Three Post Covid (?) Cloud Marketing Tips    

cloud marketing challengesAs we bob between COVID waves, many cloud marketers are trying to figure out how to reach prospects in an ever less predictable business climate. Differentiation is difficult with everyone playing a variation on themes such as:

  • Pandemic lockdowns have sped a shift to remote working and the “digitization” (whatever that means) of business.
  • The cloud is now the default choice for most new applications and workloads.
  • Most businesses are already running on multiple public and private clouds.

Beneath these “me-too” messages are questions which, if you can answer them, can raise your visibility and show clients you deserve their consideration. Three examples:

1) Managing the Cloud Right

Running apps and infrastructure in the cloud is less expensive than in those outmoded internal data centers – until it’s not.  It’s too easy for business units to quickly spin up cloud instances to support new applications, processes and AI experiments but fail to shut them down when they’re no longer needed. That  can be not only hugely expensive but risky if the cloud servers and data aren’t properly secured.

Your opportunity: Describe not only the best tools for finding, assessing and disabling unneeded cloud resources, but the messy political and process changes such control requires. Who gets to decide, for example, when a machine learning model has generated most of the insights it can and no longer deserves funding? How should you adjust IT cost chargeback processes when shifting from internally controlled data centers to internal and external clouds? How can businesses cost-affordably track the complex pricing methodologies of multiple cloud providers?

2) Keeping My Best People

Whatever it is that’s tempting folks to jump jobs post-COVID, it’s hitting IT companies hard. I’m hearing of attrition rates in the 30-40 percent range, with a hot job market giving IT and marketing professionals the freedom to jump ship if they’re not happy about anything from pay to their boss or their job satisfaction.

Your opportunity: Be brave enough to share candid, “in the trenches” experiences and tips exploring areas such as:

How many people are leaving not just for more pay but for better working conditions, more interesting work or even a more ethical corporate mission? What can their managers do to keep them on board even if (as is usually the case) that manager can only control their immediate work environment?

What are the warning signs top contributors are getting ready to jump ship? Is it their ominous silence in meetings, rolling their eyes when a pet project is delayed (yet again) due to conflicting corporate priorities, or they’re repeatedly pointing out how often competitors are executing on ideas they had suggested to you?

After you use these danger signs to identify the “flight risks” how do you keep those employees on board without going broke with pay raises? For example: Ensuring top talent knows their manager lobbied for funding for their pet projects; improved communication about the status of stalled projects; or retraining for employees or the problem managers who have driven many employees away. 

3)  Managing Cloud Vendor Lock

For years customers have tried to balance the advantages of “best of breed” technology from individual vendors against the financial and technical risks of being locked into that vendor’s product and upgrade cycles. Some argue the financial clout and technical breadth of the major hyperscalers make this question irrelevant. According to this thinking, the top players are all “close enough” in areas like AI, containerization and development tools  that you can safely place a strategic bet on one and reap the benefit of economies of scale and easier cost tracking.

Your opportunity: There’s plenty of room to argue either way – or even encourage debate. Build  credibility and drive engagement by basing your argument on real world experience with specific technologies and business cases. For example:

  • If you opt for multiple cloud vendors, does the cost and complexity of a single cross-cloud visibility and management platform outweigh the advantages of using multiple clouds?
  • Compare the capabilities of each hyperscaler in a specific technical area (say, AI or quantum computing). This should not be an ad for your preferred partner but an honest comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of each hyperscaler, advising which technical or business use cases they’re best suited for.
  • Do a similar comparison by industries and provide detailed enough advice to show your expertise. Rather than give one hyperscaler a good mark on generic manufacturing, tell the reader which has the best tools for process vs. discrete manufacturing. If you’re talking life sciences, tell the reader which hyperscaler or software as a service provider has the best tools for clinical vs. marketing processes.

What burning questions cloud or pandemic-related issues did I leave out? Building security and compliance into the cloud? Melding DevOps and Agile with cloud deployments? Deciding which legacy apps are too complex, risky or big to deploy to the cloud? And how are you helping clients answer them?

In the six years since I first visited Red Hat’s user show,  open source software has become the default choice for enterprise applications and the cloud infrastructures on which they run. This year’s Red Hat Summit provided a  good look at how the open source vendor’s products are evolving and being marketed as it prepares for its $34 billion acquisition by IBM.

Open source means users can view and modify the code to fix bugs and meet new needs. This means a  global pool of enthusiasts improve the software 24/7/365 rather than waiting for a vendor’s next release cycle. But big customers still want enterprise-level support and a single vendor’s “throat to choke.” Hence the rise of Red Hat Software, which grew to a $3.4 billion company by providing support and standard versions of a blizzard of products tailored to the needs of major enterprises.

I came away impressed with the breadth and scale of how open source is replacing more traditional software, and how Red Hat’s roots in the open source community shape its messaging.

My takeaways:

Open Source Is Big

The Boston Convention and Exposition Center was buzzing with a record attendance of about 9,000 and a show floor filled with vendors from startups to industry stalwarts such as HP, Dell EMC, and SAP.  IBM CEO Ginni Rometty showed up to hug Red Hat CEO James Whitehurst, which might have been expected given the upcoming acquisition. What impressed the audience more was CEO Satya Nadella of Microsoft endorsing, in person, Red Hat’s OpenShift cloud management platform running on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. (OpenShift is based not on Microsoft Windows, but Linux, which former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer once called a “cancer”.)

Open source is also big in terms of the companies it serves and the applications it runs. Ken Finnerty, president of IT for UPS, described why the global shipper chose Open Shift for its 59 million user My Choice online tracking and shipping platform.  Other featured customers included HCA Healthcare, BMW, and Deutsche Bank. Red Hat has invested heavily in technologies ranging from load balancing to middleware (and worked closely with the big cloud providers) to allow once-fringe open source to run workloads that once would have taken a mainframe.

Know Thy Customer

Who, in this case, is very, very technical. Think jeans and t-shirts, command-line interfaces  and dense architectural diagrams even for keynotes. One demonstration that drew applause and whistles  was the real time capture of movement data from the audience’s smartphones as they waved them in the air (video here) with Red Hat’s infrastructure instantly scaling up to capture and display the data flow.

Red Hat also had something I’d never seen at a trade show: Dedicated, staffed booths where any customer, developer or partner could share their likes and dislikes. There were even tablets (see screen at right) asking for feedback about how  Red Hat listens and communicates. I don’t know what happens to this feedback but asking for it loudly and clearly sends a powerful message.

Love Thy Customer

Most customer endorsements somehow feel more about the vendor than the customer. Red Hat lined the halls with big photos of customers describing how Red Hat helped them, with comments often focused more on Red Hat’s commitment to them then the speeds, feeds, and features of its software. Even ads featuring Red Hat’s new logo took pains to assure the reader that the company’s “soul” is unchanged. How tech companies even claim to have a “soul” these days with a straight face?

Automate and Simplify

With the exploding size and complexity of enterprise clouds, there was a lot of talk about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to create automated and even self-healing systems. As is the case in AI- aided security, there’s a lot of hype to watch for but also some signs of real results. One was Federator.ai from ProphetStor Data Services, Inc. which the company claims uses AI to choose just the right amount of compute, networks and storage from the right public clouds for OpenShift environments and fine tunes those recommendations over time.

Another major theme was point and click interfaces for everything from building AI machine learning models to troubleshooting cloud performance problems. Longtime application performance monitoring vendor Dynatrace now offers a platform that clearly describes not only the nature of a problem, but the number and even the identity of the affected users. This not only bridge the infamous gap between IT and the business but expands Dynatrace’s user base from system administrators to mere mortals who run the business.

The Next Marketing Frontier

Moving forward, marketers would do well to clearly explain open source tools such as operators, sidecars, Akka clusters, hyper converged infrastructure and service meshes to both techie and business types, prove vendor claims of AI-enabled everything and explain how automation and more user friendly interfaces can help not just the geeks in the back room but the bottom line.

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.

Why “Digital” Means Nothing, and Everything

We're getting wicked digital now.

We’re getting wicked digital now.

The more enthusiastically people use jargon, the less they understand it.

Judging by how often I see “digital” and “digitization” no one has a clue what it means.

Digital means, of course, the representation of information as ones” and “zeros.” A 1959 IBM 7000 series mainframe is just as “digital” as a Nest smart thermostat or an Uber reservation – or a telegraph from the 1830s (think “dots” and “dashes” rather than “ones” and “zeros”.)

Dig a little deeper, such as this definition (on Dictonary.com) and you come closer to what people are trying to say: “,,,pertaining to, noting, or making use of computers and computerized technologies, including the Internet.”

Or try this, from a leading market researcher:  “Digital business is the creation of new business designs reached by blurring the digital and physical worlds. It connects people, businesses and things to drive revenue and efficiency.”

Sorry, none of that is remotely new either. Connecting “…people, businesses and things to drive revenue and efficiency” was why airlines built computerized reservation systems in the 60s, we glommed onto local area networks in the 80s, Web commerce in the 90s and mobile and social applications in the 2000s.

But people will insist on using “digital” and the related “digitize” because it means something to them — actually, multiple things. And that’s where we mess up as marketers.

The Eight Flavors of Digital

From my work with clients, I see “digital” spanning at least eight real, meaningful technology and societal trends:

  • The anywhere, anytime nature of mobile, led by smart phones and mobile apps but extending to wearables.
  • The delivery of applications, data and other services from the cloud rather than internal data centers. (That’s what one research group meant when they referred to “Applications Transformed to Digital” as if all applications aren’t already digital.
  • Social: The creation and sharing of content by customers, which can be tapped to track their needs or product perceptions or encourage their engagement with your brand.
  • The Internet of Things: Ranging from cars and smart homes to industrial equipment to health care and fitness devices.
  • Big Data: Mining insights from mass volumes of data generated by devices and things to uncover hidden trends, customer needs and opportunities for cost reduction and efficiency.
  • Everything as code: Just as VMware abstracts physical servers into code files, using software to present networks and storage as code, making it easier to reconfigure and the scale IT “plumbing” as needed.
  • Skills as a service: Using the Web to tap global talent pools on demand.
  • The consumerization of IT: The need to meet demands from customers and employees for applications and services that are as easy to use as Uber or Facebook.

Color Us Confused

With all these potential game-changers to talk about (and more I’m sure I missed a bunch) it’s no wonder marketers throw up their hands and call it all “digital.” Here’s why that doesn’t work.

Each of these trends pose massively different challenges and massively different opportunities for your customers. If they respond to your “digital” pitch with an “Internet of Things” challenge and you’re really selling social technology, you’ve wasted each other’s time.

Maybe it’s OK to grab prospects with the shiny promise of “digital” this, that, or the other thing, get them talking about their needs and then figure out if you can sell your me-too network management or software testing tool as a “digital transformation solution.”

In the short run, this might work, if you don’t mind spouting nonsense to make a living. In the long run, customers who waste hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars on poorly-defined “digital” initiatives will lose their jobs — and remember who misled them.

If you think I’m just being too up-tight about all this, ask your CEO, CMO, CIO and top two sales people to define what makes your solution “digital” in one sentence. Do their answers match? And if they don’t, does it matter?

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.

Can Better Training Boost Software Sales?

enterprise software sales

A recent piece in Business Week claims that the bad old days of salesmen bamboozling big customers into overpriced, overcustomized enterprise software are gone. The rise of easy-to-try cloud software and savvier customers means the profile for the ideal sales rep has shifted, has one source says, from “aggressive and persistent to technical and smart.”

Such changes will eliminate “hundreds of thousands of cushy field sales jobs,” the story predicts.  Those who survive will have to be far more technically savvy, knowledgeable about the stuff they sell and able to prove that it works.

Business Week claims enterprise software salespeople are spending less time on golf and trade shows, “more nights at home scouring LinkedIn or writing detailed consultant-style reports on how a product can cut costs or boost revenue.” (My italics.)

Sounds like content marketing, doesn’t it? It got me thinking about how we can leverage the collateral we’re already developing to engage customers to help salespeople sell.

Proving Business Value

A lot of the sales training I’ve seen starts with gauzy high-level benefits (“Digital Transformation for the Age of the Customer”). Then come dense descriptions of vaguely named “solutions”  (“Webify Customer Delight 2.0”). The real detail comes in descriptions of the money-making goodies: Complex pricing tiers, bundling options and license terms (“Use of the Framjus 2.0 framework across four or more CPUs requires enterprise licensing of the Nooknik 6.3 database or higher.”)

No wonder, as one corporate customer told Business Week, too many salesmen “were savvier about the terms of their contract than in helping us get value from the software.” To reach today’s (and tomorrow’s) customers why not train salespeople first in specific, provable business benefits, and then give them simpler, easier to sell products and clearer licensing terms.

Technical Chops

In the old days, says one software sales manager, “You could set up a lunch (with a client) and say `Meet my software engineer and enjoy the demo.’” Such salespeople, he said, are being “washed out of the business” in favor of those who can both charm customers and discuss their software in depth.

Assuming you can’t turn your top coders into extroverted sales people, that means making your sales people more tech savvy. Doing so requires understanding what deep-dive technical questions customers are most likely to ask, then translating the complex answers into terms a salesperson can understand and explain clearly. Again, a lot of this ground should be covered in the “explainer” or “technical architecture” white papers you’re already doing. Your more business-oriented white papers, on the other hand, can help your tech experts understand the bottom-line challenges facing customers and how you can help.

“Land and Expand”

This can otherwise we defined as “toot your own horn.” A salesperson “lands” a relatively small contract with one department of a large customer, then makes  sure that customer’s peers, or other departments within the company hear about how well it worked. This sharing requires close cooperation between your field sales staff and content marketing group, so the writers learn about these small wins and turn them into case studies. It might also mean integrating your content management system with your customer relationship management platform so the right wins are automatically shared with the right prospects. It also requires case studies that get properly specific about the benefits.

Were software sales ever as bad Business Week claims? Is it changing as much as they predict? And can content marketing help make with the shift?

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.

Should We Really “Think Like Publishers?”

Just when we all got used to the idea that “every vendor should be a publisher” comes word that, indeed, they shouldn’t. They instead need to be marketers who publish content to achieve specific business objectives.

It’s one of a number of good points in a very useful presentation “Yeah, it’s content, but is it marketing?”  from the PJA Advertising + Marketing agency.  It’s aimed at marketers who aren’t getting the return they need by content marketing efforts that cost too much or deliver too few leads.

Maintaining, promoting and monitoring an ongoing stream of great content takes too much effort not to tie it to concrete business goals, they point out. I like their advice to shift from a focus on “What (content) will we produce?” to “What are we trying to achieve?”

 Doing It Better

Among their specific tips:

  •  Tie branded content to business value by “understanding a conversation your buyer is interested in—and defining a valuable role for your brand to play in it. “ At each stage in the buying process, the role you play as content provider should change. (See next tip.)
  •  Make “the buyer journey your roadmap” In the awareness/education stage, teach them about why they might need a product or service. As they move into consideration, start talking about what features to look for in such offerings. As they move closer to product selection, start offering detailed implementation tips.
  • Think as hard about promoting content as creating the content. By simply using the scheduling feature in Hootsuite to schedule a series of promotional Tweets for each new post (instead of just at the original post) has boosted retweets of my posts, and my Twitter followers. Even simple steps to promote and target readers can pay off big.
  • Add a specific call to action to each piece of content, and track the uptake on them to measure the ROI of the hard work that went into it. Consider asking for something more specific than a generic “click here for more information” by asking for something that drives further engagement, such as subscribing to a newsletter, providing contact information, filling out a brief survey or registering for a Webinar.
  • Be flexible about formats. Coming from the long-form journalism world, it’s easy to think that every question needs a long, text answer. I’m finding that shorter Q&As, checklists, videos or podcast sometimes work better. An edgier format that’s more fun to produce is also likely to generate more interest.
  • Finally, and not surprisingly, the agency suggested to “grab a partner” that can handle some of the content marketing load better than you can. This isn’t as self-serving as it sounds. There’s a lot of moving parts involved in marketing automation and they’re changing quickly. By outsourcing what you don’t excel at, you can spend more time making sure you have a solid business goal for your content marketing.

Getting Started

Check out my sample content sequences for selling cloud services, security response and DevOps. And let me know what other IT products or services you’d like to see a sample sequence for.

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.

survey shows cloud concerns Senior IT buyers want the cloud to make them more agile, not just save them money. But they’re also skeptical about whether such Web-based services can meet traditional IT standards for performance, interoperability and security.

To succeed, cloud marketers need to address in detail both these hopes and fears. Those are my top takeaways from a survey of more than 300 IT executives in midsize to large organizations I helped craft for Oracle.

They are open to “up-scale” pitches for the cloud that include enabling new business models, not just cutting costs. But they need detailed, specific explanations of how these cloud services can meet traditional datacenter requirements like performance, reliability, application lifecycle management and integration.

Cloud Promise

The 87 percent ranking “lower capital expenditures” as important in considering cloud was not a shocker. I was surprised, though, to see equally high (or higher) rankings for modernizing operations and better competing in global markets. A large majority also mentioned greater business agility and more rapid implementation of new business models. That makes such business benefits important to include in marketing collateral, and not just the bits and bytes of cloud implementation.

Application development and testing remains one of the most popular uses of the private

Cloud (controlled by customers rather than a public provider such as Amazon) predicted to rise from 39 percent of respondents today to 52 percent in two years. That’s because the cloud is well-suited to the sudden, unpredictable nature of app dev and testing needs. It may also reflect the growing popularity of “DevOps” that combines development and operations to speed new applications to market.

Next up for private cloud adoption are core business applications (rising from 41 percent to 50 percent); high-performance computing, such as analytics (rising from 38 percent to 47 percent); and data storage and retrieval (rising from 46 percent to 54 percent).

With the explosive growth of mobile apps, it’s no surprise more companies are using the cloud to develop them. One reason is that development code, while sensitive, isn’t as life or death as customer credit numbers or the molecular structure of your breakthrough cancer medication.

But in a sign of caution, deployment of online transaction processing applications—long considered some of the most sensitive and business-critical—is expected to remain steady in the public cloud, at 36 percent of respondents, while rising in the private cloud from 38 percent of respondents to 44 percent.

Still Scared

In fact, doubts about whether the cloud is ready for prime time was a surprisingly constant theme.

survey concerns cloud customers

Click to enlarge

Moving existing applications with very high requirements for performance, availability and security to even private clouds concerns 78 percent of respondents. Their doubts included whether the cloud is ready to support mission-critical applications, can integrate well with applications, data and services still housed in  internal datacenters, and can be easily managed with existing tools.

Just over two-thirds mentioned legal or regulatory requirements as their top public cloud challenges. (Note: If you can track and prove whether a customer’s data is in Bergen, N.J. or in Berlin to meet European security regulations, flout it!)

Enterprises also favor private clouds dedicated to their own apps and data, rather than to multitenant public clouds shared with other customers. In two years respondents expect to have 47 percent of their workloads running in a private cloud, compared to only 15 percent expecting to run them in a pure public cloud.

 Public? Private? Huh?

Vendors make a big deal out of the differences between public and private clouds. I was surprised at how many respondents showed similar levels of concern for both in areas including:

  •  Migrating applications with very high performance, availability and security requirements.
  •  Inability to easily migrate existing application data.
  •  Lack of ability to manage/monitor or modify existing applications in the cloud, and
  •  Inability to integrate with non-cloud applications.

For marketers, these means customers might need more education about the real differences between public and private clouds and how these differences meet specific business needs. And in each of these are areas where, if you have a good story to tell, flesh it out specific explanations, proof points and explanations of how you’re better than your competitors.

 Déjà vu All Over Again

After about 25 years covering each “new” shift in the IT industry, from minicomputers to client-server to cloud/mobile/ social/Big Data, some things never change. The latest razzle-dazzle technology may be great, but the old stuff never goes away and there’s always a market for the dull, but essential, job of making sure it all works right.

As marketers, our challenge is to explain clearly and concisely how the new stuff works and how it helps the customers.

 (The survey was conducted by Computerworld Strategic Marketing Services and Triangle Publishing Services Co. Inc. on behalf of Oracle. Read the full results, check out a sample content marketing sequence for cloud services here and tips for using “how-to” stories to sell the cloud.) 

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 “How-To” Advice To Sell the Cloud

cloud marketing tips By now, most everyone gets the benefits of the cloud: (Lower cost, faster deployment, pay-as-you- go pricing.)

Now, the marketing challenge is offering detailed, useful advice on HOW to move to the cloud. Two recent conversations with vendors showed how this is a great way to engage customers and prove their chops.

Approach One: A Checklist

IaaS provider Bluelock came up with an impressive checklist of best practices. I found it prospect-friendly because it:

  • Clearly states its limits: This checklist isn’t meant to serve as your diagram for migration, but rather it’s meant to help guide your plan before it’s crafted and also to service as a final pre-launch list…Depending on what you’re migrating (VM, application, or just data), you may or may not need to address every single one of the following check boxes.”
  • Is specific: Among the items are “Determine any changing OS or app licensing provisions,” consider the need to convert disk formats (…”AWS uses AMI, which is different from VMware VMDK, which is different from Microsoft VHD.  Be sure you have converter tools and know how to do the conversion…”) and the ability to recover your data (“as well as configurations, performance statistics and other metadata.”)
  • Is honest about the tough work customers just do themselves: “Before you choose the application to migrate, check the coupling and connectivity of your application to other applications…There’s no magic formula for assessing this checkbox, just knowing your architecture, how everything connects and how closely those apps need to be coupled to run efficiently…”
  • Is pitch-free: There’s no explicit, or even implicit, pitch for Bluelock’s services. They’re just helping prospects think through their migrations. In the process, they’re showing how well they understand the gritty details of migrating applications and data to the cloud. That’s a powerful advertisement for Bluelock over competitors with “me-too” messaging.

Approach Two: A Tool

Services and software provider Cloud Technology Partners takes a different tack by combining more than 160 cloud migration rules in its PaaSLane analysis tool. PaaSLane automatically finds and suggests fixes to problems with Java and .NET Application Code, even estimating how long the remediation will take.

CTP claims PaaSLane can speed migration 25% by  identifying “blockers” that would prevent an application from running in a specific cloud platform, recommending which cloud-based services can  replace third-party or custom-written services and how to optimize an application’s compatibility, elasticity or performance on specific clouds. It also identifies often-overlooked governance and policy issues to enforce corporate standards and recommends code quality standards.

For example, to avoid the excessive coupling of components Bluelock warned about, PaaSLane detects remote procedure calls or remote method invocations “that might indicate tight coupling of application components” which are “more brittle and less predictable” in the cloud than message queuing.

What’s Your Advice?

All this just scratches the surface of what it takes to move to the cloud.  Each of those 160 migration rules in PaaSLane, for example, could provide grist for a more detailed blog post. Then there are the pros and cons of various cloud providers, cloud development languages, storage technologies and approaches to cloud security.

All that means opportunity for cloud hardware, software and services vendors. If you have some specific, proven migration smarts, now’s the time to start sharing it.

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.

marketing mobile app development toolsWriting and supporting custom applications is the last thing a Fortune 500 retailer, pharmaceutical company or bank wants to do. They’d rather be tweaking inventory and store layouts (the retailer), unclogging their drug development pipeline (the pharma company) or figuring out how to make money in a low-interest rate world (the bank.)

But employees, customers and business partners want snazzy mobile apps and they want them now. How to best deliver these apps poses challenges, but also opportunities, for IT marketers.

Customize This

The mobile craze is forcing enterprises back into custom app development, according to Dimitri Sirota, senior vice president, security at CA Technologies FCN. (Note: CA Technologies is a client, but did not solicit or reimburse me for this post.) He argues organizations need custom apps because each has different products or services to sell, different markets to serve and different messages to convey.

The customization these apps require go beyond easily-tweaked user interfaces. They involve harder-to-solve issues, like drawing data from repositories or formats not easily accessible by mobile devices. Sirota co-founded Layer 7, which provides API management software to ease such access, and which CA acquired earlier this year. Among other things, he says, such API management can help developers solve mobile-specific challenges such as compression and caching to improve performance and battery life.

Gil Bouhnick, vice president of mobility at mobile workforce platform vendor ClickSoftware has a different take. He sees most of his customers turning to the cloud for quick, easy-to-deploy mobile apps so they can reach the market quickly and learn what works. Whatever customization they are doing tends to be done with offerings from their own app store that provide, for example, specific types of forms or data access without the need for custom coding.

Market Messaging    

Whether customers build their own mobile apps or pull them from the cloud, they don’t want to code.  Whatever brainstorming they do must be around streamlining workflows or reaching new customers with mobile, not the plumbing required for it. Just as with security, business managers want mobile apps delivered in consistent, proven and measurable ways.

If you’re selling to folks who need such industrial-strength mobile app development, some suggestions:

  • Provide examples of repeatable, proven policies, templates or frameworks you’ve provided customers. Consider sharing appropriate examples in an open-source model or creating an app store like ClickSoftware’s. That makes life easier for your customers, enhances your reputation as a “go-to” source for knowledge and tools, and lets customers and partners do some of the hard work of developing new mobile tools. Tracking such community-based development also gives you insights into what customers need but aren’t getting in tools like yours.
  • Push your customers to discuss the specific cost savings or revenue gains they’ve experienced by doing mobile app dev in a repeatable, measurable way. Yes, getting folks to agree to case studies is harder than ever. But proving they have solid mobile development processes is not only a great competitive advantage, but can help recruit top development talent.
  • Get your internal experts talking, blogging and sharing about best practices in app dev, security or any other IT discipline. This move to “industrialized IT” is still in its early stages, and there’s a wealth of market education to do and challenges to discuss.

How do you see mobility changing corporate app development, and how is mobile changing your marketing 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.
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