Boardroom Despatches: My webinar message

A quick and dirty tech solution may just hold a few answers for IT departments...

A quick and dirty tech solution may just hold a few answers for IT departments...

Who'd have thought a PC and phone could take the place of a full-on conference presentation? But Rene Carayol's introduction to the 'webinar' holds further lessons for those in charge of IT... I recently did a webcast. Actually it was more of a 'webinar'. Rubbish name but great idea - and quite possibly an answer to a number of our current problems. Simply put, I communicated with almost 500 individuals, using PCs with internet access and a conference call. Now I know webinars can get much more complicated but this set up meant I could talk about slides and other information, displayed over the web for all participants, and then interact with my audience, with individuals jumping in to comment or keep quiet and listen to the debate. We always go on about what technology can do but this seems to be a very real, very useful application. These days everyone seems too busy to get out much and business travel just doesn't happen as much as it used to, for various reasons. Cue a combination of the PC, broadband connectivity and the humble phone - I've decided I like webinars! But there is a message beyond 'Let's use them more' (or should that be 'Let's use them as much as they do in the US'?). My audience for the latest event, organised by Changepoint, was made up of executives who work with technology. The vendor in question is all about better facilitating change in companies but the irony is that technologists hate change the most. Why do we enter IT in the first place? Because we don't want to work with people. Maybe there are other reasons but don't deny that's one of them. In fact, many IT directors and CIOs I've met over the years really don't like going to seminars. That's not a huge criticism. As a breed, we like to reflect, we like robust processes and we want to be sure. We're not like marketers, who are much quicker to dive in. While the webinar experience wasn't perfect - wasn't like meeting people face to face - it did underscore something else IT people should keep in mind: There are plenty of times when 'good enough' is all that's needed. What I mean is that there are times for precision engineering and forensics but they can also get in the way. So three pieces of advice: First, let's move to 'good enough' strategies. I know how much effort and money it takes to assemble 5,000 delegates from 20 countries at one event. Would a quick and dirty webinar or series of online meetings be 'good enough' in many cases? Second, fail fast. Try the new and don't expect everything to work. If something's not working, bin it. The Americans get this - we're still getting there. Third, realise that nothing lasts forever - and that includes the biggest success or worst of downturns. Few people get complacent in the face of the latter but there are plenty out there who have sat on their laurels when doing well. So let's ensure that when we're in vogue, riding high, we exploit the situation fully. And let's all have a plan B to go to next! So get involved with webinars and - finally - a prediction: Microsoft, as a company, is perhaps the best example of a business that has ridden various waves and done astoundingly well. That won't last forever. But one thing we know for sure - it will keep on trying to reinvent itself and will do its best never to be complacent. Rene Carayol is a former IT director and board member of IPC Media. He is now the CEO of consultancy Voodoo and co-author of the best-selling Corporate Voodoo and My Voodoo. He can be contacted at rene@carayol.com.