Most business executives are huge fans of quantifiable benefits. Which is why Web 2.0 technologies are often such a hard sell to these folks. They intuitively understand that something like a wiki can help folks get their work done more quickly and easily. But damn, they'd sure like to see some proof that this will improve the bottom line.
Maybe that's why, of all the technologies that typically get lumped under the Web 2.0 umbrella, videoconferencing appears to be getting one of the warmest receptions among senior executives. According to a Robert Half Technology survey I wrote about earlier this month, 34 percent of CIOs use videoconferencing and another 18 percent intend to adopt it in the next five years.
They are also receptive to online training (47 percent of respondents using it now and 13 percent planning to add it within five years) and collaborative work spaces, such as Microsoft's Sharepoint (24 percent using them now and 19 percent expecting to add such tools). It's no coincidence that all of these technologies can help companies dramatically cut down on travel, which is getting awfully expensive with the spiraling price of fuel.
Cisco CEO John Chambers says use of videoconferencing and other Web 2.0 tools has helped the company double its sales calls while cutting costly travel in half. Figuring that Web 2.0 tools will help it shave travel costs, Wachovia asked managers from multiple departments to kick in a portion of their travel budgets to fund the tools.
It's no longer difficult to calculate a decent ROI for even pricey telepresence systems, which provide a sort of videoconferencing-on-steroids experience to companies willing to pony up the bucks for them, like Deloitte.
The latest company to employ videoconferencing to reduce travel is SAP, which passed on its usual face-to-face gathering of top global executives at SAP Labs in Palo Alto, Calif., in favor of virtual meetings, reports SFGate.com. Says co-CEO Leo Apotheker:
We're saving a round of oil and the hassle of traveling intercontinentally for many hours.
Another bonus of such meetings, according to an SAP board member, is that folks tend to pontificate less, which means more business gets done in the same amount of time.
Like most other companies, SAP also appreciates the PR value of being seen as environmentally friendly, which is no doubt why the software giant also let press types know that on-site attendees in Palo Alto would gather in one of its three LEEDs certified green buildings.