Magazine article New Zealand Management

Speed Cameras That Have Managers Smiling: Videoconferencing Has Become an Essential Tool in the Drive to Speed Up the Decision-Making Process. and It's Not Just Happening in Business Circles

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Speed Cameras That Have Managers Smiling: Videoconferencing Has Become an Essential Tool in the Drive to Speed Up the Decision-Making Process. and It's Not Just Happening in Business Circles

Article excerpt

We have, since the turn of the millennium, experienced a radical change in the way we meet and collaborate. Across corporate, health and tertiary education sectors in particular, videoconferencing (VC) technology has helped slash the cost of transporting busy executives to distant boardrooms, lecturers to the front of remote classes and health professionals into the residences of remote patients.

As broadband connection and VC equipment fall in price and the technology's performance improves, more organisations are taking the plunge into visual, rather than physical, encounters. Today the technology that helped Peter Jackson con currently direct the making of The Lord of the Rings trilogy in numerous locations, is facilitating quicker decisions and reducing the limitations of remote collaboration.

The worldwide VC market expects to reach US$1.49 billion by 2009 according to a Frost & Sullivan report, so it is an industry that is well past the early adopter phase.

Tuned into teamwork

Wellington-based Pronto Print Solutions has initiated many technology upgrades in its 26-year history, with owner Bernard Nolan staying ahead of the competition throughout the evolution from ink-based printing to today's digital formats.

Two years ago, Pronto opened a copy bureau in central Auckland, and the company grew by acquiring Corporate Print in East Tamaki. Because Nolan had to spend more time in Auckland the company bought Tandberg 550 VC units in April 2003 to link the Wellington and Auckland centres and trim his travelling expenses.

"We have four salespeople in Auckland and six in Wellington," explains Pronto's group IT manager Mike Keegan. "Videoconferencing enables us to get both sales teams together on a weekly basis to pass on leads and share sales techniques. It saves two flights a week, and dramatically improves internal communication."

Keegan says the Internet Protocol (IP)-based system, which operates over Telecom's Private Office Network, also links Auckland clients with Wellington expertise and lets them share PowerPoint presentations. He was impressed with how easy it was to install the system and, apart from a little initial nervousness at being on camera, staff quickly adapted to electronic meetings. "Our first few meetings were a bit of a mish-mash because people tended to talk over each other," recalls Keegan. "But that's no longer a problem." However, he recommends that meetings of more than four people be controlled by a chairperson to direct proceedings.

Parliament with pictures

A videoconferencing system installed at Parliament in 2003 has encouraged wider participation in the democratic process, according to the Speaker of the House Jonathan Hunt. The facility has, he says, made an important contribution to more open government.

Individuals and groups can make submissions to increasingly influential Parliamentary Select Committees without having to go to Wellington. Access is available from any location with an ISDN connection. "It has also been extremely useful in allowing the consultative process to involve large groups of people who would otherwise be excluded," says Hunt. A Samoan Citizenship petition heard by the Government Administration Committee last year linked more than 1500 people from Christchurch, Auckland and Apia to Parliament.

Today the system is used for everything from staff interviews to facilitating daily inter-parliamentary relations within the Commonwealth. Its international application offers significant efficiencies. Graeme Heenan, the parliamentary officer responsible for meeting support and facilities, cites the recent Bill on Dog Control as an example. "It enabled a large number of overseas experts to be interviewed."

With Select Committees involving 15 members plus and two to three support staff, travel, accommodation and food costs have been slashed. Government advisers can now videoconference directly with meeting participants and committees report back to the House more quickly than before. …

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