There has been a growing inevitability about video conferencing for several years but it now seems finally to be beginning to play a significant role corporate policy on meetings â€“ and therefore travel.
Post 9/11, there were many predictions that its time had come. But it was a false dawn. Video conferencing was dogged by too many problems to make it a success. The technology was both of poor quality and unreliable - two fatal problems, it was expensive, difficult to use and it was seen as only for senior executives.
At the ACTE ITM Partnership forum in London, two major companies, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWc) and one which asked not to be identified said they were significantly increasing their video conferencing facilities (see News Story: Companies switching to video conferencing).
PWc was adding 11 to its existing 13 locations in the UK while the second was setting up five locations around the world.
What has changed since the post 9/11 days is that several factors have come together to make video conferencing compellingly viable.
These factors are far better equipment, the continuing need for corporates to save money or at least contain travel spend, more positive attitudes towards combating global warming, fears over traveller security and the growing sense of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), manifested here as a concern about employees' work/life balance.
Scott Taylor, director of technical sales for Margolis Technology, a company specialising in video conferencing equipment, said at the same ACTE ITM Forum that companies expected high quality, reliable and cost effective equipment.
Mark Avery, head of business services for PWc, told the conference that the technology was now "stable" and that the real question was about getting people to use it and for which meetings.
Video conferencing is not for first meetings or for building up relationships. As Mr Avery said, you wanted to see "the whites of their eyes" at initial meetings.
Once that stage was past, there was no reason why subsequent meetings needed to be face to face.
There is also a more general feeling that meetings between colleagues from various offices can also be accommodated by video conferencing. This was a point emphasised by a global travel manager who told the Forum that he had drawn up the company's global travel policy by liaising with colleagues through "virtual conferences" and with out travelling once.
There are cost savings â€“ big enough to cheer up the most grumpy chief financial officer. One travel manager estimated he had saved Â£200,000 by holding a meeting of executives through video conferencing while Mr Avery said he could save Â£700,000 if he halved the number of domestic flights involved in setting up internal meetings each year.
But it was the other factors, global warming, security and the work/life balance that both stressed.
"At PWc, it is not purely about costs," Mr Avery said. "We are active in our CSR programme which includes concerns over the work/life balance as well as the impact on the environment.
"With travelling there is a loss of production time out of the office and we can reduce this by less travelling."
The cut in domestic flights for internal meetings would not only save money but also reduce CO2 emissions by 700 tonnes and the time travellers spent away from both the office and their home.
One travel manager said his company's philosophy was that the company was commercial in outlook but also took into account employees' quality of life including their health and their work/life balance.
There was a need to minimise travel risk which meant which meant that video conferencing was in some cases a viable alternative. "The focus is not on the cutting the cost of a ticket but of door to door travel. When you do not spend so much time travelling, there is a better quality of life and less risk," he said.