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Many enterprises need better conference room technology

Enterprises are taking action to ensure they have the conference room technology necessary to support the latest collaboration tools.

Many enterprises have completed or started planning an overhaul of outdated meeting rooms that, in some cases,...

lack even the basic features of high-speed internet and convenient power outlets.

Most enterprises do not consider the fanciest technologies, like digital whiteboards, voice assistants and artificial intelligence, must-haves in the modern conference room, according to a recent Nemertes Research survey of roughly 650 companies globally. Instead, they place a priority on fast network connections, high-quality audio and lots of power outlets for meeting participants.

But the promise of emerging collaboration tools such as digital whiteboards is what's driving many conference room projects, said Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill. Two-thirds of the companies said they were planning or evaluating "conference room of the future" projects, or had recently completed one. Just 4.9% had considered and rejected the idea.

"They don't want any of these technologies to fail from an IT perspective," Gareiss said. "They want everybody to look at going into a meeting as [a] positive experience, one that enhances their productivity."

Seemingly small frustrations -- when power outlets are hard to find or projectors take 10 minutes to turn on -- can cause workers to avoid conference rooms in favor of phone-bridge meetings at their desks, Gareiss said. Many projects are focused on ensuring there are consistent layouts and technologies in every room.  

When it comes to the latest conference room technology, enterprises value high-definition video conferencing, integration with calendaring applications and a consistent set of collaboration tools. Further down the list were digital whiteboards -- deemed "vital" by 21.1% of enterprises -- voice assistants (18%) and AI integration (16.7%).

Today, just 4.2% of meeting rooms worldwide are video-enabled, according to Frost & Sullivan analyst Roopam Jain. But that's changing quickly, as businesses push to make conference rooms more "collaboration-ready," Jain said.

"As the costs of modern meeting devices and services have come down and cloud has enabled easy instant meetings, more and more meeting rooms are getting enabled with advanced meeting tools, like web and video conferencing, digital whiteboards, flip charts, and other collaborative software and tools," Jain said.

Performance management an important conference room technology

The survey also found many enterprises still lack the metrics necessary to determine whether conference rooms are best meeting collaboration needs. While roughly half of enterprises said their conference room technology included adequate performance management tools, 33.2% said theirs did not, and another 17.8% were unsure.

Collaboration apps and web conferencing platforms usually provide their own analytics, but enterprises need performance management tools that tie together all the technologies inside a conference room. Specialty vendors such as IR, Unify Square and Riverbed Technology Inc. should be well-positioned to introduce such technology, Gareiss said.

In the future, predictive and automated analytics will become valuable conference room technologies to enterprises, Jain said. Artificial intelligence platforms will be able to analyze what was said at a meeting and provide recommendations for follow-up, for example.

"By letting the machine and software crunch the full spectrum of raw content for insights and patterns combined with its relevance for the business, AI can eventually help lead to better decision-making in and outside of meetings," Jain said.

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