Friday, October 27, 2006

Is the World Moving to Software as a Service?

A SaaS-y post from co-founder Barb Ewen...

This morning the Mass Technology Leadership Council hosted a session on Software as a Service (SaaS), moderated by Jeff Kaplan, managing director of THINKstrategies. Panelists included executives from a hospital, bank and a software company.

The discussion was a lively one and demonstrated the momentum underway for many vendors and enterprises to shift from a product/licensing model to Software as a Service. (Earlier this month, Gartner predicted that SaaS will grow to represent 25% of new business software revenue by 2011.) In particular, applications that would be more costly to deploy and constrain internal resources if either developed in-house or licensed, seem to be seeing success as a hosted service model. All of the panelists have turned to this model for applications such as facilities management, asset tracking and operational management. CHEN PR client Authoria, providing integrated talent management solutions for large enterprises, is moving its extensive customer base to leverage Authoria’s solutions as a service with great success.

Questions asked included how to measure performance with SaaS; rationalizing cost benefits over time versus a licensing model; whether having a choice is better than being “forced” into a service model; and who owns IP if SaaS is customized for a particular customer’s needs. The panelists all agreed that performance or outages had not been an issue and they were very satisfied with the service model for their particular requirements. While the momentum is clearly moving in many applications to SaaS, the consensus was that there remain applications that organizations would not be comfortable outsourcing. Certainly it will be fascinating to watch SaaS as it continues to evolve across small, medium and large enterprises.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Schilling Gets to Pitch in the Post-Season

From CHEN PR Veep Kevin Kosh...

Yes, that'’s right, Curt Schilling -- of the Boston Red Sox (and Barb Heffner's previous blog entry preceding this one. I just wanted to go for effect.)

And though pitching in a tough post season environment is familiar territory to him, that's where the similarities ended.

He was far from the ace of this rotation, and he had none of his Red Sox teammates behind him. That said, it would be hard to get anything too far by him, since he was backed up by a wall with very big chalk boards on it. With his trademark confidence, wry wit and imposing presence, however -- not to mention his decades of experience in the topic at hand -- he most definitely is looking to be a rookie of the year candidate.

As Barb also noted, Mr. Schilling was the keynote speaker at the MIT Enterprise Forum'’s program, "“Tomorrow's Games: Mobile, Casual and Massively-Multiplayer Online Games."” He imparted his perspectives on the gaming industry, and "“soft pitched" his post-baseball venture, Green Monster Games. Joining the panel of industry luminaries who gave the audience both a history lesson and a peek into the future of the gaming industry, fellow speakers included:

Matthew Bellows, General Manager, Floodgate
Jason Booth, Technical Designer, Harmonix Music Systems
Alan Duggan, CEO, Nephin Games
Steve Meretzky, Creative Director, Muddy C Games
Mark Pover, CFO/COO, Utix Group
Dan Scherlis, CEO, Etherplay Premium Games [moderator]

I'’ll not spend much more time laying out the specifics of the session or Curt's contribution, that has been done by more expert sources than I from a sports perspective in the Eagle Tribune and from a technology perspective on CNET. (Although I will share one comment from Curt that brought the house down. An abrupt "“no"” to one question from a reporter was followed by Curt addressing the crowd with, "By the way, that'’s the way you deal with the Boston media. " After the laughter subsided, Curt finished his answer...)

However, I will take a few moments more to add some commentary from my own experience. I was a member of the team at our agency that participated in the launch of one of the defining games in online gaming history -- Ultima Online --– nearly 9 years ago. And it struck me as I listened -- the more things change, the more they stay the same.

What has changed is the continued innovation in how technology is used. That ranges from unbelievably realistic 3D worlds to the ability to create a "dance contest game"” that uses the camera on a cell phone to map and then translate physical movements into the online world.

What has also changed is the "“acceptance" of gaming more into the mainstream. Even with numbers a decade ago that placed games ahead of box office receipts, they were still considered "“toys"” to some mainstream media. Fast forward to today and now they're serious business indeed, including the fact that some online economies now function around real world currency and have attracted participation from real world media.

What hasn'’t changed are the spirited arguments around evolution -- online gaming signaling the demise of PC games, from here to where with the console market, "“sticky"” business models to drive consistent revenue, the relative lack of female gamers, and of course, the challenges of a physical technology infrastructure necessary to support an online world.

Finally, as a fan of both gaming and the Red Sox, I must end with the fact that beyond the intellectual discourse, there was an intangible in the room that was infectious. As with any profession, it's incredibly refreshing to meet a group of people who are consummate professionals, but with that twinkle in their eye that betrays an overwhelming childlike enthusiasm for the task at hand.

Or to use Curt's word to describe what he sees as the key to success --– passion.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Schilling: For Love of the Games

It's not everyday that we get to issue a release with a quote from an MLB player, but that dream came to pass last week, when we worked on a release for the MIT Enterprise Forum, regarding the Forum's October 23rd event, "Tomorrow's Games: Mobile, Casual and Massively Multiplayer Online Games."

If our office, we've still got photos all over the copier room from the 2004 World Series. As anyone in Boston or New York can tell you, Schilling won game 6 of the American League Championship (against the Yankees -- sweet!) with blood seeping through his sock, due to tendon surgery on his ankle. He then won game 2 of the World Series (more seepage) and that sock is enshrined at Cooperstown.

Schilling may be the first Web 2.0 athlete -- an avid gamer who chimes in on sports chat rooms and call-in radio shows. He "gets" the power of the medium. He's such a fan of EverQuest II that the creators have created a special Curt Schilling character for the MMORPG.

His passion for gaming led him to create a company called Green Monster Games -- hence his role at the MIT event.

Now as fate would have it, I was out of town on Monday night for the actual event, so look to the next installment from my colleagues for the color commentary on the actual event. Here's a fun recap from Rob Bradford at the Eagle-Tribune.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Reality Check: Tackling TB

From CHEN PR Veep Randy Wambold...

Most of us who live in the West have a general sense that deadly diseases are far more prevalent in other parts of the world. But as is often the case, specifics can drive a realization far more powerfully than generalizations. If you’d asked me before I got up this morning how many people in the world are infected with TB, for example, after confessing my utter lack of qualification to hazard such a guess, I might have given a number in the tens of millions.

I would have been woefully, dramatically off base. In fact two billion people in the world are currently infected with TB (although, to be clear, the disease is not active in all of them). That’s 40-50 stadiums of 40,000 people each. Someone, somewhere in the world is infected with TB every 4 seconds and dies of it every 10 seconds.

The tragic, terrible irony? TB is a treatable, curable disease.

I was enlightened this morning by Dr. Dave Clark, executive director at the Aurum Institute for Health Research, during his keynote address at the Phase Forward International Users Conference in Las Vegas. Dr. Clark and the Aurum Institute and its partners and backers are providing hope in this otherwise very bleak scenario. The Aurum Institute is an independent medical scientific organization for the treatment of and research into epidemic and other diseases in developing countries. Its committed employees work with South African miners (among whom TB is especially rampant, with 80% infected) to study the effectiveness of drug therapy in treating TB. Dr. Clark today discussed Aurum's implementation of Phase Forward’s InForm electronic data capture solution to enable the collection and analysis of the massive amounts of data – ultimately, 60,000 South African gold miners are expected to participate – the large study will generate. Additional details are available here.

With talented, able individuals like Dr. Clark and the Aurum Institute joined by world-class researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Johns Hopkins University Center for Tuberculosis Research, and backed by organizations such as the CREATE initiative (launched by Dr. Nelson Mandela in 2004) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, there is reason to hope that the tide of this awful disease will be reversed.

Friday, October 13, 2006

SVB Annual Soiree: Lawyers, Big Guns and Money

Penned by CHEN PR Partner, Chris Carleton...

A couple of hundred local tech entrepreneurs, investors, lawyers, PR folks, recruiters and assorted Who's Whoers descended on Newton's Brae Burn Country Club last night for Silicon Valley Bank's annual schmooze fest. The party's always a great barometer for how things are going for the region's tech circuit. Given the positive vibe that characterized the cocktail chatter, there's good stuff afoot with startup and established companies alike.

Have to give SVB its props, too. We all go to dozens of these events. One tends to fade into the other in a non-descript, "who's party was that..." kinda way. But not this event. It's held in a classy spot. You catch up with a great mix of friends and associates. Every person you bump into from SVB is gracious and affable. It runs like clockwork. And you leave with a nice bottle of wine. What's not to like about that?

So, thanks again to Phil Ernst and his SVB peers for the hospitality....

Client Kudos: Bob Weiler Named CEO of the Year

On Wednesday evening, the Mass Technology Leadership Council hosted its annual awards event celebrating the companies and leaders who best exemplify leadership and excellence in business and technology. We felt honored to have two client CEOs -- Bob Weiler of Phase Forward and Todd Loofbourrow of Authoria -- in the running for CEO of the Year. (Other notable finalists in the CEO category included John Anderson/PeopleCube, Art Papas/Bullhorn, Paul Sagan/Akamai and Chris Stone/StreamServe.)

When the moment of truth came, it was Bob Weiler whose photo was being snapped with the award in hand. Here's our press release.

Before the ceremonies started that evening, I was chatting with the very successful CEO of a local company who commented, "I used to work for Bob, and he's the best boss I ever had."

That just about sums it up. If you've ever had the pleasure of working with Bob, you know he's the kind of guy who goes out of his way to say "thank you" to every member of our team when we have a good hit. He's noted for his egalitarianism, his sense of humor, his command of the market -- and like every good CEO -- for making and owning the hard decisions when necessary.

This terrific award recognizes Bob's long and successful career leading local companies. For most of his run, Bob led companies targeting enterprise IT customers and technology consumers -- firms like McCormack & Dodge (my alma mater), Lotus, Eastman Software and Giga -- the research firm. In 2002, he made the move to Phase Forward, which targets customers in the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device markets. In 2004, he took the company public, making it the only Mass. software company to go public that year. That says something about Bob's success in making the transition to the life sciences market in short order. And while the lawyers won't let me proclaim that Phase Forward is the leader in its market, many financial analysts certainly would.

Our Red Sox hats are off to Bob. Warmest congratulations from your CHEN PR team.

You can read more about the other awards in Mass High Tech's article here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

At CNET, We Know Where the Buck Stops

It's always sad to watch a news organization you respect having to report on some ethical breach within its own organization.

An hour ago, The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) issued this alert:

CNET said Chairman and CEO Shelby Bonnie has resigned after a probe found "deficiencies" in the company's options grants. CNET's general counsel and head of human resources also resigned. "I apologize for the option-related problems that happened under my leadership," said Mr. Bonnie, who co-founded the online media company in 1993.

You can read the press release here. I find it rather shocking that an hour later, CNET still hasn't covered the story on its own site (although they've reported on the McAfee management changes, also prompted by stock option practices). One envisions reporters drawing straws to see who gets to write that one...

There's a bitter lesson here for other companies. CNET announced the executive departures simultaneous with the finding of its Special Committee investigating the handling of stock options, leaving no doubt that the management team and board wanted to send a message about leadership and accountability. May others have the courage to follow this lead.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ode to the Mainframe

I unwittingly got a good foundation for a career in tech by taking a Fortran course (complete with punch cards running on a mainframe) at Penn State in an unmentionable year.

CNET and eWeek are both reporting today on IBM's announcement that it will spend $100 million over the next five years to make mainframes easier to use. They also announced the "release of the new z/OS V1.8 on System z operating system." (What happened to the OS/360?)

The mainframe business has been hard hit in recent years by the availability of low-cost, nimble UNIX, Linux and Windows machines. But IBM has jazzed up the Big Iron units, so that today's models can run Linux and Java, for example.

And some customers have turned to server consolidation, finding it easier to run one big box rather than a series of servers. As a result, IBM continues to do solid business on the back of the mainframe, according to eWeek:

In the second quarter, the company saw revenues for the business and the MIPS (million instructions per second) shipped both jump about 7 percent over the same period last year.

You've gotta hand it to the mainframe -- it's tough to beat for sheer power and manageability.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Podcasting Gains Traction in the Enterprise

eWeek kicks off the week with a series of useful articles on podcasting, underscoring the consumer-driven nature of the technology. Like PCs, employees are embracing the devices and, at least in some cases, IT organizations are trying to stay ahead of the curve.

One article, "Podcasting: An Enterprise Hit," outlines how MassMutual is using podcasts to train employees (about 20% of MassMutual agents have signed up to have podcasts emailed to them each Monday morning), while GM is using podcasts as an external marketing tool. For example, GM might interview the race team that drove a Corvette to another Le Mans win.

The numbers in the article underscore the momentum:

The Diffusion Group forecasts that the use of podcasting among U.S. consumers is growing at a compound annual rate of 101 percent. By 2010, 56.8 million Americans will be using "time-shifted digital audio files," or podcasts, TDG predicts.

Interested in rolling up your sleeves to get started? Check out Stan Gibson's how-to article, "A Podcasting To-Do List."