Meeting room technology, such as conferencing and AV equipment, used to be outside of IT’s realm. But as the tech has evolved to the point of being a network and security concern, it’s often added to the long list of IT teams own and manage (sometimes voluntarily, sometimes not!). Here’s how you (or your IT leader) can streamline your management while making every meeting more secure and productive.
Every time an organization gets a new tech tool, your IT team gets something else to manage and secure.
The IT department may be responsible for technology that was traditionally outside of its wheelhouse, meeting room and AV equipment is one of the newer kids on the block. They may inherit AV equipment from outside consultants if your organization wants to save money by bringing it in-house. Sound familiar?
However, many IT teams don’t have an obvious go-to plan for how they will manage and secure this technology.
IT teams have two options … take the lead or fall behind
Let’s put this in context … your IT team has enough on its plate and doesn’t have the time or resources to manage new tools. At the same time, taking a reactive approach to IT management for any technology puts the entire organization at a distinct competitive disadvantage.
Fact of IT life: business units who identify a pain point can and will, on occasion, purchase technology without IT permission. If you’re in IT, you know this. ‘Shadow IT’ responsibilities only makes the job harder, as you’ll need to perform complex integrations to get everything to work together and what’s often overlooked, an ongoing plate-spinning act to keep it working together as more and more tech gets added – think ‘herding cats’ for the IT world.
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Taking a proactive and collaborative approach to IT management can eliminate many of these frustrations.
Start by having conversations with others – from Operations to HR leaders to individual front-line users. Discuss the challenges they have when conducting meetings and suggest technology that will give them a better experience.
When you plan in advance, you can find tools that work for everyone. You’ll give users the technology they need for more productive and enjoyable meetings – while ensuring that you can apply proper security and governance around each system.
Being proactive also allows you to test tools and make sure they integrate with your other systems. You can conduct a small pilot and troubleshoot any issues before you roll a tool out across your entire organization.
Taking the lead not only eliminates future headaches, it also shows management that your IT team is progressive, looking to innovate and can use technology to improve the employee experience. You might even get some help from other departments to share the load.
Three low-stress ways to make your meetings more productive
Here are three steps that will make your meetings more efficient and give employees a better experience. Taking these steps will also free up your IT team’s time, as they can spend fewer hours troubleshooting meeting room technology and more time on innovation.
1. Analyze your existing meeting room space.
CIOs, other IT leaders and Facility Managers are under pressure to help the business scale while cutting costs. Real estate accounts for a large percentage of operating budgets – making it vital that you speak with Operations about how to better manage your office and meeting space. When you do this, you can reallocate your savings into other strategic business priorities – such as automation and emerging technologies – that will improve the customer experience and drive revenue.
Facilities and workspace management tools show you how people are using your meeting rooms and where you can boost efficiencies. Motion sensor technology shows you the traffic in each room so you can identify the times when you might run short on space. Meanwhile, scheduling software will prevent double-bookings and ensure that everyone has a space for every meeting. Using these tools will make your office run more smoothly and enhance collaboration.
Armed with this data, you can also cut unnecessary costs. For example, you can make better use of your existing meeting rooms instead of leasing more space. Then, you can reallocate the funds towards more strategic initiatives. You’ll also improve the employee experience, as they will always have a room outfitted with the right technology when they need it. Visitors will also take note of your professional, well-run space.
2. Get the right tools.
According to research, we waste 9 minutes getting set up at the start of every conference call. Then, we spend another 6 minutes troubleshooting problems during the call.
If your meeting room technology doesn’t work, the first person to get the complaint will be someone in IT. The more time your team spends on support, the more you will strain your limited IT resources.
With the right technology, your IT team won’t need to help people get their meetings up-and-running.
For example, interactive whiteboards (IWBs, also known as Interactive Flat Panels) make it easy for attendees to collaborate. Interactive whiteboards are a large, electronic screens that employees can use to present information and view content from the internet. During meetings, they can make notes directly on the board and then email the marked-up files to attendees.
While several providers carry hardware like this, the challenge lies finding the right solution they come with. Firstly, and a no brainer, look for an IWB that can run Windows 10. That way, your team won’t need to learn the special software that comes with your smartboard. Instead, they can use any program that is compatible with the Microsoft OS, such as Office, Skype, and their industry-specific software – effective to a point. That said, much of the recent innovation in this ‘visual communication services’ space, has been in solving similar training, change management and adoption challenges for their users – more about that in a bit.
Operating an IWB is very similar to using a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Since users are already familiar with these devices, they won’t have a large learning curve when using the board. Your partner should also offer remote and in-person training to help employees get comfortable with the technology.
Those providers who are in touch with the needs of their customers have the true game-changing digital whiteboarding software that are specific to interactive business or education needs, are ridiculously easy to use and make sessions more productive. Think of this as a zippy whiteboard-specific operating system that blows away standard Office apps.
3. Monitor and manage your meeting rooms remotely.
Information security in meeting rooms is notoriously difficult. Attendees often forget to erase their notes from whiteboards. They may also leave papers containing sensitive data on tables, in printer trays, or in recycling bins where anyone can read them.
You can protect sensitive data via technology that allows you to manage, monitor, and secure your meeting rooms remotely.
Look for tools that give you on-demand insights into your meeting rooms and send you alerts when something is amiss. For example, you can receive an alert when someone forgets to turn an IFPD off. Then, you can power it down remotely – protecting sensitive data while saving on electricity. Placing IoT systems in your meeting rooms will also let you control the blinds, lock doors, and turn equipment on or off.
You can also replace your printers with future-friendly ones that have built-in security features. Look for printers that save jobs until an employee uses a key card to print them. That way, you don’t need to worry about sensitive data sitting on printer trays and getting picked up by the wrong person.
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Meeting room technology is often complex and out-of-date, which can impact employee collaboration and productivity. It can also create security gaps that put your organization at risk.
Modernizing your technology can solve these challenges and prepare your organization for future success.
Want to learn more about the workplace of the future? Check out the eBook “Seamless Collaboration in the New Era of Hybrid Work.”
 ZDNet: How much time do we waste on conference calls? March 14, 2018