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VC Comes of Age

02 August 2011

Impressive new technologies on display at a Procore-sponsored BIFM event held at Polycom’s Executive Briefing Centre

SINCE ITS INCEPTION IN 1990, POLYCOM has established its position in the market for unified collaboration solutions that enable its geograhically dispersed workforce to communicate more effectively and productively over distance. People can connect from their desktop, meeting room, or whilst using mobile, video and voice solutions, or using RealPresence.
You can forget preconceptions that a videoconference (VC) consists of audio delay, distorted images, stilted conversation, awkward silences and people interrupting. But delegates at the BIFM London region event last month were pleasantly surprised to discover that telepresence (the new name for advanced videoconferencing technology) was almost as real as having a face-to-face meeting. Bill Walsh, host Polycom’s solution specialist, talked about the technology from his Boston office but very much felt part of the discussion (and could even hear whispered conversations between delegates). Before the London call, he had been talking to a group of execs in Asia-Pac and afterwards was scheduled to talk to Texas. “I can talk to 10 countries one after the other, have meaningful meetings and still be home for dinner with my family at 6pm,” he said.
The technology was certainly impressive but it comes with a hefty price tag – the list price is $450,000 a room, although Walsh said that nobody paid the full price. The savings on corporate travel, increased productivity and efficiency plus the sustainability gains made for a compelling return on investment, he said.
But Phil Ratcliffe, managing director of Procore, argued that technology was only part of the solution. “IT, HR and real estate all have to work together to ensure that people aren’t given new pieces of kit, or new types of offices and just left to their own devices. If you don’t explain to people how to work differently, then how do you expect them to work differently?”
Productivity Gains at Leading Law Firm
Based in Scotland pre-eminent international law firm, MacRoberts LLP, is housed in multiple locations. These include Edinburgh and a state-of-the-art office to service a globally-dispersed client base.
Recognising the need to establish and maintain comprehensive communication links between locations and remote clients, Robert Crighton, Director of IT Services, petitioned management to switch to a voice over IP (VoIP) network that would enable unified collaboration to fulfill growing communication requirements. “We had been operating a telephony-only legacy PBX system, but in the process of upscaling our office in Glasgow and recognising our need to deliver state-of-the-art services to our clients, we wanted to move forward with VoIP communication system that would support a range of telephony and video conferencing solutions,” said Crighton.
The Microsoft and Polycom based solution offered the best combination of capabilities and value. “The Microsoft/Polycom solution ticked all the right boxes,” Crighton continued. “It gave us the confidence and ease-of-use of Microsoft technology supplied by a local service agent, combined with the reassurance of Polycom open standard-based components which would be interoperable with a wide range of client end points”.
Based on Microsoft Office Communications Server R2 2007, MacRoberts deployed over 150 Polycom CX700 IP Phones, two Polycom CX5000 unified conference stations and two HDX room telepresence solutions. After a successful pilot programme in the Edinburgh office involving approximately 100 users, MacRoberts switched off the old PBX system for good and converted the whole office to VoIP. The solution was then incorporated in the Glasgow office.
Corporate training is an important part of MacRoberts client service, with structured sessions normally organised at client locations. The telepresence solution enables MacRoberts legal specialists to reduce travel costs and time.
In the future, MacRoberts plans to use the Polycom HDX room telepresence solution to deliver greater added-value services to its clients by offering the equipment for its own collaboration requirements. “We are offering our clients the opportunity to come in and use our equipment and benefit from travel-free meetings with their own network of offices and suppliers,” Crighton said.
MacRoberts lawyers have improved the quality and immediacy of their meetings, as well as their quality of life, by eliminatiing the need to fly around the country for meetings.
With Microsoft and Polycom in place, MacRoberts is promoting video conferencing among its client-base as a much richer collaborative experience, with less travel hassle, improved productivity, and greater environmental responsibilty.

Case study – Video miles better
In keeping with its policy of ratepayer accountability and cost-reduction, South Gloucestershire Council has recently embarked on a ‘Smarter Working’ initiative designed to deliver more productive working practices and reduce its environmental impact.
For South Gloucestershire Council, this means operating a more flexible working environment with a greater proportion of rotating home-workers and a more versatile use of existing desk space. The Council recognised that it needed to look for outside communications solutions that would support this strategy, reduce costs and underpin its ‘green’ credentials.
Tim Peters, Head of IT at the Council, takes up the story: “The Council is spread across a number of locations. When meetings take place, this can lead to a number of people having to travel to the meeting with attendant costs in both time and environmental impact. This, combined with our Smarter Working initiative increasing the spread of staff meant that we wanted a communication solution that would integrate all home-workers and remote workers with the office-based staff.”
Tim Peters and his colleagues conferred with Polycom reseller, Broadband Visual Communications, who recommended the Polycom HDX 7000 room telepresence solution and a user-base of Polycom CMA (Converged Management Application) desktop units. These combined with a Polycom RMX 2000 bridge for multi-site conferencing and the Polycom VBP to enable private-to-public gateway and remote Polycom CMA desktop access.
The result was a communication solution that gave the Council the ability to manage and deploy video conferencing centrally as well as across the extended organisation of remote and home-workers. The Polycom RMX 2000 bridge with an ISDN access card provides a multipoint conference solution so that the Council can perform video conferences across internal and external (ISDN) networks.
Lawrence Larque, Managing Director of Broadband, continued: “Because South Gloucestershire Council wanted the system to show tangible benefits and real returns on their investment, we brought in the services of The Visual Environment to integrate their Video-Miles monitoring software.”
The Video-Miles solution has two components: Video-Miles Fetchit and Video-Miles Server. Together, they present video conferencing usage information on environmental, financial, utilisation and usertime in easy-to-read graphics, text, and piechart formats. Calum Miller, co-founder of The Visual Environment, explained that a ‘video mile’ is the mileage NOT travelled as a result of replacing in person meetings with video conferencing. Therefore, the more video miles accrued, the more time, cost, and carbon-savings an organisation is making.
Broadband went on to install two Polycom HDX 7000 units with plans to install more in the future. Tim Peters also agreed to licenses for up to 200 Polycom CMA desktop users to cover the expected demand from mobile and home-users. Currently, 90 users are operating Polycom CMA units from their homes or within Council offices.
In order to maximise uptake and usage, Tim Peters ensured that the implementation of the Polycom equipment was supported by a concerted campaign of familiarisation and training for the council users. The council went ahead and established fixed video conferencing rooms and identified video conferencing ‘champions’ for each. These are people who want to learn about the system and who can be always on hand to support users, so if anything goes wrong or users need help setting up, the champions can resolve it.
When Polycom was looking to set up its latest Executive Briefing Centre in the City of London, Procore provided the Project Management, QS and CDM Coordinator services, managing all sub-consultants, in addition to the coordination of non-UK designers and Polycom’s in-house IT, Technology and RealPresence installation teams.
The project was completed on budget and within a demanding timescale due to Polycom’s desire to launch the EBC. Alan Darrah, Director EMEA Corporate Real Estate for Polycom commented: “Procore was exceptionally professional and dilligent in ensuring that Polycom’s requirements were met in terms of quality, time and costs. The end result is first class and the EBC has proven to be a great success with both our existing and new customers due to Procore’s ability to deliver the project successfully.”
The location of Polycom’s EBC is the 16th floor of Dashwood House , ideally located by Liverpool Street Station and owned by Land Securities. The building had just undergone a major overhaul of the previous 14 floor building and added a further 4 floors.

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