appropriate to their role is part of the technology kit they are provided with. With more and more large companies deploying advanced communications and collaboration solutions and providing their employees with headsets, let’s dig into the challenges they need to address to effectively manage these devices.
Keeping Headsets Current With Firmware Updates
Headsets do more than just plug into a deskphone nowadays. With softphones, smartphones and UC clients part of the mix for a highly mobile workforce, headsets need to be able to play nice with various hardware and rapidly changing software environments according to Stefan Heise, product manager for business and UC headset maker Jabra. “Companies going from an Avaya phone system to a unified communications platform, for example, need to be sure the firmware on their headsets is updated to ensure compliance and proper functioning with the new phones and UC clients. Doing this easily and remotely for a company managing five thousand headsets is critical to avoid not only hundreds of hours of manual updating, but also potential software conflicts that can cause quality and performance issues”
According to Heise, by utilizing a solution like Jabra Xpress, which sends out updates for firmware over the corporate network, companies are able to update the headsets with service packs to deliver improvements to the software in the headset as well as to provide new features that weren’t available when the product was first purchased. “If a company just procured new headsets six months ago and they worked perfectly with Lync, but they decided to migrate to Cisco Jabber, they can run into trouble. They need to be sure those headsets have all the current service and value packs in place to make sure the user experience doesn’t suffer.”
Dig Deeper: Download the Headset Research Report from Benchmark Portal on The Advantages of Moving to Wireless
Profile Management is Key To Managing Headset Density and Security
Imagine you are an IT manager and you just deployed a shiny new UC platform and suddenly you have 10,000 headsets to manage. And not just that, 5,000 of them are wireless and you are having density and connectivity issues in a few of your offices you never even considered before. As we’ve covered previously, there are a number of things businesses need to think through prior to deploying headsets en masse, like Bluetooth vs. DECT connectivity and the number of employees working in close proximity to each other. Contact centers have been performing density and environmental assessments for some time, but with headsets being rolled out to knowledge workers company-wide, businesses need an easy way to manage profile settings for these devices to ensure they perform properly.
“Your typical Bluetooth headset comes with Bluetooth Class 1 factory settings set to enable thirty meter range,” says Chris Schultz, portfolio manager at Jabra. “If you have a densely packed floor you can quickly run out of available channels in this scenario and not all headsets can connect.” That is where profile management comes into play. By sending updates to headsets based on where each employee sits, or the group they are part of, IT managers can remotely update the headset profiles to reduce the wireless range to ten meters for all headsets that might have a channel concern, thereby eliminating density conflicts.
Another example of how profile management comes into play revolves around a company that works in a very high security industry. This business defined a profile for their softphones and devices that contained certain applications, certain software clients with their appropriate drivers, and firmware versions for their headsets. This profile had been blessed, they knew it was secure and they locked it down, so even if newer firmware were available, they wouldn’t push them out until a whole new image update was approved by IT. In this case, if an employee breaks their headset and goes to Staples to buy a new one, as soon as they connect it to their computer, their device management solution will bring the headset up to date based on the company’s parameters and policies, even if that means downgrading the most current firmware.
Asset Tracking Addresses Headset Shrinkage and Warranty Management
Headset, especially wireless headsets, are mobile devices. That is great when a salesperson is hitting the road, but can lead to some unintended consequences, like shrinkage and lost devices. According to Heise, this is another area where a software driven headset management solution can come in handy. “Employees may use a device on multiple computers or on their smartphone. With an asset management solution in place, each time a headset is connected to the network it can track the location and timing of that connection and put that into a log file. This is great for not only helping employees track down missing headsets but also for providing insights into adoption rates at both the headset and the UC level.”
Another aspect of asset management is keeping track of which devices are coming out of warranty and when it is time to update / upgrade. By maintaining a rolling inventory, the IT team can have ready access to the data to build device refresh into their budget.
With so many businesses expanding their unified communications footprint, headset management is quickly becoming an important issue companies must address. Having a software solution in place to manage and maintain your fleet seems to be vital, but what are the issues you are struggling with when it comes to headset management? Let us know in the comments section below.