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If they do it in Utah it's GOT to be good

October 22, 2009 at 4:15 pm PST

In an effort to make some needed room in a tight state budget, the State of Utah recently made the decision to close government offices on Fridays. To accommodate the loss of a workday, the state moved from an 8 hour workweek to a 10 hour workweek Monday through Thursday.

A recent article by Associated Press reporter Paul Foy looked back on that schedule-shrinking decision to see what the end result was in savings. According to Foy, the State of Utah saved more than $500,000 in energy expenditures, $200,000 in reduced janitorial services and significant savings in overtime. The end result was a total savings of $4.8 million.

In addition to the significant cost savings, there’s been an unexpected result. Employees are happier. More than 85 percent of government employees responded to a survey saying they were happy with the switch to four longer workdays a week with three day weekends.

However, despite all of the positives from this new program, there have only been a handful of states looking to emulate it. There are multiple reasons why states may be hesitant to pull the trigger on the four-day workweek, but the largest is the fact that four-day weeks make state agencies and offices unavailable to constituents for three days a week instead of the standard two.

For states looking for the cost savings that comes with keeping employees away from the office, but are hesitant to fully embrace four-day workweeks, video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions like the ones provided by TANDBERG are the perfect compromise.

By implementing VTC solutions, states enable face-to-face communication between employees regardless of distance. This ability to seamlessly communicate and collaborate removes many barriers keeping state organizations and agencies from embracing telework and enables employees to continue to accomplish mission-critical tasks from outside of the office.

By implementing VTC solutions for non-constituent-facing employees, states can begin scheduling telework days and encouraging entire offices to work in a distributed manner. This allows states to keep agencies and organizations functioning five days a week while reaping the rewards of reduced energy costs, less janitorial expenses and reduced overtime from increased productivity.

VTC brings all of the savings of a four-day workweek without having to deprive constituents of important services for whole days at a time. Now that’s a cost saving solution that benefits employees and constituents.

Going green can get your agency out of the red

October 20, 2009 at 4:28 pm PST

Scientific reports of melting polar icecaps and global climate change have led to people all over the world seeing green. With carbon offsets being purchased to counteract the environmental impact of everything from corporate travel to the Super Bowl, green has clearly become the new black, affecting every business and individual around the world.

In a world that’s suddenly gone green, the government has been slow to embrace green initiatives. In fact, a recent study done by the 1105 Government Information Group found that green technology initiatives are one of the lowest priorities for government.

The study, which was conducted by surveying 1105’s extensive readership of government influencers, asked respondents to rank 18 technology initiatives in order of priority and importance to their organization. The findings were startling in today’s green-obsessed society, with green being ranked a lowly 16th out of 18.

At TANDBERG, we believe that green initiatives shouldn’t be the rented mule of government priorities when it comes to technology spending. With the ongoing recession, one of the major challenges facing our government is unbalanced budgets and a need to cut spending. Green initiatives may help save the planet, but they are also one of the best ways to save money over time.

Take video teleconferencing (VTC) for example. VTC solutions enable people to communicate face-to-face as if they were in the same room regardless of how far apart they are. This allows agencies to significantly reduce their carbon footprint by making emissions-spewing car and plane travel less necessary, and also saves money in plane fare, hotel costs, per diem and productivity loss while employees are out of pocket.

What’s even more interesting about VTC is that it not only makes organizations greener and more efficient, but also addresses some of the initiatives that were the highest priority to the government based on the study’s findings. These include:

  • Increase operational efficiency/productivity – VTC and telework reduce commutes, cut travel time and effectively make employees more productive … and happier.
  • Information sharing – VTC enables face-to-face communication and the ability to share desktop images, ensuring that information travels quickly and effectively.
  • Continuity of operations – In the event of disaster or epidemic, VTC equipped employees are capable of completing mission-critical tasks from the safety of their own homes.
  • Increase collaboration with other agencies – Fast and effective communication regardless of physical location means that agencies can collaborate regardless of where they are located.

With green initiatives and a desire to save the planet at the forefront of today’s most important societal issues, it’s imperative that the government reprioritize its technology spending and lead the way by embracing technologies like VTC, which can make government more efficient. With the money-saving power of green technology and the current economic downturn, can government really afford not to?

For more information on how your agency can go green, and a calculator that enables you to figure out your agency’s true carbon footprint from TANDBERG, visit http://www.seegreennow.com.

User Stories – Gary

The next in our User Stories series, Gary describes how video conferencing and telepresence technology can cause new users to forget they’re not in the same room.

What is Immersive Telepresence?

Immersive TANDBERG Telepresence T1

Immersive TANDBERG Telepresence T1

Many products are labeled “telepresence,” but the truth is most don’t deliver the true-to-life immersive experience that is the hallmark of telepresence.  According to Frost & Sullivan, telepresence is a tightly integrated set of visual, audio and network technologies and services that together deliver an immersive, life-like communication experience.  But what does this mean?

Three Qualities of Immersive Telepresence:

The goal for immersive telepresence is to reproduce the best characteristics of direct human interaction that result from a face-to-face meeting. This is accomplished when:

  1. Participants can all see each other on the screen no matter who is talking. Unless everyone is visible you miss important non-verbal expressions and reactions that provide important insight. It’s arguable that non-verbal queues are even more telling than verbal communication.
  2. Participants can all see and hear each other in the highest clarity, no matter how they join the call. It should be true-to-life, so you should be able to see the people you are talking to as clearly as if they were sitting across the table from you.
  3. The technology is  seamless. Participants shouldn’t be aware of the technology that enables the immersive experience—they should simply be able to go about their business without worrying about how it’s being supported. This includes easy sharing of multimedia and addition and removal of participants from the call.

As with all visual communication tools, telepresence must deliver an interoperable, consistent, predictable and reliable collaboration experience.  Done right, it will change the way your business gets done.

The inflated price tag for broadband

October 15, 2009 at 4:34 pm PST

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been tasked with creating a national broadband policy for the US that would bring high-bandwidth broadband access to all Americans. In their first report, the FCC placed the price tag at a staggering $350 billion. Granted, that is the cost of a super-fast 100mbps broadband network which more than accommodates current bandwidth-hogging applications and activities, but even a slower 3mbps network was priced at $20 billion.

Although many Americans who live in rural and under-served suburban areas would agree that this price is reasonable, it has the potential to cause fear and resentment in some tax payers; even though the private sector is expected to foot a large part of the bill.

At TANDBERG, we feel that broadband is something that no American should have to live without. We support the expansion of broadband infrastructure across the country, but we don’t feel that the price tag is as accurate as it can be.

Why? Much like the more expensive washing machine that cuts back on water usage, or the pricey double-paned windows that cut heating expenses, broadband infrastructure’s initial steep investment is going to lead to significant savings over time.

A great example of this savings is TANDBERG’s video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions. Broadband enables VTC and other advanced communication technologies, and VTC use can lead to significant cost savings.

By enabling and embracing broadband and VTC, the government will be making significant strides in the proliferation of teleworkers. Teleworkers save considerable tax payer dollars, and reduce operating expenses for the businesses and government agencies they work for.

Teleworkers using VTC have less need to commute since they’re able to communicate face-to-face from anywhere. This reduces the need for pricey transportation projects and infrastructure paid for with tax-payer dollars. Teleworkers also cost their employers less money since they use less resources, are more content, productive and have better work-life balances.

The use of VTC in education and healthcare environments can also save significant amounts of money. We’ve detailed these uses and how they can be more efficient and effective than traditional healthcare and educational practices in previous blog posts, and the potential for cost savings from these implementations is downright astounding.

When reading the FCC’s report on the estimated price tag of a national broadband policy, don’t let sticker shock jade you into thinking that the return on the investment can’t possibly justify the costs. The TRUE cost of broadband is much lower when the ultimate cost savings is taken into account.

When it comes to broadband in America, the need is great, and the return will more than justify the expense.