People sitting around a table discussing business.
PHOTO: David Leo Veksler

Digital meeting rooms are the beating heart of the digital workplace. In a virtual world where many workers are located remotely, they can take on the same role of the water cooler in brick-and-mortar enterprises and provide a single place where workers can collaborate on shared projects. In Gartner’s recently published Magic Quadrant for Meeting Solutions (Fee Required), the authors define meeting room solutions as real-time collaboration applications and associated endpoints that “support interactions over a network between participants for team work, presentations, training and webinars.”

The Role Of Digital Meeting Rooms

Like other Magic Quadrants from Gartner, it lists the important characteristics of the technology that is being examined. In the current market, enterprises use meeting solutions in the digital workplace to facilitate the following:

  • Improve activities that depend on face-to-face interactions
  • Enable better enterprise collaboration both inside and outside the enterprise.
  • Negate many of the problems created by geographical distance
  • Enhance employee engagement with video
  • Train remote workers where ever they are located.

There are other features too, all of which are designed to address the emergence of a number of trends, which vendors are being forced to address in their new or upgraded solutions. Among those trends is the expectation that meeting applications will facilitate:

  • Ease of use by the simplification of host controls
  • The pulling together of synchronous and asynchronous capabilities
  • Integration of virtual personal assistants (VPAs) that improve the virtual meeting
  • Holding meetings anywhere
  • Use across diverse endpoint types from group video system to smartphones, tablets and others

Globally speaking, the report points out that buyers of meeting solutions are increasingly interested in converged solutions that have everything whether they are using videoconference room systems, sitting at their desks using desktop or web clients, or from mobile devices.  So how are enterprises applying managing these trends?

Related Articles: 7 Technology Trends Shaping the Digital Workplace 

Redesigning A Digital Workplace

The Erasmus University Rotterdam has recently re-designed their digital workplace tech and their priority has been converged solutions.  According to Dennis Michels, an audio and video engineer at the university said there were three priorities for them.

Ease of use - People expect equipment to work just like at home, preferably using their phone, tablet or laptop to do what they want to do.

Security - A tricky one for most enterprises. To protect data, enterprises need to not only make technology easy to use, but they also need to ensure the data - particularly personal data – in the applications is safe.

Integration - Enterprises need to be able to integrate equipment into the existing tech ecosystem as they did here. Among the main features Michels was looking for was a way to remotely monitor the equipment, control it through the room's control system, and automate tasks.

The result was a new digital workplace with a number of new technologies built in for easier collaboration. Below are the technologies they implemented.

RoomGuide panels - These are small panels on the outside of a room. On it is displayed the availability of the room, or who is using it now. The panels also offer the option to book the room, or when it is in use it gives a list of nearby rooms that are free. The panels integrate with Outlook/Exchange, so people can also check the room availability from the comfort of their own office

Interactive Boards - An interactive whiteboard. Users can make annotations on a whiteboard, but also mirror and control their laptop or phone screen, make screenshots and annotate on top of that. The Flip has extensive capabilities for sharing the annotations through e-mail, printer, network drives or USB sticks. One of the great things about this is that the Flip can easily be rotated 90 degrees, so you can work in both portrait and landscape mode!

Logitech Meetup - This is a powerful webcam with PTZ controls and specifically aimed at boardrooms who would like to make Skype Meetings. It is very easy to use with its simple remote control. It has a built in conference microphone and high-definition speakers.

WePresent - One of the most popular tools. It is a wireless presentation system. Users can easily mirror their laptop, phone, tablet to any screen connected to the WePresent.

Related Article: 7 Ways to Measure Workplace Collaboration and Productivity Tool Efficacy

Catering For Remote Workers

Remote workers also have a specific list of needs. Steve Kurniawan works for Toronto-based Nine Peaks media out of Asia and uses online meeting and conference tools regularly. The company also does digital marketing consulting and has implemented digital meeting for its clients. For Kurniawan, there are five key technology capabilities needed to enable remote work.

Speed - The tools and software need to be able to work seamlessly with fast loading speed, fast file sharing, and fast video/audio streaming. That means a good internet connection and a solid network.

Reliability - Users don’t want the software to crash during an important presentation. It has to run seamlessly at all times. 

Monitoring, security control and reporting - Kurniawan wants to be able to access reports to the number of attendees, typed message, who shared files and when, and so on. We also want to be able to control who can share files, which files are private, and so on.

Slideshow - The digital meeting software should have its own built-in slideshow feature. Different attendees can have different PowerPoint edition installed (or none at all), different screen resolutions, and so on. This way, the presentation can be uniformed for all attendees.

Ease of use and no install issues - There are times when the company needs to set a meeting with those outside our team (clients, other businesses, etc.) It will waste time if these people need to install software first, and so on. The digital marketing software should require no installation and should be easy enough to use for newcomers.

Keep Everyone In The Loop

Sam Morey is co-founder for ContentCucumber.com, a fully remote and online workplace.  He said that the biggest problem with remote work and digital meeting rooms is keeping everyone’s head in the game is much more difficult when meeting virtually. It is a lot easier to get distracted when you have the opportunity to open up a new tab without anyone knowing. There is a definite disconnect — like you have less responsibility to engage. “I’ve seen a lot of successful meetings that feel more like a group having casual conversation, but never when the meeting is remote. Remote meetings without an orchestrator always go the same way: a couple people take over the conversation while those who are busy or shy just check out,” he said.

Communication for Onsite and Remote Employees

The bottom line for any digital business is enabling workers to communicate and meeting rooms are one of the key enablers of work in this respect. Henry Albrecht, CEO and co-founder of Bellevue, Wash.-based employee engagement company Limeade said that this is increasingly important as remote work is an essential element of the future of work.

Communication is key, he added. If your internal communications is geared only to onsite employees you will need to revamp all communications so they apply to everyone. “This emphasis on communication goes both ways ― meaning you'll need to stay up to date with remote employee’s daily wins and any roadblocks they might be facing. Encourage consistent 1 to 1's between managers and their direct reports to keep lines of communication open. Provide tools like Skype, Slack or Microsoft Teams to invite communication and collaboration across offices,” he said.