October 08, 2009, 1:39 PM — Sprawling international law firm DLA Piper has upgraded from videoconferencing to telepresence that will save the firm nearly $1 million dollars per year in reduced travel costs and lost productivity.
The conferencing gear that simulates across-the-table meetings has a provable and achievable return on investment over five years, and may actually pay for itself before then, says Don Jaycox, CIO of DLA Piper U.S.
Rescheduling half the firm's in-person board meetings as telepresence conferences and relying on at least two attorneys per week to use telepresence rather than travel accounts for significant savings when lost productivity for travel time is factored in, Jaycox says.
"If I look at my total telepresence project cost, which includes equipment, room construction, implementation services, maintenance contract, financing costs, etc., then amortize that over the expected five-year life of the system, it works out to be just a hair under $500,000 per year for our six U.S. sites," he says. "Our early experience suggests that a more accurate number of avoided trips is closer to four or five per week, so the $970,000 projection almost certainly underestimates our actual savings."
Jaycox says the quality of the illusion that everyone is in the same room is so high that a group of conferencing attorneys working on a case broke off into two groups, one at each end of the virtual table, as if they were all in the same room and split up to discuss separate issues, he says.
Top management of the firm has embraced the technology to the point that it has replaced two of its four annual meetings with telepresence conferences.
The system, based on Cisco gear, still has interoperability issues with other vendor's equipment. For instance it is not backward compatible with the traditional videoconferencing gear from Tandberg and Polycom that the firm already has in place, but Jaycox says he thinks the company will address that within the next year. Cisco's purchase of rival telepresence manufacturer Tandberg should help push that compatibility, he says.