Saturday, April 09, 2005

Tools: International Conference Calling

While working with international teams, project managers in one country sometimes assume that team members in all countries will have the same level of communication infrastructure from their homes. That is normally not the case. For example if there is a conference call with a toll free [1-800] number in the US it won’t be toll free for an employee in Asia. That call will be charged at an international rate.

If the employee has to join the call from home, the employee may have to pay her phone bill and then get the expense reimbursed. This may discourage her from accepting such a meeting or even be part of a team that expects her to do so.

We face similar situations in our India offices and use a local conference calling service that all our team members use to join international conference calls from home. While this does not reduce the expense, it at least makes it convenient for the employee to join the call. It makes a big difference when a working parent can take than 7.30 p.m. call from home instead of staying in the office just because they don’t have toll free international calling facility at home.

This conference calling service lets every participant request for individual dial-in timings. For example, when I had to join a customer call from India at 5.00 a.m., I requested the service to dial me in at 4.50 a.m. The service we use is called Cyber Bazaar. It is now part of WebEx India.

Corporate Calling Cards are an expensive but useful option for international calling. Most big calling card companies [Such as AT&T] have toll free access numbers for most countries. Such cards enable you to join a conference [or make a call] from regular telephones even if such telephones do not have international dialing enabled.
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