20 May 2009
Difficult times require a break with past practices. Companies are being forced to reduce travel, as well as limit partner meetings, customer events and employee gatherings. But, efficient teamwork and strengthened customer relationships are needed to weather the storm, making communication paramount. Reduced budgets and a heightened need for communication are causing a communication gap.
According to Columbia Professor Amar Bhide in a recent BusinessWeek article, “[recession] is often a stimulus for the adoption of new technologies. The decade of highest productivity growth in the 20th century was the 1930s. In the 1930s, a lot of technologies developed in the 1920s were put to use because people were looking for any angle to improve their productivity.” Coming out of this current economic crisis, companies that have closed the communication gap will be this generation’s winners in the corporate world.
Video conferencing and telepresence, in conjunction with desktop tools from Microsoft and Net 2.0, are the technologies that will bridge the communication gap. Telepresence and video conferencing – my own industry – is one of the few bright spots in the economy today because it enables the change that is needed; not just short-term change for a quick fix to current woes, but lasting change that will transform the global business environment. I believe that if everyone knew what video could do, everyone would want it.
Do more with less
Doing more with less should always be a priority in business. Video technology is a proven way to improve the bottom line, and realise a return on investment in a matter of months. To do this though, it can’t be relegated to the board room or executive offices. Businesses need video solutions that can be easily deployed across the enterprise so everyone has access. Only when we create collaborative communities within our organisations, can we experience the true benefits of telepresence and video conferencing.
For example, TNT, the global mail and packaging service, implemented video technology from the CEO to its front-line employees as part of its ‘Planet Me’ programme to become the first carbon neutral mail and express delivery company in the world. As a result, the company has significantly reduced its environmental impact, and is on track to save nearly €11.5m over four years by replacing costly travel with face-to-face video communication. They are also on target to deliver a return on investment of 71 percent.
In fact, video’s ability to replace the need for in-person meetings was highlighted by Gartner analysts earlier this year who predicted that in the next three years high-definition video meeting solutions, such as those offered by Tandberg, will replace 2.1 million airline seats annually.
Transform your business
There is more to video and telepresence than just money saved, however. There is money earned and competitive advantage. By removing the delay of travel and providing expertise anywhere in the world at anytime, organisations have been inspired to implement new, more efficient business processes.
Take Statoil, one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies. It uses video communication to connect platforms in the Norwegian Sea with support centres thousands of miles away on the coast to help shore-based experts quickly diagnose problems. Now, issues that used to take Statoil two months to address are resolved in two weeks. This significant reduction in downtime is invaluable.
Vodafone has also benefited from cost savings and productivity gains by deploying video. The company has seen an estimated 25 percent reduction in the number of business trips made during a two year period, resulting in double digit millions of cost savings. Vodafone sees video conferencing as a complement to face-to-face meetings for regional and local office collaboration. When new services are defined, there is significant cross-office input throughout the development and product launch process due to the importance of local content. As the network of video conferencing facilities expands, the ease of use increases the efficiency of the company’s decision-making process.
The business applications for video are vast. What all of these applications have in common is that companies using video are able to drive innovation faster and more effectively through face-to-face communication. When location no longer matters, we can speed decision-making; bring experts into a meeting at a moment’s notice, no matter where they are; and respond to customers, suppliers and other issues as soon as a need arises.
People are actively turning to video because it enables them to work smarter. The benefits of telepresence and video are not new, but they are more important than ever. Video is also a green business tool that can help reduce an organisation’s carbon footprint, while improving corporate social responsibility and employee satisfaction.
If a single company enabled 100 employees to work from home one day per week, 103,080 fewer pounds of carbon dioxide would be emitted into the atmosphere each year. That’s the equivalent of saving trees covering an area the size of five-and-a-half football pitches. Furthermore, a recent study found that telecommuters reported higher job satisfaction and loyalty to their employers, as well as less stress and improved work-family balance. Video is the key to helping employees stay happy, productive and connected, and gives managers peace of mind because they can reach their employees face-to-face at any time.
In addition to saving money and transforming their businesses, both TNT and Vodafone value video conferencing and telepresence for the carbon emissions reductions that they have enabled. Through the use of Tandberg’s video conferencing management system, Vodafone is able to track and measure the savings in business trips and the subsequent reduction in carbon emissions. In the financial year 2007/2008 Vodafone estimated that the use of video conferencing facilities saved over 17,000 tonnes of C02 from a reduction in business travel.
Close the communication gap
As we have seen during crises in the past, technology is applied in new ways. Video and telepresence allow everyone to connect within a global video community with natural face-to-face communication. It is a way of working that closes the communication gap and enables us to leverage our communities to accelerate decision-making and make the most of the talent on our teams. In this way, video can unify organisations.
At Tandberg, we average 75,000 video calls a month. Everyone at the company passionately believes that if everyone knew what video could do, they would want it. It is the new way of working.
To book a tour of one of Tandberg’s European Briefing Centres, or for further information, call +44 (0)1784 274600.
Lean and Green – Tandberg takes a look at Vodafone
Vodafone serves 279 million customers worldwide. One of its key success factors is its ability to provide a wide spectrum of services to a large and diverse pool of subscribers. Its customers give Vodafone significant economies of scale and bargaining power. To protect and grow its customer base, Vodafone must successfully adapt its services to local market conditions. Video conferencing is a critical communication tool for collaboration at a regional and local level.
From January 2006 through April 2008, it is estimated that total usage resulted in a 25 percent reduction in the number of business trips made during the two year period, resulting in double digit millions of cost savings.
The company-wide initiative to encourage video conferencing adoption is championed by Vodafone’s Dusseldorf-based Dr Armin Hessler, Head of Customer & Service Operations – IT, Vodafone Group Services, who wants to:
• Cultivate the habit of using video to enhance communication so that the experience can translate into Vodafone’s own service offerings to its customers
• Facilitate quality collaboration between the local and regional shared services operation centres
• Meet its corporate social responsibilities by tracking the reduction in carbon emissions as a result of fewer business trips
Cultivating the habit
Dr Hessler’s team carefully analysed the deployment of existing systems, patterns of use, and employee views of the facilities that were then available. It then implemented a ‘video conferencing ecosystem’ to enhance and support the use of video conferencing into the future:
• Standardisation on a single vendor’s technology
• Development of a first-class control environment for video conferencing
• Promoting and creating usage incentives
• Creating alternative, dedicated accommodation for the end-points
The team found that Tandberg’s product portfolio offered functionality, simplicity and reliability – three factors essential to the success of video conferencing in its organisation. Tandberg’s product portfolio addressed Vodafone’s interconnectivity challenges, and is capable of supporting corporate-wide use of video conferencing end-points, regardless of location.
Vodafone was keen to deploy a technology that was easy to use. At the click of a button, Tandberg’s solution enables a user to check the availability of meeting participants, sign up for and adjust a video conferencing session. Finally, Vodafone’s requirement for reliability was fulfilled by Tandberg’s IP-based technology, providing a good and consistently stable video and audio user experience. With the Tandberg solution in place, the Vodafone team set about encouraging usage through education and incentives. A typical, everyday video meeting involves 2-3 people in one of Vodafone’s offices, connecting with a similar number of people at one or two other locations. To cater for this need, VC lounges were introduced with a single screen system in a room optimised for four people. The lounges are conspicuous, and a simple scheduling system allows users to check availability, sign up, and even have a cup of coffee while waiting for their turn. The high visibility of the VC lounges has helped to raise the profile of video conferencing, generating immediate employee acceptance.
The VC team also relied on internal marketing to encourage increased usage of the new service. A positive campaign that emphasises the new video conferencing facilities over the negative connotations of a reduction in travel budget. Slogans as ‘try-instead-of-fly’, ‘say goodbye to red eye’ and ‘Spend more time with your family’ and rewards for ‘trying’ instead of ‘flying’ were introduced.
The result has been a significant growth in video conferencing sessions by the end of financial year 2007/8. Between FY 2005/6 and FY 2007/8 the total number of video calls trebled, from 28,440 to 85,710, as a result of an increased use of existing units, and a marked increase in video conferencing end-points. The figure illustrates the estimated number of trips saved each financial year. It is estimated that the number of trips saved in financial year 2005/6 was 14,220 from 22 Vodafone locations. By financial year 2007/8, the estimated number of trips saved exceeded 40,000, a 200 percent increase in two years.