Playing Straight On The Event Technology Curve

Event managers and planners depend on our events management systems. When we create engaging experiences for IBM’s VIP delegates worldwide we are careful about the software we use.

Software developers are constantly striking a balance between using the latest, leading-edge technology and sticking with the tried and trusted. Our event management software has to work first time with an extremely demanding audience so we take a measured approach to using the latest technology.

Whilst off the shelf is fine for rapidly developed, cost-effective output, it is not right for systems where shortcuts are not an option. The software has to provide a unique user interface (UI) as well as meeting IBM’s requirements on issues such as branding, colour palettes, style sheets (American English please) and the enterprise’s own font set.

The outcome of our bespoke platform is a 100% robust product which provides an unrivalled customer experience.

Hardware changes too. In the past, self-service kiosks powered by RFID [radio-frequency identification] demonstrated the latest technology on offer for registration and delivering programmes. This was followed by the era in which
we provided both the hardware – tablets were given to delegates and then retrieved – and software. Today’s software challenges focus on providing apps that work perfectly on individual’s own devices.

In these days of the ubiquitous smartphone, it is easy to forget that only recently it was not unusual for delegates to turn up to events without any hardware of their own. Even when phones became common they were not always roaming enabled allowing cross borders access.

Whatever the hardware and software, for us the imperative of getting it right first time remains ever present. That stays the challenge even if the client suddenly needs to ask for significant unforeseen last-minute changes.

That capacity for urgent alterations means having software tools that can cope with our need to deal with the unexpected. For one event we worked flat out just before the event started to significantly change the look and feel of the app.

Such challenges do not lie solely in our own hands. In that case, we needed the App Store to publish the resubmitted app by the deadline which couldn’t change.

That may be exceptional but, given the demanding environment in which these events are set, the specification will always be a moveable feast, even up to the last moment. Our approach is to say yes to requests and then to figure out how to build them into our platform.

While our platform, the shell of our app, may stay the same for some time, every event has subtle differences which we may not know about until we are actually on site. This has set us to rewrite our system more than once over the years backfilling the application to improve the UI.

Those differences, driven by the requirements of individual’s events, cannot disguise the fact that, rightly, IBM is conservative in the software it wants to power its events.

With CEOs of the USA’s biggest companies, top regulators and politicians attending your VIP events, the last thing you want is a software malfunction in front of delegates at a prestigious live event.  

But, even so, we develop and refine the app. For instance, recent features include an emphasis on social interaction, with an ability to add as favourites those who attend the same multitrack session or social event. And we’re looking at linking the photographs taken at the event with the individual to create a stream of ‘liked’ event images.

Such changes are introduced with care and after thought and discussion of the impact on those who attend, as well as a process of ensuring the robustness of the technology.  

Our product is the exact opposite of one size fits all. It is bespoke and custom built using software on which we are literally building our business and staking our reputation.

Enterprise Strength Event Systems

Running event management systems for VIP delegates in top locations means you can end up in some odd situations. Space is always at a premium; but this was especially the case when one time we ended up running the server operation in a hotel kitchen in Rio de Janeiro.

It was equally cramped when the best place to keep the servers was in the bathroom of the hotel bedroom, and there we had the added challenge of keeping the systems dry.

Whatever the situation –  however inhospitable and however complicated the infrastructure challenge – the objective is always to use our software to deliver seamless visitor experiences to discerning delegates.

The truth is that we take software development and hardware deployment seriously. At an event the success of the client’s event is dependent on us delivering what we said we would deliver, when we said we would deliver to the standard that we said we would deliver.

We do that because we know our reputation is at stake, as is the reputation of one of the world’s biggest and most reputable companies. Getting it wrong is not really an option. 

Systems crashing in front of the CEOs of the world’s biggest companies is not an option. It is about getting it exactly right when it really matters.

Elements in the process are too important to be left to anyone else, for instance at delegate registration or when gifts are distributed. At that point there is no question of a failure of service, which is why we take our own servers and our own network experts as back up.

Over the years our businesses and processes have developed. Even when the customer is happy with the software and the technology management of the event, we are never entirely happy.

The critical element is ensuring the software works, meets the exact and exacting specifications and gives a great user experience (UI). This is about handcrafting code and even when it has worked well, and the client is happy, we are never entirely happy: you always ask yourself what you could have done better.

It concentrates the mind – and informs the quality assurance processes we apply – knowing that the first time it is used by a large group of people is when it is put up on the App Store.

The greatest appreciation or vote of thanks you can get is to have clients returning to use your services years after year. We’ve had that acknowledgement from IBM for the last 20 years on the run.

In the end, there is no magic other than attention to detail and a sense of ownership which comes from being owner-operators. The product, the way it works, whether it is successful is everything to us. This is why we have a track record and a corporate culture of getting things right first time, time after time. Even if that involves setting up operations in hotel kitchens or bathrooms to get the job done right.