Conference rooms of the future need IT control, expertise

As organizations evaluate their conference rooms of the future, IT groups need to lead these projects to create a consistent meeting room experience for end users.

As more companies modernize their meeting rooms, IT needs to control these projects and become the sole owner of conference spaces, according to one unified communications analyst. Often, facilities management teams have largely controlled conference rooms. But as technology figures more prominently in these spaces, IT should wrest control from facilities personnel.

In many cases, organizations don't have a companywide owner and manager of conference rooms, according to Robin Gareiss, president and founder of Nemertes Research, a tech advisory firm based in Mokena, Ill. Sometimes, IT manages the rooms. Other times, facilities teams manage the rooms.

Facilities staff, however, might lack the in-depth technical background needed to manage these spaces. Facilities personnel can include the human resources department, COO and any other people responsible for managing the physical locations where employees work.

"The reality for a lot of organizations is facilities still owns meeting rooms," Gareiss said. "It's not going to be easy for IT to pull conference rooms from the hands of the facilities people."

IT groups will need to explain why they should take the meeting room reins. For instance, as meeting rooms incorporate more technology, IT groups can contend that they have the technical expertise to manage an overarching meeting room strategy.

At the same time, IT should not completely banish facilities personnel from meeting room discussions, Gareiss said. IT and facilities teams could still coordinate on things like square footage, ergonomics and wiring design.

Ultimately, the handoff of power -- from facilities to IT -- could be guided by someone higher up the corporate ladder, like a COO, Gareiss added.

What's driving conference rooms of the future?

This ownership issue is the biggest driver for "conference rooms of the future," Gareiss said, as companies look to update their meeting rooms and corral control of these collaboration areas.

Once employees learn how to work in one room, they should be able to work in any other room.

When organizations don't have a single meeting room manager, inconsistencies among the rooms could crop up, including room design, network connectivity, power sources, sound quality and integration of team collaboration software. These inconsistencies also encumber meeting room use among workers.

Two-thirds of companies have a conference-room-of-the-future project underway, or are evaluating or planning conference room projects for 2018 or 2019, according to a global Nemertes study of approximately 650 IT leaders.

One of the goals for these projects is to establish a single, companywide owner of the meeting rooms, which would help standardize these meeting spaces. As a result, once employees learn how to work in one room, they should be able to work in any other room. Other reasons companies are considering conference rooms of the future are to improve end-user productivity and reduce operational costs.   

What do conference rooms of the future look like?

When rolling out conference rooms of the future, don't neglect the basics. Fifty-five percent of organizations rate high-speed network connectivity as the most important element in next-generation meetings, according to the Nemertes study. Organizations said they have inconsistent network connectivity from room to room.

Other important elements in meeting rooms include high-quality sound, power accessibility for end users, high-definition video conferencing, calendar integration, wireless screen sharing and easy access to a consistent set of collaboration tools companywide.

A consistent and familiar user interface of team collaboration tools can help streamline the meeting experience, Gareiss said in a recent webinar on conference rooms of the future. About 80% of organizations are using, evaluating or planning for team collaboration tools.

According to Nemertes data, the team collaboration features that matter the most to organizations include document sharing, voice and video communications, and screen sharing. Additionally, 66% of organizations want all their collaboration features combined into one suite.

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