Metropolitan Bank, founded in 2008, is a rapidly growing FDIC-insured institution with headquarters in Memphis, Tenn., and Ridgeland, Miss. We rely heavily on good communications among our offices and with our clients. For us, however, audio conference calls lacked the personal touch that's important for efficient communication. We wanted our associates to be able to interact on a more personal level, and we knew email and conference calls were not going to cut it.
The answer for us was video conferencing. However, our first forays in video conferencing were somewhat disappointing. Our offices were all using different systems. The setup was inefficient and resulted in poor quality, fuzzy visuals, and dropped calls.
That all changed in August 2010, when Venture Technologies provided and installed two LifeSize Express units to connect our two headquarters locations. In December 2011, we added LifeSize Room 220 units. The original Express units connected just Memphis and Ridgeland. The new Room 220 units allowed us to conduct high-definition, face-to-face meetings with up to eight locations, including the original Express units.
[For more on video conferencing, check out: Nationwide Building Society Boosts Mortgage Sales with Remote Expert Video Conferencing]
In setting up the system, it was important for us to make sure everything operated smoothly behind our firewall. We completely segregated a new network with point-to-point connectivity for security purposes, to improve speed, and to avoid drops and losses.
This was an important new step in implementation for us. In the past, we might have ridden an application like this on our previously built network. We realized that our data circuits could not handle these types of additional applications smoothly. Increasing data lines was the right way to go. Trying to do something like this on the cheap simply doesn't work.
A new standard for communication
As we grow, video conferencing has become a standard way of working at Metropolitan Bank. We have seven endpoints and 150 users, most of whom are using the technology at least every week. We find ourselves using video more and more often, not only for meetings with multiple attendees, but also for quick, one-on-one exchanges that are better handled face to face.
In particular, I rely on video conferencing almost every day to increase efficiency and encourage greater engagement in the corporate culture. (Just the other day, I had 10 video conferences with three of our offices.)
Our interoffice communications are now not only more frequent, but also more effective. We've saved hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in travel expenses. I can't even begin to quantify the huge savings and great efficiencies we've acquired.
In addition to savings, video conferencing makes it easy for us to share, discuss, and edit documents during meetings. This feature and the ease of use the system provides have greatly enhanced collaboration among our bank's offices.
We've been so impressed by the dramatic improvements in cost savings and collaboration that video conferencing offers that we plan to install even more systems in new offices as we expand.
Making video work in your company
If you're interested in incorporating video conferencing in your organization, here are a few pieces of advice that I learned along the way.
- Work closely with IT. Many video conferencing systems don't require an infrastructure buildout, but only your IT people will know for sure whether your infrastructure is up to the added demands. The added expense will be made up very quickly by the usefulness of the system. As I said before, cheap is not the way to go here.
- Make sure you're ready to use it. Your team needs to know, very simply, that things get done faster with video conferencing. Opportunities are more readily identified in these face-to-face collaborative meetings. It's also much easier to understand tone and inflections over video; this will let team members know how an idea is going over -- and how to address problems sooner.
- Really use it. Make sure your associates are committed to using video conferencing regularly. That commitment may require a cultural shift for employees who grew up on email and audio conferences. But unlike email or audio conferencing, video conferencing makes people stop multitasking and listen to what's actually going on -- an invaluable part of good collaboration.
We're convinced that video conferencing is far better than other means of communication in fostering relationships and improving collaboration. If your organization commits to it, I'm sure you'll agree.
Pam Ware is the COO and CIO of Metropolitan Bank, a Miss.-based community bank. She graduated magna cum laude from Mississippi State University with a bachelor's degree in Business Administration, with an emphasis in Marketing. She joined Metropolitan with previous ... View Full Bio