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National Grid targets two year ROI with telepresence implementation

Travel costs in the spotlight

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National Grid has invested in a new telecoms network and videoconferencing systems to help reduce its travel costs.

As part of a 15-year, £207 million contract, the company has installed a dedicated Operational Telecommunications Network (OpTel NGN) designed, delivered and managed by Cable&Wireless Worldwide, and implemented Tandberg’s telepresence, videoconferencing and boardroom systems.

Cable&Wireless Worldwide installed four Tandberg T3 telepresence suits in National Grid’s headquarters in London, national headquarters in Warwick and US offices in Brooklyn, New York and the US headquarters in Reservoir Woods, Massachusetts. Cable&Wireless Worldwide also provided managed services and training to National Grid staff, and a number of HD desktop video systems.

Howard Parker, IS senior infrastructure project manager at National Grid, said that the company’s travel costs had rapidly increased after the company expanded its US presence. For instance, it acquired American gas distributor KeySpan for £6.8 billion in 2006.

However, the implementation of telepresence systems is part of the company’s goal to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent before 2050, by cutting down on these growing travel costs. According to National Grid, its investment in the Tandberg systems will be recouped within two years, by replacing nine flights a month.

"Our meeting rooms are fully booked from first thing in the morning to the end of day. Our executives are regularly using video to conduct face-to-face meetings instead of travelling as they would have previously done. The use of video has driven more collaborative and flexible behaviours within the company,” said Parker.

Parker added that the company had more "confidence" to use video because of the support that the suppliers provide for the new telecoms network.

"As an organisation we had a number of video systems on ISDN technology, but there was no consistent support for them and they didn’t allow interaction over video," he said.

PepsiCo signed a deal for BT to implement Cisco videoconferencing in all its large offices around the world earlier this year. This was also with the aim of cutting costs,and to improve contact within the company and with its retailers and suppliers.

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