21. Travel vs. Technology

At the end of last Michaelmas term OUCS carried out a quick survey to try to work out what savings there had been in terms of travel, time away, and so on through the use of alternative technologies. This was a very rough and ready survey, and there are numerous caveats (see below). However, the general findings are interesting.

The results were as follows:

  • Twelve members of staff, including four senior managers, replied.
  • Total days ‘saved’, i.e. not being out of office was 57.5 (£14,950 using an estimate of £260 per day).
  • In terms of journeys, we saved on 20 train journeys (within UK or Europe), 8 flights, and 1 coach journey.
  • Using some average costs this led to a saving of around £6,200.
  • People used a variety of technologies: conference call, WebEx, Skype, Janet video conferencing, etc.

Through the use of such technologies, we saved nearly £21,000 in costs in a single term.

However, there are some important caveats to note:

  • It may be the case that some of the above journeys would not have taken place in any case (i.e. the person simply would not have travelled).
  • The number of days out of office does not equate to number of days lost as people work when away on the matter that required them to travel in the first place, and also on OUCS business by keeping in touch remotely.
  • We were using best guesses for travel costs.

On the other hand:

  • This did not include all the costs saved by use of email exchanges, chat, which negated the need for a meeting (a point several people noted).
  • This did not include hotel costs (too difficult to work out as to who was paying), food, taxis, tube journeys, etc.
  • No doubt some staff didn’t have time to reply.
  • This did not include the costs saved for external units not required to come to Oxford for a meeting.
  • We have not had the time to do the carbon impact of this.
  • Regular online/phone meetings can be more efficient than fewer face to face meetings.

On balance we felt this was a useful, if far from scientific, exercise and showed that this could lead to savings if encouraged.

As a result, OUCS has decided to:

  • Order a handset for each conference room to make phone conferencing easier (in addition to the existing roving handset).
  • Improve documentation on setting up a multi- person conference session (using WebEx and other technologies)
  • Explore Ring2 whom Telecoms have a contract with.

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