No Access to the Executive Telepresence Suite? Try a Huddle Room Instead

Tim Banting
Tim Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • As teams become more geographically dispersed (and inclusive of customers, partners and external agencies), organizational requirements for ad-hoc meetings are increasing; consequently, this democratization of video is resulting in the redesign of the physical workspace.
  • To maximize productivity, small informal meeting places (known as “huddle rooms”) need to incorporate the right physical attributes (adaptable furniture, white boards, Internet access, power, etc.), hardware (screens, speaker phones, video cameras) and software.

It’s hard to deny that the modern workplace is changing. The place we work is more varied than it has ever been. We work in airport lounges, serviced offices, homes, customer sites and, of course, our offices. Offices, with their fixed spaces (such as large conferencing rooms and cube farms), oftentimes detract from a team’s ability to work productively. As the two biggest cost centers in most businesses are people and property, more forward-thinking organizations are starting to combine these two elements in a more strategic way to optimize both.

While many organizations are well versed in collaborative communication solutions for the desktop and high-end conferencing suites in dedicated meeting rooms, companies are now turning their focus to smaller rooms. These ‘huddle rooms’ are configured for small teams of three to seven or so people with an informal seating arrangement. Rather than sitting in their cubes (or worse still, in an open plan space competing with the background noise of raucous work colleagues), small teams of employees utilize these rooms to work together to drive projects forward and to reduce the time it takes to make decisions as well as the feeling of isolation.

Huddle rooms typically consist of an HD display, conference phone and video camera. There are many devices (both portable and fixed) that simplify the user experience by using Bluetooth or NFC (to pair with PCs, tablets or smartphones) and support wireless display standards (e.g., Miracast, Chromecast and AirPlay), facilitating the presentation of content to displays without the need of cables.

Working in conjunction with these devices, software-based services (such as integrated soft clients and virtual meeting rooms) provide multipoint conferencing and meeting capabilities. More recently, SoCoMo (social/collaborative/mobile) apps are incorporating video and audio functionality into their persistent team spaces. The persistent nature of such collaborative meetings (as opposed to mere video conferencing) ushers in a new trend towards applications focused on team productivity.

Huddle rooms must take into account the fact that not all of the participants may be physically present, even for quick huddles. Consequently, these rooms should be equipped with cost-effective and un-daunting technology so that impromptu meetings can happen quickly and incorporate remote team members easily; however, this can only be achieved with the right combination of appropriate office space, hardware and software. Although very few companies can claim they have mastered the art of productivity from each of these locations, the lack of flexibility within the physical spaces of our offices is becoming an issue. As these issues extend broadly across an organization, how many conversations are IT departments having with facilities managers?

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