The university has achieved significant productivity gains among its academic staff through a unified communications systems that integrates mobile devices, desktop computers and notebooks. As with many organisations, the greatest cost in education is highly skilled staff. The result is any productivity improvements among academic, research and support staff at Deakin immediately benefits the university’s education outcomes. For example, Professor Jane den Hollander, Vice-Chancellor and President at Deakin University explained extensive use of video conferencing technology is significantly reducing travel times to meetings held across its four campuses. The university offers classes in Melbourne and Warrnambool, plus two sites in Geelong. Academics previously had to drive up to four hours simply to attend a meeting – time now dedicated to research and teaching activities. In fact, some academic teams are saving up to 80 hours each year by using universal communications software that’s now been extended to their smart phones thanks to an application called Jabber.
Jabber is an all-in-one universal communications application that combines all the elements of a unified communications system and makes it available on any compatible computing platform or device. Employees can collaborate from any workspace or physical location at any time. As a result, the software is giving academic and support staff the flexibility to work from home or remote locations, and dramatically reduces the need for travel between different locations. “Teleworking is having a very significant impact on the productivity of our academics,” den Hollander explains.
How Jabber keeps Deakin ahead of the pack
In its strategic plan for 2012, Deakin outlined its mission to be recognised as Australia’s most progressive university – it has already received accolades for its innovative use of technology in teaching and learning. The UC project was considered key to this mission.
Beginning in 2010 with a staged approach across the university’s classrooms, staff and administration offices, the technologies at each location was combined on a single communications platform. “We started out by installing video conferencing equipment throughout the university to improve time management for face-to-face meetings,” says Deakin University CIO William Confalonieri. “Then more recently we adopted Cisco Jabber software which means meetings can be performed using a Cisco Jabber client on any compatible device.”
Like all institutions and companies, Deakin faced some interesting challenges when it came to integrating smart phones and tablet PCs into the work environment. It’s a common challenge for many organisations, with Gartner rating increased use of tablet PC’s and mobility as two of the most important tech trends all businesses must incorporate into broader IT strategies. Deakin’s approach was to embrace different computing devices using Jabber, rather than impose restrictions on device types or platforms. “Jabber combines the efficiency gains of unified communications easily onto a mobile platform,” explains Telstra’s Jeff Letherby, Business Development Manager on the Cisco Collaboration. “Just think for a moment the amount of time you play tag with another staff member, then multiply that across everyone in the organisation and you can see how quickly unified communications improves productivity.”
According to Letherby, Deakin University’s experience is replicated throughout other industries. “If people have Jabber on their mobile devices they won’t bother to make a call if they can see that someone is busy – they simply choose a different form of communication,” he explained. “So the productivity gains of unified communications which are prevalent in the office are extended out to mobile workers, and staff who need to be away from the office for whatever reason.” In fact, Letherby says the extension of UC functions on a mobile platform results in a significant productivity increase in any sector where staff are high skilled and highly mobile.
The benefits of delivering to any compatible device
Operating as it does on PC, Mac, tablet and smart phone devices; Jabber lets people collaborate from any internet-connected workspace – a feature that helps organisations experiment with new ways of working. In some cases, these experiments in new forms of collaboration are driven by employee demands, and others are part of wider productivity and workplace flexibility programs. Jabber reports its customers have used the software to reduce travel costs, adopt more flexible working arrangements, and implement strategies such as BYOD. Moreover, it’s been a useful technology for companies with geographically diverse workforces, helping staff collaborate easily in multiple physical locations.
Successful implementation strategies
Letherby says the most effective way to achieve productivity gains from unified communications technology is integrating multiple business teams during the implementation process. “It’s important the rollout involves a multidisciplinary team which includes people from marketing and HR, as well as sales and anyone who has the need to communicate with partners and suppliers,” Letherby says. That approach is also paying off for students, helping them connect with the University throughout many locations. Each year over 10,000 students choose to study off campus at Deakin, making use of a range of technologies to access everything from library services to face-to-face consultations, classes and tutorials. “Our strategy is also in keeping with the University’s commitment to delivering highly personalised distance education,” says den Hollander. “Telstra and Cisco working together have given us a world-beating solution.”