Tuesday, 09 September 2008
Video Conferencing Case study: MCS
MCS is a Galway-based firm that designs and delivers subsea engineering solutions to the worldwide oil and gas industry. Over the past 25 years MCS has morphed from a small provider of advanced analytical services and a developer of engineering software into an international provider of solutions for the complex process of producing oil and gas in increasingly deeper waters.
MCS employs 220 staff worldwide, with 80 at its headquarters in Galway, and the rest scattered across the globe in locations such as Scotland, the US, Australia and Malaysia. The firm has doubled in size over the past two years. With such a broad spread across the world, it's critical that MCS has access to reliable methods of communication within its business.
The Irish company has long taken a proactive approach toward the use of IT in its business. An intranet is used for human resources announcements and as a document library, enabling easy access to key data for all staff.
However, MCS needed more than just an intranet to maintain a smooth communication flow among its staff. The business wished to enable real-time contact between employees in its offices around the world.
The biggest move toward attaining this goal has been the firm's decision to implement a video conferencing suite. "Last year we introduced a video conferencing system across four of our locations," says David Power, group IT manager with MCS.
The firm consulted with Irish IT distributor Videnda, and local supplier PlanNet21 Communications, about finding the best system to meet its needs. The Galway business opted to use Polycom video conferencing units. The cost of usage is relatively low. The video conference calls made through the system operate in much the same way as VoIP phone calls, which are placed over the internet. "All we are paying for is the bandwidth we use," says Power.
The potential savings to the business played a key role in the firm's decision to implement the system. "The key drivers are the cost savings - by cutting down on the need to travel - and also the ability to bring teams closer together," says Power. The firm uses the Polycom units primarily for monthly management meetings and to enable engineering teams in different countries to discuss projects.
MCS has strived to improve its IT infrastructure to enable the business to get the most out of the video conferencing suite. The firm originally had a variety of different broadband connections in its various offices worldwide. This led to issues relating to connectivity. With some offices having more reliable broadband connections than others, the quality of access to the video conferencing system varied wildly.
To counter this, MCS engaged telecoms provider Cable & Wireless to find a solution, with the result that a Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) system was installed. This data-carrying mechanism speeds up communication and has enabled the firm to overcome the obstacles presented by its previous broadband infrastructure.
"We started out with a mix-and-match approach to broadband," says Power. "The MPLS ensures end-to-end connectivity."
Rather than sit back content with its current IT infrastructure, MCS is keen to build for the future. Having doubled in size over the past two years, the business plans to do so again over the course of the next three years. "We need to build the IT infrastructure to meet that growth," says Power.
As part of this plan, MCS intends to roll out the Polycom units across all of its offices worldwide. The firm is also looking into using desktop conferencing. This would allow staff to log in to the conferencing facility from any location, not just from the room containing the video conferencing units. "The system we have at the moment is limited to four users being on it at once and we are looking for a way to improve this," says Power.
While MCS has actively embraced IT, the firm has always done so in a well-thought-out manner. Power's advice is to always look at the business case before adopting new technologies. "There is no point in doing something just for the sake of doing it. The needs of the business have to justify the spending," he says.
This article can be viewed here