Many companies and government agencies that have been hesitant to embrace telework and video teleconferencing (VTC) got a real wake-up call over the course of the last few weeks as an ash cloud has caused more than a few travelers some heartache.
The problems started when the ash cloud, the product of an eruption from an Icelandic volcano, was declared a safety threat for air travel. The result was shuttered airports and grounded airplanes across Europe. The fear was that ash could clog important instruments and gauges, or could cause in-flight damage to engines and other parts causing mechanical failures.
Although safety is always a concern for travelers, the week-long delays are more than an inconvenience. Newspapers are reporting about individuals trapped at their vacation destinations with no additional funds to pay for the unexpected charges such as hotel stays and food. Business travelers are growing increasingly concerned about work and meetings missed. Overall, the entire air industry in Europe has grinded to a halt, costing those companies, and many others significant funds.
Although airplanes are once again taking to the skies, this recent incident is incredible validation of a point we’ve raised many times on Break Down the Walls … air travel for business is just so 90’s.
If business travelers and government employees stuck in Europe instead chose to meet face-to-face via VTC, they could still enjoy the natural communication experience of meeting in-person all from the safety of their own desks or conference rooms.
VTC enables the same collaboration and communication as an in-person meeting without the need to be in the same room. This means less air travel, and less chance of something like a randomly-erupting volcano in Iceland trapping employees in foreign countries. This also saves significant amounts of money by eliminating the need for expensive plane tickets, hotel rooms and other travel expenses.
In today’s economic and political environment, where the federal government is being pushed to cut expenses by the Obama administration, and where state and local governments are hard-pressed for tax revenue, that savings can go a long way.
Volcanoes may not have killed the dinosaurs (cigarettes did!) … but they just may kill business travel as we know it. VTC breaks down the walls between people and allows them to communicate naturally regardless of the miles separating them. Now that’s a new way of working.
The TANDBERG Public Sector team just wrapped up the 4th Annual Federal Video Teleconferencing User Forum at the Dulles Hyatt in Herndon, Va.
This year’s event was expanded to include the entire federal government (DoD and Civilian representatives), and the result was a large and amazingly successful forum.
More than 175 participants representing more than 60 government agencies were present at this year’s event. Each one of them left having experienced the latest video teleconferencing (VTC) technologies, and learned best practices for VTC implementation.
Speakers from the United States Senate discussed their successful roll out of a comprehensive enterprise VTC system. Also, members of the Department of Veterans Affairs and United States Army Medical Command discussed their telemedicine solutions, which is the largest telemedicine implementation in the world. Appearing via VTC, representatives from the the Army discussed how their telemedicine solution is being used to treat and diagnosis wounded warriors and other patients across the world.
Also appearing via VTC from his office in Peterson AFB, Colorado Springs, Colo., Major General Michael J. Basla, Vice Commander of Air Force Space Command, delivered the keynote presentation. General Basla spoke about how video is becoming universally accepted across the Department of Defense and has astonishing benefits in helping the warfighter accomplish missions and in saving lives. Brigadier General David Warner, AFSPC Director of Communications and Logistics, then interacted with Forum participants in an in-depth Q&A session.
Overall, the forum was an incredible opportunity for government thought leaders to network, and share best practices for the implementation and uses of VTC solutions. With multiple speakers appearing via video, attendees also got to experience just how natural and interactive video communication can be. This was especially obvious during Q&A sessions and when speakers interacted directly with their audience.
The one unifying thing the TANDBERG team heard from every attendee was a universal acceptance that VTC was a rapidly evolving tool that will increase collaboration and communication, enable agencies to operate more effectively and efficiently, and can save the government significant money by reducing the need for travel and saving time out of the office. Attendees understood that like email, and the telephone before it, video is the future of communication.
With TANDBERG now becoming a part of Cisco, telepresence solutions are taking another step towards becoming one part of the circle of unified communications services that all organizations are looking to embrace. Hopefully, this forum helped people overcome any fears of the implementation and use of VTC and will work to drive increased adoption of video across the federal government.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and it has come a long way from “reduce, reuse and recycle.” The Nature Conservancy lists video conferencing as an “Easy Thing You Can Do To Help Our Climate.” Here are 5 tips for how you can use video conferencing and telepresence to go green and advance business goals:
TELECOMMUTING — Enable people to work from home and still be fully engaged in the workplace. Save costs on real estate and other operational costs, while increasing productivity and morale of employees who don’t spend hours in traffic.
GLOBAL MEETINGS — Whether meeting with the board or your global team, there’s no need for everyone to take a long flight. Just a short walk down the hall or a quick call from the desk and everyone can meet face-to-face without the carbon emissions.
CUSTOMER BRIEFING CENTERS — Video communication unites purchasers, clients, sales staff and engineers in real time, without travel to facilitate instant decision making and collaboration, reducing the negative environmental impact from travel.
DISTANCE LEARNING — Schools, hospitals and other training facilities get an added lesson in conservation when they connect via video conferencing to remote institutions to enhance learning opportunities and save on costs. They can also easily share recorded content for future lessons.
HR RECRUITING — Initial face-to-face screenings of out-of-town candidates cut costs and carbon emissions by eliminating the need to travel for interviews. Moreover, video interviews are much more effective than phone interviews since managers can read candidates’ facial expressions.
A recent post discussed how ubiquitous broadband access can make all of these possibilities a reality and pave the way for a greener and more robust economy.
Follow this link for more tips on how to use video conferencing and telepresence to go green and advance business goals. Learn more ways you can go green and calculate your carbon footprint at www.seegreennow.com.
There’s been so much coverage of telework lately, and that’s all for the good. Government needs to do a lot more of it, to become more efficient and to unlock the productivity potential of public sector workers.
A lot of the coverage focuses on the technology and/or the policy component to encouraging telework. But what’s it really like from the individual’s perspective? The New York Times has a good story here.