Tired of Traveling (9/30/2007)

Last year, I wound up with a contract to do a Shell Method implementation for a company that was about 2,000 miles away. The contact called for me to make 7 to 9 trips out there, each a week long, over the 6-month life of the contract. Pretty normal for a consultant, but after the second trip, it became obvious to me and everyone else that my time, shall we say, wasn't being utilized in a optional fashion. In short, I was bored stiff.

Not because they weren't making progress. On the contrary; they were marching down the project schedule in very good order. There wasn't a lot of dissention because top management had made the project a highly visible, high priority effort. People were hired specifically to help put things in place. But they really didn't need me out there for one week out of three. We were doing a lot of Web conferences and phone calls, and this seemed to be taking care of the majority of their needs. On the other hand, I knew it was important that I get the right amount of personal praising and motivation actions in place, or the project would stall.

So I bought a videoconference system, packed it up, and sent it to them free. They got it set up in a couple of days. I was never on site again. When groupthink was required, we all met by video. It's amazing how well it works, and how much better it works than Web conferencing. Say what you will in praise of Adobe Acrobat Connect, Meeting Place, or Webex, but the higher video quality and larger screen make for a much more personal interaction. Web conferences are good if you just want to dump information on people, but in my opinion, video conferences are hands down better at maintaining interpersonal relationships.

So now I've invested in a big, high-quality, bandwidth hog of a video conferencing system. It's already proven useful for online interviews with prospective clients. The majority of video conference systems sold in the past couple of years have been IP systems (internet based), so now it's less and less likely that you'll have any long distance ISDN charges associated with your meetings. Lower barriers to economic entry; easier to use. It looks like we're finally on the upward part of this particular technology adoption curve.