The idea of having a control room appeals to a growing number of organizations and industries. Among the unusual suspects are the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, financial institutions, educational campuses, and many Fortune 500 corporations. But why do they need a control room? And could it be that you need one too?
Oct. 22, 2020 - Every company or organization has one or more workflows that they need to monitor or control. These workflows can either be application-based such as surveillance and monitoring or process control, industry-based such as utilities, military, government, transportation, etc. Or even a hybrid of both bases. Some of those organizations use a dedicated control room to do that: they either use large video walls (a common operational picture) or smaller operator workstations (personal operational pictures) to look at traffic camera streams, security videos, manufacturing processes, utility grids, maps, social media, or live news.
Most of these organizations have very good reasons why they organize their decision-making workflows in a control room. As for Barco-equipped control rooms, one security and surveillance customer study reported that they were able to speed up their decision-making process by a factor of 6. Another customer reported a 30% increase in workflow productivity. Whether you are working for a private company or public organization, those are outcomes that speak for themselves.
Why a control room?
Control rooms help to organize and improve workflows where decisions need to be made based on large amounts of (visual) data. This is the case in a utilities center, a traffic control center, but just as well in a healthcare operations center, a network operations center, or a corporate risk management center.
Does your company need a control room? That may depend on your workflow.
Let's look at some of the most typical workflows that can be supported by a control room: from human-centered viewing to machine-aided resolving.
The common operational picture (COP): In this workflow, a team of operators or stakeholders is monitoring a single large overview display of relevant information. A common operational picture allows those stakeholders to achieve situational awareness. This workflow follows management by supervision principles and depends on achieving visual collaboration.
Shared situational awareness: This is where you share your common operational picture with a different decision-making unit in the same facility (e.g. a break-out room or a situation room). This workflow follows management by escalation principles and depends on achieving hierarchical collaboration.
The personal operational picture (POP): Here, operators and stakeholders interact directly with their content, through personal operator workspaces. They can select the content sources they want to see and share that content with others in the control room, in order to make joint decisions. This workflow follows management by exception principles and depends on achieving operational control.
Distributed decision-making: This is a form of collaborative decision-making where information is shared outside the control room organization, for example with another agency. This workflow follows management by collaboration in its truest form and depends on achieving inter-agency teaming.
Machine workflow optimizations: In automated workflows, decisions are learnt, aided, and even predicted by robots consisting of smart algorithms, machine learning, or artificial intelligence. This workflow follows management by automation principles and depends on achieving a machine-learning platform of finite-state and predictable-state automation on possible decisions, that either flags for a human-expert approval or is entrusted enough to authorize decisions up to a certain emergency level.
In this continuum from top to bottom, we see workflows becoming more complex, from centralized to distributed, from hierarchical to teaming-based, from management by supervision to management by exception, and from manual to automated. The more you move to the right side of the spectrum, the smarter and faster decisions can be made. It is also important to mention that one or more of the above workflows can perfectly co-exist in any given operational environment.
So do I need one or not?
If you see this spectrum of decision-making workflows, then the question 'do I need a control room' may translate into more specific questions like:
- Do I need to combine multiple content types and sources in one view to make decisions?
- Can the way my information is presented improve my decision-making?
- Do I need to be able to interact with the content or personalize my workspace?
- Does my content need to be shared among colleagues?
- Does my content need to be distributed with external stakeholders or agencies?
- Are the decisions I take on a day-to-day basis predictably similar in nature or totally unique each time?
A control room may not be typical for your industry, but if the answer to one or more of the above questions is 'yes', then a control room might indeed improve your workflow.
Instead of asking yourself what is common practice in your industry, a better question may be: 'What does my workflow look like today?' and 'Can I improve my workflow to achieve better outcomes for my organization?' Of course, you don't know what you don't know. However, asking the above-mentioned questions may be a first step towards improving your decision-making workflows with a control room.
Want to improve your workflow? Do you need a sounding board for your ideas? Or just want to contribute to our body of knowledge as an industry expert? Then, get in touch with one of our control room experts today!
About the author
Strategic Marketing Director – Control Rooms
Suchit Rout heads the strategic marketing team at Barco and focuses on elevating critical-decision-making experiences in control rooms worldwide. He is based in Atlanta, USA.
Mr. Rout has over fifteen years of strategic marketing management experience across various regions and economies of the world. During his tenure at Barco since 2007, he has held various positions in technology, product marketing, market development, strategic business development, key account management, strategic alliances, and strategic marketing management. He speaks English and Spanish as primary business languages.