At a Glance
- Escalated employee communications from IM to phone
- Trimmed fuel costs, reduced carbon emissions
- Enabled a true UC environment
Missouri Conservation Department Conserves Costs, Fuel, and Reduces Carbon Footprint Using Video Conferencing.
Missouri conservation department conserves costs, fuel, and reduces carbon footprint through video conferencing weekly staff meetings with widely dispersed employees.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) manages the state’s fish, forest, and wildlife resources. The agency serves citizens through its headquarters in Jefferson City and seven other regional service centers. Until recently, multi-office meetings required driving—and plenty of it, since some offices are four hours from Jefferson City.
But tightening budgets have led MDC to ferret out new, cost-effective ways to communicate and collaborate without the money and time lost to travel. The answer: a unified communications (UC) environment built around a standards-based Polycom video communications infrastructure and Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007.
MDC integrated and deployed the solution with SKC, a Polycom Platinum Partner. The team created a reliable, on-demand UC platform that makes attending video meetings as easy as making a phone call. In the process, MDC is saving money, reducing its carbon footprint, and improving productivity, while laying the foundation for a tightly integrated collaboration environment to deliver on the promise of “location liberation” for more MDC employees.
Saving Money and Time
For many of MDC’s 1,600 employees, the task of administering 975,000 acres of Missouri wilderness typically meant putting in some serious windshield time. The department’s eight regional service centers are scattered around the state, reaching from St. Joseph in the far northwest down to Cape Girardeau in the southeast. Important meetings regularly drew managers and staffers to MDC’s Jefferson City headquarters in the center of the state, causing many workers to lose an entire work day to driving. Multiply that by the number of attendees, and just one meeting could cost MDC several “man weeks” of productive time.
Like most states, Missouri has cut back in the face of a soft economy, trimming $1 billion from the state’s 2010 budget. For MDC, that meant changes, as well. “MDC issued a directive to reduce fuel usage in our company cars, and that obviously meant finding other ways for people throughout the state to get together,” says Todd Holt, network coordinator at MDC. “We had to do the best we can with a shrinking budget.”
That’s when Holt decided to make more strategic use of Polycom video communications systems already installed in six of MDC’s largest offices. Working with SKC Communications, a top-tier Polycom partner and solution provider from Shawnee Mission, Kansas, Holt saw an opportunity to take a strategic approach to MDC’s communication infrastructure. The idea: Integrating Polycom solutions with Microsoft OCS to create an easy-to-use, anyone-can-join UC environment.
To get there, MDC deployed a Polycom® RMX® 2000 conference management platform, which allows several video conferencing endpoints to participate simultaneously in multiple video calls. And just as importantly, says Holt, the RMX solution offers a way to integrate video communications with Microsoft OCS.
“I can start an Instant Messaging conversation, elevate it to a phone conversation, and then elevate it to a video call—all within OCS,” says Holt. “And because Polycom integrates so tightly with OCS, I don’t need an extra client on every desktop to make video calls happen.”
What’s more, Holt says users simply dial a six-digit number to join a video conference, or click through using Office Communicator. “Imagine how easy that is for our users,” he says. “It’s like a phone call.” A Polycom RSS™ 2000 solution also allows video conferences to be recorded and played back on demand.
Turning Vision into Reality
If MDC’s initial experience is any indication, Holt says the vision will soon be a daily reality. The infrastructure has already saved dozens of trips to Jefferson City for large-scale meetings involving representatives from three or more offices. Weekly staff meetings that once took place over the phone are now handled over video, with resoundingly positive results. “The communication is much better when you can see the other party,” says Holt.
MDC also is reducing the carbon emissions of its fleet vehicles. A round trip between Cape Girardeau and Jefferson City pours nearly 50 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere. “We’re a conservation agency,” says Holt, “so it makes perfect sense for us to do this.”
In evaluating vendors for its collaboration environment, Holt says Polycom stood out for its support of open industry standards, quality of experience, and reliability. But that’s not all. “Polycom has a genuine partnership with Microsoft, whereas all the other vendors just promised to somehow ‘make it work.’ That’s what sealed the deal for us,” says Holt.
He also gives sterling marks to SKC. “SKC gets it when it comes to video—not just the platform but the service,” he says. “We need solutions that allow us to deliver a rock-solid, easy-to-use UC environment to our users. SKC has been a big part of achieving that goal.”
Six regional offices are equipped with Polycom endpoints. The remaining two will receive Polycom HDX® telepresence systems as funds become available. It’s all part of MDC’s goal of empowering every employee to be face-to-face without always having to be in the same place. “We want every employee to use video conferencing whenever they can to reduce travel, save time and cut carbon emissions,” says Holt. “With the UC environment we’re building with Polycom, Microsoft and SKC, that’s now entirely possible.”