A recent article here on MI talks about how companies are slashing travel budgets, especially for overseas trips. This is bad news for those coveting frequent flyer miles to pay for their holiday. On the surface, though, it should be boom times for companies that provide web conferencing services . I mean, if you can get your team together without having them leave their desks and waste days and money traveling, you should be in great shape.
Call them what you like; webinars, webmeetings, virtual meetings(or as most employees call them "stupid @#$%$%ing webconferences") but in my work at Greatwebmeetings.com I have seen good companies and smart managers snatch defeat from the jaws of certain victory and waste vast amounts of precious time and dollars ( or Euros or Yuan, this silliness knows no national boundaries).
Here are just some of the ways I've personally seen companies waste a great opportunity to save budgets and still keep their teams connected:
Don't let managers solve their own problems. An enterprising manager in a multinational company found a free webservice and thought it would make a great way to keep his small but scattered team connected. The ability to see each other on $20 webcams and instantly connect would make up for the fact they couldn't get together physically.
Upper management was so impressed they told him to do nothing until they could roll the idea out across the company. The result was two people quitting, three projects behind schedule and one very frustrated manager who is being held accountable for the turnover and project delays.
LESSON: If it doesn't negatively impact budget, encourage experimentation on a small scale then roll it out to everyone with proof of concept.
It's about computers, so it's IT's job, right? A global bank wanted to expand its training. They have good presenters, wonderful material, they just need a platform. IT has chosen one that's inexpensive and easy to maintain. The problem is it doesn't work outside their own network and has huge problems with firewalls overseas, especially in Asia.
This standoff has lasted for eight months: IT controls the budget, Training cant' meet their goals and thousands of employees go without the training they need, much of it being done by classroom trainers at many times the projected cost.
LESSON: IT and the various departments both need to understand the organization's goals and together find solutions that fit.
We don't have the budget to save money. An international company had a wonderful solution to a big problem. They would offer webservices to all their managers and encourage its use while restricting travel.
Their annual internal best-practices conference was done virtually and was a huge success. All they needed was approval from the company to institute training and move ahead. But then they fell foul of budget restrictions. So for the cost of a single business class ticket to headquarters, a move to save tens of thousands of dollars is stalled for three months until the new budget kicks in.
LESSON: give someone in finance a good swift kick in the pants if they can't see reason. Buy-in at the highest levels will help clear these logjams.
It's IT's Job Part 2. An international company was so concerned about the security of their data that they refused to even consider web meetings, regardless of the cost savings . An enterprising manager did a simple Google search and found four providers that could meet their demands. The subject will come up again at their next meeting – but that's in four months because budget only allows for travel once a quarter.
LESSON: IT needs to be part of the discussion but good ideas can come from anywhere if the company is willing to listen.
We bought the tool but nobody uses it. The dirty little secret of the webmeeting world is that lots of people sign up for web services but don't renew their contract because "not enough people are using it".
Why not? In working with one client, the implementation process was to show all the managers a single webinar on the use of the tool then expect them to use it with their teams. They were to use the platform only "as needed" (non-essential uses included things like practicing use of the tool) and then use it with their teams.
When this rollout failed, the debrief revealed three glaring problems: When this rollout failed, the debrief revealed three glaring problems:
- Managers weren't comfortable with the tool and didn't want to expose their lack of competence in front of the team (or worse, in front of customers)
- They weren't aware of some of the more interactive tools and features which could have made the platform truly useful and engaging
- The initial demonstration was so boring managers couldn't imagine what value it would bring- why would they inflict that on their teams?
LESSON: A good rollout is critical to the long term success of these tools. Components of a strong rollout include:
- Time to practice with coaching and feedback
- Frequent reinforcement in the proper use of the tools and some of the features
- Good internal modeling of the tool. Find your most accomplished users and let people see the possibilities. Use internal coaches and mentors
- Offer real training to managers. This is a core competency for the 21st Century manager
As with so much in life, webmeetings can add value and help save money, but only if they're introduced in a way that allows managers and teams to be productive. Simply not spending the money on travel isn't enough. Now how do you get that message across when you can't travel to the meeting? Hey, I can't think of everything.