Huddle Rooms are the New Business Accelerator
Prevailing trends around office design call for greater utility of the workplace. This is especially the case for workers in open office plans where small-to-medium sized meeting spaces (a.k.a. huddle rooms) are proliferating.
These huddle rooms typically host up to six collaborators at a time. They use these spaces to escape noise and distraction, or to connect to collaborators in other offices and remote locations via conferencing technology. Analysts at Wainhouse and at Gartner both estimate an excess of 45 million small to medium meeting spaces globally.
So the rooms are there. But how can they accelerate business?
Generally speaking, the huddle room movement can be thought of as a means to democratize access to videoconferencing technology. People need to connect with people in different places to move projects forward. Lower cost offerings in terms of in-room hardware, on-premises infrastructure, and cloud-based alternatives are all making it more affordable to video-enable more rooms, including the huddle room.
In the past, it was cost prohibitive to video-enable a small meeting space, so a room that could fit half a dozen people might have only a speakerphone or a display to plug a device into for local presentations.
With costs coming down, you can video-enable a room with a low-end videoconferencing codec, or a simple USB camera. Connecting to other spaces and to remote collaborators with voice and video presents obvious advantages for geographically dispersed teams and increases the utility of huddle spaces.
But is video enough to truly accelerate business?
This is the key: When it comes to teams and teamwork, you have to consider both conversation and content. It’s all about the work, which could intersect with a wide array of applications, media, documents, and databases.
A room that is enhanced only to the point of connecting people – but not to the point of connecting those people with their content – is only halfway there. Some solutions make it possible to share a single document at a time. But it’s important to be able to share multiple content streams. That makes conversations more fluid and means critical data is accessible to everyone.
To accelerate business requires a new way of thinking and a different approach to investments in collaboration technology for the workspace. It needs to account for the realities of the modern workforce. Enterprise-wide productivity is increasingly distributed across company locations and remote workers on the move. Yet, supporting the present and future of work, demands that all collaborators be first-class citizens in collaboration, regardless of location and available technology.
For example, you can have state of the art videoconferencing in your meeting rooms, but it won’t matter if not everyone is in a meeting room. More often than not, the individual, or group of individuals, who are the remote participants may have only a laptop or mobile device to connect with their teams. Their inability to see what everyone else in a room is looking at, or to influence what everyone is looking at, or to freely contribute to the meeting without waiting for someone to grant them the privilege first, is a major reason why meetings are not as effective as they could be. It’s important to bridge the asymmetry of capabilities between on-site workers and remote workers, and give the remote workers all the rights and privileges of in-room participants.
To maximize the capabilities of the team, collaboration solutions for huddle rooms must be more content-centric than is common today. That will make it easier to share, see, and manage more information. Collaboration solutions must also be more people-centric, to encourage participation and remove barriers to access and engagement. Enhanced visual collaboration-empowering and enabling a more distributed and more tech-savvy workforce, and giving that workforce greater access to, and sharing of, the exponentially-more data we now have at hand, is helping organizations to solve complex problems with greater speed and accuracy. In doing so, they are accelerating better business outcomes through collaboration and realizing a sustainable competitive advantage.
David Kung is vice president of product strategy at Oblong Industries Inc. (www.oblong.com).
Edited by Mandi Nowitz