A January 2004 study of 28,000 Web conferences (conducted by Netspoke Conferencing and analyzed by the Yankee Group) reveals that application sharing—rarely used as little as three years ago—is now used in a large majority of Web conferences.
Features and Functionality
There are a number of popular Web conferencing features, such as presenting data on slides to all the participants, showing participants information or applications located on the presenter’s computer using desktop sharing, highlighting key information presented on slides using annotation, and drawing or writing on a virtual notepad or whiteboard.
The study sheds light on how businesses use Web conferencing as a communications and collaboration tool. It also reveals the most popular features (see Exhibit 1).
Eighty-nine percent of Web conferences used application sharing from a presenter’s desktop during the analysis. According to Netspoke Conferencing, their data reveals that many customers use Web conferencing to demonstrate new software applications to end users and collaborate on work projects involving applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel.
Approximately 12 percent of conferences used annotating; 4 percent used whiteboarding. These features enhance a standard online presentation by giving the presenter the ability to stress key points and draw the attention of participants to important areas of the presentation.
- Continue to develop and integrate new features and functionality. Customers are demonstrating the ability and propensity to use complex features. Vendors that don’t offer integrated functionality, such as enterprise-class instant messaging, presence-awareness capabilities and video communications, should offer it within 12 months.
- Track and analyze usage data from Web conferencing customers and supplement the information with good old customer feedback. Customer-centric conferencing providers have been surveying their customers regularly to understand a wide range of issues, not the least of which is the functionality customers want. Customer feedback should be supplemented by survey results from prospects and non-clients—especially business users that currently purchase competing solutions. Some of the most useful input from users will be information, by vendor name and product, on other products and services being used, including conferencing services, enterprise software applications, instant messaging systems and employee desktop operating systems.
The Yankee Group originally published this article on 8 August 2003.
- Analyze current conferencing services and usage patterns across your organization. In addition to examining the costs (invoices, billing statements, minutes used and total conferencing sessions), investigate how the service is being used (for training, sales, staff meetings, lead generation, etc.). Many companies uncover significant rogue usage that can result in massive additional charges.
- Consolidate Web conferencing contracts to gain efficiencies, provide the right functionality and manage utilization more closely. Several companies interviewed by the Yankee Group have achieved 60 to 70 percent reductions in per-minute charges for Web conferencing services by simply consolidating from upwards of 10 different agreements to one or two.
- Conduct internal training programs for employees, presenters and trainers on proper use of the Web conferencing solutions. Some of the benefits of Web conferencing include lowering travel costs, increasing training effectiveness and enhancing the quality of sales presentations, so it is imperative that employees understand how to get the most out of the service. Some companies assign one or two experts as training coordinators.
- Use interactive polling, live video of presenters, and online storage and management of presentation content. Most leading Web conferencing vendors offer interactive polling as a standard feature, but fewer offer live video capability; only a handful provide robust storage and management tools.