Virtual Team Collaboration with Web Conferencing

A few months ago, a colleague of mine attended an on-line class on using Photoshop to edit portraits. The presentation was informal and had some technical problems, but the content was good and she signed up for a series of on-line classes by this vendor. So, why am I telling you this? The small start-up company that hosted the training made a big impact, improved their credibility and perhaps signed-up customers for their fee-based services, too.

There are many – hundreds – of software products that support Web conferencing. David Woolley provides an almost overwhelming list, annotated with brief comments on many of these in Web Conferencing – Online Meetings & Presentations . In the interest of full disclosure, Silver Bear Group, (the company I collaborate with and sponsors this blog), has successfully used and really loves GoToMeeting and GoToTraining from Citrix Systems.

We have talked several times on this blog about the importance of collaboration for project teams – especially virtual teams. (See:  Collaboration Tools for Virtual Project Teams and Project Management Collaboration and Communication Tools.) Web conferencing can be part of this facilitated collaboration. Web conferencing offers support for team meetings, training, customer meetings, program reviews and informal team discussions.

When organizations need to decide on which Web conferencing software best supports their organization, technically trained project managers may be asked to participate in making that cost/benefit decision. Here are some questions to ask about your company’s specific Web conferencing needs in order to select the best service now and support for the future.

Some questions to ask:

  1. Do you need a hosted or on-premise solution – this decision affects performance, cost and security? (The line is blurring between these now with the “cloud” concept)
  2. Do you need the ability to send and receive video (video conferencing) from all sites or only from a central sending site (web casting)?
  3. Do you want to be able to record meetings and training presentations?
  4. What are the maximum number of people routinely attending meetings?
  5. Do you need mainly 1-to-many ability or do you want more collaborative, many to many sessions?
  6. How much can you spend?
  7. Do you need audio as a phone call-in and/or VoIP?
  8. How easy is setup and using the software? Will you have technicians available as needed or will managers and attendees need to handle setup and troubleshooting?
  9. Do you need to support multiple operating systems – Windows, Mac, and Linux?
  10. Do you need to integrate with existing tools and documents such as Outlook, Office, databases?
  11. Do you need the ability to hold ad hoc meetings?
  12. Do you need registration for the sessions with email notices?

In a June 2010 report by Ted Schadler of Forrester Research called “The Forrester Wave™:  Web Conferencing, Q2 2010”, he compared the industry leaders in supported conferencing including Adobe Connect, IBM Sametime, Microsoft OCS, Cisco WebEx, Citrix GoToMeeting, IBM’s Lotus Live and Microsoft’s Live Meeting. A link at the end of this post provides excerpts from the report, provided by Adobe.

In addition to core capabilities that most conferencing tools provide, Mr. Schadler recommends you also evaluate tools considering:

  • Quality user experience
  • Predictable costs
  • Support for smart devices including mobile phones (And now tablets – I just used GoToMeeting on an iPad and it was great!)
  • Easy integration with other collaboration tools such as email or a stored document
  • Integration with existing VoIP for audioconferences

Have you had successful or poor experiences with video conferences and conference-supporting software? What happened?

LINK: The Forrester Wave™: Web Conferencing, Q2 2010

Webinar: 5 Strategies for Leading Diverse, Distributed Teams to Success, Citrix and Forrester

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