Two press releases from web conferencing vendors caught my eye today. They are part of the growing trend for web conferencing to be thought of as a normal part of business team collaboration.
AnyMeeting announced a new initiative to give a year of ad-free web conferencing accounts to all employees at seven “incubators and accelerators” in the Los Angeles area. These appear to be companies that support other startups in getting funding and developing their business.
Citrix announced acquisition of Podio, a collaborative work platform company that manages business processes and workflows. The companies say they will integrate the software under the Citrix Online family of GoTo products.
Collaborative web meetings are just part of the daily work fabric now as people engage remotely and while traveling. You will continue to see more acquisitions and bundling arrangements between vendors of collaboration products, while independent vendors keep pushing to establish their products as common office tools and to gain mindshare with workers.
Interestingly, I see more and more of a divide between these team collaboration products and products specifically intended for group presentations in webinars or webcasts. Cisco’s WebEx family has long differentiated its products for specific application purposes (e.g. WebEx Event Center vs. WebEx Meeting Center). Microsoft recently stepped out of the webinar market by sunsetting Microsoft Office Live Meeting in favor of their collaborative web meeting product, Lync.
Often it is possible to make use of a product intended for one use scenario in the alternate setting. For example, Adobe Connect and omNovia both choose to market their products as being equally applicable to collaborative and presentation use. Using a single product for all needs has advantages in cost savings, single vendor support, and ease of user training. But there are tradeoffs as well.
Webinar/webcast products usually include advanced features for registration, reporting, attendee communications, and question management. These may be overwhelming and unnecessary for the casual team collaboration user. Conversely, giving a large audience web presentation on a collaborative platform may restrict your choices for login security and administration of the web event.
Think carefully about your web conferencing needs throughout the entire business when selecting a vendor. It is easy to get caught up in a single department’s short-term requirements and overlook how others in the organization might benefit from the software. Grill your vendor on how they approach the two different kinds of use cases. And find out how pricing is affected by large numbers of small meetings versus a smaller number of large audience events.