Flexible Platforms in a Virtual World

August 16, 2010

The following is a guest posting by Ken Heyward, CEO of vcopious, a leading “virtual environment” software platform company.

As demand in the SaaS market grows, the number of vendors has significantly increased, making the choice of vendor a difficult one. Technology norms are shifting at a rapid pace and IT departments must strategically react.  At first blush, IT departments may be overwhelmed by the scenario of having to deal with two separate and seemingly competing platforms, SaaS and On-Premise. However, making a hard and fast decision as to which one of the two options to choose may not be necessary. A flexible solution, which incorporates both SaaS and On-Premise, might be most appropriate.

Realistically, most companies realize that at least some SaaS-based solutions will be a permanent part of their application portfolio. SaaS-based solutions address urgent software needs, start-up costs are low, and a lack of IT infrastructure and integration with other in-house systems is not an issue.  On the other hand, On-Premise models do a better job of securing data, as the platform is owned by the user and installed on a company’s own network.  In addition, system crashes, reboots and downtime are limited because applications are in isolated mode.

Is one really better than the other?

Before making the decision between SaaS or On-Premise platforms, companies must assess their business and financial needs as well as their infrastructure. Then, the question isn’t whether SaaS or On-Premise is better, but rather, how to find a balance between both delivery models and adapt accordingly? Rather than limit possibilities, finding a single vendor that has the ability to offer multiple solutions allows a company to maximize the benefits of both SaaS and On-Premise platforms.  This flexible platform allows companies to deploy each platform in a manner that meets their evolving needs. Flexible deployment also allows companies to run the licensed software in both environments and even port the platform back and forth as business requirements evolve. With this option, companies even have the ability to run reports on data in both locations from one centralized dashboard.

Conclusion

As Cloud Computing evolves, IT departments will continue to be presented with an increased number of vendors and solutions from which to choose. By taking a long-term approach in assessing business, financial and infrastructure needs, it becomes obvious that choosing a vendor who can offer a flexible platform allows companies more control to choose for themselves the most appropriate model to meet their needs.

To download the white paper “Flexible Platforms in a Virtual World,” which includes a case study on SAP and the 2010 SAPPHIRE NOW conference, please click here.


How To Run A Virtual Event Command Center

September 19, 2009

Source: flickr (User: Verizon Business)

Source: flickr (User: Verizon Business)

Your extended team worked weeks and months to plan and strategize for your virtual event – now, it’s time to deliver.  While your attendees enjoy the convenience of joining the virtual event from anywhere, the functional leads on your team ought to convene in a single physical location while supporting the event.  As I wrote in a posting on Virtual Tradeshow Best Practices, it’s a good idea to set up a virtual event war room – or, what I prefer to call a Command Center.

The notion is ironic – attendees gather virtually, but the support team gathers in person?  Well, there’s tremendous value to face-to-face when supporting a large scale event.  The benefits include:

  1. Instant communication – If I discover an important issue, I can yell out my discovery and have the entire room hear me.  Those responsible for addressing the issue can jump right onto it.  I suppose you could set up an audio conference bridge to accomplish this sort of coordination, but sitting around the table (in the same room) makes it all the more convenient.
  2. Better facilitates instant collaboration and problem solving – if there’s an issue that requires triage, I can lean over and look over the shoulder at my colleague’s monitor.  We can troubleshoot the issue together and call over other functional leads as necessary.
  3. Quick turnaround on requests –  in any virtual event, there’s a series of requests that one functional team requires another to implement.  Rather than handle the request communications via email or IM, it can be easier to walk to the other side of the room, communicate what’s needed and receive instant confirmation that the request is being addressed.
  4. Builds camraderie – whether it’s the large cheer in the room when the two thousandth attendee enters or the laughing and joking at a team member’s expense, being in the same physical location builds a sense of team closeness and camraderie that’s hard to achieve over a conference bridge.

I fully expect that technologies will emerge to make a virtual command center an intriguing possibility – for now, however, I’m a firm believer in gathering the support team face-to-face.  Here are some best practices in configuring and running the command center:

  1. Carefully select the command center staff – you don’t want too many people in the room – however, you do want a lead from each functional area (e.g. Operations, Engineering, Marketing, Strategy, Communications, Support, etc.).  Make sure the right staffers are present – and communicate to the rest of the extended team via IM, email and virtual meetings.
  2. Arrange the command center seating strategically – similar to how a business might arrange employees’ cubicle assignments, determine the common collaboration paths – and seat applicable combinations of people close to one another.  This way, Operations doesn’t need to walk across the room to huddle with Engineering – instead, they can tap one another on the shoulder.
  3. Configure large-screen displays with dashboards – use the displays to show the virtual event in action – also create dashboards of key metrics that allow the team to spot trends or issues.  For instance, a real-time graph of simultaneous users can flag a system issue if the upward trend line suddenly drops.  Additionally, use displays to monitor attendee feedback, such as chat room activity and Twitter comments.
  4. Schedule regular checkpoint meetings – make sure the team has a chance to stop what they’re doing and take a step back to collectively review where things stand.  You want to provide a summary of recent happenings (or metrics), highlight issues that need addressing and identify any key trends for the team to be aware of.  Take a moment to review your key metrics and ask all functional leads to provide an update.  With everyone moving at a fast pace, it’s important to pause and get a handle on the bigger picture.

And finally, what’s one last benefit of the command center?  At the successful conclusion of your big event, you all get to go out together for the celebratory dinner.


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