Video Killed the Traveling Star

The Registry_Q4_Polycom

Adoption of video conferencing becomes ubiquitous


By Janis Mara

Robert Teed’s company has 4,000 employees in 80 offices in 36 countries. As the top-ranking executive in charge of all of the company’s real estate and location-related decisions, he has occasion to interact with many of those employees on a regular basis, often face-to-face. Though he rarely travels, he is almost as familiar with many of his far-flung colleagues as he is with those he meets in the office every day.

The total number of airplane trips the San Jose-based executive has taken in the last two years? Two.

[pullquote_right]We tend not to get on airplanes. I cover the world and don’t fly.
Robet Teed
[/pullquote_right]Teed’s company, Polycom Inc., makes videoconferencing hardware and software, and he and his colleagues use their own products to full advantage.

The company’s new 176,000-square-foot North San Jose headquarters (expected to grow to 213,000 square feet) is a dazzling showcase of wide, crystal-clear screens that display life-sized images of distant collaborators as well as wall-to-ceiling whiteboards and more compact screens with equally amazing clarity.

© Chad ZiemendorfThe $1.5 billion, 20-year-old company’s new digs feature a downstairs demonstration area—the Executive Experience Center—where Polycom leaders intend to host 1,000 visitors a year, making the space a critical component of the sales process. “We had a board meeting here recently and used this conference room,” said Teed, leading the way into a room about 25 feet wide with a screen stretching nearly from one wall to the other. The room is a focal point of the Experience Center and showcases the company’s sustainable products.

The rest of the company’s space, including a café, also is fully equipped with Polycom’s products, available for every employee. All-hands meetings in the Polycom café use huge screens to bring workers together from all over the world, and almost every employee has some form of equipment at his or her desk and loaded on a smart device.

Videoconferencing saves Polycom and its enterprise clients an estimated 30 percent on travel costs and 25 percent on training, shrinks recruitment times by 19 percent, reduces employee downtime by 27 percent and shrinks sales-related costs by at least 24 percent, according to a study conducted by Polycom and Duxbury, Mass., -based Wainhouse Research.

Wainhouse is an independent market research firm that focuses on the rich media conferencing and communication fields.

“The advantages of the videoconferencing deployment have been immense,” said Subhash Cahand Mittlal, senior executive director of management services and information technology for a leading player in India’s fertilizer industry. Indian Farmers Fertiliser Co-operative Ltd., or IFFCo, uses Polycom’s products for annual employee evaluations, human relations work, company meetings, marketing and sales updates and daily communication between officials at corporate headquarters and the company’s five manufacturing plants.

“By adopting green IT practices, we have saved over $200,000 in travel costs in six months and significantly reduced our carbon footprint,” Mittlal said.

Polycom’s current strategic initiatives include delivery of video as a service via the cloud and delivery of enterprise-quality video collaboration and content on mobile devices such as the iPad, Galaxy Tab tablets and Motorola Droid Xyboard.

Polycom has a 10-year lease with landlord Legacy III SJ America Center I LLC that began earlier this year, though rent was abated for the first 18 months of the term, according to a copy of the contract filed Aug. 1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Over the lease term, rents rise from $2.56 a square foot a month for the first two years to $3.24 a foot a month in the final year. Polycom is responsible for the building’s operating expenses including property taxes. By the end of the lease term, including the expansion space, annual base rent exceeds $8.2 million. The landlord allowance for tenant improvements was $57 a foot, or about $12 million.

Teed took The Registry on two tours of the building at 6001 America Center Drive, now home to 450 Polycom employees who moved to the building in July from other Bay Area locations.

How much did it cost per square foot to set up your new building?

It cost $175 per square foot to set up the Executive Experience Center, without counting the cost of the equipment.

How do your company’s employees make use of their own products?

Every square inch of our building is video-enabled. We have a variety of areas specifically designed for different types of collaboration; for example, there are open collaboration areas about 8 feet by 15 feet with comfy, but businesslike, couches and a 46-inch screen that displays the people in remote locations involved in the meeting.

The couches hold about four or five people, so you can sit on the couch and see and be seen. This area doesn’t have an eagle-eye mike, because it’s small enough that a stationary mike will catch everyone. In larger conference rooms, there are eagle-eye mikes that monitor whose lips are moving and zoom in on them so everyone can see the person who is speaking.

The open areas have no doors. Huddle rooms have four walls and a door, hold four to six people and have small screens with writeable surfaces. Focus rooms hold a couple people and also have a small screen. There are about 40 huddle rooms and focus rooms throughout the building.

What about mobile apps?

People walk around with video-enabled tablets, smartphones and laptops and use them to videoconference. The entire building is Wi-Fi enabled.

Your building is shooting for LEED Gold certification and has many sustainable features. Will you have regular recommissioning, and will you publish your findings?

The building was commissioned in 2009, and we are in the process of recommissioning now. We will not publish the findings.

Will you have employee training on how to behave green?

When we opened the site we had a series of stakeholder meetings. We met with a representative of each business unit: R&D, IT, HR, finance, marketing, executive staff, legal staff, sales, workplace and talked to them about it. We told them how to do recycling, and there is information on our Web site about it as well. Because we have frequent visitors, the labels on our different bins are very clear. We have ongoing communication about it, for sure.

What other practices will you use to ensure that you will continue operating in a sustainable way?

We have a farmer’s market in the cafe, with organic vegetables and local produce. We source locally—Peet’s Coffee & Tea supplies the coffee and tea in the café. We encourage people to use actual plates, which we provide, instead of paper or plastic, and we provide corn-based plastic forks. Our company culture; we tend not to get on airplanes. I cover the world and don’t fly.

Photography by Chad Ziemendorf

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