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.


From Web 2.0 to Webinar 2.0

September 28, 2009

Source: flickr (User: Werkplay)

Source: flickr (User: Werkplay)

In this age of social sharing, participation, “users as publishers”, Facebook updates and Twitter tweets, the webinar is a seeming anachronism.  In your typical 60 minute webinar, the presenters speak for 45-50 minutes – and the only “participation” from the audience occurs when the presenter selects your question to be answered.  Users are not able to see questions submitted by other viewers – in fact, they rarely know how many other users are also viewing the webinar.

At the Feeding the SAP Ecosystem blog, there’s an interesting posting titled “SAP Virtual Events: A Work in Progress“.  Here’s a great quote about webinars:

Or the presenters drone on too long, overloading the audience with slides and not coming up for air until there is a few minutes left and the participants are too burned out to even attempt a last minute question. Webinars that incorporate reader chat and questions throughout the broadcast, rather than exiling them to a shrinking time slot at the end, are much more effective.

I agree wholeheartedly with this observation.  I believe that webinars can be much more engaging if they adopted an unconference model.  According to Wikipedia, “an unconference is a facilitated, participant-driven conference centered around a theme or purpose”.  As a webinar presenter (or sponsor), you’ll still want to define the topic and prepare a set of slides to reinforce your speaking points and presentation objectives.

But, what if you were to hand over some control back to the audience?  It requires a leap of faith, I know.  But when the audience is directly involved, I think you create a more rewarding user experience – and, you stand to benefit as well.  User involvement should directly result in engagement, retention and satisfaction.

Here are some simple ideas from Web 2.0 that can be applied to create Webinar 2.0:

  1. Audience drives the content selection – the presenter flips through two potential slides to the audience and then pushes out a survey to the audience.  The survey prompts the audience to select which slide they’d like to see covered.  The presenter then publishes the survey results and advances to the slide that won the vote.  This addresses one issue I’ve had with webinars – I attended the live webinar because the topic intrigued me; however, the content didn’t quite hit the mark.  If presenters gave more control and input to the audience, they’d have a better chance of giving viewers what they want.
  2. Audience members render their own slides – akin to a virtual meeting (e.g. WebEx, GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect), where the meeting host passes control to another participant, who then shares his/her desktop.  For webinar platforms that support this, imagine how powerful this could be.  Viewers would need to know to come prepared with slide content – but imagine the presenter asking for real-world case studies of a given technology and allowing a viewer to render a slide about his real-world implementation experience.  Again, this is a leap of faith and a “risk factor” in surrendering control of the content.  However, isn’t that what Web 2.0 is all about?
  3. Better balance between PowerPoint content and Q&A – a typical webinar has an 80/20 split (or more) between the PowerPoint presentation and Q&A.  I think it should be more like 50/50.  Scheduling frequent pauses (to answer questions) provides a lot of value to viewers – it means that they don’t have to wait until the 50 minute mark to have questions answered – and it signals to the audience that the presenters are “listening” to them.  Along these same lines, the webinar platform should allow all viewers to see all questions submitted by attendees.  And to cap it all off, follow up after the webinar by publishing an FAQ – list commonly asked questions along with their answers.
  4. Answer questions coming from the statusphere – define a Twitter hashtag for your webinar and have staff available to monitor the tweets – then, have presenters address and answer interesting questions that were posed via Twitter (and other social tools).  This allows you to extend the audience of your webinar – and engage with users who might not be able to attend.  Additionally, have staff members tweet back (with the answers), so that users monitoring the tweet stream know that you’re not only listening, but participating back.

I’m sure we’ve just gotten started – what tactics do you have to recommend for bringing Web 2.0 to Webinar 2.0?


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