Meeting Room Frustration: Emerging IT Priority

Who hasn't walked into a meeting room, only to be frustrated by dysfunctional technology, shortage of power outlets, uncomfortable seating, and poor sound quality?

Improving the enterprise meeting room experience, with so-called "Meeting Room of the Future" projects -- is climbing the IT priority list. IT leaders tie more effective meetings to having not only the right people involved, but also the associated technology and environment. That "environment" is both physical (lecture halls, large conference rooms, huddle rooms, home offices) and virtual (enabling collaboration technologies).

IT leaders anticipate better ergonomics as well as improved meeting productivity, driven by virtual whiteboards, team collaboration apps, improved videoconferencing, advanced artificial intelligence, and Internet of Things (IoT) apps.

Nemertes is in the midst of our annual Unified Communications and Collaboration research project. Though we haven't completed our formal data analysis (ultimately including more than 500 global organizations), several important trends have emerged in our initial interviews. One of the trends relates to these meeting room initiatives.

I was somewhat surprised at the initial number of IT leaders who said they're actively evaluating their meeting rooms and have formal projects underway. Half of those interviewed have projects underway, completed, or planned.

Meeting rooms clearly have become both a pain point and a huge opportunity for IT staffs. Meeting Room of the Future projects go beyond simply evaluating audioconferencing bridges and videoconferencing screens. They're looking at a wide variety of areas.

From a high level, IT leaders are trying to gain centralized control of all meeting rooms across their organizations. Now, management of meeting rooms is disjointed. In some cases, facilities owns them, which typically means the management is decentralized and unorganized. In other cases, local IT staffs are managing them. Either case is resulting in inconsistent experiences -- different devices, services, apps, network connectivity, and more.

They're also trying to make meeting rooms themselves consistent across the organization. Segmented by size and location, rooms will contain a pre-defined and consistent set of technologies and apps. They'll also have consistent standards for devices (i.e., audio bridges, video screens, digital whiteboards, etc.), sound quality, and video resolution.

Beyond that, they'll have standard design and furniture arrangements, with ergonomic seating, consistent locations for power outlets and network connections (unless the rooms are all wireless), and automated temperature and lighting based on the meeting activities.

Along those lines, IT leaders are trying to provide more automation in meeting rooms. For example, they might use IoT sensors to gauge whether a meeting room is utilized and, if not, to update the reservation system. One CIO said his meeting space is 90% reserved, but typically only 60% utilized. (On average, our early results show nearly 75% of meeting room space is utilized in a given day.) If a meeting room remains empty within 10 minutes of a scheduled start time, having an IoT sensor send an update to the scheduling app could make the room available for last-minute meetings.

These improvements require solid management and monitoring tools. However, the majority of the early study participants said they don't have adequate data to manage their meeting rooms effectively. They need to have better metrics on utilization -- information not only on how much the rooms themselves are utilized, but also the technologies.

For example, understanding the amount of videoconferencing traffic from room A to room B would help with network engineering. And when it comes to the meeting room technologies, performance statistics are another area of management deficiency. "We're flying blind in terms of utilization and performance," the collaboration director for a global financial-services company told us.

Several other areas also are part of the analysis, with varying levels of priority. Some of the most vital requirements are the most mundane. The most vital requirement is simply having enough power outlets and making sure those are conveniently located. Along with that is technology that's easy to set up, preferably with one-click starts to conferences. Calendar integration with conference room scheduling is another area for improvement.

Moving forward, leading-edge companies want to add sensors to rooms that recognize when the leader enters (either via biometrics or an employee badge). At that point, the audio/videoconferences start automatically, and team collaboration rooms open immediately with all the presentations, meeting notes, and documents loaded and ready for use. They expect such automation to eliminate the 10 to 15 minutes of wasted set-up time at the start of each meeting.

Bottom line, once a Meeting Room of the Future project is complete:

  • Meetings spaces will be standardized. Once you learn how to operate or work in one room, you can do the same in all rooms.
  • Technology will be better, and take remote participants into consideration. Rather than drawing on a static whiteboard, effective only for people physically in that meeting room, you would draw on a digital whiteboard, effective for all participants.
  • Automation will eliminate human error resulting in wasted time trying to launch collaboration technologies.
  • More attention to ergonomics will make meeting spaces more comfortable, keeping employees focused, free of pain, and more attentive to the topic at hand.
  • Meeting utilization will improve with better management tools and associated metrics. Likewise, enhancements to the technology will be based on actual adoption and performance.

Our detailed data on Meeting Room of the Future projects will be available on Feb. 13.

Learn more video's role in the evolving meeting room experience in the Video Collaboration & A/V track at Enterprise Connect 2018, March 12 to 15, in Orlando, Fla. And get more insight from Robin in the sessions, "Digital Hubs: UC's Portal to the Enterprise?" and "Is Digital Workplace the New Collaboration?" Register now using the code NOJITTER to save an additional $200 off the Early Bird Pricing, or get a free Expo Plus pass.

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