Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Current Trend of Global Collaboration

It is only a matter of time that the old way of "traveling to collaborate" will decline. The amount of time that is being wasted in waiting and traveling is quite a lot.

There is a time and a place for traveling and there is a time and place for using video conferencing. Spending time waiting for an airplane can be used in other productive ways.

Are you tired of waiting?

With our Compass AE process, you and your team can collaborate anywhere. It does not matter what technology or what project methodology your team are using. It is all about connecting the team to the Tangible Vision.

The current dilemma is that most people do not know how to collaborate as a team, with or without the challenge of distance and individual culture

Another dilemma that we discovered is they do not know how to collaborate with the latest video collaboration technology.

In a future entry, we will talk about the importance of making a collaborative decision quickly in a global economy and how to integrate Compass AE and video conferencing as one collaborative protocol.


September 18, 2007
U.S. Working on Its Welcome

In February, Eric Rozenberg, a Belgian travel executive, was en route to a convention in CancĂșn, Mexico, from Brussels when, he says, he experienced firsthand what other foreign travelers had told him about the problems of getting into the United States.

He said an official took him aside with no explanation as he went through immigration in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport and sent him to a separate room.

After waiting there nearly 90 minutes, Mr. Rozenberg, who travels to the United States on business at least six times a year, said, he very politely asked another officer what was taking so long. The officer glanced at Mr. Rozenberg’s passport again, told him to wait another 10 minutes, then handed it back to him without explaining what had happened.

The officer asked if he had missed his connecting flight, Mr. Rozenberg recalled. When he replied that he had, he said casually: ‘Oh, sorry about that; just tell them you were detained at immigration,’ Mr. Rozenberg said.

Similar complaints from foreign business and leisure travelers have led the United States government to take steps to improve the treatment of travelers upon arrival. In February 2006, the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security announced a program, called Secure Borders and Open Doors, aimed at balancing the increased need for security after the 2001 terrorist attacks with the desire to ease travel to the United States.

Last February, the Homeland Security Department started the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program, or TRIP (trip.dhs.gov), which provides an online form travelers can use to file complaints electronically about any travel-related government entity. It offers more transparency and a one-stop location for travelers who feel, say, they weren’t treated properly or missed a flight because of a D.H.S. employee’s actions, said Kelly Klundt, a spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection, which is part of the Homeland Security Department.

But while government officials say they are trying for change, there is no way to tell if progress has been made. Ms. Klundt said she did not know if the government kept statistics on complaints about poor treatment by customs and border officials.

Geoff Freeman is the executive director of the Discover America Partnership, a Washington lobbying group of leaders from the Travel Business Roundtable, Marriott International, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, the Travel Industry Association and other companies and organizations. Since the organization was formed last September to promote the United States abroad, it has received hundreds of phone calls and e-mail messages, he said, from foreign travelers complaining of poor treatment by customs and border officials.

But, Mr. Freeman said, while most people who’ve come here from overseas since 9/11 say the entry experience is poor, beyond the airport, their U.S. experience is good enough that they’ll probably come back.

The partnership also found, however, that if foreigners had not visited the United States since Sept. 11 or had never visited, the stories they’re reading or hearing about the poor entry experience are discouraging them from visiting, Mr. Freeman said.

He said statistics from the World Trade Organization showed a 17 percent increase in worldwide travel since Sept. 11, while data from the United States Office of Travel and Tourism Industries showed travel to the United States declining the same percentage over the same period.

Former Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, who served as the first secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, is working with the Discover America Partnership to find ways to improve the entry experience. By and large, my former colleagues do a good job, Mr. Ridge said. But anecdotally, I’ve heard we have to be a lot more sensitive. If even one traveler in 10,000 has a bad experience, that ripple effect is harmful.

Prakton Mal, who was born in India, lives in Oslo and is a Norwegian citizen, said many of his colleagues would rather participate in a videoconference than travel to the United States and risk embarrassment and ill treatment.

/// *** The continuing trend of more people wanting to use video-conferencing tool.

In March, he said, while on a business trip, he was treated rudely by a very sour and impolite immigration official at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport because he had forgotten to sign and date his immigration form. It was a small incident, but it could have been avoided, Mr. Mal said. He said he takes 18 international business trips a year, and I sometimes feel that the United States stands out with their arrogant behavior toward innocent incoming businesspeople.

One executive, an American citizen who was born in France, said he presented his American passport to a customs official at Miami International Airport after returning from an overseas business trip. The official noticed he was also carrying a French passport.

He told me it was illegal to carry two passports, the executive recalled. He held both passports in front of me and asked, ‘Which one do you want me to destroy?’ like it was a game.

The executive, who did not want his name disclosed because he was concerned that might affect his business dealings, said he insisted he had the right to carry two passports because he was a dual citizen. (A State Department spokesman confirmed this; the law specifies only that American citizens must present their American passport when entering the United States.)

The official kept him waiting about half an hour, then returned both passports, the executive said. But he said he’d put a note in my file that I was breaking the law and I’d get stopped the next time I traveled. He said he filed a complaint electronically, but they didn’t even acknowledge receiving it.

Ms. Klundt said all customs officials were required to take an annual professionalism training course, which is updated every year. We’re concerned about these negative situations and want to address them, she said. But we also need to focus on our mission, which is keeping bad people and bad things out of the country.

Mr. Ridge said it was that occasional rude person who creates all these horror stories.

The welcome mat has a little dust on it right now, he added. We have to spruce it up a bit.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

# # #

September 17, 2007
Seeking Relief

NOW what?

Usually, fall brings relief from summertime air traffic delays, cancellations and missed connections. But this year, some travelers are not betting on it.

I’m certainly not going to be happily whistling on my way to the airport, thinking the troubles of the summer are over, said Will A. Allen III, a management consultant from Raleigh, N.C., who is on the road or in the air more than he is home.

So far, this year in air travel merits a place in the record books. During the first eight months of 2007, a quarter of all domestic flights arrived late. Late flights also created a deluge of missed connections, and flight cancellations were higher than ever. In the three months ending Aug. 31, 52,840 domestic flights were canceled, according to FlightStats.com. That number compared with about 16,000 in the same period last year.

/// *** Ask yourself, do you want to spend your time waiting? ... With Compass AE, you and your team can "video-conference" as a team properly.

About the only flight that took off on time this summer was the space shuttle, said Joe Brancatelli, whose subscription business-travel Web site is Joesentme.com.

Airlines usually blame bad weather for problems, and given that the air traffic control system is stretched to its limits, weather can cause excessive delays, even in the fall, said David L. Beckerman, the director of consulting services at Back Aviation Solutions. In a system where carriers have cut domestic capacity and really need every aircraft in service to carry their high passenger loads, this is more problematic than it was a few years ago, he said.

Adding to the problems, the airlines say, is congestion caused by a surge in the use of corporate jets as business travelers try to avoid delays. The situation will only get worse as new four- to six-seat business aircraft, called very-light jets, come off the assembly line.

Shrewd business travelers usually pride themselves on having a backup plan. Given the current mess, how can people cope? Stay home, Mr. Brancatelli said, not entirely facetiously.

Avoiding crowded major-hub airports is one limited alternative. In recent years, some business travelers have been using smaller outlying airports — like Manchester International in New Hampshire, 50 miles from Boston, and Ontario International, 35 miles from downtown Los Angeles — with point-to-point routes that avoid frantic connections. Manchester’s passenger traffic, for instance, increased to more than 4.5 million last year from 1 million in 1997.

Traffic growth at such airports comes mostly from point-to-point travel, often in short-haul regional routes but also in longer ones by nimble carriers like Southwest Airlines.

For the first eight months of 2007, Southwest, whose national route network was built around point-to-point flying, had an 8.3 percent increase in passenger miles flown. On the other hand, American Airlines, which builds its system around major hubs, reported a 2.1 percent decline.

Still, American and the other major airlines carry by far the most passengers and offer the largest number of routes and frequencies, with operations firmly based at hub airports that in some cases, like O’Hare International in Chicago, are often unable to accept new traffic. Many outlying airports have also been operating near capacity, and are often unable to expand operations because of strong opposition from residents who live nearby, analysts say.

Rail alternatives, like Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor service, also operate near capacity. All of which is leading more drivers to another option: driving.

Mr. Allen, the consultant in Raleigh, saw the meltdown coming. Last spring, he began driving occasionally on trips that he used to fly.

My limit is about 400 to 450 miles, eight hours, which is how long you can spend getting to and from an airport and flying somewhere, he said. But not long ago, Mr. Allen drove 900 miles to a job. At least in the car you’re in charge of your own schedule, he said.

Doug Laubach, who owns an engineering business near Syracuse with eight employees, often uses the company Audi for trips. There is no reliability left in the air traffic system, he said. He often drives to avoid delays at the Syracuse airport and to get to a major hub like Chicago, where he then flies to jobs in places like Colorado. Mr. Laubach encourages employees who drive to add recreation to the trip, so the Audi may be loaded not only with laptops and luggage but also bicycles and other sports equipment. I want my people to feel they have a life, he said.

How did the airline schedules come to such a sorry state?

As airlines have reduced costs by cutting capacity, schedules and employees, planes have become fuller than ever. Some critics say that the airlines — now profitable after years of losses — have no motive to add passengers or improve service.

Airlines have also been criticized for clogging routes with more regional jets, which usually accommodate 50 passengers at most. But the airlines say that regional jets — which carry about one of every four passengers — are serving the smaller markets that large jets don’t. Instead, they point the finger at the corporate jets.

Pushed by consumer discontent with commercial airlines, business aviation has been growing rapidly. There are now more than 11,000 private jets in the United States, compared with about 7,000 in 2000, according to the National Business Aviation Association. The trade group argues that business jets mostly use smaller, noncommercial airports and are in the sky far less often than airliners.

Regardless, there will be more of them soon when the very-light jets take off. The short-range jets are relatively inexpensive, from about $1.4 million to more than $2.5 million. The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that more than 350 of them will be flying next year, and that their numbers will grow by 400 to 500 a year for a decade.

We’re going to be filling in gaps where air service is inadequate, said Ed Iacobucci, the chief executive of DayJet in Boca Raton, Fla., a company that is buying hundreds of Eclipse 500 very-light jets to start an air-taxi business, selling seats on demand. The company plans to begin flying among Florida cities that many business travelers now reach by driving or by spending hours in commercial airports.

Some potential customers of air taxis say that saving time outweighs the extra cost, roughly equivalent to a first-class commercial fare. We all have families at home, said Eric Romano, a lawyer in a West Palm Beach, Fla., firm who has signed up to be a DayJet client. Some industry observers, like Michael Boyd of the Boyd Group Consultancy in Evergreen, Colo., say blame for the problems lies not so much with the airlines — big or small — or the weather as with the air traffic control system itself. Responding to that criticism, the F.A.A., which forecasts 768 million domestic passengers flying this year, up from 666 million in 2000, has pointed to future improvements like a $25 billion upgrade using G.P.S. technology to allow planes to fly closer together near hubs.

But Mr. Boyd said that because F.A.A. improvements in the past have been too little and too late, airlines now routinely pad their schedules, adding flight time to hide the extent of delays.

The problem isn’t the weather, it’s the air traffic control system’s inability to deal with the weather, he said.

Still, air traffic keeps growing. We’re assuming the skies are going to get a lot more crowded, said Robert E. Brown, the chief executive of CAE Inc., a company with a worldwide network of 24 pilot-training centers.

Passenger discontent is also increasing over the problem of aircraft stuck on airport aprons. This year, passengers have been stranded at dozens of airports, sometimes for 10 hours or more, as pilots waited for takeoff slots in inclement weather. Kate Hanni, a Napa, Calif., real estate agent, was among the passengers stranded on several dozen flights diverted from Dallas last December. Her plane was sent to Austin, Tex., where the passengers sat for more than nine hours as food ran out and cabin conditions deteriorated.

Since then, she has been advocating federal legislation, a Passengers’ Bill of Rights, specifying when airlines need to allow passengers to get off parked planes and ensuring enough food and water and basic sanitation. Ms. Hanni has marshaled a network of volunteers who keep records, including e-mail messages and phone numbers, from thousands of stranded passengers. The Web site is flyersrights.com.

Ms. Hanni plans a publicity campaign for Wednesday. We’re going to have a strand-in in Washington, she said, with a tent simulating conditions on a stranded plane.

But frequent fliers like Mr. Allen have no illusions that conditions will improve soon. In years past, he said, fliers sharing tales of woe at airport lounges could always find a fellow traveler who chided them for exaggerating the troubles.

I never run into those people anymore, he said.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company



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