DevOps Hits A “WTF?” Snag

DevOps marketing It’s hard to get where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re going.

Consider DevOps, the merger of development and operations processes to speed applications to market. If the buyer and seller have different definitions of what it is, they’ll expect different results. Which is a recipe for wasted time and money, not to mention unhappy customers.

You Say “DevOps,” I Say…”?????”

For dreary confirmation of the confusion, look no further than a recent report from B2B ratings and review firm Clutch. Clutch surveyed 247 IT professionals about their use of, and views about, DevOps, starting with a question about what DevOps is. The four leading choices, with the percent choosing each:

  • 35%: “… a culture, movement or practice that emphasizes the collaboration and communication of both software developers and other [IT] professionals while automating the process of software delivery and infrastructure changes.” (from Wikipedia.)
  • 24%: “…an approach to operations … uniting development and operations teams to automate and standardize processes for infrastructure deployment…” (From Rackspace.)
  • 21%: “…a philosophy or ideology [with] many of the underlying principles and language … grounded in a combination of agile software development plus Kaizen, Lean Manufacturing, and Six Sigma methodologies.” (from Hewlett Packard Enterprise.)
  • 20% “…the combination of cultural philosophies, practices, and tools that increases an organization’s ability to deliver applications and services at high velocity.” (From Amazon Web Services.)

What is This, Religion?

Culture? Philosophy? Ideology? This spread of answers, with no definition getting support from more than about a third of the respondents, shows an alarming fuzziness around what customers expect from DevOps, and thus how providers should sell it.

Before you all start shouting that you can’t “sell” DevOps like a network router or a software testing project, I get it. But there is “stuff” you definitely do sell around DevOps, whether it’s cloud infrastructure, code repositories, training or consulting.

So to sell those DevOps-related products and services, how about focusing on the consistent themes across the definitions of 1) collaboration, 2) communication 3) automation and 4) standardization, all of which deliver the holy grail of faster time to market for new software and services.

DevOps Positioning

In developing marketing content around DevOps products and services, then, avoid the religious wars around jargon and definition and focus on the key features and the benefits.  For example:

  • How our new chat software, code repository or staff training enable collaboration. 
  • How our workflow management, service monitoring or performance analytics software, or our best practices frameworks, improve communication.
  • How our scripting tools, automation server or support for Puppet and Chef enable automation and
  • How our development, orchestration or monitoring platforms increase standardization and thus improved reliability, performance and security.

And don’t forget, of course, examples from actual customers about how your products and services not boosted agility and sped new applications to market, but reduced costs or increased sales – the real bottom line.

If you’re looking for DevOps tools, by the way, check out this great list of 50 top DevOps tools, which does a great job of explaining the benefits of each. You’re also free to use, adapt or steal my sample drip campaign for DevOps products or services.

Do your customers, or clients, agree on what DevOps means and when they’ve achieved it? And does the confusion get in the way of effective marketing and customer success?

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Using an E-Book To Make a Complex Sell

Cover croppedE-books (short, illustration-rich explainers of complex concepts) can be good or they can be trite. Too much dense copy and they become as hard to read as the worst white paper. Too little copy, or a too-cute theme, and they turn off serious buyers.

Sonatype, in my opinion, hit the sweet spot with their promo pamphlet “Go fast. Be Secure.”  While I picked up a paper copy at the MIT Sloan CIO Summit last week, it’s crying out for re-purposing as an ebook.

It uses a medieval type face and “knights in shining armor” theme to explain how Sonatype’s  software automatically ensures that Java code from the global open source community (rather than from commercial software vendors) won’t pose a security threat to corporate developers.

Short and Sweet

They had me on the cover page with a concise value statement. “Go fast. Be Secure.” The subhead explains: “A true story of how Development and Security came together to fix the risk in open source.” Note the short, direct sentences. (One quibble: Using present tense would emphasize this is a service available now, not something that happened in the past.)

Keep reading and you see big, clear pictures and a maximum of about two dozen words per page, in large type for easy reading. The words are carefully chosen for maximum impact, without redundant background or jargon. “Development wanted to GO FAST. But Security wanted to slow down and BE SAFE.” I like that the wording is specific enough that CCF05252013_00002experts in software development “get it” but even an outsider (like a CFO or CEO) can get the general drift. And the illustrations reinforce, rather than confuse, the message.

About four pages in, the e-book introduces technical concepts and the pain point they solve. “Code became like Legos™ – applications easily assembled from thousands of freely available parts. Developers ran even FASTER and Security found it even harder to SECURE.”  Note there’s only one concept introduced per page, and not a word is wasted.

A few pages on they describe the answer: “Bringing SECURITY and SPEED together by building component intelligence and governance in from the START…using all the tools developers love to use today!” Again, the sentences are short, direct, and describe what’s new and better about their approach.

Halfway through the ebook they introduce their notion of “component lifecycle management.” This might turn a reader off as jargon if the vendor had led with it. Instead, they wait until they’ve described what type of components they’re talking about, what kind of lifecycle these components have and why those components need to be managed.

Ye Olde Mini Demo

The second half of the book is essentially a mini-demo of the service. There’s a standard format with a short, concise value proposition on the left (“AUTOMATE and enforce GOVERNANCE in the tools you use today”) and a screen shot CCF05252013_00001on the right. A one-sentence supplemental explainer sits under each screen shot.

One added benefit of the e-book format is that it makes these screen shots large enough to actually read — long a pet peeve of mine in conventional white papers and trade pubs.

Finally, at the end, there’s the call to action (a link to a free snapshot of the reader’s application vulnerabilities) and a “Learn more” page.

Looks Easy But It Ain’t

Creating an e-book this clear required, I would guess, a lot of gut-wrenching work behind the scenes. You need to:

  • Define very, very clearly the top two or three messages you need to convey.
  • Find a very, very clear and concise way to say them.
  • Choose your words carefully so you’re not speaking down to or confusing or reader.
  • Choose and execute a graphical theme that supports but doesn’t distract from your message.
Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.