Name: Ira Weinstein
Company: Wainhouse Research
Key Advice: “Most of all, partners should sell and support huddle rooms to stay sticky with the customer.”
Ira Weinstein is the AV industry’s inside man. Behind closed doors and firewalls of some of the world’s largest enterprise companies (as well as some smaller businesses) and educational settings, he gathers real-world insights on how UC and collaboration technology is used in the wild. Then, together with the other intrepid investigators at Wainhouse Research, he provides studies that take into account not only the electronic ins and outs, but also the whys and hows of enduser habits. It’s the latter of these factors that tends to create the most discrepancies between those communications systems that work and don’t work, and that’s where Wainhouse Research’s information is vital. What do clients really want from technology? Where and how are they actually using it?
It’s with an eye toward those questions that we’re launching a new series of “Five-Minute Huddles” with Weinstein. In these Q&As, we’ll focus on the client’s perspective and level of understanding about what it is that AV designers and integrators do every day. Hopefully the broad scope of Wainhouse Research’s knowledge will help to illuminate some of the individual expectations of your clients.
Our first “Huddle” is actually a “Huddle on Huddle Rooms,” in which Weinstein helps provide some insight into how this trend is interpreted in the modern workplace. In Wainhouse’s Polycom-sponsored study on this segment, “Understanding the Huddle Room,” the firm noted a common thread among its many end user research subjects. There is evidently “a layer of confusion around the strategic importance and value of the smaller meeting rooms (a.k.a. huddle rooms) within the customer’s environment.”
Noting this, Wainhouse points to several reasons why it recommends that huddle rooms be considered an integral part to an organization’s meeting room and collaboration strategy. Namely, “the addition of millennials to the work environment, the enhanced interest (and in some cases use) of open work spaces and telecommuting, [and] the increased need to support large numbers of collaborative and distributed work teams.”
So let’s get to the Huddle on Huddle Rooms to hopefully close the gap between what clients expect and what huddle rooms can provide.
SCN: Do clients ask for huddle spaces by name?
Ira Weinstein: Some do and some don’t. More often than not, we hear “small meeting rooms.” They say they have all these small meeting rooms, and they want to use them better. Often they call them “those meeting rooms all over the building that nobody really owns.” Whereas the AV or IT guys will say “huddle rooms.”
SCN: Where do you see the most huddle rooms?
IW: They’re more common in some vertical markets than others, with some verticals being more interested in investing in these smaller spaces. But it’s important to understand that these rooms usually aren’t designed. They’re just filling gaps in the floor layout. These rooms have been there forever—they are the ugly duckling of the meeting room family. They’re not scheduled. They’re not managed. Often they don’t make it onto the list of meeting rooms in the company. And because of that, there’s no equipment designated for them. That’s the life of the huddle room.
SCN: What does a client mean when they ask for a huddle space?
IW: Customers simply want more places to meet for collaboration sessions with less formal requirements. That’s really the challenge here. They don’t want to go a boardroom; they want an informal place to meet, so they choose these smaller rooms, which are traditionally empty, barren. Maybe there’s a desk phone or a display and a cable, but that’s not enough when you need to collaborate. That’s a “let me present to you” space. The next generation, the youth coming into the workplace, is bringing different types of content to the meeting room today, and they want to be able to share it easily and quickly.
SCN: What is the key to unlocking the opportunity in huddle rooms?
IW: Channel partners need to look at huddle rooms differently than other meeting rooms. There’s money to be made, but often huddle rooms are a low—margin means to a more profitable end. Compare it to printer companies. They’ll sell a cheap printer, often at a loss, to gain access to the high-margin toner revenue stream. In the huddle room world, we may sell lowcost, low-margin equipment to gain access to more profitable back-end services and other larger projects. Integrators should focus on automation, workflow, backend infrastructure, centralized management, and analytics. Those are aspects that provide high value, yet are largely automated. And most of all, partners should sell and support huddle rooms to stay sticky with the customer.
SCN: What will an AV integrator end up building for that huddle space?
IW: Huddle rooms are all about a “good enough experience.” Clients want easy, cost-effective, self-serve setups. They don’t want to have to call tech support to start a meeting. With huddle rooms, you have to be thinking about large volume with few devices. The rooms have three key functions. Audioconferencing is number one; you have to be able to dial. Two is presentation, which is ideally wireless. Three is videoconferencing. Audio, content, and video is the trifecta of the huddle room. To perform those functions, clients want a single device or as few devices as possible. To that end, there are solutions available from companies like Cisco, Logitech, Polycom, Vaddio, and many others.
SCN: What’s the next upgrade opportunity in huddle rooms?
IW: There are 30-50 million huddle rooms in the world, according to our research. The opportunity is to put some toys in the room, those rooms, by the dozen, by the hundred. Those rooms are dark today. We need to light them up with collaboration. This is a real Metcalf’s law situation. One collaboration-enabled huddle room is good, but the real power comes from enabling the entire enterprise. That is how companies change what they do, how they do it, and how quickly they make things happen for their customers.
Kirsten Nelson is editor-at-large of SCN. Follow her on Twitter @kirstennelson.