Did you beat the Snow..?

I received the following mail this morning and thought I would share -

“The last few days have been very interesting in the UK. The heaviest snowfall in 18 years has lead to transportation shutting down, schools closing and business negatively impacted as millions of workers attempt to get to the office. And if the weather forecasters are to believed, the bad weather is not ended with snow and ice forecasted throughout the week and into the weekend.

The question I have for you is how is your business dealing with the disruption? It is a conversation that I have been having frequently with friends, family and business colleagues, with a wide variety of responses. Over the last two day I was struck by how our company, Microsoft, is handling the disruption.

Our customer facing employees are obviously impacted if they have to travel to a customer site or the customer cancels all meetings. However, the business has been surprisingly agile thanks to the Unified Communications investments we have made company wide, every employee has access to our full Unified Communications suite. This was driven home to me on Wednesday when our Director brought it up at our monthly meeting, a story I thought to share.

Once a month, our team gets together to run through the business. This meeting was a particularly important one as we were reviewing the results of the last 6 months, had special project teams presenting on strategy work that had been going on for the last year and we were covering the 2nd half business priorities. He did not want to cancel it! At 7AM on Monday morning, our Director sent out a communication to the entire team, it read like this:

SNOW CHANGE: Team meeting to be changed LIVE MEETING ONLY! DO NOT DRIVE!

I have been clearly informed that South England does not own snowploughs. And as I look out the window at the 5 inches of snow with no snow tires on my car, as a Canadian who has driven in very big snow storms, I know when not to drive – and this is on of those times. It will be too risky. So, we will probably trim the meeting to the MYR presentation and maybe 2 other topic. More to come – but don’t drive! Looking forward to our meeting – ‘see’ you all there (smile).



At 9AM the meeting started with 68 people attending. We used Live Meeting and the embedded conference call functionality. The Live Meeting voice functionality was used as we did not want people to have to tie up their home phone or incur the cost of a 5 hour call on their mobile phones. Attendees either used their laptops or webcam to attend. It worked flawlessly, with great voice and video quality. We went for the scheduled 5 hours with 15 different presenters, efficient question and answer periods and a great experience. We did not miss a beat due to the snowstorm!

On Tuesday, Michael shared that he ran his management meeting the same way (12 attendees). It went flawlessly, with everyone using their web cameras so that people could see who was speaking as they went through their agenda and discussed very items. He mentioned that using web cameras and our low cost RoundTable raised the quality of virtual meetings dramatically (He sets the use of video as the standard for all virtual meetings). In that meeting, they did not have a single PowerPoint, using white boarding, application sharing and the conferencing functions until someone started sharing the photos of the snow in their yard. He joked that if he would have had a RoundTable in the car he would have given people a 360 degree view of his little office (And as it is a simply USB plug in to a laptop, he could have run it from his house!).”

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