AVMI’s business development and marketing director, John Masters explains.

Facilities executives are going to work with a new spring in their step, and they have an exciting challenge on their hands; to inspire and empower the transforming workforce.

Embrace the new millennials, accommodate homeworkers, integrate new collaborative technology and make it all look great with the latest products from office furniture suppliers and they can be heroes… or something like that.

The same goes for IT/communications executives. Key suppliers such as Cisco and Microsoft are supporting workplace transformation strategies with a range of initiatives and new meeting space products that represent a step change in terms of both hardware integration and compatibility with UC applications on the desktop.Can the dream of global standards, volume purchasing and over-the-network support for meeting space technology finally become a reality? Can users look forward to a consistent and friendly user experience across all office locations, even globally?Exciting times – the transformation of meetings spaces is surely on its way
But it turns out it’s not that simple. Because the transformation of technology powered meeting spaces requires that both the facilities and IT/comms teams share a common vision and can understand each other’s operational requirements well enough to hatch a viable execution and support plan.When it comes to vision, many in facilities are unclear about the need for multiple meeting spaces. Open plan appeals to many architects and the tech vendors were saying for some time that virtual meetings would replace the old fashioned face to face variety.However, the pioneers of homeworking, hot-desking and video are now saying that because many people make the journey to the office mainly to meet others face to face and because privacy issues have undermined VC in open spaces, they are now building more meeting rooms and ‘privacy booths’ than ever before.On the IT side the vision for pervasive meeting space, video and collaboration is strong as users adopt desktop Skype for Business, Jabber, and so on en masse, although knowing what the best audio and visual solutions are for larger and more complex spaces is challenging as their traditional IT suppliers still don’t have solutions for much other than small and medium sized meeting spaces.Regardless, facilities and tech teams at many organisations are now preparing for the inevitable user demand to equip most or all meeting spaces with desktop compatible technology, of whatever flavour.

But, in my opinion…

…the almost greater challenge is for facilities and IT colleagues to understand each other’s operational challenges.

For example, IT departments tend not to appreciate how much detailed work is involved in deploying room technology so don’t build this into the process or the budget. In addition, since 50 per cent or more of endpoints will likely be deployed through capital building projects (new build or significant refit) the procurement and deployment process will need to be aligned with or adapted around a facilities project protocol, which generally features bespoke design and local tenders through building contractors.

Likewise, the facilities teams may not be familiar with IT ambitions for absolute technology and service standards, regulatory and security compliance, centralised over-the-network support layers and global procurement deals.

And so, in many organisations, it is hard to find a truly empowered meeting space owner who has the know-how, resources and tools required to drive home a strategy across different teams within their organisation. 

In a recent presentation at an AV Connections event, Google revealed that it has built a team of approximately 50 people to manage the establishment of standard technology ‘catalogues’ and oversee their application to meeting spaces globally.

This initiative bridges both the strategic and operational gaps between IT and facilities. But how many organisations have the scale or IT and facilities empowerment to build an internal team of this sort?

So who can organisations turn to for third party support?

IT suppliers haven’t extended their portfolio much beyond small and medium meeting spaces (yet) and the traditional AV suppliers are still built to engage with customers on a mostly local and bespoke project basis.

Credit: AV Magazine