Training and Travel
At the Western Area Power Administration, the federal agency that manages the transmission of electricity generated by hydroelectric plants in the West, the rationale for video revolved more around training than corporate communications. It started in WAPA's Phoenix-based Desert Southwest Region, as a way to reach more employees more cheaply and cut down on travel costs within the five-state region, which covers Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah.
"Fully half of our staff members are out working the lines or at different substations, and they're not readily available to come into a training room," says Regional Information Officer Jim Potts, who is essentially a regional CIO. As a result, WAPA had to schedule multiple training sessions, and personnel could easily wind up spending a few days traveling to a meeting that lasted only a couple of hours. Now, in many cases, the agency will conduct a training session once in a conference room equipped with easy-to-use video equipment and publish the recording on its intranet for employees to view at their convenience.
The video capture and publishing system WAPA purchased from Accordent Technologies cost about $100,000 to implement, and Potts expects it to save about $3,000 per person for up to 135 people, or more than $400,000 per year. "Everybody is impressed by our savings," he says.
After equipping several conference rooms with the requisite cameras, microphones and lighting, Potts' team used Accordent's capture-station appliance to simplify the process of making a video: Essentially, all someone has to do is press the "record" button. The system includes basic video-editing capabilities, sufficient to edit out pauses and interruptions, and it allows integration of other visual content such as slideshows.
When the resulting video is published, Accordent's distribution and management tools allow WAPA to track who has viewed it. Potts says that's important because, in many cases, it's essential to be able to document, for example, that all employees have taken part in the company's required diversity training.
In the past, WAPA tried to reduce travel expenses by equipping conference rooms with videoconferencing equipment, but the return on investment never materialized. "When we looked at how much was saved on travel, and how often the room was utilized, the ROI [return on investment] wasn't there," Potts says.
Rather than continuing to invest in that equipment, the agency decided to limit itself to using relatively simple desktop videoconferencing software.
WAPA thought videoconferencing would provide value, but it didn't--partly because people still tended to want to meet in person. On-demand access to video turned out to be more useful because it allowed employees to "attend" an event that otherwise would not have fit into their schedules.