American business professionals are improving workplace efficiency thanks
to an increased reliance on the Internet, according to an MCI WorldCom Conferencing
SM study on Internet usage among technology-savvy business people.
Internet technology, combined with evolving workplace practices, presents organizations
and individuals with new, efficient ways to meet and conduct business
and balance personal and professional lives.
The independent study, The Internet's Impact
on Business Productivity and Individual Work Habits,
surveyed nearly 300 Internet-connected business professionals on their Web usage.
The results show that American businesses are rapidly embracing the Internet
as a tool to facilitate communication, collaborate with others and improve productivity.
More than half of the respondents say the Internet is central to their companies'
daily business practices; only 13 percent say their company limits or discourages
A majority of survey respondents use the Internet for a variety of business
tasks. For instance, business travelers use the Web frequently to access online
maps (94 percent), obtain flight information (89 percent), conduct research
on other companies (82 percent), make hotel reservations (67 percent) and purchase
airline tickets (58 percent).
Many of those surveyed derive business benefits from using the Internet. In
fact, 68 percent say it reduces costs, 63 percent say it improves customer service
and 61 percent say it reduces travel. Additionally, more than 50 percent of
respondents say using the Internet has personal benefits, noting that it helps
improve job satisfaction, quality of work and stress levels.
"Many businesses that were early adopters of the Internet used it to reach
constituents, conduct research and communicate with others. However, its bottom-line
benefits were difficult to gauge, taken more on faith than fact," explains
Tim Reedy, Vice President of Marketing for MCI WorldCom Conferencing.
"Today, the Internet is creating new opportunities for businesses of all
sizes and dramatically impacting the work habits of their employees."
Use of the Internet helps business people work productively when they're away
from the office, according to the study. When on business travel, four of five
respondents said they used the Web to access a corporate network or intranet
and more than half used it to make or revise travel plans. The Net also helps
traveling business people keep up with personal responsibilities. For example,
two thirds purchased products online during business travel, 43 percent banked
online and 26 percent managed their investments online.
While most business professionals already use the Internet to help plan business
trips, an increasing number are also using it to participate in meetings and
collaborate with others. In fact, more than a third of respondents have participated
in Internet-based conferences, where presentations are shared and viewed over
the Web. Web conferencing enables hundreds of people at dispersed locations
to meet as a group, using only an Internet-connected PC and a separate telephone
line. Because no one needs to travel to attend, companies save time and money.
|Other uses of the Internet for meeting-related tasks include:
||75 percent have e-mailed a presentation to meeting participants
||46 percent have met via online chat
||40 percent have participated in a distance learning session
||29 percent have attended a virtual seminar
Tips for Effective Internet-based Meetings
With electronic meetings on the rise, it's more important than ever to know
how to make them as effective as possible. Here are some guidelines.
||Prepare, prepare, prepare. When it comes to meeting productivity,
a little extra prep time can go a long way. Preparation for an electronic
meeting is just as important if not more so as when a
group gathers face to face. It's important to have a meeting agenda
and distribute in advance (include meeting date, time and assigned phone
number or pass code, if applicable).
||Keep it simple. Attention wanders during meetings
even more so in electronic meetings. Use the visual power of the Internet
to reinforce key points and organize presentations into short segments
so the audience can better retain information.
||Use audio to your advantage. With the absence of face-to-face
contact, it's important for the meeting facilitator to introduce himself
and all meeting participants. Make transitions easy to follow by providing
vocal cues to introduce new segments of the presentation.
Research findings suggest corporate America should pursue the following Internet
policies and solutions:
||Executives should encourage corporate adoption of Internet
conferencing to reduce costs and improve productivity.
||When implementing Web-based conferencing in your organization,
begin with specific applications in functional areas. Businesses that
implement Internet conferencing to address a specific need, with tangible
goals, will be more successful. Identify applications that will reduce
sales or product cycle time (remote training, staff meetings), help
you reach customers and prospects more efficiently (Web seminars), facilitate
communication within remote work groups (weekly project meetings) or
improve investor relations (Web-based quarterly earnings updates, shareholder
||Organizations already using audio and videoconferencing
should add Web-based conferencing to enhance meeting practices. Advances
in Web-based technology now make it possible to meet with others via
the Web to collaborate on projects, present information and reach new
customers in ways never before imagined. The survey shows that employees
are comfortable using the Internet and welcome new collaborative solutions.
||When selecting an Internet conferencing provider, companies
should focus on quality as their chief criterion, choose a provider
offering solutions that enhance the meeting experience and minimize
technical obstacles. The underlying technology should be transparent
to the participants. Other requirements, such as ease of use and secure
transmission, rank lower on the list of user needs.
||Organizations should establish a policy that requires
business travelers to consider audio, video or Web conferencing as an
alternative. If travel is warranted, Internet use while on business
trips will help employees manage professional and personal duties, while
reducing the stress of travel. Remote access during travel helps professionals
stay in touch with the office, manage travel plans, keep in touch with
family and attend to personal tasks such as banking and shopping.
||Remember that technology is simply the means to an end
the real focus is collaboration. Web-based conferencing tools
enable us to work in new ways. But collaboration is a process, not an
automatic result of having people connected electronically. Organizations
that invest in the technology without a commitment (training, executive-level
endorsement, specific objectives, improvement in meeting skills) to
new collaborative processes are not likely to reap the benefits of these
promising new tools.
The Internet's Impact
on Business Productivity and Individual Work Habits
survey was conducted on behalf of MCI WorldCom Conferencing by Socratic Technologies,
a market research consultancy that specializes in interactive market research
such as Web-based surveys and usability studies. The sample was drawn from Socratic
Technologies' Socratic Forum registered database of persons,
resulting in a total of 281 qualified respondents during a 10-day period in
June 1999. This study is a follow up to MCI WorldCom Conferencing's 1998 Meetings
in America study, which took a comprehensive look at trends, costs and attitudes
toward business travel and meeting habits. Find both reports in their entirety
on the Internet at www.e-meetings.wcom.com/meetsolution.