Longtime technologist Greg Bell believes in being available, both in business and at home.
His company, Advansys, develops software for collaboration and office productivity. Based in Sydney, Australia, Advansys started using Skype in 2004 to allow for international expansion and today serves a majority of customers in the U.S. and Europe.
“When Skype came along it was a fantastic opportunity for our small business to cut costs,” Bell says. International calls from Australia came with a high price tag, and Bell’s staff often spoke with customers at length.
Fast forward eight years, and Bell relies on Skype Manager, IM, subscriptions, online numbers and call forwarding to maintain constant communication with employees, partners and customers. Video calling and screen sharing enhance dealings with external partners. He and his staff also are devotees of ongoing group chats, a practice we looked at in a previous post.
Tip: To make it easier to find valuable information within conversations later, Advansys employees use hashtags like #todo or #idea in ongoing chats.
“Skype is the central nervous system of our business,” says Bell. “We’re fully virtualized – all our staffers work from home.”
Years ago, Bell experienced the frustrations of downtime and traffic when he traveled the area as a computer engineer for HP. His four core staff members are spread throughout the suburbs of Sydney, a city of more than 4.6 million people. When Advansys went virtual, one employee gained back nearly 20 hours each week.
“They appreciate having the extra time to spend with their families or to do whatever they enjoy,” Bell says. “It’s a major improvement in quality of life. It’s not only time and productivity – I think you live longer if you can avoid the traffic!”
But Skype’s not all business for Bell. At one point he traveled frequently abroad, meaning less time to spend with his wife and three children. He recalls sitting in the waiting lounge of the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, taking advantage of Skype and free WiFi to talk to his small son while playing a building simulation game together online.
“It was amazing. I could hear him clearly and be playing with him in a virtual environment,” says Bell. “It made us feel so close to each other and yet we were half a world apart.”
More recently, Bell’s teenage daughter fell ill and ended up in the hospital. Bell stayed close by as she recovered, using Skype from the waiting room to keep his business running.
“Being online and being available is essential, particularly in our fast-moving business,” Bell says.
What’s next for Advansys? Not only does the company count on Skype for business collaboration and family ties, it’s building products to be used in conjunction with the software. RecollX, the company’s first Skype-related product, allows users to archive their full written chat history, search it with what Bell calls an “industrial strength search engine,” and then export to the application of their choice.
“This is just the beginning,” Bell says. “We’re looking forward to many more products in the Skype sphere.”
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