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  1. 1. RAINDANCE IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS THROUGH WEB CONFERENCING The importance and value of relationships in the business world cannot be overestimated. Business is built on rela- tionships, whether internally with employees or externally with customers, suppliers and others. Relationships do not just happen — they are developed over time and with effort, carefully constructed on the foundation of frequent, meaningful and deliberate communication and interaction. Without care and attention over time, relationships falter. 1. RAINDANCE | IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS THROUGH WEB CONFERENCING
  2. 2. RAINDANCE Companies spend billions on CRM products to ing the conversation, IDC concluded. manage relationships and schedule meetings, Web conferencing overcomes the limita- all to maintain and increase mindshare with tions of traditional methods of building and important contacts. These meetings are an improving relationships over geographical dis- integral part of building relationships. tances. By creating a virtual, multimedia Meetings serve as a means for communication meeting environment, complete with integrat- and collaboration, and are the vehicle for ed video, whiteboarding and application shar- sharing ideas, conveying thoughts and solicit- ing, web conferencing offers many of the same ing feedback. Whether the meeting called is a interactivity benefits once associated only with formal gathering of senior management, an in-person meetings but does so without incur- employee training session or a few staff mem- ring the time and expense associated with bers getting together over coffee to brainstorm travel. Like e-mail, web conferencing can be the next great product or service, meetings used easily at anytime, from any place and are the foundation of business relationships without pre-scheduling. For example, with and the basis for new relationships. The eco- Raindance Meeting Edition’s seamless integra- nomic challenge faced by many companies tion with Microsoft Outlook makes starting up today is how to improve business relation- a web conference is just as fast and easy as ships while streamlining operations and sending an e-mail — but without e-mail’s reducing costs. drawbacks. And web conferencing offers use- As discovered by many companies that ful visual representation of ideas that's miss- reexamined cost structures during recent tight ing from traditional audio conferencing. economic times, web conferencing is the Once considered only as an alternative to solution to this challenge. These organiza- large, preplanned “special” meetings, like a tions discovered that they could reduce gathering of the corporate board of directors, expenses related to corporate travel related to Organizational invest- web conferencing is now being deployed for business meetings, meetings that serve as a ment in web confer- impromptu staff gatherings to review docu- critical vehicle for communication and collab- encing solutions ments and status on projects, sales presenta- oration. Indeed, the Washington Business should reach $1.15 tions with prospects and product rollout meet- Journal estimated in 2002 that corporate billion by 2006, up ings to nurture existing relationships with travel costs totaled $470 billion annually. from $513 million in channel partners. Those investing in web con- Most companies simply cosider these large 2002. Forrester ferencing quickly realized that the technology sums as yet another unavoidable cost of doing empowers frequent and meaningful interac- Research expects business, something like interest charges or tion among peers, customers and partners. growth of more than D&O insurance. The strong market demand for web conferenc- 75 percent per year These companies also discovered the com- ing demonstrates the technology’s success mon alternatives to in-person meetings to be through 2008. and efficacy as a meeting alternative for less than optimal. For instance, many regard building and improving relationships: e-mail as impersonal. The frequency of e-mail In June, 2004, IDC reported that overall use has diminished its effectiveness as a vehi- use of web conferencing is rising as more cle for meaningful communication. Many con- organizations become familiar with it and sider e-mail from outside of their organization appreciate its value. Organizational invest- to be useless chatter that is better ignored — ment in web conferencing solutions should spam. Indeed, in a June, 2004 study on reach $1.15 billion by 2006, up from $513 meeting productivity, IDC acknowledged e- million in 2002. Forrester Research expects mail’s inherent limitations: It is not interac- growth of more than 75 percent per year tive, often resulting in misinterpretation; it is through 2008. not well-integrated into other tools; and it IDC also reported that with users seeing how often fails to convey a sense of urgency. web conferencing can be used in the course of Similarly, audio conferencing is a useful tool everyday business, web conferencing is “fast but also has limitations. Because many peo- becoming something users do several times a ple learn by seeing, there is a risk that half day as opposed to once or twice a week, and the participants may have trouble understand- users find that their meetings have more con- 2. RAINDANCE | IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS THROUGH WEB CONFERENCING
  3. 3. RAINDANCE text, better focus and great participation rates.” Almost half clicks. During the web conference, the customer is able of the companies IDC surveyed for the study plan to increase to see and interact with Company B’s representative, web conferencing usage by 100% in the next six months. face-to-face. Company B’s representative takes the While web conferencing may not replace every in-per- prospect through the presentation, adjusting pace and son meeting, it is a proven, sensible alternative for many tweaking content by reading the prospect’s body lan- day-to-day business meetings. It is also an emerging solu- guage. The day after the presentation, the prospect e- tion for the growing number of mobile and remote workers mails the representative with product questions, and the in today’s economy, empowering interactive communica- representative responds immediately by inviting the tions among peers, customers and partners, anytime and prospect to an impromptu web conference. The prospect regardless of location. Indeed, IDC stated that web confer- accepts, and the representative uses the web conferenc- encing is now perceived “as a critical component of next- ing solution’s application sharing features to walk the generation enterprise collaboration.” Web conferencing customer through the software itself, allowing the cus- solutions like Raindance Meeting Edition are easy to use tomer to experience the answers directly. By watching the and encourage spontaneous, meaningful collaboration prospect’s reactions during the conference, the represen- through features and functionalities previously unavail- tative believes the prospect is satisfied, questions able over the web, such as integrated video and audio, answered. They agree to talk in the following week, and whiteboarding and application sharing. As a result, IDC Company B’s representative immediately schedules the reports, e-mail and audio conferencing will no longer web conference through Outlook. shoulder the bulk of collaboration: “Web conferencing will During the lengthy e-mail chain between Company A and provide the visual interactivity that is critical for effective the prospect, Company B’s representative follows-up with collaboration.” the prospect as promised, and they enter the multimedia An example helps illustrate the business case and web conference with a few mouse clicks. Realizing that he value proposition for web conferencing. Consider two com- needs technical support to answer the customer’s query, he panies, A and B, competing for the same software sale promptly invites another staff member to the conference, with a prospective customer. Using traditional methods of and resolves the issue within minutes. The prospect con- communication, Company A approaches the sales cycle. cludes that the products of both Company A and Company After several e-mails with presentation materials attached, B appear comparable, but that Company B is more efficient Company A’s sales representative makes several phone and responsive, and decides to purchase from Company B. calls to a prospective customer to coordinate and sched- Company A’s representative calls the next day, only to dis- ule onsite appointments, realizing that the prospect large- cover that the sale is lost, and the customer is satisfied with ly ignored the presentation documents, jumping immedi- both Company B’s product and support. ately to the last page. To attend the first appointment of a busy week of onsite sales meetings, the representative BUSINESS AND OPERATIONAL CHALLENGES IN travels several hours to a one hour meeting with the IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS prospect. After the meeting, while on the road visiting Trust is perhaps the most important element in lasting other potential clients, the sales representative receives e- business relationships. If those in a business relationship mails from the prospect with product questions that are not familiar and comfortable with each other, the remain unanswered for 48 hours. During that time, the resulting interaction is often formal and complex. For prospect begins to consider other solutions, including example, a company just starting a business relationship Company B. Upon return from traveling days later, with a new partner may investigate qualifications, operat- Company A’s representative answers the prospect’s ques- ing history and run a credit check to assess financial tions by e-mail and follows-up by phone, but the prospect, wherewithal prior to a transaction. By contrast, after sever- being busy, has not had an opportunity to apply the al years of successful and mutually beneficial transactions, answers to the product. When the prospect later reviews friendly meetings and holiday cards, the company will like- the answers, he still finds himself confused, and again e- ly overlook such formalities because the perceived risk in a mails the Company A representative. It takes a few traded trusted relationship is low. voicemails and a lengthy e-mail chain over the span of In the business world, trust is given rarely, it must be several days for Company A’s representative to clear things earned. Over time and after frequent positive interactions, up with the prospective customer. trust serves as the cornerstone of a strong business rela- Company B leverages web conferencing, and sched- tionship. Whether in the form of a loyal customer, faithful ules an online, multimedia sales presentation with the employee or reliable channel partner, visionary companies same prospect quickly and easily with a few mouse strive to build strong relationships because they are the 3. RAINDANCE | IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS THROUGH WEB CONFERENCING
  4. 4. RAINDANCE link to the future — tomorrow’s customers, tomorrow’s Frequency of meaningful interaction: Taking together employees, tomorrow’s partners. the other challenges — distance, logistics and limitations The challenges facing organizations that look to improve of traditional tools — facilitating frequent, meaningful long-term relationships are many, but they all relate back interaction with customers, associates and partners to economics: money, and the time value of money. becomes more difficult. The adage “out of sight, out of Relationships require attention and interaction, which mind” often applies here. translates into numerous meetings. Because organizations Failure to maintain these relationships adequately have limited resources, they must plan carefully which results in lost customers, disgruntled employees, a broken meetings to attend, which relationships to prioritize while supply chain or some other less than optimal outcome. For others wait. The hectic pace and global nature of business instance, research shows that it costs five times as much today amplifies the challenge, requiring account execu- to recruit a new customer than to retain an existing cus- tives, project managers, channel managers and other pro- tomer. Coupled with the fact that customers today typical- fessionals to service a number of different relationships on ly have a number of choices for any given product or serv- an ongoing, daily basis. Some of the typical obstacles and ice, this explains why companies spend time and money challenges sales organizations face in servicing relation- on CRM packages and maintaining good relations. And ships include: failure is measured only by the perceptions of the other: A Barriers of distance and geography: Business associ- company may believe that it is improving relations with ates — customers, prospects, employees and partners — periodic e-mail blasts, but if the customer perceives the may be located in different parts of the city, state, coun- company to be spamming his inbox — that the company’s try or world. Account executives, for example, are expect- communication is frequent but not meaningful — the cus- ed to service and be responsive to customers, regardless tomer’s perception will likely prevail. Put simply, it pays to of their venue, even if it requires onsite travel. Working maintain relationships with appropriate and interactive together on projects efficiently and effectively, and communication tools. improving employee morale, with remote team members is also important, but bringing remote members together WEB CONFERENCING AS A TOOL FOR to meet in-person on a regular basis may be neither effi- IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS cient nor cost effective. Similarly, maintaining important Today’s web conferencing solutions solve the challenges supplier relationships can be difficult, particularly when facing organizations in improving relationships — physical the supplier is located on the other side of the world. And distance, logistics, limitations of traditional communica- it is obvious that as time spent traveling increases, the tions tools and frequency of interaction. Web conferencing time available to service these relationships decreases. technologies bring people together online, empowering Logistical issues: The typical account executive, chan- meaningful, interactive communications. By creating a vir- nel manager and project leader must manage multiple tual, multimedia environment, complete with integrated relationships simultaneously. Nonetheless, building and audio and video, web conferencing today is able to nurture improving relationships often requires that communica- and build upon the same business relationships that once tion and interaction to be immediate, resolving issues and demanded in-person meetings. Some of the benefits of meeting deadlines promptly and satisfactorily. Regardless web conferencing include: of the number of relationships managed, customers, Cost savings: By using web conferencing as an alterna- employees and partners like to feel that they are impor- tive to appropriate face-to-face meetings, organizations tant, and addressing their questions and issues quickly save on business travel-related expenditures. And the cost and meaningfully helps in building and improving these savings increase as more users within the organization relationships. leverage web conferencing instead of traditional travel. Limitations of traditional communications tools: Time-related savings: Companies leveraging web confer- Recognizing the time and money required for in-person encing save time in two different ways. First, because web meetings, many companies rely on e-mail and audio con- conferencing obviates much of the need for meeting travel, ferencing to interact with customers, employees and part- users have additional time to perform other job tasks, ners. While convenient, e-mail and audio communica- increasing overall productivity. Second, because of the tions are limited compared with traditional, in-person integrated nature of web conferencing solutions like meetings which can result in misinterpretation. In other Raindance Meeting Edition, users also save time from hav- words, e-mail and audio communication fail to deliver the ing to schedule meetings in advance or track down partici- same meaningful interaction that is associated typically pants through multiple phone calls and e-mail threads. with face-to-face discussion. Users also save time because of improved communication 4. RAINDANCE | IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS THROUGH WEB CONFERENCING
  5. 5. RAINDANCE throughout the organization. “face-to-face element, even when we weren’t able to meet Improved communication and collaboration: Web con- in-person,” stated Tommy Stinson. ferencing allows meeting participants to share desktop SBI.Razorfish realized a number of benefits by adopting resources, including documents and applications, with web conferencing — Raindance Meeting Edition — as an one another in real-time. In conjunction with integrated organizational best practice, including improved quality multimedia audio and multipoint video, meeting partici- assurance and increased staff efficiency. “You don't really pants are able to work on the same documents together, understand the power of Raindance Meeting Edition until minimizing miscommunications and errors that often you start using it. When you move from audio or e-mail to a result from unwieldy e-mail chains where multiple people truly integrated web, video and audio solution, you start to are editing the same document. This improved communi- wonder how you ever had the time and patience to do cation and collaboration also results in quicker decision things any other way,” said Bob Lord. times and better-informed decisions. Positive perceptions: Companies that use web confer- DISPELLING THE MYTHS OF WEB encing technologies are often perceived as modern, CONFERENCING visionary, efficient and responsive. Customers prefer to The positive experiences enjoyed by companies like transact with companies they perceive as efficient and SBI.Razorfish with Raindance Meeting Edition underscores responsive. Employees prefer to work for organizations the value of web conferencing as a sensible, inexpensive they perceive as visionary. Partners prefer to associate alternative to face-to-face meetings, dispelling mispercep- with companies they perceive as modern. In the business tions of the past world, perception matters. Ad hoc, small group gatherings benefit from web confer- Increased job satisfaction: Leveraging the features of encing technologies: Large, formal meetings often give the web conferencing, employees are more productive and get perception of being rigid, impersonal and cold. Building more work done on any given day. They spend less time and nurturing relationships is performed more easily and tracking down contacts, traveling to and from meetings and with greater effect in small, informal meetings. making multiple rounds of edits to documents. Web con- Organizations researching and analyzing the productivity ferencing also supports remote workers, telecommuters impacts of informal meetings, such as the World Bank, dis- and other employees with alternative work arrangements. covered that informal meetings are often more productive Despite market maturity and the technological advances than large, formal meetings. Supporting this conclusion, of recent years, some misperceptions of web conferencing IDC’s June 2004 white paper on meeting productivity still linger from the days of early adoption. For example, noted that companies need web conferencing solutions some still view web conferencing as a complicated technol- that emulate informal, in-person meetings that happen ogy that is limited to large, formal, preplanned gatherings during the ordinary course of the business day. like large-scale marketing seminars. Others avoid web con- Today’s web conferencing solutions, like Raindance ferencing on the belief that the technology is unreliable. Meeting Edition, are flexible and powerful collaborative And still others believe that web conferencing is difficult to tools that facilitate informal, in-person gatherings through deploy and complicated to use. virtual meeting rooms complete with integrated multipoint Recent adopters of the latest web conferencing solu- video and audio. tions, however, see the next-generations of these technolo- Web conferencing is an economical alternative to many gies as an easy-to-use, convenient, intuitive and powerful face-to-face meetings: With the commoditization of broad- tool that helps control costs and improve relationships. For band connectivity and traditional audio conferencing, web example, consider SBI.Razorfish, the interactive consult- conferencing prices today are modest compared with the ing team of the SBI Group, an international firm with more alternatives. As an estimate, the cost of a single, out-of- than 900 consultants across 16 offices in North America town, overnight business trip for one person is greater than and Europe. SBI.Razorfish could not always meet with the cost of a fully integrated multimedia web conferencing clients in-person, and needed an integrated, multimedia solution for 10 users for an entire month. solution to present materials, share information and build Web conferencing technologies offer reliable, on- stronger client relationships remotely. To meet these chal- demand meeting venues: For any technology to be accept- lenges, SBI.Razorfish adopted web conferencing, ultimate- ed as corporate practice, it must be reliable and perform ly choosing Raindance Meeting Edition as the collaboration well, whenever it is needed. Like a telephone, when you platform. With integrated multimedia web conferencing, pick up the handset to make a call, you expect to hear the Raindance helps SBI.Razorfish improve both client rela- dial tone. Web conferencing is no different. Whenever a tionships and internal team relationships, adding the user needs to hold a meeting, web conferencing must be 5. RAINDANCE | IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS THROUGH WEB CONFERENCING
  6. 6. RAINDANCE available. Whether the user planned the meet- acceptance if it is perceived as complex or ing a week in advance or just moments earlier is difficult to use. For example, some web con- not relevant. Additionally, the web conferencing ferencing solutions require that users login solution should not experience performance to a designated URL and use complicated degradation with increases in the number of interfaces to organize and conduct meet- users. For instance, Gartner indicated that ings. Raindance’s Meeting Edition takes a WebEx performance “can be uneven, although different approach, offering an integrated WebEx maintains its own high-traffic network.” desktop web conferencing tool that starts up This is in large part because WebEx uses a meetings with a few clicks of the mouse. “mono-server” approach: A single server bears Raindance Meeting Edition is also user- the burden of delivering all functionalities. friendly and intuitive, employing a graphical For example, when iN DEMAND — the world’s interface that navigates like Windows XP, leading provider of video-on-demand (VOD) making it easy for anyone familiar with and pay-per-view (PPV) programming — Windows. By contrast, in a May 2004 study, chose Raindance Meeting Edition over Gartner noted that WebEx’s “interface can WebEx, the company specifically evaluated be complex.” the performance difference. iN DEMAND Indeed, SBI.Razorfish agreed with Gartner’s required application sharing — 20GB stream- assessment of WebEx. Prior to selecting ing video files — for multiple users simultane- Ease-of-use was Raindance, the company tried WebEx, but con- ously, and discovered that other products per- also important to cluded that the WebEx platform’s rigid struc- formed poorly under the heavy loads. iN DEMAND, who ture and complex interface “prevented the staff Raindance maximizes performance reliabil- chose Raindance from really taking advantage of it,” stated ity and minimizes degradation through its Meeting Edition David Katz, project manager for SBI.Razorfish. SwitchTower technology, which hosts each over WebEx, “WebEx's solution is less than ideal for a num- functionality (e.g., audio, video, application Arkadin and ber of reasons, but mostly because the collabo- sharing) on different servers. By housing func- Microsoft ration and application-sharing features are far tionalities separately, no single server carries LiveMeeting, as well less flexible and easy to use than Raindance the full burden of a given meeting, thus as some “mom and Meeting Edition. When my team gets started on increasing overall performance relative to a pop” products. something and an issue comes up that we want solution that uses a single “mono-server” other people to weigh in on, we want to be able approach. The SwitchTower approach also to address that immediately.” improves overall system “uptime” — Ease-of-use was also important to iN Raindance boasts an impressive 99.99% sys- DEMAND, who chose Raindance Meeting tems uptime that includes both planned main- Edition over WebEx, Arkadin and Microsoft tenance and unexpected downtime. LiveMeeting, as well as some “mom and pop” The most powerful and feature-rich web products. Brian Boyd, iN DEMAND’s senior conferencing solutions may also be the sim- director of strategy, acknowledged that the plest and most intuitive to use: Today’s web company wanted a powerful tool with a lot of conferencing solutions, like Raindance different features, “but the tool itself had to Meeting Edition, offer powerful features that be very easy-to-use. In other words, it had to emulate face-to-face meetings. With integrat- be easy enough to that someone who is not ed multimedia audio and multipoint video, tech-savvy or a tech expert to use — anyone meeting participants are able to read one who can use Windows should be able to use another’s body language and expressions, as the tool’s features right away without getting well as assess vocal tone. Combined seamless- confused and frustrated.” ly with desktop sharing of documents and applications, Raindance Meeting Edition is a APPLIED BEST PRACTICES: viable collaboration platform and alternative to IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS face-to-face meetings. iN DEMAND is the world’s largest provider of Regardless of the powerful and useful VOD and PPV programming with television features offered by a web conferencing solu- premieres of first-run movies, concerts and tion, however, the product will not gain sports events. iN DEMAND is available on 6. RAINDANCE | IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS THROUGH WEB CONFERENCING
  7. 7. RAINDANCE ward with web conferencing and never WEB CONFERENCING RAINDANCE looked back. “We got overwhelmingly MYTH REALITY positive feedback, and Raindance Meeting Edition’s multipoint video really Starting and planning meetings With three clicks of a mouse but- was the key there,” he said. “The kudos can often be frustrating and ton, a conference is started and we get from customers on using this just time-consuming participants can be added. doesn’t stop.” Users are unfamiliar with confer- Raindance Meeting Edition is based The cost savings iN DEMAND realized encing interfaces on Microsoft Windows XP; users are from customer training — about $2,200 already familiar with the interface per month from reduced travel expense and able to navigate with ease. — was only one benefit accruing from the company’s investment in web confer- Technology is difficult to use and The technology is transparent to encing. iN DEMAND also improved rela- access the end user and to most IT tionships with its customers: “Our cus- departments. Raindance Meeting tomers really like web conferencing Edition is downloadable software training and keep telling us how they’re that integrates with MS Outlook at impressed with our efficiency,” Boyd the user level, not the Exchange said. “They come back and tell us how Server level, freeing limited IT the new web training is better, and how department resources to focus on they’re doing a better job of selling our other issues. packages. It’s a win-win for everyone.” With web conferencing, iN DEMAND also improved relationships with remote cable TV through 1,400 affiliated systems, who in turn employees on project teams and partners by having sell iN DEMAND’s VOD and PPV programming to cable frequent, meaningful, face-to-face interactions with- subscribers. With project teams and customers located out having to incur the time and expense associated all over the nation and world, iN DEMAND needed a way with travel. For example, instead of using cumbersome to improve relationships with customers, employees and e-mail chains, numerous phone calls, audio conferenc- vendor partners, all while controlling costs. iN ing or onsite travel to collaborate on a database appli- DEMAND’s answer was to invest in Raindance Meeting cation, iN DEMAND now uses Raindance Meeting Edition for web conferencing. Edition’s multipoint video and application sharing fea- Before web conferencing, iN DEMAND used a combi- tures. “Our employees and partners just love it, and nation of e-mail threads with bulky attachments, phone it’s just like being there face-to-face,” Boyd said. calls, audio conferencing and in-person meetings to “Before getting down to business, I use my camera to conduct daily business, ranging from scheduled training show people around my office virtually, show them the sessions and sales presentations to impromptu calls Statue of Liberty outside my office window and how and e-mails to discuss strategy and presentation reviews the weather looks, it’s great for morale. It’s just as if among team members and vendor partners. iN DEMAND they were here.” realized that these practices — ingrained corporate ritu- al — were expensive and time-consuming. CONCLUSION Despite iN DEMAND’s rising travel costs for cus- Raindance pioneered the concept of reservationless tomer training, feedback received indicated that face- web conferencing in 2000 and is a market leader in to-face training was deemed critical. Indeed, iN virtual meeting technologies. These technologies facili- DEMAND tried to hold remote audio training and cus- tate the face-to-face, real-time meetings that are tomers responded that they wanted the personal ele- essential to building and improving relationships. At a ment of being able to “look the trainer in the eye,” fraction of the expense of yesterday’s travel costs, web said Boyd. As such, the largest hurdle iN DEMAND conferencing empower companies to interact meaning- had to overcome — both internally and externally — fully and frequently with customers, employees and was the notion that onsite, face-to-face training meet- partners. By leveraging web conferencing as a tool for ings could not be replaced by web conferencing. After everyday communication, companies now add value to conducting beta tests with key customers using organizational relationships, whether down the hall or Raindance Meeting Edition, iN DEMAND moved for- around the globe. ■ Sponsored by Raindance Copyright© July 2004 Ziff Davis Media Custom Publishing. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Ziff Davis Media Inc. is prohibited. The information contained herein is accurate only as of the date of publication, and is subject to change without notice. 7. RAINDANCE | IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS THROUGH WEB CONFERENCING