A rapidly emerging feature in videoconferencing endpoints and platforms is the ability to count the number of participants within a meeting room. The benefits reach from IT to facilities, and even touch HR.
From an IT perspective, this capability has several practical benefits including the ability to:
- Know how many people are participating in a meeting
- Identify ghost-rooms (rooms scheduled for video meetings, but not actually in use)
- Quickly identify meeting spaces that may be in use, even though no meetings have been scheduled in them
The benefits of being able to count the number people within a room has benefits for facilities managers, too. In a recent Nemertes Research study, we discovered that fewer than half of the approximately 100 end-user organization participants feel they accurately provision the necessary number of huddle spaces to meet employee demand. This breaks down as follows:
- 16% over-provision meeting space, resulting in space going unused
- 19% under-provision, meaning that they will need to revisit floor configuration and add additional rooms, creating expense and disruption to workspaces
Today, facilities managers are largely flying blind when it comes to knowing if they have provisioned too much meeting space, not enough meeting space, or whether or not they have it just right. Meeting space provisioning in new or existing office spaces is largely based on educated guesswork or calculators such as one meeting room for every 10 to 20 people. In addition, facilities managers lack insight over time to help them understand usage trends. What may be sufficient meeting space today may not be tomorrow, and vice versa.
This lack of data and analytics comes with a high cost, both for new space build-out, as well as for renovations of existing space. Nemertes finds that the average physical construction and supply costs of setting up a new meeting room is approximately $10,600 per space, or $105 per square foot. This means that over-provisioning of meetings results in wasted spending, while under-provisioning may result in unforeseen costs for additional facility renovation.
Videoconferencing systems that tap into artificial intelligence capabilities to capture data showing the number of individuals present in a room assist in meeting space planning. They do so by delivering insight showing if rooms are over-utilized (e.g., seven people in a room, on average, in a space designed for four), under-utilized (e.g., a 10-person space that, on average, hosts meetings of no more than three people), or inefficiently utilized (e.g., scheduled meetings don’t happen, unnecessarily tying up the space, or the space isn’t used at all).
In addition, videoconferencing systems provide on-going analytical data that allows both IT and facilities managers to understand how room utilization and demand changes over time, or correlates with initiatives such as telework (enter HR), shifting to open workspaces, and implementation of new collaboration tools that may reduce the number of in-person meetings. Nemertes’ research shows that companies that measure room system utilization had more successful videoconferencing deployments in terms of gains in productivity, system utilization, and self-assessed ability to meet the collaboration needs of the business.
IT leaders should engage with facilities managers to jointly develop a strategy for measuring current and on-going room system utilization. They should investigate, and plan to deploy, emerging capabilities that allow for real-time reporting of room space occupancy to enable more intelligent room provisioning decisions. They should share their findings and feedback with HR, for formulation of corporate telework and open office policies and planning.