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IT’s Role in Travel Substitution – Have We Reached The Tipping Point ?

By Simon Mingay | April 29, 2010 | 2 Comments

A combination of the recession, continued focus on productivity, organizational and individual responses to climate change, changing demographics in the workplace, changing views on the acceptability of “junkets” or jollies, and Icelandic volcanoes, have created a significant change in attitudes towards business travel. I’d hesitate to talk about the “perfect storm” at this stage, but anecdotally what I am seeing is a very different attitude toward using remote collaboration systems, and to some extent social systems, to reduce the need to travel. The technology is so much better than it was even a couple of years ago, so the issue is now a social and behavioural one, and that’s what I think is showing signs of substantial change as well.

I’m going to be doing my first virtual conference in Second Life next week ( whichI very much look forward too.  There is obviously a time and place for this kind of immersive technology, but the increasing use and acceptability of remote meeting and remote collaboration technologies, immersive or otherwise, is symtomatic of the change I am talking about here. I’m very much looking forward to this experience, but must resist the temptation to play around with my avatar too much -though it desperately needs a hair cut.

As I mentioned above, the reasons for organizations and individuals to engagae more with this way of working are multiple, and vary in strength from one situation to another. Environmental performance is usually toward the top of the list, but it is in fact rarely the primary reason, even if that’s the talk track.

The world was always going to be different coming out of this recession, and I’d suggest that this might very well be one of those big changes.

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  • Totally agree that this is one of those “big changes” and it has so many dimensions. As a Cisco employee I am of course fortunate to have access to many of the collaborative tools such as TelePresence which enable all this, but it has completely changed my working life. It is not just travel substitution, though that is a part (I rarely travel now) – but the big change is the ability to be involved in many conversations, projects and teams that would previously not have included a European perspective. In my personal life, I meet many Mums who’d love to work in a big company but resist the disruption that would bring to family life with long hours/travel etc. As these technologies become more widely available, and even arrive into the home, many of those barriers can be overcome, opening up opportunities for many people. Our travel budgets were dramatically reduced some time ago and won’t be going back to the old level –you are right this has changed for ever.

  • Nicole says:

    Really interesting and fascincating. When I was an IBM employee at IBM Europe we faced this issue with Gulf War-1 and it became the starting point of reducing travel budgets as we realised we didn’t use the way we could the techno available on our desks. Now, people in our environments don’t have fixed desks anymore and we realize that technology can help improve the quality of our personal life. This is still very difficult to be understood and accepted by traditional organizations…but the move is “on” and we should show the way forward where all the stakeholders are happy! I am not sure SecondLife is the best tool, but it helps understanding how far and strong a virtual relationship can take over and enable us to continue “business as usual”. Telepresence mentioned by Lisbeth is about the best you can experience now, but we have still to learn how to best use the virtual tools for the improvement of a personal business relationship.