The Value of Scrum

Scrum was adopted by the ReadyTalk Engineering team almost 3 years ago because we needed to be able to deliver more customer value in less time. Having direct access to our customers gave us the ability to take advantage of scrum and create very quick feedback loops and release features and updates more frequently, providing needed value to customers sooner and giving the business more accurate timelines for release cycles. With a little care and feeding, scrum has returned on all of its big shiny promises. But, what does this mean for YOU?

Empowered and Engaged Teams
It goes without saying that the people of ReadyTalk are what make our culture and product great. In engineering, scrum plays a big part in the daily management of tasks and work load. Each scrum team has the ability to plan their own work for the iteration and team members are accountable to each other to deliver on their commitments. Working in smaller increments gives the teams the ability to calculate their workload more accurately and deliver working code regularly. More accurate scrum planning gives us the work/life balance to make sure the engineering team still has plenty of fun, and happy nerds are productive nerds!

Earlier Return on Investment
The scrum process ensures that the work queued up is always prioritized based on value to our users. For engineers, this means very little effort is wasted and what we produce is tightly aligned with business and customer needs. Valuable results are delivered in short cycles so customers can provide feedback quickly and we can react. This shortens the entire feedback loop and no one is left waiting for features that are out-of-date by the time they are released.

Better Response to Change
In the world of software, priorities can change quickly. Scrum gives us the ability to adjust to fit both short and long-term goals of our product. The scrum process manages our ability to respond to the constantly changing needs of our users. Working in shorter iterations allows the scrum teams to adapt to change in a controlled manner without disrupting an entire project. These cycles also give all stakeholders increased visibility and confidence in the current status of the work in progress.

Continuous Improvement
With scrum, we are always looking back on what we have done to identify opportunities for improvements. This means we keep getting better and more efficient at the way we develop, test and release features to our users. Not only does the product improve but the way that we work becomes more effective over time- everyone wins.

Are you new to scrum? What challenges have you run into with your own adoption of agile practices? Share your questions with us and we would be happy to share our insight and experiences with you!

Guest Post: With Free Apps, You Get What You Pay For

By Melanie Turek, Industry Director, Frost & Sullivan

One of the biggest topics of discussion in IT circles these days is the so-called “consumerization” of IT. The idea is that unlike in the past, when most people were introduced to new technology at work and then adopted it at home as prices allowed, these days, employees are just as likely to first adopt new technology at home, then bring it into work as needs demand.

We are seeing this trend around devices, such as mobile phones and tablets, that employees buy on their own but use for business purposes; and around applications and services, such as Skype and free conferencing services, which employees use as “work-arounds” to get the capabilities they want, and/or to save the company money on communications and collaboration. So, for instance, while it is not unusual to see employees taking work calls on their personal mobile phones, it is also common for employees to place International calls via Skype, or to host conferences on a free service in an effort to better enable collaboration if their company doesn’t provide it (or if it does, but per-minute costs are closely tracked and charged back to the user’s line of business).

This poses a challenge to IT managers: They can either encourage employees to use such free or personal technology, and hope it all works out OK for the organization; or they can pay for similar services to be available to their employees as needed. While the first option might be appealing, especially in difficult economic times, the old adage is often true: you get what you pay for, and with free applications, the risks are clear. Here are a few of them:

 

  • Security and control: Free applications and services rarely meet the security requirements of most businesses, and they do not include the kind of control mechanisms most IT departments and line of business managers demand. Typically, when consumer services do include such capabilities it’s as part of a “prosumer” offering that costs money—and so, the application or service is no longer free, and has the additional downside of coming from a consumer background, rather than one built specifically for business use.

 

 

  • Features and capabilities: When it comes to communications and collaboration applications, most consumers aren’t very picky about the capabilities they need. But professional users need professional-grade tools. With conferencing applications, for instance, companies should look for advanced registration capabilities; archiving, editing and recording features; and interactive tools that let you load presentations, take polls and answer questions on the fly, or break out into small-group sessions as needed. Furthermore, it’s important that your conferencing application look professional to customers and business partners.

 

 

  • Reliability and support: Free services are fine for personal needs—if a call or conference is dropped while you’re talking to your friends and family, you can simply try again. But customer-facing applications require bullet-proof reliability and support; they must work perfectly every time, or users risk not just embarrassment, but also lost business opportunities. Consumer services don’t offer the reliable performance and 24-by-7 support businesses need to maintain a professional image and keep operations running smoothly.

 

 

Frost and Sullivan Analyst Melanie TurekMelanie is a renowned expert in unified communications, collaboration, social networking and content-management technologies in the enterprise. For 15 years, Ms. Turek has worked closely with hundreds of vendors and senior IT executives across a range of industries to track and capture the changes and growth in the fast-moving unified communications market. Melanie writes often on the business value and cultural challenges surrounding real-time communications, collaboration and Voice over IP, and she speaks frequently at leading customer and industry events.

New Service for Web Event Customers: ReadyTalk Event Chat

At ReadyTalk, we recently implemented a new feature that allows you, the customer, to communicate immediately with an Event Manager during a LIVE event – ReadyTalk Event Chat.

ReadyTalk Event Chat is a free feature that provides additional support during Operator-Assisted web events. With ReadyTalk Event Chat, you have instant access via a special chat interface to an event manager during your live web and audio and audio-only events. An Event Operator is available to provide audio support, including Q&A moderation, throughout your live event.

To chat with an Event Manager:Event Chat for live support during ReadyTalk webinars

    1. Prior to the start of your conference, go to http://www.readytalk.com/support/eventchat.php and log in to ReadyTalk Event Chat. Bookmark this page for future use.
    2. Log in to ReadyTalk Event Chat by entering your access code and pass code.
    3. Use ReadyTalk Event Chat for any questions, concerns or issues that arise during your call that the audio operator is unable to address.

Event Chat Hours of Operation:
ReadyTalk Event customers can access Event Chat during live events scheduled Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET (excluding holidays).

If you have questions for the Events Team outside of the Event Chat hours of operation, please feel free to contact us via email at events@readytalk.com.

You can also contact ReadyTalk Customer Care at any time for immediate assistance, including after-hours support at 1.800.843.9166 or support@readytalk.com.

We need YOUR help!
Now that I’ve told you all about event chat….based on feedback we have received, we are considering changing the name from ‘Event Chat’ to something that is easily recognizable and not to be confused with the chat box feature that is available to chat with particiapnts during web events.

This is YOUR tool, so please take a moment and share your name suggestions with us. What name makes most sense to you? Let us know! You can email them to support@readytalk.com.

Best Practices for Promoting Your Webinars

You know what your next webinar is going to be about; the speaker is lined up – now you need to get the word out! As discussed in one of our previous posts, you should take full advantage of social media when promoting your webinar.

Sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can be valuable resources, but you can also get creative with your promotions. The following are some additional suggestions on how and where to promote your webinar:

E-Mail Signatures – Announce your webinar in the signature line of your e-mails. You  send multiple e-mails each day,  so in a way you have a captive audience. What better place to promote a webinar?

Message Boards – If you choose to promote your webinar on a message board, be  sure to review the rules for posting as each board will likely have a different set of rules you must follow.

Speaker(s) – Every speaker wants a sizable audience for their webinar, so ask them to promote it on their own website, blogs, newsletters and  within any social networks they are a member of.

Newsletters – If you already do monthly or quarterly newsletters to update customers on product changes or promotions, be sure to mention your upcoming webinar with a link to the registration page.

Utilize Your Sales Team – If you have an internal sales team, make sure they are aware of your upcoming webinar and are promoting it when they communicate with current customers or prospects via telephone, e-mail or in person. You may also consider sharing the registration link with your sales team so they can pass it along.

“Forward to a Friend” – When you create your invitation – whether it is in the ReadyTalk Conference Center or your own e-mail – consider adding a "Forward to a Friend" tag line at the end. If one person is interested in your webinar topic, chances are they know others with similar interests. Many companies are now using this option and see a nice jump in their registration as a result.

Effective promotion is key since the more people who hear about the webinar, the more people will register and attend. You have worked hard to coordinate your webinar and believe in the content being presented, so use every resource available to get the word out. The sky’s the limit!

Do you know of any other creative resources available to promote webinars? If so, please share your thoughts!

Here's to continued success in 2011!