Technology primer: Manage your meeting rooms and save!

Liso-mountain-meeting-room.jpgHow often have you seen meeting rooms ‘booked’, but the room is empty? Someone just forgot to ‘unbook’ the room. Or perhaps someone has taken the room you booked so you have to ask them to leave in order to start your meeting? It can be embarrassing for everyone.

Today, you can buy digital system for managing your meeting spaces and other resources, such as specific AV equipment and other building resources, such as parking spaces. Using these resources effectively usually shows significant cost savings, by optimising equipment levels and space.

Recent research shows that meeting room management can have a direct impact on the overall performance and efficiency of an organisation. Research from UNWIRED Group found that while the majority of desks (typically 55%) in an average office are empty at any one point, you can never find a meeting room when you want one.

Benefits

Whether for cost savings or for favourable visitor perceptions, effective management of meeting rooms, conference rooms and other publicly available spaces is an important aspect of facilities management. Understanding how rooms and spaces are used, and whether they are used effectively. is the key to optimising space provisions and usage.

Evoko’s new Liso room management solution.

Evoko-Liso-Booking.jpg

Evoko’s new Liso room management solution

rooms consuming electricity and heating are best avoided. Room management can deliver instant cost savings, by closing down the room for a set period. Or, perhaps a room suitable for 50 people has actually been booked for just a handful of people.

In this scenario it’s quite common for resources to be sourced elsewhere and at a cost external to the business. These are just two instances where room booking systems can help by managing all the rooms, equipment and resources as disparate as catering and equipment use through an integrated system.

Current solutions

Even at their most basic, room booking systems should resolve many of the problems commonly experienced by those responsible for managing the public spaces in a building. These include: overbooking or under booking of rooms and resources; no-shows; utilisation visibility; client visibility and inter-departmental communication.

While it’s not something we would advocate, many organisations still operate using paper-based, Excel spreadsheets or other ad-hoc methods. The problem is that the resources necessary to run a meeting effectively are now much more complex that they once were, with a huge range of configuration options. The requirements of the various meeting participants often have to be shared.

Meeting room management solutions provide a set of advanced tools to help streamline operations and communication between stakeholders in the organisations resources and meeting participants. Typically, room management solutions comprise a series of networked devices, with a graphic interface to enable users to interrogate the system and to reserve rooms and resources through c centralised control and reporting system.

The introduction of web-based room booking systems opened a window into facilities management operations, enabling stakeholders to review room availability, pre-book equipment or services over the local office network or remotely.  From an organisational perspective, a true room booking system gives the facilities manager control over the booking process, enforcing limitations and ensuring that bookings are made, amended, confirmed or cancelled in a controlled environment.

A further benefit to the organisation comes in the form of report generation and any subsequent accounting process. Any information generated by the system can help refine the process to streamline operations, optimise room usage and save money by applying sanctions to those who abuse meeting room provision.

The right solution

Looking at the issue in terms of Return on Investment, this is another instance where the cheapest solution is not always the most cost-effective. Using an Excel spreadsheet or a diary is cheap, but it does not deliver any added-value to the organisation, through cost-savings, increases in efficiency or improvements in visitor or staff perception.

In a new-build, the client might consider placing the room booking within an integrated building management solution, which might also include security, or heat and light. But buildings are often built with no real idea of who the tenant might be, or the purpose for which they want to use the property.

In this context, the installation of a room booking system is a retro fit, even if the property is brand new. Whether the solution is Integrated or Standalone both provide a wide range of configuration options and information gathering and reporting formats to help facilities managers configure systems to monitor trends and performance.

For choosing a solution from those on the market there is a rule of thumb that says that the more complex the process of room booking, the more advanced the solution needs to be to be. The right meeting room booking system is the one that can provide its users with all the information they need to optimise resources and to save the organisation money.

Typical solutions

Evoko is one of the leaders in room. For those familiar with earlier versions of the Evoko room booking system, Liso is built on a completely new platform. Liso is designed to make it easier than ever to book a room through your preferred digital calendar, or directly on the screen using your fingertips.

All relevant information is elegantly presented on the screen. You can even search for other rooms and book them on any Evoko Liso within the network, and find the optimal room based on availability, size or equipment. Liso actually changes information on the display when someone walks up to it, thanks to a built-in proximity sensor.

Liso is designed for ease of installation, and can be operated over a Wi-Fi or PoE/PoE. You also have a RFID/NFC or PIN option. There are no extra plug-ins or additional software to learn. So easy and self-explanatory that anyone can master it without any prior training. All features can be reached with only a few simple touches. .

But wireless isn’t suitable for every installation site. Vision AV has recently released its second generation room management solution, FreeSpace2. The original version of the product was wireless, and was found to drop the signal from time-to-time.

Wired or wireless?

FreeSpace2 is an advanced android app which comes pre-loaded on two proven hardware options: a 10.1″ tablet, or a dongle to show content on bigger display. The solution takes data from your existing calendar system (Outlook, Google Apps, etc) Reserve meeting rooms and spaces in your e-mail client calendar – whether it is Outlook 365, Zimbra, Google Apps – any app based calendar. Freespace shows all booking relating to a given room, so users know when that room is in use and when it will become available.

You can use one FreeSpace 2 device to serve a cluster of rooms, or one per room. Select “other rooms” to view other room calendars. After viewing other rooms, the interface will revert back to the default room calendar (if you have set a default room). Freespace can end, extend, and create new reservations. Setup is as simple as creating an e-mail user account for Freespace to logon with and assigning read and write permissions.

Meetings are presented as a grid. The subject, organiser, attendees, and detail are displayed in a pop-up window when you touch a booking. Scroll up and down, or swipe on the calendar to go forward or backwards, or pinch to zoom. You can also swipe through the image gallery. A large area of the screen is for your company logos, special offers, way-finding maps, emergency exit map, or room photos.

For monitoring and reporting task, Bluetooth is used to log nearby devices so that facility managers can create an indicative occupancy report. Freespace2 captures proximity of nearby devices and the length of time they were nearby.

Other room management solutions even go as far as monitoring CO2 levels, and so measuring occupancy levels to determine the appropriateness of the room booking.

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