Video conferencing cuts consultant travel costs

Australian project set for global roll-out

Global industrial consulting firm MWH has deployed a video-conferencing solution across three countries to cut down on travel and increase productivity.

MWH has access to 6100 consultants across 36 countries, who advise organizations on everything from environmental engineering and power generation, IT, construction, asset management and financial services. The firm has seven offices across Australia with more than 400 employees, and 20 offices in New Zealand with 800 staff.

IT manager Giovanni Ambrosini, who spearheaded the project, said the solution was deployed across nine sites, including seven in Australia, two in New Zealand, and one Singapore office.

"Plane trips were often essential for product specialists to meet clients, [but] travel was costly, time-consuming, and it was becoming an inhibitor to personal communication," Ambrosini said.

"Groups have to work effectively together from multiple locations and we now have staff [interacting] with each other more often because they can see each other using videoconferencing."

"The use of the equipment has gone beyond purely internal use. A client can come to our nearest office and meet with a specialist in another state via videoconferencing, where it would previously take a day's travel and productivity."

According to Ambrosini, the project reduced the necessity of travel for the 30 percent of mobile MWH staff, who now only commute for special meetings.

The project began in February this year and was completed in March following a trial with two of the 20 New Zealand offices.

Ambrosini said staff buy-in was initially difficult because clients and staff were not universally familiar with the technology, however he said adoption is now strong because it removed the need for travel.

MWH will further invest in the project to allow its staff and clients to access videoconferencing from remote locations using small desktop video units connected to its private network.

The company's WAN, which was previously used for basic Internet and e-mail, did not require upgrades to facilitate streaming video, as extra capacity was provisioned when it was built two years ago. Ambrosini said a "tight" quality of service agreement with provider Brennan IT ensures network availability.

MWH will also complete a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) deployment over its high capacity link, set to be completed with six months.

Ambrosini said the project will be used as a template for further deployment across the New Zealand and Asia offices, and has been considered viable for roll-out in MWH global offices across America and Europe.

The solution uses PolyCom videoconferencing units, cameras and LCD televisions.

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