As we walk into the sprawling office of a large hedge fund company, the receptionist, impeccably dressed in a white top and black skirt with a pearl necklace dangling around her neck, receives me and walks me towards my meeting room. As we walk, she briefly talks about her company. I detect a deep sense of pride and superiority as she explains how their organisation manages millions of dollars of assets under management. As we approach my meeting room she notices the lights are on and some laughter coming out of the room. A peak inside the room and sigh as she tells me in a whisper that senior partners have occupied it and we will have to wait. She starts frantically scouring the floor as if she had lost her precious necklace. As i stood there, i couldn’t help myself but ask what she was looking for.
She replied with a tone of embarrasment that she had stuck a sticky note outside the room to indicate that it was reserved for our meeting but some how it had flown away. I thought to myself, “This organisation needed a room booking system.”
Many organisations big and small face similar problems one way or another, which is when they start looking for a system that can help them manage their rooms and resources.
In our 10 years of operations, we have asked several of our customers and non-customers when was it that they decided to look for a room booking system. Below are some scenarios when a room booking system becomes a valuable tool in your IT system arsenal.
Traditional Calendars Are Not Effective
Traditional calendars such as Google, Yahoo or Outlook are very effective when it comes to scheduling appointments. However, when it comes to reservation of rooms, they fall far short because of their inherent flexibility and lack of controls. These tools are highly effective for small number of rooms and a small team or when a receptionist or secretary coordinates the scheduling of these rooms. However, it can become a nightmare when it comes to managing the schedules as the company grows.
While it can be argued that software systems such as Microsoft Exchange or similar tools do provide controls on setting room usage policies, configuring them is not for the regular staff who manage these facilities on a day to day basis. It requires involvement of the IT team to configure and support the room.
Secretary Becomes The Bottleneck
In most small and medium sized businesses, the secretary or the personal assistant is in charge of scheduling the room. Anyone who needs a room must email, call or approach the front desk to make a reservation. The secretary manages a single coordinated calendar and prints out the day’s schedule and places it outside the room in a slot. While the secretary can be very resourceful in juggling many balls, this is one ball that can cause a lot of heart ache, confusion and conflict. accusations of preferential treatment, blaming of the secretary for foul-ups and assuming that the request for reservation was carried out are very common. It becomes worse when the secretary is on leave and the replacement has no clue on what was discussed.
Lack of Consistent Policy
One of the most frustrating areas is when policies are not well defined. Room and resource usage are left to the game of favouritism, seniority and politics can lead to a lot of bad blood. Without a proper room booking system, policies are left to the people who are in charge of the rooms. Clear visibility is not available for the staff who are in need of a room. Abuse and misuse of facilities become a rampant problems. Occupying a 40 pax board room for a 2 person meeting is both wasteful and disruptive. Room hogging, advanced booking for meetings that are eventually cancelled, blocking multiple rooms for tentative meetings all cause poor utilisation of the facilities.
As organisations grow, they move to larger offices. More and more meetings are held and a proper system is unavailable to cater to the demanding needs of the staff. In today’s world, collaboration, partnerships, brain storming sessions, stand up meetings all demand dedicated spaces. Proper scheduling of these places can only be done using a room booking system.
Today’s workforce is dynamic in nature. With constant interaction with colleagues, partners, customers and associates, scheduling of rooms need to be done from anywhere. Traditional methods of firing up your computer to look for a schedule are no longer the preferred way of reserving rooms. Your staff need on-the-go tools that help them to self-serve and schedule meetings. Devices such as mobile phones, room display panels, digital signage provide multiple entry points into the system to help staff make reservations.
Renovating With New Technologies
For some organisations, office renovation exersices provides a good avenue where they can build in smart office technologies into their architecture. Technologies such as Digital Signage, Way-Finders, Room Display Panels bring a sense of pride and technological advancement that the office looks forward to. In these cases, emphasis is more on the branding, look and feel and a sense of pride in their office.
Most large companies still use legacy systems which are more than 10 years old. Their user interface is clumsy and the system suddenely breaks for no aparent reason. In some cases, the vendor who supplied the system is no longer in business. So, requests for changes or bug fixes goes unheeded. In these cases, the IT team simply runs the system in a server with a “DO NOT SHUTDOWN” notice stuck to it. If it were possible, we suspect that these companies would still use those systems if not for the end-of-life cycle for the supporting servers, software and infrastructure.
Wrapping It Up
Organizations struggle with managing rooms and resources when they do not have a proper system in place. Issues like lack of policies, lax rules and heavy dependence on a particular person to manage the rooms can cause tremendous loss of productivity. With a proper room and resource booking system in place, staff can increase their productivity, thereby increasing their morale and reducing friction.