Huddle-room Collaboration – Looking Beyond the Hype

Feb 15, 2018

Huddle rooms, also called war rooms or thinking spaces, are popping up in offices all over. What used to be coffee corners or regular offices in the past are being turned into small creative spaces – rooms where the four walls become a canvas for collaboration. Dedicated to strategizing, the idea of a huddle room is to foster creativity and innovation.  As businesses design smarter meeting spaces, there is a strong push toward fostering deeper collaboration with advanced tools. Video conferencing is making its way into huddle rooms as a key technology piece along with rich content sharing, whiteboards, flip charts and other collaborative software and tools. Frost & Sullivan has recently published a detailed research report on Huddle room collaboration.  The hype surrounding huddle rooms has produced many misconceptions, making it difficult to grasp what huddle room collaboration entails. This report takes a closer look at huddle rooms and BYO meetings and the associated growth opportunities.

A confluence of trends is driving a new interest in huddle-room collaboration. First of all, how and where people meet is changing at a fast pace. The typical one hour scheduled and structured meeting is increasingly turning into shorter more ad-hoc productive sessions. Business users are demanding agility that’s better aligned with the greater speed of doing business. Instead of waiting to bring up an idea at the next weekly team meeting, users want to instantly huddle with smaller teams for brain storming, decision making, and taking action. In addition, the trend toward open floorplans and open workspaces has created a strong need for small meeting rooms where workers can meet in a disruption-free setting. A strong rise in the number of remote workers and remote meeting participants has also prompted businesses to optimize their office real estate, evolving from large conference rooms into smaller more user-friendly meeting spaces.

So what exactly is a huddle room? We define huddle rooms as small meeting spaces and conference areas accommodating up to four to six people. When equipped with audio, video and display system technologies, they become informal spaces for ad-hoc and agile collaboration. Though huddle rooms vary in size and configuration, a typical room is up to a 10x10 or a 12x12 space. Use cases can vary by business though the focus is clearly on interaction and ideation. Most huddle rooms have minimal furniture for a clutter free space, a central fixed or rolling desk with chairs and a single monitor along with as many whiteboards, flip charts and scrum walls as needed to capture spatial memory. In other cases, the furniture is more modern with lounge seating and sofas. Throw in some bold and bright colors along with floor to ceiling glass walls for openness, and the room builds up on users’ energy and creativity.

Key aspects of huddle room collaboration are centered on–robust audio, intuitive wireless content sharing, engaging video conferencing, and flexible whiteboards; all while accommodating BYOD so users can bring their choice of devices and cloud services into the room. All-in-one, plug and play, easy to use audio-video devices and a high definition camera positioned at eye level with a 120 degree field of view provides an engaging video conferencing experience. The total cost of video enabling a huddle room can range anywhere from $2k to $5k depending on the type of video conferencing device and the number of peripherals that are used.

“Smart huddle rooms” are still few and far in between. According to our research, there are 32.4 million huddle rooms worldwide and less than 2% percent are video-enabled. That means most of the collaboration sessions today are relying on audio-only or audio with content sharing. But this is changing at a fast pace. As the costs of video conferencing come down and cloud enables easy instant meetings, more and more huddle rooms and open spaces are getting video enabled for ad-hoc collaboration.

Collaboration technologies are seeing significant evolution. Next gen collaboration software paired with cloud and AI adds the scalability, interoperability, and flexibility that’s the right fit for users that are looking to walk into any space and start instant easy collaboration sessions over their choice of meeting app and device. The focus is on user experience and simplicity - siloed meeting technologies of the past are converging into single-source collaboration solutions. The focus on user experience is also leading to significant technology improvements such as intelligent view or intelligent framing in a video call, background noise suppression, rich in-room analytics for better meeting diagnostics, and interactive voice commands.

Our research shows that many businesses still rely on DIY huddle room components glued together loosely, often leading to a sub-par user experience. Room logistics, the right audio/video devices, camera positioning, field of view, positioning of peripherals such as whiteboards and flipcharts are some of the parameters that must be addressed to ensure that all participants including remote callers have an engaging experience. There is a big need in the market today to create better user education and awareness for best practices in the huddle room.

By all accounts, huddle-room video conferencing is booming. Currently standing at 8.1% of all video meetings, huddle-room meetings will grow exponentially to represent almost 70% percent of all video conferencing room meetings by 2022. For business leaders that are looking to stay at the forefront of  leading edge collaboration, its time to huddle up and buckle down.

Category : Enterprise

Roopam Jain


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