I watched today's WebEx webinar featuring Claire Schooley of Forrester Research. Claire summarized a recent Forrester Wave study she worked on. The study focused on 6 major name web conferencing vendors: Adobe, Elluminate, iLinc, Microsoft, Raindance, and WebEx.
The study analyzed the offerings of the companies regarding software to facilitate collaborative web meetings in large enterprise organizations. Claire emphasized that the study did not deal with products targeted at public presentations and one-to-many webinars. Vendors had to offer web conferencing as a service or hosted model, so that let out companies with site-installed products. Vendors also had to have annual revenues greater than $10 million and more than 200 corporate clients using the products. Given those criteria, the resulting list was not surprising. In response to an audience question, Claire said that Citrix declined to participate, saying that its GoToMeeting product concentrated on the small to mid-size business demographic and would be comparable to the enterprise products.
The high level summary showed no surprises. The big three in terms of functionality and overall strategy (as well as market share) were WebEx, Microsoft, and Adobe. The next tier grouped iLinc and Elluminate, with Raindance taking up the rear.
Claire's take on trends in the web collaboration market started with a statement that basic functionality of sharing slides and applications (desktop) and whiteboarding is pretty much a commodity and all the big names handle that just fine. [I have my preferences on specific functionality within those basics... for instance, support of slide animations and transitions varies greatly]. She put a premium on the ability of users to quickly and easily start a conference from within their normal workflow, without having to fire up a specialized application as a separate activity.
She also saw differentiation in the ease of navigation through the user interface, depth of integration with other applications, ability to record/save/edit/replay a meeting, and support for multimedia. My personal take would echo most of these differentiators with the obvious addition of cost (she chose not to incorporate cost as a ranking factor). Although recording is not a big concern for most in-house meetings, it does come up with HR, legal, or financial topics to cover the company. I think most enterprise conferencing software selectors put a premium on a zero learning curve product. If you have 10,000 employees in your company, training costs and interruption to work to learn a new product far outweigh licensing costs. In this respect, I would have placed Elluminate farther down the list, as it has a complex ramp-up and usually requires more formal training. The product was designed for specialized online educational applications and I would be surprised to find it chosen very often as a standalone online meeting utility.
Claire's trends for the future included:
- Enterprises moving to multimedia conferences
- Voice and data over IP converging
- Usability improving, with one-click web conferences the norm
- Web conferencing integrating with desktop applications and business processes to disappear as a separate standalone application
- Differentiation moving beyond features to focus on usability, price, and service [which was not covered in her ranking criteria]
- Security and reliability improving
- Movement toward one--price integrated conferencing
She also posited a future where the use of web conferencing will far exceed the frequency of today's face to face (F2F) meetings. Interaction and presentation features like application sharing, virtual labs, and video will provide a richer user experience than a live F2F meeting.
Claire urged companies looking at web conferencing to think about its impact on and use by not only internal employees, but customers, partners, and suppliers as well. She thinks this is the year to lay down a serious action plan to incorporate the technology into overall enterprise business communications.
WebEx plans to make the recording of the webinar available on their site in the near future. If they don't restructure their site, you'll probably be able to get to it through this link to recorded events.
UPDATE: WebEx followed through per good practices on a webinar. They sent out a "thank you for attending" email with a direct link to the webinar recording, a copy of the graph ranking the surveyed vendors on Claire's Forrester Wave diagram, and a copy of the WebEx evaluation scorecard from the Forrester study.
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