The Bottom Line to Online Meetings
©2002 Viack Online Meetings
Technologies for business professionals have come and gone over the years. Streaming media, video conferencing, project management software and many other innovations have offered the ideal of greater efficiency and lower costs. Some have had success but many have fallen short of their promises due to high initial costs, difficulty of use, narrow range of functions and inability to effectively address the real business issues
Time is an increasingly scarce asset. The economy and competitive nature of business have forced us to seek new ways to improve revenue and client satisfaction by expanding business, managing heavier work loads and providing current clients with more personal attention—all at a lower cost. This has resulted in intense pressure to make every hour count by streamlining current business processes that are tedious, repetitious or inefficient.
There is a better way—online meetings. Finally, a technology that can actually deliver on the promise of enabling business professionals to get more done in less time—at a fraction of the cost. Much like email, instant messaging, and faxing, online meetings facilitate the remote communication of two or more people in real time. Yet, it is also dramatically different than these technologies for two reasons. First, online meetings are interactive—you can see and talk to someone as if you were in the same room and work jointly together on documents, exchange information and more. Second, online meetings can ensure complete confidentiality of conversations and data at all times. Online meeting participants can use a variety of tools and features such as live video and telephone-quality audio; an ability to introduce documents, diagrams and exhibits; and a robust document markup/editing capability.
Less Travel Expenses and Wasted Time
Online meetings can offer us both time and money savings. Many of us spend a considerable amount of time traveling either across town or across the country. In some instances, face-to-face meetings are the best—or only—way to handle certain types of meetings. But not every meeting requires in-person contact, and the increasing expense and inconvenience of travel is becoming harder to justify. And that doesn’t include the demand from clients to reduce costs.
What’s the Cost of Your Downtime?
However, travel costs are only one side of the expenses that can be saved with online meetings. What about the money saved from reducing attorney downtime? Waiting in line at security or baggage claim, traveling to and from hotels, or sitting in a cramped airplane seat are not productive hours. When you add in a conservative estimate of the cost of unproductive time spent during travel, your savings can become even more dramatic.
The chart below compares the cost of traveling to an out of state meeting versus holding that same meeting online:
In Person Meeting
(One executive traveling for day-long meeting)
(Two people meeting online for 5 hrs)
As the chart shows, a single out-of-state meeting could easily reach four digit expenses. Had that meeting been held online instead, the executive would have incurred less than 85% of the cost, in this case, a savings of over $1300 for one business trip.
Online Meetings: Efficiency at Its Best
There are alternatives to online meetings, but they often do not offer a full range of functionality or cost savings. Video conferencing, for example, uses specialized video suites complete with remote control cameras, monitors, and so forth to facilitate meetings between remote locations. While this solution can provide audio and video, it often requires significant investments in equipment and does not offer the document interaction or instant messaging capabilities needed to make many meetings productive. While video conferencing solutions are ideal for some types of communications, online meetings bring video, audio and data collaboration to the desktop. Instead of an videoconference equipped room, the meeting can take place right from your office. How many times have you wished you had a certain document to share or that chart to show in a meeting but your office is not accessible or too far away? Online meetings make it possible.
The same applies to applications such as teleconferences, email or instant messaging. These are economical and have their effective uses, especially if all you just need is a simple discussion or an answer to a question. However, they are limited in their real-time interaction capabilities and such services usually do not offer protection against eavesdropping,. Why leave yourself and your clients’ confidential information at risk?
Online meetings offer a host of various capabilities that provide a viable way to streamline current business interactions. For example, some online meeting services enable you to create online meeting rooms around specific clients or cases so you can store documents and files for simple retrieval and use in a meeting and sharing with others. Other online meeting capabilities include integration with instant messaging with a fully interactive live online meeting only a click away. And others offer the ability to take a document from initial draft to full approval faster than ever before.
From First Draft to Final Approval in Days, Not Weeks
Document creation and approval cycles are another business process that can be streamlined with online meetings. The average business professional deals with a large volume of documents. Add that to a shrinking support staff and much of the process for finalizing those documents rests on the professionals shoulders. In a typical scenario, a professional needs to gather input from multiple colleagues, clients or outside experts all over the country in order to arrive at a final legal document. Traditionally, the attorney would use a variety of communication methods, such as express mail, regular mail, fax or email to send copies of this sensitive document to these individuals. The attorney must then idly await their comments and revisions. Within several days, the attorney receives back multiple copies of the contract with everyone’s comments and revisions in separate documents. Next is the arduous and time-consuming process of trying to merge the documents and choose between conflicting revisions and multiple drafts.
A meeting may be called, individuals may be followed up with via phone, or additional outside experts or counsel may be brought into the discussion. When the attorney has finally merged the documents together into the second draft, the document is once again sent out to the respective parties. The same back and forth communication occurs, until the attorney once again finds himself in the process of merging together the multiple drafts and revisions or comments to ultimately come to a final document. A meeting is then scheduled with the client to communicate the results. The total time from start to finish for this two-draft revision cycle is 10 days— and that is a minimum.
Traditional Document Revision Cycle
In contrast, an online meeting that provides joint document editing allows the attorney to edit a document online among as many people as necessary—all without the expense, hassles or downtime of travel. Since the document is stored online, it can be edited either in real time with all parties present or at each person’s leisure. There is only one central version of the document that allows all parties to enter their comments and revisions, so it eliminates the need for tracking multiple versions or worrying that someone is working off the wrong draft. Meetings can be quickly arranged to deal with last minute changes and all revisions can easily be merged into a single definitive final copy.
In the online scenario, the attorney creates a single copy of the legal document in a totally secure and private online workspace. Each of the individuals works on the same copy from their desktops either at their leisure or collaboratively in a real-time meeting. The attorney has no need to wait for the revisions to be returned to him, as there is only one document and it never “leaves” the online workspace. When the revisions are complete, he simply accepts or rejects all edits to generate the final document. The total time for this online process is five days.
Online Document Revision Cycle
As the graphics illustrate, the use of online document editing can provide up to a 50% faster approval process and a significant reduction in the potential for confusion. The time saved means not only reduced copy and delivery costs, it also frees everyone involved to use their time more profitably and productively. Combine this time savings with the reduction in travel costs and downtime, and the case for using online meetings becomes very compelling.
Choosing Your Online Meeting Provider
Online meetings can be an effective, streamlining solution. However, there are many different applications and services, and competition is fierce. When considering any type of online meeting service or collaboration tool, ask yourself the following questions:
· How often do I really need face-to-face meetings? What level of interaction is needed between participants? Is it an initial meeting? A simple status update? A document editing session of a contract or other legal document?
· What capabilities are included? Can the online meeting solution offer the capabilities you need (audio, video, document editing, instant messaging, total security, etc.) for an effective meeting?
· Is the technology easy to use? Is it user friendly? Does it require complicated firewall configuration? Does it require special equipment? Will it run on your operating system? Does it work the way you work?
· Is the communication secure? Not all online meeting services are secure and some only provide security as an option or partial solution. What security measures does the service employ? Are online documents protected? How are passwords handled? What are their privacy and security policies?
· What are the associated costs? How much does the service cost? What is the vendor’s billing scheme? Do the rates climb or fall as more people attend meetings? Can you customize the billing codes? Is there a simple, low-cost way to get started to find out if online meetings will work for you?
Businesses are being consolidated, downsized, squeezed, stretched and challenged as never before. Online meetings provide the added benefits of shorter, more focused meetings and reduced travel and downtime. Online meetings can improve your bottom line by improving client service and cutting document approval processes in half. To get these benefits, busienss professionals must ask themselves each time they schedule a meeting: Must this meeting be done in person or is it more efficient to hold it online? In many situations, the latter will be the case.
This article was provided by:VIACK Online Meetings
VIA³ from VIACK can offer your firm or organization a secure online meeting solution available with the functionality, support and education you need to get your work done in less time. VIA³ was built for professionals who require confidentiality and privacy in all their communications. If you are interested in learning more about VIACK Corporation and VIA³ Online Meetings, please visit their web site at www.viack.com, email email@example.com or call toll free at 1.866.265.8060.