Nevil Bounds: How overcomplexity holds back the meeting room

Industry veteran and Feltech key account director Nevil Bound explains why overcomplexity in the meeting room is giving integrators unnecessary problems.

We live in a complicated world, but that doesn’t mean our meeting rooms have to be complex. Nowadays, video conferencing is absolutely essential. You can't avoid it as there’s so much remote working going on these days, making these mission critical pieces of kit. But the problem is that we've got to have simplicity with it, we can't have overly complex stuff going on. It’s a standard problem in the industry that we’ve had for years. I think we, as integrators, are just giving ourselves problems when we find that rooms don’t work properly.

 We don't need to build overcomplicated rooms anymore and we can just use simpler solutions. So how did we get here? There’s just too much choice.

All of us, back in the early 2000’s, brought complexity into the room. It was nice to have but was rarely used and I think when you get to a situation where you've got rooms that have only 20% of the functionality that’s ever used, then you’ve designed the room incorrectly. We’re all clever people and we can make systems as sophisticated as we like, but what does the end user want it for?

In most meeting rooms, people want to do a maximum of four things: show something on the local screen in the room, video conferencing, audio conferencing or sending content to the following video conference.

Take people working from home - they’re using pretty basic kit like a Logitech camera, Zoom and Lifesize. It's a pretty good experience at home and you should be able to get the same easy experience in the office.

I think all consultants and manufacturers are trying really hard to do this. Take Feltech for example, we're going back to some of our clients now and saying, “Look, how can we simplify this further, just to reduce support calls?”

We need to reassess what they really want and we’re taking equipment out of the rooms now, driving down the contract values. Let’s say you’re using your phone, you should be able to pick up an android or an iPhone and use it confidently straight out of the box.

We should be doing this with AV. Google have done a lot of work in their meeting room spaces and a lot of people are trying to emulate this because it was getting too complicated, trying also to take the hardware out of rooms.

We're using fewer bits of hardware than we used to. The biggest problem is trying to identify who the end user is. Is it the IT manager? Is it the sales director? Is it the marketing people? In the past, we tended to have one end user, which was usually someone like the training manager, but things have changed so much over the last few years, we're dealing with a whole plethora of people.

I think we just need to listen more to the end user at the start and avoid jumping to overcomplicated solutions because it'll just come back to bite us. If we feel our customers are going down a road that could lead to overcomplexity, we've got to put the brakes on and say, “Why don't we look at solutions that you're going to use 90% of the time?” and I think by doing that you take the complexity away and give back reliability.

I'd like to see more money spent on things like room acoustics, and group treatments,but we also need to spend more time on product demos. I think we should spend more time not just doing concept rooms, but actually talking to the manufacturers more, bringing those clients in to the manufacturers and showing them what’s possible and how future proof it can be.

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