U.S. Government Seeks to Save $15 Billion With Video Conferencing

Video conferencing has many benefits, not the least of which is economical. As travel costs rise and travel budgets tighten, many in business have moved toward online, real-time communication tools. According to The Business of Federal Technology, it appears that the U.S. government may be following suit. This July, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation that would potentially cut $15 billion in travel expenses incurred annually by federal agencies through the increased use of videoconferencing.

The bill, titled "Cut the Waste, Stay in Place Act of 2013," and introduced by Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, (R-Pa.), would call on the director of the Office of Management and Budget to develop a plan to reduce the federal government’s travel expenditures by as much as 50 percent by 2017. 

Specifically, the bill calls on the use of video conferencing to achieve a significant budget cut. Writers of the bill claim the following three benefits to adopting this new measure:

  1. Video conferencing has been under-utilized thus far, and therefore its full potential has not been completely realized.
  2. The move from hardware-based software to browser-based software makes video conferencing technology less expensive and more accessible to more parties.
  3. Video conferencing enhances communication, improves problem-solving, reduces carbon footprints, facilitates better collaboration, and shortens project time periods, among many other benefits.

This new bill builds on previous orders issued via the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which already calls for agencies to reduce travel expenditures by 30 percent compared to 2010 levels. Under the umbrella of previous initiatives, many agencies have already made motions toward collaborative technology.

NASA is one such agency. It saved $21 million in fiscal 2012 by replacing travel with video conferencing when it was possible. The Naval Safety & Environmental Training Center has successfully used video conferencing for better training programs--providing video-based education to over 10,000 government civilians and Navy personnel all over the world. The Center also adapted its mission-critical U.S. Navy Safety Professional Development, replacing its San Diego conference with a video broadcast. This adaptation reduced a potential $1.5 million travel tab to less than $100,000.

The budget saving advantages of video conferencing are undeniable, and the U.S. government agrees. Real-time communication benefits are realized while maintaining a responsible hold on expenditures.

Companies Drop Email in Favor of Direct Communication Tools

According to CBC News, Italian sports car maker Ferrari delivered an eyebrow raising directive to their employees earlier this month: Sending the same email to more than three in-house recipients is no longer allowed. In the message sent to its employees, Ferrari cited time wastage and inefficiency as the impetus behind the new order. It stated:

The injudicious sending of emails with dozens of recipients often on subjects with no relevance to most of the latter is one of the main causes of time wastage and inefficiency in the average working day in business.

Simply stated, the email regulation encourages employees to talk more and write less

Ferrari is not the only company to recognize the importance of direct communication and restructure the workplace to facilitate it. Atos, a global technology firm, announced a zero email initiative in 2011 with plans to phase out email--and adopt replacement tools such as video conferencing--completely by 2014. Atos chief executive, Thierry Breton, had estimated that barely 10% of the 200 internal emails employees received per day were useful. In fact, Breton likened email to "pollution" in an otherwise productive day. 

Less typing means more talking!

Less typing means more talking!

In a March 2013 update on the changes, The Connected Business reported ongoing and significant success. Since 2011, Atos employees have trimmed email and adopted more cloud-based collaboration tools that facilitate real-time communication. The IT firm expects to see complete obsoletion of internal emails by the end of 2013, with the eventual goal of zero emails--internal and external--in 2014.

The move away from email and toward more collaborative communication technology started much earlier. Consider a study published by Wainhouse Research in 2005, The Business Case for Video Conferencing. In this study, authors Andrew W. Davis and Ira M. Weinstein stated that although email had at one time been an important technological development and served its users well, by 2005, it had become so day-to-day that it was bothersome. Everyone used email for everything, whether it was of value or not. The study suggests, even eight years ago, that a natural evolution was nudging us away from email toward more advanced real-time communication technology.

The authors of the Wainhouse study reported what we, Atos, and Ferrari know now: that real-time communication like video conferencing, cuts email clutter, increases productivity, improves problem solving, and adds purpose to our interactions. The trend will only continue. Are you on board with the right tools?

Video Conferencing: Guaranteed to Save You Time and Money!!!

“I want a driveway so long you couldn’t see the end of it even if you were 26.1 miles into running a marathon on it. But why would you run? That’s why my clone will have invented teleportation.
”  ― Jarod KintzThis Book Has No Title

Networking with a variety of companies is said to be diverse, but meetings, interviews, and conferences in various locations and at different times can become very overwhelming. For a moment you may just need to close your eyes and imagine how convenient the future would be for the business  professional; entrepreneur, or the small business owner, to show up in a timely manner to  all relevant business functions; a startup event, a workshop, or a private monthly meeting, through teleporting.

Presently, we are not in the future. But video conferencing can get you set up in a meeting with colleagues, and other business associates, in a professional fashion. As pretentious as teleportation may sound right now; telepresence  allows  communication by simultaneous two-way video and audio transmissions. Depending on the provider of this telecommunication service, video conferencing is available at anytime in a high definition video resolution.  Moreover, you can know expect immersive communication similar to your experiences during an in-person meeting. Guaranteed is less travel, as well as creating and maintaining competitive advantages; once investing in video conferencing. The business must disperse at some point, as it expands, and also increase its productivity. There is really no need to depend on non verbal visual cues through phone, e-mail, instant messaging (IM), or other work applications; you and the participant(s) in the meeting are focused now more on the conversation because you can be seen and heard.

So while scientists continue to work on breaking down the technical side of teleportation, we have communication tools available today that can put us in more then one place at one time.  Phone and email may not be a substitute for business travel requirements, however, video conferencing now offers are true alternative to in person meetings.  A best practice that could allow you to run your business more lean and improve communication internally and with clients. 

Communication Considerations for Video Conferencing Remotely

Video conferencing has opened up a world of possibilities for people working together across different time zones and geographic locations. Holding video conferences reduces the need for expensive business travel, which alone can justify the investment with setting up dedicated telepresence rooms at branch offices.  The technology of video conferencing is more user-friendly than ever before, allowing participants to connect from their desktop or mobile device. 

User adoption should be one of the key strategies when deploying video conferencing as a tool

Ok so the technology makes sense, however, it's another story successfully deploying this tool to a workforce.  Many participants report uncertainty in terms of the communication protocol.  Amazingly enough, some users have never used video conferencing to-date, so there is a level of comfort required before they fully embrace this new technology.

Having an effective, productive video conference involves several factors such as cultural differences, time zone considerations and the use of point-to-point versus multipoint conferencing. People from different countries and regions have varying verbal communication styles even when all are speaking the same language. Some may consider interrupting acceptable because it indicates involvement and enthusiasm. Others may find it noticeably rude. Although video conferencing is an excellent option when face-to-face meetings are not possible, these communication style differences still do not go away.

Tip: act the same way you would during a face-to-face meeting while participating in a video conference

Probably best not to try this.

From the clothes you wear, being attentive to participants, and normal pleasantries conveyed in a meeting are also considerations for meeting online during a video conference. 

 

 

Invest in your peripheral equipment for a better experience

Equipment is another factor to consider when setting up video conferencing sessions. Participants in different geographic locations may have different operating systems and installed software that affects the sound and images of a video conference. A manager organizing such a conference can work with these issues ahead of time by issuing an emailed memo to all participants detailing which hardware or software they will need.

Projecting clear audio is paramount for a successful video conference.  Participants can be connected from home offices, cafes, or from their office workstation in an open work area.  In these scenarios, back ground noise may be a distraction to your meeting.  Using a USB headset can eliminate these distractions, plus it keeps your attention focused on the meeting.  Other options such as, echo-cancelling desktop microphones work extremely well, without having to wear a headset and looking like the pilot in your meeting.

Tip: use the active speaker layout

Active speaker layout presents the person speaking in the larger center window frame

Voice activated display is a feature that can be used throughout a group meeting.  This layout option will display the active speaker in a larger center window frame.  Again, it will help to keep the attention on the speaker at hand.   

 

 

Most importantly, include all staff in the primary reasons to implement video conferencing as a tool in your company.  If the technology will be saving your business x amount of dollars, be sure to let them know this and keep them updated as more efficiencies are discovered.  Keeping all engaged will help encourage more usage, which means less travel expenditures, and less time typing emails!


Myths about the Use of Telepresence

Technology has changed rapidly in recent years. What was once only viable in the ideas of science fiction writers is becoming a reality today. Telepresence is one of those areas that was seen in futuristic novels and television shows not that long ago for some people. However, there are still some myths that surround this technology, making it critical to debunk those myths and move forward with its use.

It Uses Too Much Bandwidth

Bandwidth is often a major concern for businesses and educational facilities. Using too much bandwidth costs money and slows down the online experience for everyone. This is why many companies and schools have been hesitant to use video conferencing. However, with advances in technology and changes to coding, these conferences now use more than 50 percent less bandwidth, making it a viable option for many.

It Costs Too Much

Businesses are constantly seeking ways to save money to increase their profits. Telepresence seems like it would be a costly way to keep in touch and hold meetings. Those who think this technology costs too much, though, have not likely looked at all their options. There are many services available that offer these services at reasonable rates, especially if you will be using it often. In most cases, when compared to travel reimbursements and lost time at work, the cost of any telepresence service is well worth it.

It Has a Limited Reach

Some people mistakenly think video conferencing can only be used by executives or within a particular organization. This is also not true. Video conferencing does not limit what you can do. Instead, it increases your ability to do more and reach more people. You can now hold instant meetings with your clients, other locations for your business and even your vendors. With telepresence, your options are almost literally endless.

Don't allow the use of new technology or the myths that surround telepresence keep you from taking advantage. Instead, do your research and learn which information is true and which is a myth. Once you can get beyond the myths, you will see how useful this technology can be for your business.

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