Making Sense of Meetings

Jul 08, 2008

Each day, in boardrooms across the world, professionals gather with one common goal in mind: to improve upon their corporation’s best practices and the productivity of its workers. And yet, in some ways, the very act of these daily meetings goes against precisely what companies strive to achieve. According to Hannon Brett, president and co-founder of MeetingSense, "Most of our users report an average of eight meetings per day, and for each of those meetings, an average of 15 minutes, post-meeting, is spent cleaning up that meeting’s notes."

Do the math. According to Brett’s estimations, each attendee will spend approximately two hours per workday cleaning up, organizing, and extracting the most important information from meeting notes. It goes without saying that two hours per day--ten hours per week--is a lot of time to spend on housekeeping, especially when most companies are working so hard to enhance productivity. MeetingSense strives to alleviate this corporate pressure point. This week, the company has introduced version 3.0 of its information capturing tool; a version, says Brett, "that is a culmination of two and a half years of listening to customer feedback, studying where the needs of the market are, and figuring out how to link those two together in order to enhance company productivity and save money."

Prior to MeetingSense’s 2005 founding by Brett and Gregg Brett, CEO, the two were "viscerally feeling the pain of unproductive meetings everyday ourselves, and we wanted to come up with some kind of a solution." From that pain, MeetingSense was born; version 1.0 of the tool was introduced in November 2006 and 2.0 followed in May 2007. With version 3.0, the company hopes to provide a whole new level of productivity and team member collaboration. Some of the world’s most profitable companies, such as Pfizer, Dell, Adobe, and IBM have already jumped on the bandwagon.

MeetingSense 3.0 is a Software as a Service (Saas) subscription-based solution priced at $19.99/month or $216/year if users prepay. Version 3.0 makes available tools such as collaborative pre/post team meeting information and action item management, a real-time shared meeting information repository with instant online access, wiki-like team collaboration with automated usage audit trails, free action item management, as well as full text search of all meeting information and action items. Further, notes Brett, 3.0 "features a tight interface with Microsoft Outlook so users don’t have to learn anything new; our product essentially takes all of the meeting’s information right from Outlook and captures it for the users in one intuitive interface, while also keeping everything linked together for easy accessibility." With this version, users are able to publish meeting minutes to a professional template that can be saved to a shared online dashboard so that "three months down the line, if I want to access the information from a meeting, the MeetingSense console will bring up everything exactly as I left it," explains Brett.

Beyond a clean interface, MeetingSense 3.0 works to meet the individual needs of meeting participants by allowing them to add comments to a meeting in a wiki-like atmosphere, sort action items in any way they choose, perform a full-text search of all meeting notes, as well as extract key points from the meeting so that users don’t have to waste precious time digging through mounds of text. Brett notes that "the permission structure for users is natural and follows normal meeting structure; those participating in the meetings can add their comments online, and those holding the meetings are given the publishing capabilities." He adds, "We didn’t want to impose any unnatural barriers."

MeetingSense 3.0 also has the IT department’s best interest at heart. "Version 3.0 helps users decrease the IT burden and storage load because we take on a lot of that ourselves," comments Brett. "We have a file management system that allows users to upload files which are hosted on our server, so corporations that buy MeetingSense don’t have to host those files on their own server."

Some may argue that "there are tons of scheduling, collaboration, and project management tools out there that have been around for awhile and do things really well," notes Brett. Further, most people already have some sort of information capture tools--such as Microsoft Word and email--right on their desktop. However, he believes there’s a better way. Brett points out that "when people have to type their meeting notes into a Word document, all sorts of information is strewn throughout those notes, making the important stuff difficult to find. These tools are fine, but they don’t provide real productivity," continues Brett.

MeetingSense 3.0 was designed to optimize ROI, lower usage barriers, decrease ownership costs, and eliminate IT burden, while also ensuring data security and privacy. In the end, though, increasing team productivity is the driving force behind the company and its tools. MeetingSense 3.0’s real-time information capture and organization capabilities helps ensure that project meetings end up successful and that all information exchanged is utilized as efficiently as possible. When time really is money, MeetingSense provides a huge ROI benefit to companies during these difficult economic times, and, according to Brett, "We’re really big on customer feedback, and from what we’ve heard, our users are happier because their professional lives are easier. For us, that’s pretty exciting."