Bank of America is making a dramatic investment in virtual meetings. By the end of 2010, the financial giant will have the world’s second-largest corporate network of Cisco TelePresence videconferencing systems—second only to Cisco itself.
BoA installed its first TelePresence systems more than 18 months ago and currently has 28 units, but that will increase eightfold by the end of the year. It plans to add 200 units to be used for employee meetings and training, as well as for meetings with external partners who also have access to the TelePresence technology. (For the record, Cisco has 740 systems for use internally in 50 countries.)
TelePresence is a large step up from off-the-shelf desktop videoconferencing systems. Cisco’s high-end models render life-size images of conference participants on 65-inch plasma screens in a high-definition format. Participants sit at specially designed tables that mesh visually with the tables on the screens, giving the impression of everyone being in the same room together. Each TelePresence installation features integrated cameras, lights, microphones, and speakers.
Some of Bank of America’s new units will be Cisco’s largest, the 3210 model that seats up to 18 participants on one side of the virtual table and retails for about $340,000. The company is also purchasing units that accommodate six on each side.
Under a managed-service agreement, Cisco will install, support, and maintain the TelePresence equipment. Cisco also will provide monitoring, technical support, and concierge service. This service arrangement is unique and one that Cisco says it will provide only to a select group of its largest and most strategic customers. Most customers get support services through a Cisco partner company.
Bank of America says its investment in TelePresence will help employees collaborate and improve their work-life balance by providing alternatives to travel. BOA also notes that TelePresence supports its commitment to address climate change. However, it won’t comment on the amount of money it expects to save on airline tickets, hotel rooms, and other travel expenses once all the systems are up and running.
According to a spokeswoman, Cisco paid for its first 110 TelePresence rooms in nine months through travel savings, and the average customer breaks even on a TelePresence purchase in 14 months.