As an extension of our coverage of opportunities in Smart Buildings we look at room booking systems – for many, the physical manifestation of smart building technology. We take a look at some of the current product offerings and some trends in integration of room control and collaboration solutions.
With Smart Buildings the focus of attention in government circles, meeting room management will be the subject of renewed interest. Meeting room management can have a direct impact on the overall performance and efficiency of an organisation. Research from UNWIRED Group* found that whilst the majority of desks (typically 55%) in an average office are empty at any one point, ironically you can never find a meeting room when you want one.
Natalie Harris, Head of Marketing at Steljes said: “How often have you seen meeting rooms ‘booked’ but the room is empty? Someone just forgot to ‘unbook’ the room. Alternatively, one of the other major problems is that 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. The room booking and resource management systems such as the Evoko Room Manager therefore help organisations to overcome this problem by managing their meeting rooms more effectively.”
From cost savings to visitors’ perception of an organisation, it is important the meeting rooms, conference rooms and other publicly available spaces are managed efficiently. Understanding how rooms and spaces are used, and whether they are used effectively is a key to saving money by optimising space provisions and usage.
With energy usage the subject of government regulation and public opprobrium, empty rooms consuming electricity and heating are to be 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 hand full of people. In this scenario it’s quite common for resources to be sourced elsewhere and at a cost to the business. These are just two instances where room booking systems can help by managing all the rooms, equipment and even resources as disparate as catering and car parks through an integrated system.
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: double booking or rooms; overbooking of 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. Specialist meeting room management solutions provide a set of advanced tools to help streamline operations and communication between stakeholders in the meeting room and meeting participants.
The introduction of web-based room booking systems opened a window into facilities management operations, enabling these 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. As we saw in the piece preceding this report, buildings are often built with no real idea of who or what the tenant might be. 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.
*UNWIRED Research Report 2008
For more information about Room booking systems see page 10 in AV News November 2013