Friday, 10 August 2007
One of the techniques we use for collaborating with customers, and obtaining feedback on work in progress is to demonstrate the software over the internet. This means that customers can see the software in action, without having to install it on their systems. This can be beneficial when the software is not yet complete, and we wish to demonstrate how a particular feature works — many customers are reluctant to install unfinished software on their systems to try it out, and an online demonstration means they don't have to do this.
Online demonstrations also provide scope for faster feedback — it's much quicker to start up a web demo than it is to ship a new version of the software to a customer, wait for them to find time to install it, and then talk them through it. This means that changes can be demonstrated as soon as they are ready, and also alternate versions can be shown in the case that the choice is unclear.
For most demonstrations we use TightVNC. This allows the screen of our demonstration PC to be replicated across the web. All that is needed at the customer's site is a web browser with Java installed. We send our users a URL to go to which then connects them to our demonstration PC and loads the TightVNC Java applet. The display is updated in real-time. As an added bonus, the server can also be configured to allow the customers to control the demonstration machine from their end, giving them a chance to try out the software and see how they would use it. We also have the customers on the phone (usually using a speaker-phone) at the same time, so we can talk them through the software, or the changes that have been made.
Though not as ideal as a face-to-face meeting, such an online demonstration is considerably less expensive and time consuming for both parties, and can consequently be arranged far more often.