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The NCI Agency delivers secure, coherent, cost effective and interoperable communications and information systems and services in support of consultation, command and control and enabling intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, for NATO, where and when required. It includes IT support to the alliance’s business processes (including provision of IT shared services) to NATO HQ, the Command Structure and NATO agencies. “Our headquarters are located in Brussels,” says Gus Mommers, Head of Conference Management Services at the NCI Agency. “We also have regional offices in Mons and The Hague and are active at 30 other locations.”
The NCI Agency was finding the purchase, management and maintenance of facilities for videoconferencing particularly complex and time-consuming. Working closely with Proximus, the agency devised a new process, based on a hybrid approach. “Polycom acts as supplier,” says Mommers, “while Proximus looks after the helpdesk and first-line support. In this way we combine the best of these two partners.”
Based on this partnership, the NCI Agency plans to expand and renew its infrastructure for videoconferencing. The Agency manages, among other things, nine Tele Presence Experience systems for videoconferences. Some of them have reached the end of their life cycle.“The employees’ needs are changing all the time,” says Catherine Galoppin, Section Head of On-Site Conferences and Events. “We therefore looked into what the most fitting and cost-effective solution would be.”
The NCI Agency ultimately opted to offer the advantages of videoconferencing to the widest possible group of users. “Flexible solutions like the Polycom RealPresence Group Series, Centro, RealPresence Trio and Software Clients fit perfectly within the broader context of the new ways of working that we have introduced in our agency,” Galoppin continues. “These days, flexibility is absolutely vital because we are no longer at the office from nine to five. We are a mobile workforce that must be able to operate from different locations. This enables our customers to communicate accurately and clearly, without any time being wasted.”
“Videoconferencing has to be accredited and reliable,” says Mommers. “In this technology, facial recognition is very important, partly because staff from 28 NATO countries are often not speaking their native language in their job. This means that high image quality is a must.” Another important point is that the NCI Agency wants to make videoconferencing as widely available as possible. “We are not replacing large installations on a onefor-one basis,” says Galoppin. “A range of applications is being introduced: we are equipping small and large meeting rooms – 60 in total – but we are equally supporting videoconferencing on desktop and laptop.”
The NCI Agency wants to use videoconferencing to support its employees in their own location wherever possible. This should bring the agency enormous savings in terms of time and travel expenses. The use of videoconferencing is very diverse. There are employees who hold meetings about administrative matters via video and therefore no longer need to drive from Brussels to The Hague or Mons.
Equally, though, it is used in critical dialogue with operational units in Afghanistan. “In that situation, the technology has to work flawlessly,” Mommers adds, “because lives could be at stake.” Partnership “This makes it necessary to look for the right project partner, who must meet certain criteria such as being innovative, reliable and efficient – in short, someone who thinks problems through with the customer. A partnership with Proximus enables us to offer the innovative solutions we have been talking about, which meet the demand for better, more efficient communication, effective purchase, installation and maintenance processes, cost reductions and time savings, resulting in an ROI of 36 months,” says Galoppin.
The NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCI Agency) is NATO’s internal IT Agency. The agency is headquartered in Brussels and has about 2,400 employees.
Gus Mommers is Head of Conference Management Services.
Catherine Galoppin is Section Head of On-Site Conferences and Events at the NCI Agency.