Business

Maximizing Your Corporate Conference Room Technology

Today's technology can serve company workforces in many ways.

By Gary Bailer and Vince Jannelli
Sharp Imaging and Information Co. of America

If you work in an office, the chances are good that you’ve had some sort of struggle with technology. Certainly, technology has taken us to places we never thought possible within corporate settings. We’re seeing users migrate in droves to the cloud, and we’re witnessing a significant uptick in videoconferencing. But with innovations happening at an accelerated rate, it’s a constant challenge for an office to stay up to date with the newest hardware and software.

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For those companies that keep up with tech adoption, the next challenge is to make sure your workforce is trained on the new technology. In the conference room, any lack of training becomes evident when you’re starting up a meeting. In fact, research from Forrester Consulting (1) found that most gatherings in meetings, boardrooms or training rooms start up to 10 minutes after they were supposed to begin; contributing factors are waiting for the meeting to start and having to set up videoconferencing for those joining remotely. This is usually because the meeting organizers are having difficulty connecting their laptops to a display screen, dialing into a conference line or opening a video-chat application, among a myriad of other issues. Indeed, the same data found that tech issues are the root cause of meeting delays more than half the time.

This leads many tech decision-makers at these companies to pose a valid question: What’s the point of investing so much time and capital into technology if no one is using it properly? Perhaps there are better questions that business leaders should fi rst be asking about their offi ce setting: What can I do to ensure my workforce is fully utilizing the technology provided? How do I make them comfortable with the technology? In short, make your technology more accessible! The idea is to make it easy for knowledge workers to access new technology and increase their productivity by using it, rather than having them fall back to old solutions.

For example, if you’ve invested in a new videoconferencing application, and you have workers who have not been trained on it, those workers will just start to use your old video-chat platform instead. Why? Because that’s what they know! Or, you might get several helpdesk calls asking for guidance on how to use the new application—each one costing precious time that could otherwise be spent on more productive things (like the actual meeting).

The answer is to invest in technology that makes connection intuitive. In the case of display technology, it has to be smart enough to power up instantly when users approach the room, and it should require only minimal setup to begin a meeting. Look for display solutions that allow users to plug in or cast from their laptop or mobile device for a quick start, rather than having to spend up to 10 minutes looking for compatible connection slots and cables.

Another way to help with technology integration is to implement a technology-as-a-service (TAAS) model. Traditionally, businesses just buy the newest, most updated displays, phones, speakers and microphones for a conference room. When they become outdated, the businesses just go out and buy newer replacement equipment. But, what if, instead of buying, you could lease the hardware instead? Think of Netflix, through which, by paying a monthly subscription, you get the newest content “delivered” right to your fingertips. Comparably, a TAAS model bundles the hardware for a monthly fee. This allows users to benefit from the technological advances that are always coming up in the display industry—for example, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors—without having to buy, discard and buy again each time the hardware or software becomes obsolete.

Today, it’s not just about making your knowledge workers comfortable with existing technology—that should be a given. In addition, it’s about making your employees feel physically comfortable within your meeting-room environment. As a result, another smart question to ask is this: What else can my technology do to help my workforce feel comfortable?

A study (2) conducted by researchers Nigel Oseland and Adrian Burton on workplace conditions found that providing a combination of adequate air quality, temperature and lighting could enhance overall worker performance by approximately 2.5 percent. That’s something to which all of us can relate. Have you ever tried to hold a meeting in a conference room in the middle of July, with the air conditioning broken? It’s not fun. Everyone just wants to get out of there as quickly as possible to cool down, which keeps the group from being fully productive.

The right conditions for a meeting will boost productivity; that means organizations should look for advanced technology solutions that can help them monitor those environmental factors. Earlier, we mentioned IoT sensors as an example of a major technology innovation within displays, and they could help with this. Including IoT sensors in digital displays equips the units to collect data about room temperature, lighting and other environmental factors. If organizations have that data, they can adjust these issues and, thus, foster a better workspace for collaboration. It’s a capability that goes beyond the video portion of the display.

Smart organizations will combine this ambient information, obtained through IoT-enabled displays, with IT data collected via calendar and room-reservation systems, such as Exchange Online. This will help to extract additional insight into how the room is being used. As an example, if there is a meeting with 10 people planned for your executive conference room, but no one ends up attending, the sensors can indicate that it was a no-show. Further, the systems can provide the information that facility managers need to make decisions about managing the temperature and lighting in a room that’s not being used.

When shopping for a car, it’s important to know if it has good gas mileage, whether its brakes are top of the line, etc. But people also care about the other high-tech options, such as Bluetooth, touchscreen navigation displays and connectivity. The same can be said of your conference-room equipment. Investing in display solutions that provide easy setup and that give you environmental data will go a long way in boosting your workforce productivity. Because technology isn’t just supposed to be functional—it’s also supposed to be smart.

Endnotes

1 “Total Economic Impact” study, Forrester Consulting, February 2016.

2 https://workplaceinsight.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/2012-JBSAV-Quantifying-Productivity.pdf.

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