Internet conferences are now part of our day-to-day working lives

Companies increasingly save time and travel costs

10.09.2008 -

Companies increasingly save time and travel costs 

(dpa) Meeting colleagues over the Internet is now part of everyday work in many companies. International firms in particular are increasingly holding web or video conferences to save time and travel costs, according to a survey by the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa). However, because these systems cannot replace conversations in person, some companies are still managing with telephone and email as additional methods of communication. 

 “It’s wonderful for meetings at short notice or for teams spread across different locations worldwide,” says SAP spokeswoman Iris Eidling, summarising the advantages of conference transmissions. For example, the executive board at Europe’s largest software manufacturer met virtually for planning in August, with around half of the ten board members connecting with SAP chairman Henning Kagermann at the US headquarters in Palo Alto from locations such as the Walldorf or Paris offices. 

 “If you look at the margins, travel costs are also a factor,” explains Eidling. Besides this, on-screen communication also makes use of body language and speech, unlike circular emails. SAP has been using online communication for ten years. 

Employees from 50 countries at a mouse click
 At Bosch, too, an increasing number of employees from all over the world are arranging meetings by computer due to greater international collaboration - the world’s largest automotive parts supplier has a presence in more than 50 countries. According to Bosch spokesman Dirk Haushalter, 1500 hosts issued web conference invitations in August 2007 - by this August, the number had risen to 2500. 

 Instead of meeting around a conference table, participants at a web conference view the screen of the host who called the meeting, allowing them to create texts or graphics together or follow presentations. During the conference, participants can speak and chat with each other. “Telephone conferences are still one of the most popular methods of holding conversations between several employees in different regions,” qualifies Haushalter, however. Face-to-face meetings also remain important. 

 Aids such as shared access to documents or specific conference control make online communication attractive for Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceuticals manufacturer. However, a spokesperson for the Karlsruhe-based company sees disadvantages in the voice quality, non-functioning hardware and constant maintenance and training. 

More flexibility for meetings at short notice  

As well as saving travel costs, Europe’s largest sugar producer Sudzucker particularly values the fact that modern communications technology allows meeting to take place spontaneously and at short notice. The Mannheim-based company is pleased with the user friendliness and low technical requirements of the systems. According to a spokesperson, mechanical engineering firm Homag, based in Schopfloch near Freudenstadt, increasingly uses video conferencing to connect production plants in Germany, China or Brazil, particularly during planning phases. 

 By contrast, Heilbronn-based sports retailer group Intersport, which operates in more than 30 countries, still has no need for online communication. According to a spokesman, they continue to use telephone conferences for important consultations. And Freudenstadt-based gravure printing specialist Schlott or chocolate manufacturer Ritter Sport in Waldenbuch have also refrained from web conferencing thus far. According to a spokesman, the building society Bausparkasse Schwäbisch Hall communicates with their field staff by the traditional methods of email and telephone, but important developments are broadcast by satellite over their own television channel. 

 Companies feel that the greatest advantage to web conferencing by far is the time and cost savings it allows, as shown by a survey conducted among companies in Germany, France and Great Britain on behalf of Karlsruhe-based web conference provider Netviewer. According to the survey, the strongest reservation against Internet meetings is the fact that they prevent face-to-face discussion. Although web conferences have previously been used more for internal communication, it is expected that they will become more common for other purposes, such as contact with customers.