In today’s business climate, saving thousands of dollars is a big deal to businesses both large and small. Even saving hundreds of dollars can be important. Often, though, what gets lost in the pursuit of trying to save as many dollars as possible is practicality and effectiveness. Those who are left to deal with the fallout of cost cutting measures find themselves in a quandary of how to proceed with the few resources that remain. It is a frustrating and morale-deflating position, but budget-cutting does not mean that staff should go without useful tools; and in the case of web conferencing, budget-cutting actually puts more productive tools in the hands of every user.
Web conferencing, while most definitely providing the cost cutting necessary to satisfy the back office, also provides greater efficiency, better communication, and good technology. While cutting costs, businesses can position themselves as leaders, which are more capable of participating in the global economy. Of all of the tools that are available to use to save a company money, web conferencing is a significant one because it is not only something that can be done right now and at very little initial cost, it will continue to deliver cost savings in the future by taking its place as a permanent part of the corporate landscape.
There are two types of savings that come from web conferencing; direct and indirect savings. Direct savings is the bottom-line, measurable results. This includes hard costs associated with holding meetings. These are costs that a business can immediately point to as a savings when they are cut from the budget and they are usually immediately evident. These types of savings have been a target of business operations in recent years as more corporations seek new means of maintaining profitability in a sinking economy.
Indirect savings, on the other hand, are the residual benefits that accrue as a result of employing web conferencing as a communications tool in your business. While they are considered “soft costs” they are real, nonetheless, and will help a business reach its critical goal of operating with an emphasis on lean and efficient methods on a daily basis. While indirect savings are not highlighted on a profit and loss statement, they are manifested in greater overall productivity and by greater output of goods and services.
Airline tickets, hotels, rental cars, meals and entertainment are all direct costs which can be cut by using web conferencing. In addition to these enumerated expenses, we must also factor in the loss that results from the non-productive time spent away from the home base. Those who are at remote locations have had to change their normal schedule to allow for the travel. Then there are the small incremental additions like the drag of fatigue on a person who travels and the change in surroundings that affects performance and effectiveness.
Web conferencing is a good substitute for travel, but probably will not prevent larger conventions from occurring, but it will have an impact. Those conventions are already starting to see fewer attendees and exhibitors and the convention organizers will themselves be forced to find new and inventive ways of increasing traffic at the convention or show. Already, conference promoters are experimenting with concepts like “virtual trade shows” that are held either in parallel to, or as an alternative to, an event held in a regular convention hall.
Cost saving result: web conferencing saves money on travel and related expenses that are directly tied to meetings with multiple participants spread over a wide area or territory.
With the advent of VoIP and the Internet, the landscape has changed. The pricing model is no longer tied to a per-minute fee structure, either for individual calls, or voice or web conferences. VoIP-based web conferencing, when hosted on-premise, may have no per-minute fee at all. When hosted by a third party service provider, web conferencing is also affordable with a fee structure that often delivers flat-rate subscription rates as opposed to a per-minute, per-call basis. Less frequent users may avail themselves of a hosted solution that does offer a per-minute levy, although this too can be very cost-effective. Either way, the day-to-day expense line item for telephony is trending downward.
Web conferencing usually incorporates both a web interface and a voice interface, with the latter achieved either through a phone bridge or a direct VoIP connection, which is why the reduction in long-distance telephony is especially critical. More often, web conferencing is achieved through VoIP since this is the most affordable and increasingly the more common option, and the presence of VoIP makes it much easier and significantly less expensive to incorporate the audio portion of the conference.
Cost saving result: web conferencing saves money by replacing out-dated long-distance telephony charges and per-minute fees for connectivity.
For larger businesses, an on-premise solution may be best if web conferencing traffic is expected to be heavy. However, for smaller businesses and SOHO operations, a hosted option is often best. There are several companies offering hosted web conferencing solutions, either on a per-minute, ad hoc basis, or on a subscription flat-rate basis. These companies are focused on bringing success to your meetings offering a single source for your web and other conferencing needs. You can facilitate any kind of meeting in any number of ways through them. Hosted service may be automated with a toll-free call-in number and password/PIN, or the service provider may provide a live facilitator if needed. The latter is often necessary for larger conferences that may involve question and answer sessions.
The hosted web conferencing option allows a company to move to web conferencing as a method of communication and collaboration, without having to bear up-front costs for on-premise equipment, installation and integration. As a result, savings from reduced travel can be almost immediate.
In addition, using a hosted as opposed to an on-premise solution results in more savings in administrative overhead. While the on-premise solution may be better in some situations, it does require installation, maintenance, and day-to-day oversight, and it gives an overburdened IT staff another thing to worry about. In addition, on-premise web conferencing will also require an on-premise operator while the hosted option does not require that. Even if a live operator is necessary for certain conferences, web conference hosting companies will often provide a live host as needed (although the fee would be higher).
Cost saving result: hosted web conferencing saves money by reducing the need for on-premise equipment, as well as by reducing the need for in-house IT staff to maintain it.
Business travel carries with it a significant amount of costs, not the least is which accommodations, plane fare, and per-diem allotments. Indirect costs also result from business travel as a result of time spent away from the home office, which means wasted time. Instead of allocating two or three days to an off-site meeting, web conferencing will allow the meeting to take place with each participant staying in their home location, eliminating all of the extraneous time spent traveling and maximizing productivity. Not only that, but the benefit of having conferences in a comfortable and familiar environment helps participants enjoy higher quality, more effective, and more efficient meetings.
Companies benefit by being more agile and nimble when customers’ demands requires it of them. This means that profitability can be increased by consistently hitting targets for producing products and services. Customers benefit by seeing a reduction in lead times. This is important if they have deadlines that are tied to financial incentives. Being able to meet these deadlines keeps their profitability high and provides a domino effect on other businesses that are their vendors and customers, too.
Cost saving result: web conferencing saves money as it allows personnel to focus on their core business activities with minimal or no down-time. Time that would have been spent traveling, can now be spent on core tasks.
The need for change is a constant source of stress on an organization. Using web conferencing to set up instantaneous meetings allows businesses that manufacture products to push changes to the production floor and improve products immediately.
Web conferencing earns its worth with this benefit by being available and immediate. Imagine the ability to outmaneuver your competition by implementing improvements sooner than the competition, or responding to the market at lightning speed. Or consider how valuable would it be to be able to react to the discovery of a product defect in time to prevent it from being shipped to the end customer. All of this is possible with web conferencing.
While stopping production is never good when demand is strong, it must be weighed against the deferral of making necessary changes. Being able to meet and discuss production issues at a moment’s notices helps keep this to a minimum. If a delay does occur, the instantaneous communication available will help businesses to re-start their systems with greater ease.
Most product oriented businesses have daily production meetings to bring to the forefront the needs for the day. Being able to involve more people at higher levels or from other business units that work closely together helps make sure that all of the business processes are being handled the same way across an entire organization and that all stake-holders in every process are able to participate fully.
Cost saving result: web conferencing saves money by allowing impromptu meetings without having to move people to remote locations and by creating an environment where meetings can be called frequently.
When a company is trimming the budget, training is always one of the first things to get the axe. This is unfortunate and short-sighted since it is evident that adequate training is necessary to ensure quality and good productivity.
Training performed via web conferencing can be just as effective as attending in person, and much less expensive, but the trainers must pay special attention to making the sessions engaging and interactive. Those that are not will find that the information that is imparted will not have the long term lasting impact on trainees that is needed.
While live training sessions via web conferencing are great time-savers, there is an added advantage. Sessions can be recorded and archived, making it possible to create an on-demand library of training sessions that can be accessed at any time as needed for refresher or re-training requirements.
Even though training requires the use of additional technology inputs, like presentations and white boards, web conferencing is up to the task and keeps things moving along by allowing interaction from all participants in very intuitive ways.
Cost saving result: web conferencing saves money by allowing effective training sessions to be held for participants in remote locations and by being “virtual” in nature.
Everyone can improve the way they use their time. Web conferencing allows you to schedule your time around the tasks that you have to accomplish. If you are a meeting organizer, you know how important this becomes but you also know that it is not possible to make meetings that work perfectly with each and every schedule.
Web conferencing tools include the best modules like collaboration and groupware systems that allow a user to manage common online calendars, schedules and events; charting and discussions of projects; sharing and updating common documents; and surveying other team members to gather input.
Cost saving result: web conferencing saves money by making personnel more in control of time management functions and scheduling activities.
To review: travel and other expenses are cut down to a minimum, communications costs are trimmed properly, hosted services and providers can be engaged, productivity is increased, collaboration is encouraged and made easier, training is facilitated in an effective manner, and control is placed into the hands of the end user where it can be utilized to the betterment of the business.
Saving money with web conferencing is not limited to just the manufacturing of products – service businesses can benefit as well. Any business that has the need for input from many sources to one point or from one point out to many participants is a good candidate for web conferencing solutions. Even when looking at the value of in-person, on-site meetings for the purpose of developing customer relations, web conferencing has a place there as well. Reaching out with more frequent, service oriented touches to clients without having to travel helps keep the relationships fresh and the flow of communication unrestricted.
Being able to save thousands of dollars by using web conferencing is within any company’s grasp. Once just a simple nice-to-have option on the shelf of most businesses, it has now become one of the cornerstones and examples of how reducing costs can be accomplished by using advances in technology.
Web conferencing has found its place in corporate settings all over the world and is being used on a regular basis. When business and economic climates improve, the use of web conferencing will probably go down very little because the benefits have cemented a place for this business function and made it a permanent business fixture. Taking the time to make wise choices in this area will help you increase your productivity and profits, too.