IT grounds high flyers

IT professionals are normally not the most 'popular' people in a workplace. However, gripes about the Internet and e-mail are set to become secondary concerns if technology renders business travel obsolete as suggested in new research.

In the aftermath of September 11, the Ansett debacle and continuing tough economic times, Australia's top companies are increasingly looking to technology alternatives to cope with corporate travel restrictions.

A Business Travel & Communications Research survey conducted in early January 2002 by market research consultants Sweeney Research, reveals that 78 per cent of Australia's top 500 businesses are using technology alternatives to cope with travel restrictions.

These alternatives include teleconferencing, Internet and e-mail, videoconferencing and collaborative software tools for virtual teaming.

The research also shows 47 per cent of companies believe spending on technology alternatives will increase in 2002. Some 46 per cent of respondents said the change in spending would be less than 10 per centHowever, Ally Thorne, IT manager with The Wine Society, believes these figures reflect a "knee jerk reaction and move in technology".

"I know that managers from SAP have had reductions in travel and are using conventional technologies like telephones. Alcatel has been reducing travel time and is very much into videoconferencing."

Thorne said it helps that videoconferencing is becoming cheaper and the quality of service has improved.

Gartner research director Geoff Johnson agrees that the popularity of videoconferencing has been about "travel displacement". However, he believes the "cycle of popularity" with this technology will drop off as the airline industry gets back on its feet.

So what does this mean for IT professionals? For the short term at least, get used to extra complaints about technology taking the fun out of work.

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