Recently, we presented our eWeek excellence awards (www.excellenceawardsonline.com). Im clearly biased in support of the awards, but I do want to talk about the background of the competition. When we were kicking around the idea of the awards a year ago, there were a couple of developing trends that have since come to fruition. We might as well take credit when we get a few right. There are plenty of people to remind you when you blow it.
There are lots of awards competitions in the technology community and elsewhere, but starting last year—and now more than ever—it is important to recognize real, shipped products rather than beta or prototype products and services. Competitions based on betas are fun: You get to see the execs sweat it out as prototype after prototype goes down in flames and blue-screen crashes. While fun, the beta competitions have little meaning. Many of the companies disappear without a trace, and no one, especially in the current economic climate, is going to bet the companys technology infrastructure on a beta product.
The reason for technology investment is to create a bottom-line benefit or develop a capability that might benefit the bottom line. You cant make those basic infrastructure choices unless you feel confident the products you are picking have been around for a couple of versions to get the bugs out. Buying Version 1.0 of anything is still about the riskiest bet you can make. It made the most sense to me to limit the entries to real products and use a combination of our Labs analysts and our Corporate Partners advisory board to judge their value to the corporate community.
In addition, we wanted to use the technologies upon which many of the products are based. We developed an online entry form, used team-based products for judging and held the initial presentation of the winners via a Web seminar. Lets just say we learned a lot along the way, and many of our experiences supported our idea that the Internet does change everything, but that e-commerce, Web-based teams and other cool ideas are not yet fully cooked.
Despite our struggles, the Web continues to improve as a place to do business, collaborate and learn. In these days of scrutinized travel budgets, tight time schedules and a questionable future for many face-to-face seminars, the Web continues to become a more compelling place to learn the skills you need to become a business success.
Finally, we wanted to use the competition to help organizations that are using technology to improve the lives of people for whom a little tech can make a lifetime of difference. We decided to donate the entry fees to the Starlight Childrens Foundation, which uses technology to connect hospitalized children to the outside world. Technology can have a higher purpose, and the $65,000 check were giving Starlight helps us remember that even in uncertain economies, we can still support worthy causes.