Video conferencing as a service
Video Conferencing Perth, Local Government Online

The Tyranny of Distance – How Video Conferencing Is Helping Local Government Thrive

Imagine this, your office is situated in the sparsely populated Kimberley region of northern Western Australia. Your closest business hub is hundreds of kilometers away, and this is where you’re required to attend regular meetings and conduct business. You’d be forgiven if you thought it was nigh on impossible to forge lasting business relationships in such an environment. This may have been true several years ago; however, with rapid advances in information technology and greater accessibility to Internet services, it’s now possible to overcome such challenges.

You see, for Stephen Gash, CEO at the Shire of Derby and West Kimberly this tyranny of distance is his reality. The shire services two main town areas, which are 260 kilometres apart. So to attend a meeting face-to-face requires a lot more planning than simply scribbling the time and date down in your diary.

“If we were to drive to Fitzroy Crossing and attend a one hour meeting it’s a huge commitment on time and resources,”

“So, we use the BeingThere service for a lot of management interaction,”

“Just being able to have that face-to-face communication across the distance is amazing for interaction with your staff, and seeking feedback,” he says.

CASHFLOW MATTERS

It’s no surprise that those who have fully embraced the BeingThere video conferencing service, as an integral part of their business toolbox, are benefitting from substantial monetary savings. And, that’s a big draw card considering the current global economic challenges.

Roger Kerr-Newell, Shire of Halls Creek CEO, explains that it’s difficult to accurately calculate the savings in harsh dollars, and says the return on investment would be a number so large you almost couldn’t imagine it.

“If I go down to Broome it takes three days of my life, a day to drive there, a day to get over driving and have a meeting, and a day to drive home,”

“Three days for a one hour conversation is a very, very, very, poor return on investment for me,”

“So what BeingThere has done is make all of those one hour meetings possible,”

“If I was to price my time and driving that distance, I have just saved myself around four-thousand dollars for a one hour conversation,” says Mr. Kerr-Newell.

I’m sure you’ll agree that there are endless possibilities for extending the use of the BeingThere service beyond attending meetings. And, that’s exactly what Shire of Halls Creek Executive Services Manager, Kellie Gill, says her department is doing. She explains how the service is being increasingly used in the area of recruitment.

“We can shortlist the applicants, interview them over BeingThere, and then if we get a candidate that we think might suit, we can fly them up so they can have look around,”

“It allows you to get a better feel for the candidate before you actually fly them up,” says Ms Gill.

FLEXIBILITY IN SCHEDULING

Now you can see how using the BeingThere service can help support your business reach, foster working relationships, and save money. In addition to all that there is the added benefit of having greater flexibility in scheduling.

“We’ve used it for council meetings as well, or other meetings that occur on a monthly basis with some of our staff,”

“Sometimes they don’t physically need to be there at the other location, they can simply dial in using the BeingThere service,” explains Ms Gill.

Mr. Gash explains that a number of staff members use the service to work from Perth for weeks at a time. They can group together meetings with government agencies they have to conduct face-to-face, and at the same time still be part of their normal discussions in the Kimberley.

“It means that by giving them the flexibility of working from Perth we get the best of both worlds,”

“The employee gets to have a close relationship with other agencies in Perth, they get to connect back with relatives, and some of the isolation issues can be overcome,”

“And we also know that they’re working hard and effectively while they’re down there for us,” says Mr. Gash.

COLLABORATION TOOL

And that’s another reason using the BeingThere service is helping not only get projects off the ground, but ensuring they make it to completion. Rebecca Herbert, Project Manager of the Kimberley Region explains it’s more than point-to-point video conferencing, she thinks of it as a collaboration tool.

“All of our projects we discuss with BeingThere,”

“It’s a great tool as you’re working through a project from conception right through to completion,”

“You can have the BeingThere meeting, update the CEO’s, the elected member group, the worker consultants, or contractors on the status of the project scope,”

“Instead of it just being an email saying this is the project, you can actually talk through it, you can share documents on BeingThere so they can see the workings, rather than just over the phone or a teleconference,” says Ms Herbert.

TRAINING

Although a majority of upgraded skills training is conducted face-to-face, Mr. Gash explains that he is keen to use video conferencing to access a wider range of courses at a regional level.

“We’re trying to ask people to embrace this approach more where people can dial in, rather than spend thousands of dollars on a lot of road trips,”

“If there’s introductory training or anything like that why not use the video conferencing service to give a broad overview, and then that would save a lot of cost to everyone and also be available at anytime,” he says.

CONSULTING WITH CONSULTANTS

Even more importantly, Mr. Kerr-Newell talks of the challenges faced when relying on flying consultants to the Kimberley to discuss sensitive topics, for example, legal proceedings.

“Traditionally if we are in a tough place we would have our lawyers fly up this way,”

“But by being able to put the lawyer up on the big screen in the Shire Chambers it makes them part of the meeting, and so advice can be dealt with there and then,”

“If you’re building confidence around a solution it’s important,” explains Mr. Kerr-Newell.

IT’S JUST SO EASY TO USE

Because the BeingThere service is so easy to use on your everyday workstation, employees at the Shire of Derby and West Kimberley are relying less on using the telephone to have conversations.

“Where we would normally just pick up the phone we just do a single click and it dials exactly the same,”

“And that just means that suddenly they can see everyone around the table and they feel part of the conversation,” says Mr. Gash

Mr. Gash also admits that since using the BeingThere service some of the Shire’s procedures have changed.

“We’ve reformed some of our internal meeting procedures, especially with managers,”

“If we have a group of all our managers and all our supervisors across the shire, often the employees who would normally dial in on a teleconference would feel disconnected from the meeting,”

“Whereas if you’ve got a large screen around your meeting table they can see people, they can feel part of it, so even if they’re not talking at the time they can actually see what’s going on,” he says.

MESSAGE TO GOVERNMENT AGENCIES

“It would be wonderful from our perspective to get better buy in from some government agencies. So anything we can do to have more people on video conferencing, like the BeingThere service, would help us a huge amount. We would encourage ICT planners within state government to look at how to integrate platforms such as BeingThere within some of the closed video conferencing platforms in government agencies.”

Stephen Gash, CEO at the Shire of Derby and West Kimberley

“Oh, I’d highly recommend BeingThere for other local governments. The tyranny of distance is such that you can’t just pop over to the next local government shire for CEO’s to work collaboratively, so it’s an excellent tool to facilitate cross shire working together, networking, and collaboration of projects.”

Rebecca Herbert, Project manager of the Kimberley Region

“Of course we’ll still have physical meetings, we’ll still have dinner out, and those sorts of things. But because it’s easy, cheap, and quick to do a 60 or 90 minute meeting of all the zones we’re getting things to run more smoothly. There’s less misunderstanding about what people are doing, and we can find different ways of making money.”

Roger Kerr-Newell, CEO Shire of Halls Creek