Recently, Smartwave set out to evaluate video/teleconferencing tools, in search of a product that could offer the best features, while meeting our list of functional requirements. We decided a videoconferencing solution would allow us to better communicate with our clients, to reach out to people in more remote areas, and also to appeal to a growing trend toward videoconference meetings. After all, sometimes it’s nice to “be there” and to get in some face-time without having to spend precious time commuting, especially if it’s a quick check-in meeting. As videoconferencing options expand, these tools have grown to become excellent collaboration solutions as well. This functionality lines up with Smartwave objectives, as our reach continues to expand into areas that would greatly benefit from this evolving technology, such as education, the non-profit sector and the small business community. And we’re hearing comments from our partners as well: Your future workshops sound interesting, but why aren’t you offering webinars?
So we thought sharing the process might be interesting and helpful to our readers, should you find yourself in the same situation.
The First Step: The Requirements Doc
Like any project, a requirements document will help you define what you need, then you can use that list as a guideline to selecting the product that best fits you, your organization or your company. Breaking up the list into Needs and Wants works best; this way, you can be sure the product will meet your demands.
Smartwave Videoconferencing Tool Requirements: Platform
- Platform should be as system-independent as possible, so as not to exclude either Mac or PC users
- Likewise, the platform should be as web-based as possible, with little to no software to install
- We’d also like mobile app options, as many as possible, if available
Core Functionality & Features We Need
- Ability to host and participate in videochatting and videoconferencing
- Voice over IP (VoIP) – no need for a separate phone conversation
- A tool that allows file uploading, so we can share presentations (like PowerPoint) and documents (like Word or PDF docs) during meetings
Extras: Features We Want (We can be flexible regarding these features.)
- Ability to manage a meeting agenda – so we can outline the meeting in advance and click through topics as we cover each segment
- Ability to share and directly show meeting participants live, web-based content
- Ability to incorporate whiteboard technology for better collaborative annotation, to increase efficiency and interactivity
Next Up: Define Realistic Test Scenarios
The objective here is not to answer the question What do we need this product to do? - but instead, How will this product’s features meet our functionality requirements?
Smartwave Test Scenarios: So, we defined our Test Scenarios as such:
- Educational Sessions and Training Webinars: test running a presentation for a group people listening and watching, but not actively participating.
- Collaborative Workshops: test running a small-group, collaborative meeting focused on a specific topic.
- Meeting, General: test a standard meeting with employees and clients, such as a proposal discussion or a discussion regarding an upcoming grant submission.
- Meeting, Check-In: test a quick, check-in client meeting – set an agenda, call in and discuss a few quick ideas to touch base.
Features We Liked…
- Simple interface – allows for quick and easy training on basic components, especially videoconferencing.
- Higher quality video than other tools – a very visual way to present information and display content
- iPad app with straightforward interface – new release out soon will allow for very effective meeting collaboration
- Familiar interface – perhaps more complex than Fuze, but very familiar to many users Designed for a broader range of uses than Fuze
- Flexible desktop sharing – allows for sharing of entire desktop, OR only a single application
- Ability to share web links and other content, right in the meeting
BOTH Fuze and WebEx have:
- Screen sharing
- Whiteboard features
- Videoconferencing with live chat
- Clients for nearly every mobile device
Features We’d Like To See… We found two major features lacking in both of these tools: no ability to integrate a meeting agenda and no real-time, multi-format collaboration platform. A built-in meeting agenda is important to staying on task, especially if your company is into a short and agile meeting structure. Plus, an agenda allows users to efficiently assign tasks for follow up. As far as collaboration goes, both have rather rudimentary, notepad-type attributes – but they’re just that: too simple to be as useful as they could be. Real-time collaboration in an atmosphere similar to Google Docs would be effective, productive – and fun!
The Winner: WebEx
Though Fuze Meeting had a lot of great features, in the end, WebEx won out. The ability to share only portions of the desktop, plus the ability to add web links and content into meetings, were the two main features that propelled WebEx to the top. Additionally, WebEx offers a better price point, plus, their demo system allowed us to demo all of our test scenarios multiple times, and over several weeks. With Fuze, we had only seven consecutive days. Given that we were able to test our scenarios and review our requirements thoroughly (which is imperative to selecting the best choice), WebEx proves to be the best videoconferencing tool for Smartwave.