RFP: Web Conferencing

Analysis: Most Web conferencing applications are general-purpose, with a broad feature set, but certain features will be more important to one customer than to another.

Companies have a wide variety of Web conferencing options, particularly when it comes to systems that directly integrate VOIP (voice over IP) communications.

But Web conferencing is hardly the commodity it seems, with companies taking vastly different approaches to delivering services for a variety of use cases—from broadly attended seminars to more collaborative applications for small groups. The big names in this space—WebEx Communications, Citrix Online and Microsoft—all deliver Web conferencing as a service, but companies also have the option of running software internally or buying Web conferencing appliances.

Most Web conferencing applications are general-purpose, with a broad feature set, but certain features will be more important to one customer than to another. The purpose of this sample RFP is mainly to provide you with base-line questions to ask when evaluating Web conferencing systems with integrated voice but also to help articulate criteria for the features that are most critical for your organizations.

All RFPs should include requests for customer references as well as for an evaluation of a vendors viability and reliability. RFPs also should clearly state what goals the enterprise hopes to attain by deploying the technology being proposed.


* Which of the following features does your application include?

• Presentation sharing (Indicate whether this capability is available directly from the presenters desktop or from the server or from both.)

• Shared whiteboard (Indicate included features, such as drawing, markup and text tools.)

• Application and desktop sharing

• Web touring (Indicate whether whiteboard features are available and whether attendees can drive the session.)

• Session recording (Are recordings client- and/or server-based, and can presenters grant attendees recording privileges?)

• Participant interaction tools (Indicate which tools are available for interaction, such as videoconferencing, polling, testing, Q&A, public and private chat, hand raising, notes, and attentiveness monitoring.)

* Does the product support Section 508 requirements for accessibility? If so, describe the features and tools available to attendees and presenters (such as closed captioning and support for screen readers).

* Which of the following Web conference types are supported in a single offering/price structure? (This question can be rephrased to ask what products or services cover the following Web conference types.)

• Small group meetings (five or fewer participants)

• Small group meetings (10 or fewer participants)

• Midsize-to-large group meetings (25 or fewer participants)

• One-on-one sessions/mentoring

• Small seminars (five or fewer presenters and 25 to 200 attendees)

• Midsize seminars (five or fewer presenters and 200 to 300 attendees)

• Large seminars (10 or fewer presenters and 300 to 500 attendees)

* What is the maximum number of presenters and attendees for supported Web conference types? (Please specify conference type.)

* Does the product support both scheduled and ad hoc meetings?

* Which of the following does the meeting management system support?

• Unique meeting rooms for users

• Unique, persistent IDs for each meeting room

• Shared meeting rooms

• Ad hoc meeting creation

• Simple URL/meeting ID for ad hoc meetings

* What tools are available for uploading and maintaining presentation content?

* What types of content can be uploaded for use in a presentation?

Different applications can upload different types of content, from Microsoft PowerPoint slides to PDFs to Flash. You should determine how a Web conferencing product modifies data—for example, if effects such as transitions remain intact. You should also determine if maintaining the contents attributes requires any dedicated client software.

* Indicate which of the following e-mail and calendaring applications the Web conferencing application integrates with, for scheduling events and inviting attendees. (Check all that apply.)

• Microsofts Outlook (specify versions)

• IBMs Lotus Notes (specify versions)

• Novells GroupWise (specify versions)

• Other (please list)

* Indicate which of the following instant messaging clients the Web conferencing application integrates with, for scheduling events as well as creating ad hoc meetings and inviting attendees.

• Microsofts Office Communicator (specify versions)

• IBMs Lotus Sametime (specify versions)

• Jabber Software Foundations Jabber (specify versions)

• AOLs Instant Messenger (specify versions)

• Yahoos Yahoo Messenger (specify versions)

• Microsofts MSN Messenger (specify versions)

• Other (please list)

* Which of the following scheduling features does the product support?

• Integrated tools for building registration landing and portal pages

• Integration with CRM (customer relationship management) systems for gathering registration data

• Registration for playback of recorded events

* If the product includes a dedicated training application, which of the following capabilities does it support?

• Prerequisite tracking and assessment for event registration

• Integration with learning management systems for tracking testing data

• Integration with courseware management systems and support for courseware management standards

You should determine how presentation and other document types, as well as polling, testing and Q&A data, will be stored. Data can be stored locally on each users system, in a dedicated presentation clients CMS (content management system) or centrally on the server. Also determine how and when content can be shared or, if shared in third-party document management systems, whether it can be accessed directly from the Web conferencing application.

* How are voice services integrated with the system? (Specify available features, such as direct dialing, 800 numbers and reservationless conferencing.)

• VOIP directly in the Web conferencing application

• Streaming audio

• Third-party telecommunication services

• Direct IP PBX and VOIP gateway integration (specify supported PBXes and gateways)

Next Page: Administration, security, support, cost-benefit analysis and references.