“I can never book a meeting room, but they are always empty” If I had a pound for every time I have heard this from a client, then I would have a fortune, well, maybe enough to buy a new smart watch! Companies invest lots of money in setting up meeting rooms of various sizes. However, when you need a room for Wednesday afternoon next week and there are no rooms available; why not?!! You “know” that rooms are not being used, as when you walk by them they are often sitting empty.
So, what’s the issue with the meeting rooms?
There are usually two parts to this issue in any company, behaviour and technology. The second is easier to fix, although not always cheap. The first is where the real pain for delivery can come from. So, let’s look at the issues individually;
Things change at a rate of knots in business, we are all busy and have tight deadlines to meet. So, when a supplier calls to cancel a meeting tomorrow, it’s both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand it’s great as you now have 2 extra hours to finish that report. On the other hand, you still need to meet with this supplier and you now need to re-schedule the meeting into your already bulging diary. You re-schedule for the following week, send an email request to Admin to book you a meeting room on the new date, and move onto the next task.. The room you have for tomorrow is still booked and will, in all likelihood, stand empty for those 2 hours.
There can be a degree of apathy, rather than just time issues from some; where it’s too much effort to cancel the room booking and it’s not really an issue to them personally. This sort of problem happens a lot in many companies, the disconnection of data for items that need to work together, namely people’s schedules and room bookings.
There are a lot of options out there, some more complicated than others. Many companies use Outlook for room booking, they may have bought a bolt on that makes this easier and simpler to administer. You can add information about each room, like how many it can seat and if it has a projector etc. However, the person needs to access Outlook to be able to select a room. If they are away from their desk and want to see if a room they are outside of is free for the next 30 minutes for an adhoc meeting, they will struggle.
A far better way to manage the rooms, is to use a room booking solution, you may not want to pay for a complete solution just for this, as it can be expensive, but most will also do those front of house things like car parking spaces and visitor management as well.
The reason some companies use Outlook is that they already have it for emails, and it is seen as a cost-effective way to manage the rooms. Or is it? If your asset management solution already has all the details about rooms etc, you can leverage that to make more use of that solution. The benefits could also be that you have sensors in the rooms for lights or air con and these could be used to identify that a room is not occupied and available to book. With these software packages you could probably utilise it for hot desking as well, rather than just rooms.
As long as your asset management solution can link to the meeting invite and be part of the meeting, then if the meeting is cancelled, the room booking will be as well. Making the booking part of the meeting takes away the need to cancel the room and speeds up the release of assets to be used by others. Having reports on room usage, and more importantly, information on who and when rooms are not utilised can be used to manage your teams’ behaviour and address the situation of not cancelling rooms etc.
No Silver bullet
Technology can help manage the behavioural issues seen in many companies however it should not be seen as a silver bullet, as change management and ease of use also need to be considered.
Having seen this sort of thing deployed with various levels of success, I’ve had a lot of experience in getting that little bit extra out of a CAFM or enterprise asset management solution. For example, with a Planon deployment, Vetasi would include hot desk booking as standard. We can also add kiosk functionality to the rooms as well as giving everyone an app on their iphone or android device to book both rooms and hot desks. Make sure your asset management solution is working for you and reduce the number of those meeting rooms sitting empty!