We use a lot of video at Cisco. A recent tally shows that Cisco totals over 24,000 video calls every day, which raises a pretty big question: why do we use so much video at Cisco?
Video started at Cisco (like so many things in the corporate world) with meetings. We have a lot of meetings where people and teams collaborate to make expensive business decisions. Or build the next big engineering breakthrough. Or just move a project one step closer to completion.
Most of those meetings are face-to-face – because being in the same room with someone lets you understand them better, and understand how they really feel about something. You need this level of understanding to build a high-functioning team, to reach major decisions, and to plan complex tasks. When everyone understands and is engaged and enthusiastic about the same goal, you can begin working productively together. And for that, you really need to see them.
That’s where the fun begins for Cisco. Cisco is a global company, with over 75,000 employees at more than 550 sites in about 90 countries around the world. How do we collaborate, build teams, make decisions, and work together? Well, for a long time the answer was: we bought lots of airplane tickets and earned more than enough frequent flyer miles to travel the world on credit several times over. We carved out travel days every month, or every week, and we flew to and from many meetings. Seven years ago, Cisco was budgeting and spending about$750 Million for employee travel every year.
That’s what made Cisco IT invest in video conferencing. We needed a more sustainable and less expensive way to travel – and by “less expensive” we also included the time wasted getting to and from airports, and sitting on planes. It turns out that, as expensive as air travel is, adding “the cost of wasted time” increases that total by another 35% or more. So, we deployed immersive TelePresence – dedicated rooms with large screens where you could see and hear the people you needed to meet with in life-size and high definition. We called it “immersive video conferencing” because you really feel immersed in the meeting experience, as if you were in the same room. Conversations and meetings are face-to-face, between people who are halfway around the world, and the travel time is the time it took you to walk to the TelePresence room from your desk.
Today, we have about 1600 TelePresence rooms around the world (some older, some newer), and most or our teams are global. About 40% of us have managers in other time zones and nearly 50% of us work in teams spread across different time zones. We’re able to meet face-to-face, and work with the best and brightest Cisco talent, no matter where they are in the world.
Since we installed the first pair of immersive TelePresence rooms at Cisco in late 2006, video capabilities, and usage, has grown. Today, we have around 850 immersive TelePresence meetings every day. That’s a lot, especially when the average TelePresence meeting lasts about an hour and a half, but it wasn’t just immersive TelePresence that got us to 24,000 video calls per day. That’s what happens when we add in the all the other video endpoints, because there’s a lot more video at Cisco.
Based on a mix of
Avg. Video Minutes Per Meeting
Video Meetings Per Day*
Video Meetings Per Quarter*
Video Meetings Per Year*
* based on an average of Jan-April 2014 Cisco IT data
We can attend our meetings from any video endpoint at Cisco. We have almost 8000 desktop video TelePresence units, adding another 5000 video meetings or calls every day. Over half of the phones on desks are video phones, adding another 7000 video calls a day. (We are often mobile at work, so we don’t assign phones to people, we just put them on desks and people use the one nearest to them, wherever they happen to be).
If we’re not near a phone we can use our laptops or mobile phones – running Jabber client (another 3500 video calls per day) or connect to the WebEx cloud for Cisco and customer meetings (another 8000 video calls per day). That brings us to over 24,000 video meetings or calls each day, every day. Our travel costs continue to shrink – in the first year of video at Cisco it was down by over 2/3 (to $230M). And video usage at Cisco continues to grow.
Which raises another question. Why is video growing so quickly at Cisco? I’ll cover that in my next blog: “Video is the new Audio at Cisco”.