This year's crop of entries represents real products to meet real needs.

Do you want to do something that is sure to chew up your nights and weekends? And at the end of your task, you will need to be ready to answer many questions about why you picked one company over another. If that sounds appealing, you have the potential to be a judge in the annual eWEEK Excellence Awards competition.

Here's the best part of it for me as I wrap up reading and judging my share of the nearly 600 8th annual eWEEK Excellence Award entries: I think the process works.

See all the judges' picks here.

The Excellence Awards began in a long-ago era when things such as return on investment, demonstrated benefits and innovation really mattered to the business technology user. Each year, business users are asked to make bets with their budget dollars to secure products and services that will bring more benefits than costs. Sounds simple, but in a time when page views, unique visitors and the size and heft of a social network is the coin of the consumer technology realm, business users often feel left out of the pursuit of products that simply increase a company's efficiency.

While of course I enjoy reading all the entry descriptions of paradigm-shifting and chasm-leaping product innovation, my favorite part of the awards process is reading the descriptions of how customers are using the products. And, just as they did eight years ago when we started the program, customers are buying technology to increase efficiency, improve customer interaction, reach new markets and fill product gaps left open by the giant tech vendors.

In the category of what is old is new again, I consistently find business technology users are still interested in those ROI, cost/benefit trade-off equations from years ago. Why is that? It might have something to do with a gallon of gas passing the $4 mark or the promise of a global flat marketplace bumping up against rising shipping costs and a faltering dollar. Tech products do not exist in a vacuum, but are at their best when they address the economic, social and business climate of the time. I thought this year's crop of entries represented real products that met real needs. In an era when most talk in tech is of Microsoft courting Yahoo or Google sucking up the mobile market, maybe there is some hope for business tech after all.

It costs a few bucks ($50) to submit an entry for the Excellence Awards competition. As always, we take the money we have left over after the awards' costs (which are kept to a minimum) and present checks to three organizations involved in helping disadvantaged youths pursue a greater understanding of technology. This year we have picked three Boys & Girls Clubs of America clubhouses around the country to receive the funds. I'm sure that some day, it will be one of those kids who builds a company that wins an Excellence Award.

Editor at large Eric Lundquist can be reached at elundquist@eweek.com.