Web conferencing delivers advantages that were unheard of a decade ago, giving small businesses the ability to reach out globally and larger businesses the ability to reduce their communications and travel expenses.
The technology of web conferencing is based on Internet protocols, which transmit video and/or audio packets over the Internet on a prioritized basis. Early on in the Internet’s evolution, this was not possible because of the “best effort” nature of Internet Protocol; but newer technologies offering packet prioritization, higher-speed transport, and broadband connectivity make web conferencing practical for everyday use. More importantly, it has become affordable for nearly everybody.
Successes in web conferencing are evident across a spectrum of businesses, from SOHO to small business users to enterprise users and across every industry from education to manufacturing to finance. This wide scope is possible for several reasons, including:
Let’s take a look at a few companies that have had success with web conferencing, and the benefits the technology has delivered to them.
Papa John’s International delivers a lot more than pizza. The company’s aggressive expansion requires a great deal of coordination, meetings, and training sessions to execute its plan to open hundreds of new restaurants over the next few years throughout the Americas, Asia, and Europe. Reducing business travel is a primary benefit of web conferencing, and Papa John’s focused on this cost center to reduce the expenses of in-person training and meetings.
According to Papa John’s executives, the training and strategy sessions were very detailed; an ordinary phone call or audio conference would not have sufficed. The meetings were used to conduct in-depth training and to review store plans and financial documents with franchisees. Papa John’s ideal solution was GoToMeeting. The company took advantage of the software’s application-sharing and annotation tools to boost interaction with franchisees and increase overall productivity.
In addition, Papa John’s branches use GoToMeeting regularly to conduct meetings and discuss quarterly updates with global franchisees. This gives them the advantage of meeting with multiple franchisees, in several locations, at the same time, without having to fly different franchise owners into a central location.
Papa John’s also uses web conferencing technology for educational purposes by hosting training sessions for franchisees on a variety of management topics, like quality management and using the company’s in-house software systems. An average training session incorporates eight franchisees at once in different locations, and often in separate countries. The company estimates that it saves as much as $10,000 per training session in travel costs. The company cited an example of such travel savings when an overseas director was required to attend a conference in Florida, but was occupied opening a store in Portugal. The director was able to attend via GoToMeeting — allowing him to continue with his local responsibilities and save about $12,000 in travel costs.
GoToMeeting is easy to use and is integrated with Lotus Notes, making it possible for Papa John’s to set up web conferences through their internal email system. These meetings provide easy document sharing and annotation tools to review store layouts. The company also uses Microsoft Visio to create store layouts, allowing each member participating in the conference to see any images, even if they do not have Visio installed.
Overall, GoToMeeting has been fundamental in helping Papa John’s International maintain its aggressive growth by giving them better and more frequent communication tools.
GoToMeeting is also a strategic tool for business consultancy Kaulkin Ginsberg Company. One of their units, Kaulkin Information Systems, provides accounts receivable, collections, and financial services software to clients. In promoting that software, the company initially made the mistake of using an unreliable, poor quality online meeting system. By conducting remote demonstrations to prospective customers, the sales staff saved a great deal of time with each individual presentation and was therefore able to reach out to more prospects. However, this only works if the underlying technology allows the online presentation to be as seamless as possible. However, the poor quality of their conferencing software caused Kaulkin to make a poor first impression.
Kaulkin Information Systems discovered GoToMeeting while attending a meeting with one of their vendors. With GoToMeeting, Kaulkin can make high-quality, scheduled sales presentations, as well as ad hoc, last-minute demonstrations. The easy-to-use GoToMeeting system also enables Kaulkin’s sales staff to make a presentation as soon as the need arises, without advance preparation.
Because GoToMeeting allows up to 25 participants in a meeting, Kaulkin also uses the technology to conduct group sales demos to multiple prospects simultaneously, greatly increasing the productivity of the sales staff. Beyond sales presentations, Kaulkin also uses GoToMeeting to conduct customer training sessions. With GoToMeeting, the company reports that they have reduced training time by 30 percent, while still retaining effectiveness.
Because Kaulkin is in the financial services business, security is a high priority. GoToMeeting fulfills their security requirements with features such as password-based authentication and end-to-end encryption.
Adobe Connect Pro is another leading web conferencing product that has delivered positive results for a number of clients. For example, Australian Kitchen Industries deployed the system, seeing a return on investment within seven months and dramatically improving their e-learning initiative.
The company, with a staff of 400 and 20 retail outlets, needed to maintain consistent quality and growth. Their new franchise business model had the potential to greatly expand sales, but this involved a major focus on recruiting, training, and enhanced communication. Franchisees were geographically dispersed, making training a major expense. Acrobat Connect Pro answered these challenges, allowing the company to rein in costs while providing the scalability needed to continue their growth pattern.
With Adobe Connect Pro, Australian Kitchen Industries implemented both web conferencing and e-learning throughout the organization. They used Connect Pro and Adobe Presenter to create on-demand presentations, supplementing live training sessions with a library of ready-made, on-demand presentations.
Previously, the company had outsourced their training at significant cost; Adobe allowed Australian Kitchen Industries to bring training in-house, which significantly reduced expenses. At the same time, they were able to expand their training offerings beyond simple dissemination of company policy items to broad training that incorporated other participants, including kitchen designers, manufacturers, and franchisees.
Regardless of the users’ location, the Adobe system provides easy access and a user-friendly and flexible training infrastructure. In addition, on-demand courseware is easy to locate and well organized. The training modules can include animations, audio, video, and interactivity, which enhance the overall learning experience. The system can also be used to track and deliver personnel assessments.
The Ontario Ministry of Education is another organization that has improved their processes with Adobe Connect Pro. The system is used to promote Internet-based learning and to host online meetings. For example, instructors use Adobe Connect to bring web-based learning into the classroom, enabling teachers to teach in two classrooms at the same time, effectively doubling the number of students they can reach. Students who are not in the same room as the teacher can still interact with the rest of the class through a live chat feature. The technology makes it possible to establish online classes, giving remotely located schools access to the same curriculum and teachers as those closer to more metropolitan areas.
In addition, the school district uses Adobe Connect to allow outside speakers to address classrooms and access resources. The guest speakers host interactive presentations that can be shared with thousands of students throughout the district at the same time. Even better, the students use the technology to collaborate across classrooms, and even across schools, to work on various projects.
The technology is also used to offer staff training and orientation sessions. Additionally, the school board also operates a series of virtual learning centers that accommodate adult learners and home-schooled students.
Cisco Systems WebEx is one of the best known and most widely used web conferencing systems on the market. Hong Kong-based TradeLink Technologies, a supply chain information solutions firm operating in 40 countries, had great success implementing the system. With customers and offices around the world, TradeLink needed a way to easily communicate with both clients and staff.
WebEx created an online portal for TradeLink that serves as a central virtual meeting place. The company uses the technology for sales, support, and installation. The sales and support teams also use WebEx in their daily operational tasks. For instance, when a customer calls for assistance, an agent can enable WebEx to walk the customer through the issue to quickly reach an effective resolution. WebEx also delivers a major advantage to the sales team. In Asia, many companies still travel to meet customers in person, which takes time and money; WebEx allows them to meet with customers virtually as needed.
The National Bank of Indianapolis uses WebEx to enable its small IT staff to effectively service all eleven branches. Their two-person IT staff needed to meet government regulations and the IT needs of the extended branch network. WebEx allowed them to achieve these goals, while also improving overall customer service. The system eliminated the need for the IT staff to travel on-site for manual maintenance on each branch’s IT system. WebEx also helped them adhere more closely to regulations by giving them a more effective way to manage and distribute software patches and respond to security threats in the network.
WebEx also helped the National Bank of Indianapolis make a smooth switchover to Daylight Savings Time. The bank’s IT system required two separate time updates, and under other circumstances the IT team would have had to shut down other projects to perform the switchover. Instead, the bank used WebEx to perform software distribution and patch management. Since then, they have fully automated critical IT functions. The bank was also able to implement and use WebEx almost immediately thanks to the system’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, which eliminated a long rollout period.
Internal support is also facilitated with WebEx, allowing the IT staff at the National Bank to resolve problems on any of the network’s 300 computers from a remote location. IT issues can now be resolved often in a matter of minutes, and without IT staff having to travel to the branch location.