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BT MeetMe helps Kent County Council cut costs, improve efficiency, and be more sustainable
With more than 400 sites, Kent County Council employees wasted hours criss-crossing the county for meetings. Peter Bole wanted to cut journeys by 10 per cent. He knew that meant a cultural change as well as a physical one. So he talked to BT.
Now with the help of BT MeetMe and an internal communications campaign supported by BT, Council people can get together in an instant, at any time, and get more done.
Peter’s happy he’s now well on the way towards meeting the target of saving the Council around £750,000 a year in travel expenses. And with carbon emissions set to reduce by some 400 tonnes, the planet’s happy too.
A big attraction of BT MeetMe is that it costs nothing to have an account; you only pay when you use it. The financial savings from travel avoidance far outweigh the costs and there are even greater benefits in terms of reduced ineffective time.”
- Peter Bole, ICT Commissioning Manager, Kent County Council
Kent County Council works closely with district, town, and parish councils to provide a wide range of services. Its responsibilities include schools and adult education, transport and highway maintenance, planning, libraries, social care, waste management and environmental services. In a journey of innovation and transformation, the Council has pioneered new ways of delivering modernised and improved services, while keeping council tax down. It is proud to be one of England’s top performing councils, having been rated as excellent by the Audit Commission in eight consecutive years.
One of the fastest growing counties in England, over the past 20 years Kent’s population has risen by over 100,000. Government predictions suggest a further 26 per cent increase by 2026. To support this growth Kent County Council keeps a keen focus on cost reduction, improved efficiency, and more sustainable business practice. Innovation and digital technology play a key role in the way the Council delivers services and in supporting its people to work more flexibly.
In its service level business plans, the Council has earmarked investment for shared services, ICT infrastructure, and unified communications to support new ways of working. But technology is only part of the story. Deborah Kapaj, Corporate Environmental Performance Programme Manager at Kent County Council, explains: “Technology is certainly a key enabler but the programme is also about behavioural change – helping our people embrace new ways of working to further improve efficiency and operate in more sustainable ways.”
A primary focus was to reduce travel and transportation costs. “Kent is a large county and the Council has over 400 locations excluding schools. Our people travel extensively to deliver council services across the county as well as attending meetings,” continues Deborah Kapaj. “We’ve set ourselves a target to reduce travel by at least 10 per cent next year, but to make this a reality we need the right enablers.”
This scale of reduction will save the Council approximately £750,000 in travel-related costs and lower its annual carbon emissions by around 400 tonnes – substantially benefiting both the business and the environment.
Kent County Council already made use of audio conferencing services and recognised that it should be encouraging greater adoption. Peter Bole, ICT Commissioning Manager at Kent County Council, says: “Early adopters reported good results from using BT MeetMe. Extending and promoting its use as an alternative to face-to-face meetings would require little in the way of investment, yet the benefits in terms of reduced travel and greater efficiency could be enormous.”
Part of the BT One Collaborate audio portfolio, BT MeetMe is a hosted conferencing service that only requires a fixed or mobile phone for access, enabling virtual meetings with up to 40 participants. No prior booking is required and conferences can be established in the time it takes to dial the local access number. The service is easy to use and available at any time, every day of the year, whenever there is a need to collaborate.
A briefing at BT Centre in London was followed by the decision for a full-scale BT MeetMe rollout. “This is about changing the way people work, and we recognised that the project needed to be led from the top,” says Deborah Kapaj. “Our Chief Executive, Peter Gilroy, was right behind it and announced the policy in a letter to all employees.”
BT worked with Kent County Council to draft clear instructions for internal communications; and it set up a web portal through which individuals could request a BT MeetMe account. Each account has two PIN numbers, one for the chairperson – the organiser of the call – and the other for the participants. To use the service delegates simply pick up the phone, dial the access number, enter their PIN, and announce their name. Once the chairperson dials in all the parties are connected together in a virtual meeting.
There is a wide range of features including the ability for the chairperson to request an automated roll call to check who is on the line, or to digitally record the call for replay later. If there are any problems a BT co-ordinator is always on hand at the touch of a button.
Within two weeks of launch, over 430 new BT MeetMe accounts had been requested. To brief people on how to use the service BT Conferencing specialists made available a series of training calls. As well as covering BT MeetMe facilities and features, those briefings also suggested best practice techniques to help people get the most from the service and ensure the involvement and engagement of all participants.
BT MeetMe has significantly enhanced the communications options open to Kent County Council. It is allowing regular and ad hoc meetings to be quickly and easily scheduled, enabling group conversations to take place without travelling. More immediate collaboration is a key enabler for faster decision-making, while eliminating time wasted in transit aids productivity and more sustainable business practice.
Although it is still early days the indications are very encouraging. “Positive feedback on BT MeetMe is already coming in,” confirms Deborah Kapaj. “One colleague told me that the facility had recently released four hours of productive time for him in just one day.” The Council plans to use feedback like this to create case studies that showcase the benefits and reinforce the desired behaviour change. It also plans to regularly report usage levels, comparing departments, with usage data supplied by BT against separate billing accounts.
To help measure the benefits, BT is to conduct a survey of Kent County Council MeetMe account holders to capture actual data on the benefits of the service. Peter Gilroy sums up: “The BT MeetMe audio conferencing service is helping us take another step on our journey of transformation – being as green as possible and making further efficiency savings in the way we carry out Council business.”
Kent County Council now intends to extend the BT MeetMe service to its 90 councillors. It is also considering the next enhancement to flexible working facilities, talking with BT Conferencing about the potential for the rollout of online collaboration tools such as Microsoft Office Live Meeting.
- BT MeetMe, part of the BT One Collaborate audio portfolio