Every so often, economic downturns, health-related outbreaks or acts of terrorism cause organizations to prioritize alternatives for corporate travel. Given growing energy costs and recession concerns, decision-makers are likely to "dust off" prior programs aimed at streamlining travel budgets. While there may not be as much waste in current travel programs, I suspect that we will see an upswing in web conferencing over the next several months. The leaders in the web conferencing space remains relatively unchanged. Cisco/WebEx and Microsoft Office Live Meeting are the dominant options for most large enterprises. But there are many options available. The last time I counted, there are well over 50 vendors in this space that offer hosted or on-premises solutions. There are open source alternatives as well. The hosted vendors I come across most often (in addition to Cisco and Microsoft) are:
There are many others AT&T (acquired Interwise), Genesys Conferencing, InterCall (acquired Raindance), Yugma (which offers Skype integration) and so on. Some strategists may be encouraged to leverage business interest in travel-related cost reduction as justification to pursue standardization efforts (e.g., select a single vendor) or perhaps as part of a broader rationalization for an on-premises deployment (where Cisco, IBM, and Microsoft include web conferencing as a component in their respective unified communications solution).
So pull out those old project plans ... time to update them.
Business Week: Companies curtailing travel budgets
So far, travel bookings are holding up. But corporate travel managers are taking a more active role in keeping on-the-road spending in check:
- Employees are increasingly being asked to provide an economic rationale for their trips.
- Rules that require employees to book the lowest fare, stay in pre-approved hotels or double-up in cars and rooms are being enforced more strictly.
- Executives are pushing alternatives to face-to-face meetings, including phone- and Web-conferencing.
Faced with rising fuel costs, airlines increased business- and first-class fares by 12.4 percent during the first half of February compared with last year, according to Sabre Travel Networks. Economy fares climbed 6.2 percent.
Airport rental-car rates have jumped at least 20 percent each week this month compared with a year ago, according to Abrams Consulting Group. And hotel room rates jumped 5.9 percent in 2007, according to Smith Travel Research.