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Bringing videoconferencing on-line: a new user's perspective.

When Ruben Lantto, Cargill's corporate telecomm manager, decided to investigate videoconferencing, he looked at a variety of approaches. Cargill has 55,000 employees worldwide in more than 800 locations. Videoconferencing appeared to be an ideal way to help them communicate between sites for rapid decision making, productivity improvement and shortened project cycles.

Initially, the company's business television VSAT network was used for trial conferences.

Following these tests, it was determined that the VSAT approach to videoconferencing was relatively expensive and difficult to implement.

After exploring other possibilities such as switched services Lantto decided to look into videoconferencing over public networks and, ultimately, to use the services of Spirit Video's Meeting Channel because it offered him a complete turnkey solution.

Lantto determined that, for videoconferencing to achieve acceptance, he needed to enlist the support of the company's senior managers who would not only be using the system but would also be approving the equipment purchase.

To accomplish this, he set up demonstrations in the form of video fairs to give those managers a better feel for how videoconferencing could help the accomplish their job responsibilities.

Cargill purchased two CLI videoconferencing room systems from Sprint for use in the company's Minneapolis and Chicago offices. Lantto then set up videoconferences with Cargill employees in California, Florida, Memphis and Wichita using LINC public rooms connected to the Sprint Meeting Channel.

These video fairs gave Cargill managers an opportunity to experience first-hand how they could effectively conduct meetings with multiple remote locations in a single day, saving time and travel costs, which translated into improved productivity.

Lantto selected Sprint as Cargill's videoconferencing supplier because of its full-service approach for equipment, transmission services, network management and support

In addition, connectivity to public rooms lets Cargill conduct conferences with sites that do not have the volume to justify a dedicated service.

In selling the concept of videoconferencing internally, Lantto advises telecomm managers to start small but to keep an eye on their future requirements.

"It raises concerns if you start too big," he says. "Once managers experience the productivity benefits of videoconferencing, they become advocates of the medium and begin in looking for new applications.

The Cargill system operates at 384 kb/s. The system runs over Cargill's private network, but includes a Meeting Channel connection for interface to sites off the network.

Lantto advises other new users who are attempting to sell the concept within their company to avoid very low bandwidth such as 56 or 128 kb/s.

"The reduced quality of low bandwidth may be acceptable for certain types of meetings but 384 kb/s offers the video and audio quality needed by senior management," Lantto says.

He also emphasizes that picking a supplier who offers a turnkey approach simplifies implementation and operation because it minimized Cargill's risk and investment.

While still in its early stages, the Cargill system is expected to grow.

"Videosconferencing is becoming an accepted way of doing business," Lantto says. "Our initial studies show that it will save time, money, and is extremely cost-effective and easy to justify."

Lantto feels that educating the decision makers about this new communications tool is essential.

With only two private rooms, Lantto does not see the need for a dedicated support staff today. However, as use expands and additional locations are added, he envisions the need for some internal coordination, manuals and procedures in order for the system to be used effectively.

While Cargill's first videoconferencing efforts are focused on communicating internally, they are anxious to use the system to communicate with customers.

Videoconferencing will improve their real-time interface capabilities in order to meet frequently and work more closely internally with their customers such as Procter and Gamble who are also currently using videoconferencing.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Audio/Video Teleconferencing; Cargill uses Sprint Video's Meeting Channel on-line videoconferencing service
Publication:Communications News
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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