Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Seven questions with ThinkBalm analyst Erica Driver on latest report

You might have heard that analyst firm ThinkBalm published a new report last week, "The Enterprise Immersive Software Decision-Making Guide." It's a use-case-based guide covering how to select immersive Internet platforms and tools.

ThinkBalm's Erica and Sam Driver also feature many vendors in their report, including ProtonMedia. Erica was kind enough to participate in an e-mail Q&A with us about their report, findings, lessons learned, and what's next for ThinkBalm. Read on below.

ProtonMedia: What is your latest report about?

Erica Driver: "The Enterprise Immersive Software Decision-Making Guide" is a use case-based guide designed to aid business decision makers in the process of selecting immersive technology for use in the workplace. We present "if/then" scenarios and highlight good-fit vendors for common situations, focusing on meetings, conferences, and learning and training use cases. This report offers guidance on how to: 1) ask core business questions to frame the discussion; 2) choose a research-and-demo, do-it-yourself, or combination approach; 3) identify requirements based on your use case; and 4) filter your options based on important limiters.

P: Why did you produce this report?

ED: In our interactions with early adopters of immersive technology, we found that many of them were flying by the seat of their pants, trying to make technology selection decisions without a complete picture of the technology landscape. Add to that the reality that non-technologists are increasingly finding themselves in the decision-making seat as organizations turn to immersive technology as a solution to real business problems. We created "The Enterprise Immersive Software Decision-Making Guide" to help business decision makers make an informed vendor selection, streamlining the process and helping to avoid costly mistakes.

P: What was your methodology?

ED: We held structured briefings with 19 enterprise immersive software vendors, including ProtonMedia, and conducted interviews with 15 Immersive Internet advocates and implementers. We talked with early adopters who work for organizations like ACS Learning Services, BP, Cisco Systems, CSC, Defense Acquisition University, Dell, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, National Defense University, Planview, SAP, The Coaches Center, and UCSA International. We combined our insights from these discussions with our hands-on experience using immersive software and our interactions with our clients and members of the ThinkBalm Innovation Community. The ThinkBalm Innovation Community currently numbers more than 400 Immersive Internet advocates, implementers, explorers, and technology marketers.

P: Who is this report aimed at?

ED: We wrote this report for business decision makers, as opposed to technology decision makers. We wrote it for people like marketing executives, corporate events managers, human resources strategists, project or program managers, and chief learning officers -- business people who face budget cuts, resource constraints, or the innovation imperative, and see immersive software's potential to solve business problems.

P: Why should business decision makers read your report? What will they be able to do with the information?

ED: This report helps business decision makers create a cohesive plan that lists critical requirements and important limiters, thereby reducing the risk that they'll select a technology that won't end up fitting their needs. We tried to steer clear of super-techie language and focus on information that business people need as they weigh in on the technology selection process.

P: What lessons have you learned by completing this report?

ED: Doing a massive research project like this gives analysts deep insight into where a market is at a given moment in time. A few big takeaways come to mind. The enterprise immersive software market is still in the early adopter phase, and will remain so throughout 2010. Implementations are starting to break out of the experiment-and-pilot ghetto. The base feature set for the most common use cases is beginning to standardize. And the importance of integrating immersive technology with existing business systems is beginning to mount.

P: What's next for ThinkBalm?

ED: We've got some speaking engagements lined up, and will be putting the methodology in this report to help our clients through the technology selection process. We will be delivering a workshop on the methodology at the Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds conference in May. As always, we will continue to host ThinkBalm Innovation Community events for the early adopter and explorer community. We encourage anyone interested in work-related use of immersive technology to join our community to learn and share experiences related to their immersive technology projects.

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