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With the GDPR and other industry-specific regulations in full force, it’s not a good idea to take it on faith that your employees are up to date on their compliance responsibilities.

For a lot of organisations, it’s mandatory for employees to be regularly retrained on organisational codes of conduct and industry regulations or compliances. That can be a time-intensive and costly exercise using traditional training methods, and a monotonous chore for employees.

Thankfully, the increasing availability and adoption of Learning Management Systems (LMS) for corporate and compliance training, has made these issues far easier to overcome. We’re particular fans of Microsoft’s LMS365 for corporate and compliance training, let’s take a look at some general LMS benefits and why you should be using LMS365 for compliance training but first let’s outline what we will be covering in this article:

What is a Learning Management System?

A learning management system (LMS) is essentially a software application or platform that enables the creation, administration, delivery and tracking of eLearning or online training programs. Depending on which LMS you’re using, these programs can have varying degrees of integration into your existing environment. They can be completely standalone experiences or seamless components of daily workflows.

We are fond of Microsoft’s LMS365, find out more about our learning management software for the modern workplace.

Major benefits for corporate training

There are several benefits of LMSs over more traditional learning environments. One of the most obvious is that they are unaffected by time zones or geography and can accommodate a variety of learning styles and schedules.

Even more important for corporate applications, however, is the ability to deliver enterprise-wide training in an easy-to-manage, easy-to-track, and centrally managed way.

Targeted and scheduled training modules with completion reminders and comprehension tracking make it simple to monitor user progress and address any shortfalls quickly. Course content delivery that leverages gamification also encourages learner participation, and tight integration into existing work environments (available on platforms like LMS365) minimises “barriers to entry”.

It’s also very useful to be able to deliver training programmatically, making it possible to streamline and automate processes like onboarding new staff.

Find out more about how our LMS can benefit your compliance and procedure training needs.

What makes LMSs a great fit for compliance training, specifically?

When your company’s reputation and well-being is on the line, you don’t want to take chances on employees forgetting or neglecting their compliance training. However, ensuring everyone (organisation-wide) is up to date on their responsibilities isn’t easy – even if it is essential to prevent potentially expensive litigation. Learn more aboutdelivering collaborative learning.

Using an LMS helps overcome these challenges in a variety of ways:

Quick, easy course creation and roll-out

Most LMSs have intuitive course creation interfaces that make it easy to create – and adapt – courses as your corporate needs change. This is very useful in the compliance space, which is constantly evolving.

For example, Microsoft recently extended sensitivity labelling functionality to Office applications on Windows. Labelling can be a potent tool in an organisation’s compliance toolbox, but requires a fair amount of understanding and labelling expertise from users. Since labelling policies vary dramatically from business to business, standardised training is of little use. Using an LMS would make it relatively easy to build a custom course around your corporate labelling policies and help you make the most of this powerful, built-in functionality.

Flexible and Fun Course Content Delivery

Let’s face it, reading corporate policies and legalese isn’t anyone’s idea of fun. LMSs can help you deliver learning content through a variety of media and interactive learning activities. Implemented well, these can entice and incentivise employee engagement, making the whole experience more enjoyable for everyone involved.

Most LMSs also offer mobile device compatible training for participation on-the-go. The flexibility to engage whenever and wherever they learn best can have very positive effects on employee information retention and long-term outcomes.

Pro tip: Remote employees and mobile device use can increase a company’s risk of data breaches – make sure you secure these channels and provide adequate training on out-of-office safety protocol.

Automated Reminders and Notifications

With the help of an LMS, you can ensure compliance training is completed on time, every time, with convenient, customisable and trackable automated reminders and notifications.

Even better, some LMSs (like LMS365) let you tie training modules to activities that form part of a normal workday. For example, context-sensitive mini-modules or procedural reminders can be triggered when a user navigates to a specific SharePoint page. This is a great way to relate training to real-world applications and develop the right habits to ensure ongoing compliance.

Comprehensive Assessments and Reporting

LMS assessment and reporting capabilities tend to be extensive, including live tracking of engagement and completion, as well as automatic grading of performance.

Depending on your chosen system, your LMS may also be able to leverage advanced analytics to highlight specific trends and statistics from course modules. These can be integrated into business intelligence platforms to draw some very useful insights, including:

  • Learner engagement, timelines and completion levels
  • Performance on an individual and/or group level
  • Potential knowledge gaps that need further reinforcement or clarification
  • Areas in which course material could be adapted to better serve its purpose

Having access to this kind of comprehension-level reporting is particularly valuable in the compliance space. A lack of understanding can seriously hinder the adoption of new behaviours – a frequent requirement as legislation continues to evolve.

Auditable reports also help organisations prove due diligence in their compliance training remit, further minimising the risk of falling foul of legislation.

Easy Certification Management

For industries or organisations with mandatory certification requirements, keeping track of who has successfully completed what can be an ongoing headache. With the help of a good LMS, however, you can automate most of the certification management and retraining processes, including:

  • Tracking course completion and understanding
  • Enforcing regular retesting
  • Automatically updating procedural content to reflect latest corporate protocol

In which compliance areas can LMSs be of help?

LMSs are extraordinary tools for almost any type of education or training. When it comes to compliance, their application is particularly useful for organisations in financial services, law, healthcare etc. which have very specific compliance regulations. However, an LMS can be useful to virtually any organisation for training in the following areas.

The GDPR and other data protection legislation

Using an LMS to train employees on their role in safeguarding data makes it far easier to accommodate the evolving nature of this space. Periodic training updates can be actioned for a relatively low financial and time investment, and regular reminders can be triggered to reinforce good habits (such as securing company mobile phones and laptops).

LMSs also make it possible to track employee training and measure understanding to make sure users (both remote and in-office) are genuinely equipped to handle all relevant data-related situations. This reduces the risk of employee data breaches, for which employers may be held vicariously responsible (as in the case of UK supermarket company Morrisons). In these cases, an LMS’s comprehensive training records could also be of use in proving due diligence to strengthen an employer’s legal defence.

Pro tip: Your LMS also needs to be GDPR compliant, so make sure you’re using a reputable platform that conforms to international data privacy standards.

Health and safety

Mandatory health and safety training often comes at a high cost, and isn’t always as effective at minimising incidents as organisations may like. LMSs can offer a more effective way of driving the necessary knowledge home through engaging and flexible learning environments that encourage and incentivise learner participation.

They’re also able to track engagement and assess understanding to give employees the strongest possible foundation on which to build long-term behavioural change.

Information governance

The need to correctly label data items according to their sensitivity and data retention requirements is something that end users are becoming increasingly involved in.  Its processes tend to be a lot more nuanced (and frequently affected by technology advancements and updates) than other areas. This makes the flexibility of an LMS extremely valuable, particularly when using a platform that ties into your existing infrastructure and can trigger updates and policy reminders based on user activity.

Codes of conduct

Data breaches aren’t the only areas employees can be held vicariously liable for their employees’ conduct. Discrimination, bullying and harassment in the workplace can all have serious repercussions for employers as well. By providing training on appropriate workplace behaviour, anti-discrimination and equal opportunities policies, employers can demonstrate an active commitment to a non-toxic work environment and reduce their likelihood of liability.

An LMS can not only make this training easier to implement, update and monitor organisation-wide, it can also deliver content in a compelling manner that supports genuine understanding and drives real change.

Why introduce an LMS which uses existing technology to manage training

One of the biggest reasons we love LMS365 (apart from its great functionality) is because it integrates so seamlessly with the Office 365 environment.

Users don’t need to sign into a different learning platform to access their training or reminders. Instead, access management is aligned with their active directory entry. That means learning plans, courses, personal progress reports, certificates and more are all automatically accessible through completely familiar Office 365 channels.

That familiarity can make a big difference to user engagement and adoption.

Pro tip: LMS365 can also tap into Office 365’s productivity and social apps to add an element of friendly competition – or teamwork – to the training environment.

Choosing an LMS that integrates with your environment is about more than just learners’ user experience, however. It also makes the creation and administration of courses far easier. With LMS365 you can build, deploy, track and schedule everything relating to your training programme using Office, Outlook and SharePoint. No need for third-party web services or ongoing maintenance fees, and no integration costs.

Have you used (or considered) an LMS for compliance training? Leave a comment below and let us know the pros and cons that affected your experience or decision.

Learning management 365 solution

Manage compliance and all other training activities effectively with LMS365

Productive meetings have been a hot subject since that Elon Musk leaked email. But why did Elon chose to target meetings in order to increase company output?

Did you know that that the average Executive spends about 18 hours a week at meetings?

Yet, almost half of us view meetings as one of the biggest time-wasters at work.

Elon is not alone in thinking that effective meetings can increase productivity.

Why effective meetings are so important

Does that remind you of your meetings? Take heart because we’ve all been there.

Everything in business is about reducing costs and increasing profit. You will be surprised at how much a meeting costs and the impact they have on your bottom line. That’s why it is very important to aim for effective meetings.

Forward-thinking organisations and individuals alike have found several new approaches to drive effective meetings. Some approaches are straightforward, but some are more radical.

Most CEOs agree that being on time, reducing meeting times and setting the agenda early are ways to improve meeting effectiveness. Some have taken more extreme tactics including removing chairs and banning phones and laptops during meetings.

Technology can also have a positive impact on running meetings more effectively. From assisting with scheduling meetings to facilitating meetings altogether; there are several tools that can supercharge your meeting efficiency.

Streamlining the Scheduling Process

Finding the right time and place for your meeting can be a huge time sink before you even start your meeting. You get the endless back and forth emails to find the best meeting time or to reschedule double-booked meetings.

Outlook scheduling assistant can be a great start and help you save time finding a mutually convenient time slot with co-workers.

However, not all meetings are internal, and in most cases, you do need to meet with people outside of your organisation.

This is where tools like FindTime, Doodle or Calendy come into play. By synchronising your available or desired meeting times, you can quickly get to a mutually convenient slot.

We love using FindTime in conjunction with our solution, as it’s the free native Office 365 tool from Microsoft.

Booking Additional Services

What happens when you need to book meeting rooms and other resources and services like catering, AV equipment, or even parking? This can result in even more phone calls and emails to catering and reception staff.

Resource Management solutions enable you to book meeting rooms and other resources all in one place. On top of that, integration with Outlook Calendar provides greater end-user experience.

Making Sure Everyone is On Time

When people are late to meetings, this can result in unnecessary delays. There is the need to recap and to extend meetings to cover the agenda. Over-runs start interfering with other meetings, causing disarray not only to you but to colleagues.

Calendar apps notify individuals through email and push notifications, helping staff to be on time.

Yet, that covers only the meeting participants. What about all the other elements that come into play to get your meeting off to a fast start.

It would not be the first time a teleconferencing camera or microphone failed to work.

Similarly, visitors and co-workers from other offices can get held up in reception as they attempt to locate where they need to go.

Resource Management tools make sure that any service providers, such as technicians, reception staff and the all-important catering staff get timely notifications on exactly what meetings are taking place and what their role is in making them go like clock-work.

Maps and wayfinding displays can also help visitors navigate to the right meeting room.

Aside from helping get everyone to the meeting on time, these types of services make great first impressions, especially on visitors!

Stopping meeting no-shows

Nonetheless, getting people on time to meetings is not even your biggest challenge. Meetings that fail to take place are!

A study carried out by collaboration experts Atlassian found that 96% of the people they surveyed had at some point missed a meeting and this is money down the drain when real-estate costs are at an all-time high.

When our customer, Airbus, went through an estates rationalisation, they decreased the number of meeting rooms by 20%, but still had to facilitate the same number of meetings.

Through our utilisation reporting, they came to realise that people had a habit of booking recurring meetings and forgetting to cancel them.

That meant empty rooms that could have been used for other meetings.

Using meeting room display technology, Airbus is now automatically releasing meeting rooms when organisers don’t check in on time. This enabled them to release a staggering 3,300 hours of meeting room capacity each month.

Other companies are going more hard-core in an attempt to break the no-show habit. For example, with our solution, it’s possible to stop repeat offenders booking any more meetings for a while.

Apart from tracking actual room utilisation and check-ins, room screens enable a at-a-glance visibility of meeting room availability and create a great impression.

Remove the bricks and mortar constraints from your meetings

You should always test whether you actually need a meeting. Once you have established that, then you can decide the time and place.

Importantly, the place doesn’t necessarily need to be a meeting room. It can be a nearby café or, even better, online.

Leveraging tools like Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, Zoom and many other online meeting tools can reduce the costs associated with physical meetings.

Resource Management solutions make it extremely easy to schedule virtual meetings and conferences. With the click of a button, you can turn your meeting into a Skype for Business meeting or conference call.

Keeping your meetings on track!

Meeting agendas, as we saw, was high on the list for running effective meetings.

There are lots of great tips to on how to create an effective meeting agenda.

However, having an agenda in place and making people stick to it are two different matters. And sometimes, removing technology can be a good thing.

To make your meetings stickier, as pointed above, you can eliminate laptops and mobiles from meetings.

Laptops and mobiles can become counterproductive, especially in meetings. by allowing people to hop on to other tasks (73% of us tend to do other work).

Our tip is to only allow laptops for the designated note takers and for presentations, thus gaining more control over your meeting.

Subsequently, to be even more productive with your meeting action plans, you can use several tools for minutes and note taking.

As cloud empowers collaboration, you can share note-taking and no other tool is more straight-forward or familiar than Word; and in this case Word Online.

And, if you are running a task management tool like Planner, Asana or Trello, you can easily attach a shared Word link to the appropriate task.

Final Thoughts

Recent advancements in Cloud computing and apps have enabled us to increase our efficiency. There are lots of tools that we can use to be more productive, and meetings are no exception.

It is important to choose the right tools, get the most out of them and make sure they tie in with what you currently use for your day-to-day calendaring and collaboration.

Add technology to your meetings, like the tools we mentioned above, and watch your meeting effectiveness skyrocket and your workspace optimisation improve.

Let us know in the comments if you know other ways that technology promotes effective meetings.

Streamline your resources with room & desk booking solutions

Having a meeting organiser fail to show when you’re using video conferencing is annoying, but when a physical meeting room, effort on the part of delegates, not to mention a round of coffee and donuts are being wasted, it’s a bad habit that needs to be addressed.

How can you eliminate no-show offenders?

Outlook calendar recurring meetings are a common culprit as they are easy to set (and therefore easy to forget to cancel).

Advising staff on best practices for creating and managing repeat meetings in Outlook is always a good policy (this is a good LinkedIn video).

It’s also possible to limit the number of recurring meetings in Exchange/Office 365 – specifically when they involve resources like meeting rooms (see this Microsoft technical note), but there’s the option to be even more proactive in establishing better habits.

Like BP, you could get ‘hard-core’ and use a ‘3-strikes’ policy that really clamps down on repeat offenders – especially those that abuse the Outlook calendar recurring appointments feature.

Or you can take a ‘softer’ approach to ensure otherwise unused ‘room hours’ get re-allocated by making them immediately available to other staff members.

As you may know, you can use dedicated Microsoft Exchange (Office 365) mailboxes to represent resources such as rooms, desks and equipment, and start booking them using standard Outlook calendar.

Microsoft Outlook calendaring has become a popular way for staff to schedule meetings. Using it to book meeting rooms and other resources such as catering and AV equipment is another way of maximising your current technology infrastructure.

This white paper looks at the ‘native’ functionality available in hybrid Microsoft Exchange/Office 365 and Outlook to aid the process of managing resources.

Importantly, it highlights tips for getting the most out of Exchange resources, including the best strategies for approaching a resource booking project.


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There’s two things to bear in mind when it comes to migrating mailbox permissions to Office 365:

Number 1 – You won’t get an ‘easy ride’

The process of switching across permissions as you move to Office 365 is not usually plain-sailing. There are always caveats and exceptions which mean you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and:

  • Do the groundwork to understand what types of permissions you’re migrating, and
  • Pre-empt and be prepared to fix up what doesn’t get migrated post-migration.

This is the only way to ensure a smooth user experience and avoid a deluge of calls to your help desk. In brief, the following scenarios apply to the different migration approaches you might take (some exceptions are outlined later in this article):

  • If you’re planning a Cut-Over or Staged migration approach, using DirSync or the Azure AD Connect tool to provision mailboxes copies any folder permissions and delegate access permissions that exist on on-premises mailboxes into the cloud. Send As or Full Mailbox Access permissions, however, aren’t replicated. This means you’ll need to re-apply these permissions manually as each group is moved over.
  • If you’re running in a Hybrid environment and you’re using MRS to transition mailboxes, this does not (as yet) automatically synchronise Send As permissions. So any usage of this permission must be sussed out in advance and manually re-applied to the relevant mailboxes.
  • If instead of using MRS you plan to use a 3rd-party tool to do your mailbox migration, you will need to be prepared to have to manually re-apply all permissions post-migration unless the tool can do it for you.

 

Number 2 – You’ll need to migrate sharers together

Unless you’re planning to migrate everyone in your organisation to Office 365 over the space of a weekend (e.g. using a Cut-Over migration), you’re always going to have co-existence issues when it comes to permissions working ‘across the divide’. This is because most permissions between individuals and shared mailboxes only work when both the ‘granters’ and the ‘grantees’ (if you will) are in the same ‘place’ – i.e. all on-premises or all in the Cloud. Some permission combination only work one-way – i.e. from on-premises mailboxes accessing a shared mailbox in the cloud, but not the other way around.

If you’re migrating in a Hybrid environment, the good news is that Microsoft now officially supports folk that have been granted Full Mailbox Access to continue ‘business as usual’ regardless of where they are in the migration process. However, given that Send As or Send on Behalf permissions are commonly set up on team mailboxes or between a manager and a personal assistant, this is not in reality going to get you very far. For example, without Send on Behalf being migrated, someone on the help desk may be able to see support emails post-migration, but no longer be able to respond to them if the Help Desk mailbox is still physically on premises.

So, the top tip is to move any ‘sharers’ to Office 365 together, that is, in the same batch.

In order to tackle both of these scenarios you need to be able to assess exactly what permissions are in place.
This is a good blog that explains how to extract the on-premises permissions information you need for review.
https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/zarkatech/2015/06/11/migrate-mailbox-permissions-to-office-365/

The scripts offered in this blog let you extract permissions into a CSV file, which you can then automatically apply to Office 365 using remote PowerShell using scripts.

So what are the exceptions and other things to watch out for?

As we alluded to earlier, there are always exceptions and complications. For example:

  • Non Mail-Enabled Objects: Any permissions on non-mailbox objects (such as distribution lists or a public folder) are not migrated automatically. Therefore, you need to be able to identify and recreate these permissions in Office 365 using the Add-MailboxPermission or Add-RecipientPermission cmdlets.
  • Distribution Group Permissions: If distribution groups are used to assign permissions, you will need to drill into who is a current member of the group to ensure they are included in the same migration batch. Also you may find you have nested groups, in which case you will need to drill into these also to get the complete picture.

 

Other best practices:

Keep Users Informed on What Might Happen to Their Permissions as They Migrate – the Auto Mapping feature is unsupported when used between mailboxes in on-premises Exchange and Office 365 organisations. This is the service that ensures the mailboxes, calendars, etc. that users have permissions to are automatically added to their Outlook profile. For this reason you may wish to advise users to create a pre-migration inventory of what they have access to so they can re-subscribe post-migration.

Don’t Cancel Meetings – When deciding which mailboxes to move together, make sure you consider any shared Calendars. On a similar subject, to ensure your room booking processes continue to work seamlessly make sure resource mailboxes have all the correct permissions and In Policy booking settings (e.g. automatically accept a room booking within office hours/weekdays). If you have an individual that is set up as a delegate on a room resource mailbox (for example, with the purpose of approving or turning down booking requests), you will need to make sure you migrate that individual along with the room resource.

Have a Permissions Clear Out – As with moving house, migrations are a great opportunity to take stock of what you no longer need. This applies to getting rid of excess access rights.

You should grant minimal access to as few people as possible to accomplish the task at hand. For example, users might grant delegation rights when simply using sharing folder permissions will suffice. Delegate access rights arguably carry more powers than just the ability to review and manage a co-worker’s mail folder. With delegate access a co-worker can send emails and accept meeting invitations on behalf of an individual. They might also be configured to receive copies of meeting invites.

Also note that the administrator applied ‘Send As’ permission can be problematic from a security auditing perspective as it can be difficult to determine who sent an email in the event of a legal investigation. Was it the manager or one of their PAs?

PS – You might consider it a good idea to turn off the feature in Office 365 that allows users to share their Calendars externally.

Don’t Move Backwards – If you discover you’ve moved a manager into the Cloud and not their assistant, it’s not a good strategy to move the manager’s mailbox back down on-premises. It’s always better move the PA across as soon as possible.

Don’t Take it For Granted Microsoft has Everything Sewn Up A relatively recent bug in Exchange and Office 365 meant that – thanks to delegated access rights – emails could be accessed via OWA and effectively deleted from a mailbox without trace, even when the mailbox in question was on litigation hold.

http://windowsitpro.com/blog/owa-bug-compromises-item-preservation-litigation-and-place-holds

This should be fixed at the time of writing, but it highlights the importance of being able to understand what permissions are in place. For example, at the time of the bug being reported a suggested workaround was to disable OWA access for users on In-Place Hold.

Consider Access to Archived items – If you’re migrating archives as part of your migration, ideally you need to ensure that users can still access the archives they could view and search pre-migration, post-migration. This should include items (shortcuts) that were forwarded, for example.

Also typically the archives you move should mirror the batches of mailboxes you move, but if possible, archives can be moved first.

What customers have done in their projects

Keeping track of permissions is clearly a challenging concept and an area that can constantly evolve especially if changes are being made prior to a migration.

In line with the scripts and articles mentioned earlier, a large majority of customers we speak to prefer to proactively manage permissions and ensure there is constant visibility both pre- and post-migration.

To gain this consistent visibility and maintain full control, our customers opt for Mailscape 365 which delivers real time monitoring and intelligent, interactive reports can be scheduled through a web based dashboard to help you work out your array of permissions, including the more tricky delegate permissions before they come back to haunt you. These can be sent as a PDF or CSV which you can use in your scripts.

A few key reports are included below:

You can also do a cross reference with Office 365 once the users are migrated:

  • Office 365 Recipient Permission Report
  • Office 365 Send on Behalf permission report

Mailscape also monitors and reports on your on-premises Exchange system and other technologies such as Skype for Business, SharePoint, Active Directory and much more, so if you would like to learn more and take a test-drive or see a demo, get in touch.

Migrating Mailbox permissions to Office 365

Mailscape also monitors and reports on your on-premises Exchange system and other technologies such as Skype for Business, SharePoint, Active Directory and much more, so if you would like to learn more and take a test-drive or see a demo, get in touch.

Switching from fixed desks to flexible working spaces is challenging on many levels:

Not only do you require an enterprise-level desk booking solution, that’s scalable and flexible enough to reflect your workspace booking needs, you also need to pay attention to the ‘people challenges’ of implementing a new regime for managing how your workspace is used.

When Notting Hill Genesis Housing Association decided to adopt a flexi-working environment as part of a relocation to its new flagship office in Camden, the people issues were much bigger than they’d anticipated.

If only a desk booking solution was as simple as a cube-shaped light

According to Jenny Quigley, Project Manager at Notting Hill Genesis,

In retrospect, the cultural change aspect of the project would have benefited from some external mediation. Staff were taken aback when we told them they wouldn’t have fixed desks anymore, even though we were trying to provide more flexible facilities.  Some even had to speak with management before they got on board with our proposals.

Assuming you’ve addressed the people-issues of change in culture, loss of territory, concerns over hygiene (especially with Covid-19), secure storage and so on, and you’ve cracked the IT infrastructure side of things such as providing laptops or virtual desktops and call-routing, the next challenges are around how you provision workspaces on a practical level.

  • Can staff book desks easily, both on the day and in advance?
  • How will you physically signpost desks?  Can they be located easily?
  • Is it possible to find a desk near a work-colleague or another resource you need to use, like the photo-copier?
  • Can desks be automatically put back ‘into the pool’ in the event of a no-show or early check-out?
  • Can desk bookings be linked with your calendar and ID card system?

These are all critical factors in ensuring flexible working spaces get used – not abused.

Unfortunately, a desk booking solution can’t fix what to do with the desk plant, the kids’ hand paintings, or where to put the team’s secret biscuit stash, and all the other political wrangling that you might encounter along the way, but our project team is on hand with guidance and best practices to help smooth over the ‘soft but hard’ issues.

Hot Desking booking software

Essential has helped hundreds of UK enterprises successfully introduce flexible workspace management initiatives through enterprise level workspace booking solutions

STOP PRESS: COVID-19 means that contactless operation for your room booking service across all functionality outlined in this article is now VITAL.

It’s an all-too-common problem:

You try to book a meeting room in Outlook calendar and there’s nothing available.  Then, on the day you needed the resource, you find yourself walking past corridors of empty meeting rooms.

Why does this happen?  Who are these wasteful people?  How can we stop this?

It doesn’t help that Outlook calendar makes it easy to book recurring meetings, and people simply forget to cancel a meeting, or perhaps they are off ill.  But that’s a huge expense you could do without.

Implemented correctly, Outlook-integrated room screens can help you get maximum room utilisation at all times and put an end to bad room-booking etiquette.

Here’s 4 essential room screen features that you should look for to achieve the best results:

  1. Check-In with Auto-Release – This is the ability to set up an on-screen room check-in function that works to a pre-defined time window.  The idea is that if no-one shows up within, say, 10 minutes after the meeting was due to start, the room is automatically released to be used by someone else.
  2. Check-In with Authentication – This is a next step on from above, where basically you capture the ID* of the person that booked the room as they arrive.  It stops the scenario where just anyone could press a check-in button.  It also gives you a very accurate fix on who is consistently wasting rooms, so that you can do something about it.  *Ideally you need an authentication mechanism that ties in with your AD system and lets you use an existing ID card, a short PIN number or confirmation via a mobile device.
  3. Auto-Blocking – Imagine someone defaults on a room booking 3 times in a row (or whatever number you want).  We can now register this fact and automatically cancel his or her subsequent bookings for the same room.  Admittedly, this action might be considered extreme – you might just want to flag repeat offenders so they can be tackled differently – but being proactive about repeat offenders could save you thousands of meeting room hours per month.
  4. At-a-glance Availability Status – Importantly, if a room is released, the room screen itself should show ‘at a glance’ that it’s free to be re-booked.  For example, staff should be able to see a ‘glowing green’ status light from the end of a corridor or see free rooms on a overview screen in reception.  They should also see clearly when the room is scheduled to be used next, so they know they’ll have enough time for their meeting.

There’s lots of other things you should look for when selecting a room screen that will save money and help staff get the most out of available facilities, but simply by releasing rooms when the organiser doesn’t show up on time is a great start.

This functionality alone is enabling an international aerospace giant to release 3,300 hours of meeting room capacity each month.

Another key thing you need to know is that although room screens look very slick – they aren’t an extravagance – especially when you realise how much they can save your company.  For example, our solution lets you use just one screen to represent multiple rooms – so you don’t have to have a screen per room.

Room Screen Solution

Start managing your meeting room & desk bookings more effectively with the only solution built on your Exchange & Office 365 infrastructure.

If you’re thinking of using interactive floor-plans to enable meeting room and hot-desk booking, there’s lots to consider to ensure the best ‘end user experience’. Here are some top tips from our chief floor-plan designer on creating a successful solution…..

Room & desk booking systems are becoming increasingly popular as real-estate prices continue to escalate.

If you don’t have the budget to put individual touch screens outside each room or on each desk, you can use overview screens or ‘kiosks’ that enable resource booking and navigation via an interactive floor-plan.

You can also deliver interactive floor plans from any browser or mobile devices to enable a contactless, on-the-go booking and way-finding experience.

Here are some important things to consider in order to ensure a successful solution :

1. Locate your overview screens in a place that’s immediately visible – either on arrival at the main reception area or immediately opposite the lift/stair lobby. 

Although placing a screen next to cluster of meeting rooms or desks is a great idea, don’t overlook the fact that staff visiting from other sites may not know how to reach this point in the first place. You could consider having a display only ‘way finder’ screen on arrival, and then an interactive booking screen placed nearer the rooms/resources.

2. Design the floor-plan in ‘heads up orientation’ to aid comprehension. 

So, for example, if the ‘East Wing’ of your building is off to the left of the viewer as he/she faces the kiosk screen, the floor plan should show the East Wing as being on the left, even though you might logically think East is on the right. Again, it’s important to understand exactly where the screens will be in relation to the resources you want to book and not just copy the orientation of CAD drawings if you are planning for a new-build office.

3. Make sure you have a power supply and network cabling plumbed in to exactly where you want your screen(s). 

You’d be surprised how often this point is overlooked – especially in a new build. Bear in mind that you might not have access to the site itself until well after the first fix, so you need to study CAD diagrams closely and be able to work out where everything will be and make changes if necessary. Cables added at a later date can spoil the end results, leaving your screen looking like something in an Ikea showroom. If you plan to use WiFi it’s worth checking that the signal will be strong enough to reach your desired screen location – especially if you’re in an older building with thick walls.

4. Match in with the décor. 

If you have colour-coded carpets or room dividers – build these colours into your floor-plans. This all helps the end user experience as they navigate between zones in the office. It also results in a very slick-looking end product.

5. Tie in with any room names or desk numbering schemes. 

Names or numbers should also be used consistently – both on the floor-plan and ‘in real life’. For example, rooms and desks should be labelled to match in with what’s on the screen. Again, don’t underestimate how tricky this can be. A CAD plan might start out with a totally different naming/numbering convention to the final plan produced by the facilities team. Also be prepared for lots of last-minute changes.

6. Add facilities, fire exits, etc. to the floor-plan. 

Knowing that the ‘Avon Room’ is just next to ‘the loos’ is a useful guide to navigation. It can also enhance the well-being of both staff and visitors. As well as signposting their nearest escape route in the event of a fire, it also means folk that like lots of coffee can choose a desk that is close to both the kitchen and the WCs.

7. Think about use-ability. 

Screens should be accessible by all, including wheelchair users and those that are visually impaired. So think about the height they’re installed at and don’t be tempted to cram too much detail onto one screen. You’re best breaking down a large floor area into separate zones. This is where different naming conventions and colour schemes (e.g. Left Wing, purple carpeted zone) can help with navigation.

As you can see – there’s lots to think about (this is just the tip of the iceberg) and you may have to liaise with several different skill sets – including outside building and design contractors – to make sure everything comes together when your screen goes live.

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