While COVID changed the nature of work for lots of people, at SoftwareSeni online and remote work has always been a part of our experience.
Team extensions for software development is the key service we provide our partners. Regular virtual stand-ups, code reviews, as well as one-to-one meetings for things like discussing design decisions and troubleshooting are part of the normal working day for our teams.
As comfortable as we are with video meetings, we are quick to adopt any practices or tools that can help us streamline and get the most from them. So we’re looking forward to trying out the new AI powered features announced by Zoom and Google.
Let’s have a look at the features we think will make a real difference for everyone who relies on video meetings. Having said that, this quick overview is biased towards mixed local/remote software development teams.
Summarising Meetings in Real-Time
This one seems like it is targeted at meeting with multiple participants, but we think this will help everyone. First, being freed from taking notes so you can focus on what is being discussed is a big win. Second, having a thorough summary of even a one-on-one meeting means no-one has to worry about the quality of their note-taking skills or their memory.
We’re also assuming that these summaries end up being incorporated into, say, your Google Drive, if you are using Google Meet. Then they become searchable and discoverable and easy to incorporate into your planning and follow-ups.
Catching Up on Missed Meetings
This is an extension of the previous feature, but is worth pointing out. What we like about this is, again, documenting the meeting is handled by Google’s or Zoom’s AI. They’ll extract the major talking points and action items for anyone who missed it.
If that’s not enough detail, both services offer transcripts if you need the full text of the meeting.
Captioning and translation
Like watching Netflix with subtitles on, but more useful. Captions on meetings can really help with the inconsistent audio across multiple speakers.
Both Google Meet and Zoom also provide the option to deliver translated captions. We find that despite our multilingual team’s high level of language mastery, translated captions improve the clarity and quality of communications in video meetings.
The captioning and translation is not perfect, but like watching movies, the combination of speech and text reduces the effort and concentration needed to follow what is happening.
“Cosmetics” of video calls
This isn’t really a thing we care about, but maintaining privacy by having your background blurred out or replaced is an option we can get behind. We should all want video calls to be comfortable for everyone.
Duet for Google Meet is also promising “studio lighting” and other image enhancements, as is Zoom. This is starting to veer into the world of “filters” and how we appear on camera compared to “reality” (remember the lockdown boomers rendered as potatoes on call?). But again, if these features help team members feel more comfortable on call or even simply enhance everyone’s experience by providing clearer views of each other, then we’re all for it.
Other features we won’t be using
Zoom’s AI Companion is all about deepening integration with their suite of calendar and messaging tools. We’re a Google Workspace shop, so Zoom’s features like AI-powered meeting scheduling is not going to impact us. The nature of software development doesn’t really require it. You’re either participating in scheduled stand-ups, etc, or you’re hopping on a call you’ve just coordinated via chat.
Zoom also has features that monitor and report on conversations. They sell it as a feature to help improve the quality of your sales team’s calls. Not the kind of thing our developers need for their day-to-day interactions with other team members.
Will AI-powered video calls be a game-changer?
We’ll let you know, but we suspect that, despite the immense investment in tech and infrastructure these features represent, we’re only going to see an incremental improvement, more of a quality of life increase than an efficiency multiplier.
Calls will go more smoothly because captions and translations, as well as transcripts and summaries, will allow everyone to focus on the purpose of the call instead of the technology of the call. Those transcripts and summaries should reduce the flurry of follow-up emails and messages after calls, which will be welcome.
Once your business gets above a handful of people, communication becomes the key component in your success. Our headcount is north of 150 so we know this firsthand. In the balancing act that is making your business work, a balancing act that includes not just optimizing who you work with but where they work from, video calls are going to be part of your internal comms mix. These new features should help you bring them closer to the quality and effectiveness of in-person meetings.
But we’ll wait and see if it turns out that way.