It's an on-demand world

More than Web 2.0, more than open source, on-demand is the dominant ethos of the modern age. Without an on-demand model, Web 2.0 and open source are incomplete.
Written by Phil Wainewright, Contributor

More than Web 2.0, more than open source, on-demand is the dominant ethos of the modern age. The driving force of all three is the same insistence on real-time sharing of information and resources. People today insist on immediate, unrestricted access that's under their own individual control. They expect online ordering, online banking, online customer service, online Web search and knowledge discovery — all instantly available. All of these facilities are on-demand services. That's the way the world works today.

Without an on-demand model, Web 2.0 and open source are incomplete. Deliver either of them with the batch-mode mentality of conventional software and you're delivering them for a world in which people wait for things. That's not the world we live in any more.

Look carefully at how on-demand vendors do things and you'll see how thoroughly the on-demand mentality permeates their thinking.On-demand vendors convert interesting technologists' toys into practical business tools I was reminded of this by yesterday's announcements by salesforce.com and RightNow Technologies. Each in their own way illustrates why on-demand vendors are uniquely positioned to push today's emerging trend towards collaborative, grassroots social production to its fullest potential. On-demand vendors are compelled to break down the barriers that still prevent widespread adoption of Web 2.0 and open-source technologies.

Conventional vendors are content to market the benefits of these technologies to a limited pool of knowledgeable developers. Their on-demand successors are determined to open out the reach and penetration of these capabilities to all users, even those without any technical skills whatever (beyond the ability to operate a mouse).

That's why the dominant driver in the next wave of computing is the on-demand model.

Salesforce.com announced IdeaExchange, a new site that allows customers and partners to share ideas with each other and with the company's product managers, all in full public view. It's not a spectacularly novel idea, but it's a testament to the responsiveness and open dialog that the on-demand model cultivates.

RightNow Technologies announced the latest version of its application suite, incorporating a major upgrade to the customization tools built into the product. RightNow has always incorporated a vast range of largely point-and-click configuration options that allow customers to tailor the application to the specific needs and business processes of their organization. The new release takes that to a new plane of accessibility, putting direct control over the look, content and workflow processes of the application into the hands of business users.

Didier Guibal, the company's long-serving VP of international, explained that RightNow stood at a critical crossroads two years ago:

"We had to make a choice. Did we want to be another PeopleSoft or SAP — or did we want to become something better for our customers?"

RightNow could have yielded to the temptation to become an application vendor whose customers rely on consultants and programmers to achieve the customizations they require. That would have been the easy option. The more difficult choice was to create what the company has now delivered: a set of highly visual, point-and-click tools that allow any competent business user to create and modify the user interface and workflow processes they need to deliver the best possible experience to their own customers, on-demand.

Many other on-demand vendors are pushing even further; these two examples just happen to be timely, and are in the public domain already. Over the next few weeks I want to write about more examples of how on-demand vendors are giving us glimpses of how today's buzzwords like RSS, wikis, social production, codeless development and others are being converted from interesting technologists' toys into business tools that practically empower non-technical users.

This is my first posting since my vacation last week. I had a great time, but it's good to be back.

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