All posts by alicelankester

Making the business case to open source your software

I recently researched and wrote about the Open Source movement for Daitan Group, a company that provides high-quality software development services to significantly accelerate time to market for global technology companies.

In the early days of software development — when the industry was still nascent, and coding expertise was the privilege of a few — companies that developed software protected that software closely from distribution. Code Intellectual Property (IP) was locked up as far away as possible by lawyers, and the code itself accessible only to a few. Even with those restrictions, programmers commonly shared code on an informal basis to learn from one another. Sharing code was accepted as a valuable and efficient way of moving learning forward at a time when software solutions were being developed for the first time.

But in the early 1980s, this started to change. While some may consider the entire Internet an open source software initiative in itself, it was in the 1980s that the ‘free software’ movement began to take shape — a movement whose goal was to encourage the free sharing, distribution, and studying of software. In the 1990s, the free software movement matured into what was seen as the more ‘business-friendly’ Open Source Software (OSS) movement.

Now, as we know, Open Source Software is fully mainstream.

So why would a business that has invested significant resources, time, and energy into building proprietary market-leading software, then choose to release the source code of that software into the public domain? Isn’t giving away software for ‘free’ completely counter-intuitive?

Why would companies that are focused on profits and revenue come to believe that releasing software for free is a defensible strategy? How does that company achieve ROI on something so costly to create? And how do those companies avoid having their competitors use the intellectual property embedded in that software against them in the

Read the Daitan Group White Paper to read more.

On the topic of ‘new marketing’ — what B2B professional services companies should think about when updating their marketing strategy

I recently met with a very high-quality professional services group in London. This was a company who has been in their business for many, many years. Their reputation is stellar. They are considered the gold standard for the kind of work they do. But their experience in, and knowledge of, the latest digital marketing techniques are behind the times.  They lean very heavily on their roster of prior clients, current clients, and the aerobic networking skills of their senior team of partners.

Now they see more digitally savvy, agile upstarts treading on their turf. What to do?

I gave the management team some signposts to inform them how things are changing in the world of B2B marketing. It’s a topic I have spoken on a number of time to groups large and small in London.

For digital marketing experts, the advice below will seem basic and obvious. But we must realise that not everyone has the knowledge, budget, know-how, and experience accessible in today’s big brand marketing teams and agencies. Where is the pragmatic advice for the quick wins to move marketing forward?

I suggested, with detailed examples, about three ‘pillars’ could dictate a strategy, and encouraged the team to think about how future clients will do much of their due-diligence before they pick up the phone and set up a meeting. Giving them the tools to do that due diligence is critical.

  • Be the authority in your industry
    • Build customer-centered, inbound content that reflects your knowledge, insights and experience. Don’t be concerned about giving it away for free. The halo effect of papers, surveys, insights, interviews, eBooks, articles and talks on stage will all reflect positively to show there is simply no one in the industry who can match your experience. It will reinforce the comfort future clients need that they’re safe in your hands.
  • Build connected communities
    • Build and nurture engaged communities online and in real life.
  • Educate, inform, inspire
    • Invest in content and shared experiences that inform, educate, inspire — videos, courses, training, workshops, classes. Educated consumers are valuable consumers.

A case study : marketing at Greylock Partners

Examples I turned to in helping this company were not in their own industry, but rather in the VC business. Today’s VCs have become an interesting group to observe from a marketing standpoint. VCs compete with one another for the most interesting deals, so must differentiate themselves.

Greylock is a leading venture capital firm based in Silicon Valley.

Greylock Communities. A real world, invitation-only community of experts in big data, consumer products, enterprise product, growth, data science, design, infrastructure engineering, and security, designed to foster long term relationships. Greylock Communities was formed in 2015, responding to the need that the Greylock partners saw that people needed to connect in the ‘real’ world, not just online, for exchanges of ideas and mentoring. Greylock sought to differentiate their communities from other VC networking events by keeping each group small — around 40 people — and strictly invitation only. Communities get together at Greylock’s expense once a quarter to talk through problems and help one another.

Community events are sometimes followed up with blog reports of what was learned, and results of surveys conducted.

Greylock Perspectives. Greylock Perspectives  are blog posts written by Greylock Partners. They provide insights into how  Partners think and what they know. Startups looking for advice and guidance want to know that the Partners know their stuff and can guide their growth.

Preparing for the Citizen Developer Revolution

I recently researched and wrote about the Citizen Developer revolution for Daitan Group, a company that provides high-quality software development services to significantly accelerate time to market for global technology companies.

Over the past five years, enterprises have been undergoing a fundamental shift in how they are run and operated. Market forces are driving them to improve customer service and accelerate how they embrace agile business innovation in their applications, products and services. The emergence of the digital enterprise reflects this transformation.

A common thread runs through these changes: the desire to accelerate business innovation, improve customer service and empower people at the business operational level to deliver on agile innovation without delay. In this context, the API Economy emerged. Applications powering today’s digital enterprise have been forced to ‘open up’ to allow third-party applications to access the valuable data, events and insights they host. I also researched the topic of the API Economy, and digital enterprises, for Daitan Group.

Now there is a third wave evolution — indeed a revolution — occurring. That of the Citizen Developer. A revolution that has come about entirely as a result of the digital enterprise and API Economy transformations. With it comes a new set of challenges, and significant new business opportunities for the ISVs powering today’s digital enterprises.

Now we can all be Citizen Developers!

This investigation was empowering. Mostly because I realize that I am, myself, now officially a Citizen Developer! Finally I can call myself a Developer! (Of sorts.) I signed up to use IFTTT when it first came out. I’ve self-studied Salesforce integrations. I’ve started to investigate Zapier Zaphooks to, for example, expand my usage of Hubspot marketing automation. It continues to be a wonderful time to be a marketer!

Read the Daitan Group White Paper for more information.

Renovate to innovate – how mediated APIs and microservices are delivering faster innovation cycles

Every company today that wants to reach employees and customers in a highly-connected ‘digital’ world, must invest in new technology, business models and engineering processes that result in rapid innovation cycles and create greater value. This is how the world competes today.

As the speed of innovation accelerates, every technology executive works to keep pace with competition and increase business. This movement for faster innovation is driving fundamental changes in companies across all industries — from consumer-facing to B2B models.

While the demands are the same for all companies, it bears mentioning that for technology organizations with existing applications and products, the challenges are more complex versus a start-up that carries no baggage from legacy systems or technical debt. Startups can move quicker and impact market share of an existing enterprise or ISV, so the urgency for established companies to ‘transform’ is exacerbated.

That said, at the other end of the spectrum, large organizations like Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, eBay and others have already been “digitally transformed.” They led the charge by pioneering, launching and operating wholly new architectures capable of handling their super-connected world of customers.

I recently researched this topic for revolution for Daitan Group, a company that provides high-quality software development services to significantly accelerate time to market for global technology companies.

I looked at how Daitan has presented approaches successfully deployed on multiple occasions for both mature ISVs and enterprise environments faced with the business imperative to accelerate innovation and leverage their existing assets without disrupting operations of an existing application. How they, in short, help their clients ‘renovate to innovate.’

Read the Daitan Group White Paper for more information.

Using non-gated content to double high-quality leads

Interesting interview here with Chris Keller, VP of Marketing for Health Catalyst, a healthcare IT company. Here are the key lessons learned from the 30-minute interview that could be relevant for B2B marketers seeking to:

  • deliver a high-growth lead pipeline, with few lead-capture forms
  • establish leadership in a crowded, competitive market, and
  • reduce sales cycle (goal from 16 months to 9 months)

Their focus is on education, trust, and monitoring.

He speaks about ‘aggressively educating.’ So produce as much content as possible before the prospect asks for it, but provide it in a patient way.

Build an Education Library

  • Focus on customer success stories — all customers participate in customer success stories. The stories are focused on customer outcomes. This group’s marketing team produce 20 customer success stories a year, and have a team of about 18 people of a 25-person team focused on content production, leveraging and ghost writing content from subject matter experts in the company.
  • Produce truly educational events — they are not disguised as pitches. No selling, no sponsors, and 100% outcomes focused. 1,000 people come to these events, and they invite competitors and vendors. Analysts participate and they produce data and surveys.
  • Produce documentaries — flagship part of events, focused on stories they believe their industry needs to learn about. The documentaries cost as much as it would cost to bring speakers to their events.
  • Handbooks for decision makers — significant investment to make really useful content handbooks for industry people.This content is free, and is published on Amazon as a Kindle book.
  • Webinars — 50 minutes of the Webinars is 100% focused on education, built with internal subject matter experts. At the 50 minute mark, they ask the audience if they want more information and they are asked a poll question. Only those people who are interested are reached out to and said they were ‘extremely interested.’ They don’t follow up in person with ‘very interested’ — those people will get onto the lead nurturing.
  • Research-driven PR — ask poll questions to audiences of 13K people. Got the feedback from 65 people, and published the results. Published that content in a press release without using a PR firm.

Trust the Prospect

This company believes they should trust that the prospects who are worth following up with will reach out and put their hand up.  They also believe that putting too much content behind forms limits consumption and annoys prospects.  Finally, they believe that excellent educational content builds trust, and is proof of market leadership.

They believe they were creating content for lead generation but instead should have focused on education. When they are interested in a demonstration, they put their hands up. They ask for email only when the next chapter in a series is ready for reading, for example.  They focus on giving, not asking.

For one of my clients, we have switched to non-gated content, and rely on LinkedIn for connecting and engaging one-on-one. It works.



The potential of enterprise APIs to embrace new digital intiatives

APIs are increasingly allowing organizations to embrace new digital initiatives and build new revenue streams by making their data and services available for consumption—both to developers and partners outside the enterprise, and to internal teams within the organization.  This last month I completed this White Paper ‘The Potential of APIs for Rapid Service Delivery‘ on behalf of my client Daitan Group for whom I am developing an on-going series of white paper and blog content to support their marketing and business development initiatives.

The Impact of Shadow IT in the New Collaborative Enterprise

Enterprises are vastly underestimating the extent that unauthorized applications and services are being used within their organizations.  This last month I completed a White Paper about ‘Shadow IT’ (workers using personal devices and cloud services in the enterprise) — The Impact of Shadow IT in the New Collaborative Enterprise on behalf of my client Daitan Group for whom I am developing an on-going series of white paper and blog content to support their marketing and business development initiatives. For the content, we researched three impacts:

  1. The impact of Shadow IT on Enterprise Security and Identity Management
  2. The impact of Shadow IT on Enterprise Messaging, and
  3. The impact of Shadow IT on Enterprise Collaboration

The Shadow IT trend is generally reported in a negative light, both for the pall the trend casts on how IT departments work, and for the impact it causes in terms of business security, policies and procedures. Even the name itself has an ‘underhand’ and rather menacing feel. Security issues as a result of Shadow IT are real, and they are serious. But the impacts of Shadow IT are not universally negative.

On the positive side, Shadow IT behaviors have resulted in the emergence of breakthroughs in automated and customized messaging and workflows that are enabling exciting new applications that increase employee productivity and efficiency, and foster collaboration.

IoE — “it’s as if the world is going to reboot.”

In her keynote @ThingsExpo in New York this month, Cisco’s VP of Cisco Consulting Services, Manjula Talreja, discussed IoE and the enormous opportunities it provides to public and private firms alike.

“It’s as if the world is going to re-boot … the world becomes hyper-aware … and insight is today’s currency.” Joseph Bradley, Cisco.

Whether you use Gartner’s definition of the Internet of Everything: “The Nexus of Forces; ” or Cisco’s definition: “Internet of Everything;” or IDC’s definition: “The Third Platform;” or GE’s definition: “The Industrial Internet,” it’s all about social, mobile, video, data analytics, security and cloud coming together.

  • In 2012, we created more data than in the previous 5,000 years.
  • By 2020, we will have 50 billion objects connected to the Internet.
  • In 2014, 77 billion apps were downloaded.

Yes, it’s fearfully big. And it’s moving fearfully fast.

Ms Talreja counseled the largely retail and financial audience to think about the higher order business problems that can be solved across three critical vectors:

  • Machine to machine (homes, cars, things connected to the cloud)
  • Person to person (remote communication and collaboration enabled by the cloud), and
  • Machine to person (the new opportunities that happen when things — like your FitBit or your Smartphone — are connected to a person)

In all this, context is king.

Amazon knows a dramatically large amount of things about me and my changing lifestyle and shopping habits since I became a customer in November 1999, when my first triumphant purchase was a hardback copy of Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love by Dava Sobel. (Yes, I went back and looked.)

And the way Amazon creates value from that knowledge is by applying the following four pillars to that knowledge:

  • Process
  • People
  • Data, and
  • Things

So what does this mean? Ms Talreja says that the biggest change for most companies (and Amazon has already figured this out) is in people and process.  And to become innovative, and to capture value, companies must be hyper aware, predictive and agile.

“All companies that are capturing value right now from IoE have to hyper aware, predictive and agile.”  Mangle Talreja, Cisco.

What’s hyper aware? Knowing in real time what is going on.

What’s predictive? By optimizing assets, data and operations based on what’s going on now, and what’s going to happen next, not by just looking back. We cannot any longer only collect all the data in one place, in a central location, and look at it historically. Today, it’s about having data available in real time. Data analysis has to be predictive of the future, not just look back at trends.

What’s agile? Ms Talreja says it’s by being quick. I take issue with that description though. Agile is often confused with quick. Agile is nimble. It’s a different thing, IMO.

But I agree that for companies to capture value right now for IoE, they have to be hyper aware, predictive and agile, because that’s how innovation accelerates a company’s competitiveness.

Particularly when it come to being agile. Ms Talreja cautions us that when traditional top-down hierarchy of burdens decision making, it’s hard to be agile. Companies need to unbundle traditional teaming structures, and facilitate access to the experts that can make it happen. And that may not be in a centralized HQ.  For example, in the retail use case, it’s about knowing what stock is on the shelves right now, and when it’s getting below 25%. Retailers need to know it the moment it  happens. Not 20 days after it happened.

Shining a light on  ‘dark’ assets

A term I particularly liked in this keynote was the concept of ‘dark assets’ and the opportunity to shine a light on those assets. What are dark assets? They are assets — and through them market opportunities — that are under- or un-utilized. They might not be physical things, as we might understand the traditional meaning of the word to be. They are instead contextual moments and consumer behaviors that become the catalyst for business opportunities.

Financial use cases for lighting up dark assets

For example, only the world’s very richest people — 0.5% — have real time access on the phone, or in person, to a financial expert to help them adjust financial portfolios. The rest of us have to ‘make do’ with online access and going into high street banks. That’s a dark asset — people without access. WealthFront is shining a light on that asset.

Another example: Acorn — a company I hadn’t heard of. Using Acorn, you can ’round up’ a $5.05 purchase at a coffee shop, and put the $0.95 into an investment pot. Once that pot reaches $5, Acorn will start investing it for you. The dark asset here is the coins and change we carry around and occasionally (as I do) take to Coinstar a couple of times a year. Because who can deal with paper coin tubes? Not me.

Cisco referred to more than 60 vertical use cases they had built for IoE, and surveys conducted to highlight those vertical use cases. They conducted surveys with regular folks over multiple national geographies about their financial habits. 75% of those surveyed said they would move financial institutions if some of the typical friction was removed — the kinds of friction described in the examples above.

For example: what if you went into your bank, and it knew, from your phone or your face, who you were. You got a push notification to your phone to tell you that there was a seven minute wait to see a teller, and then gave you a $5 coupon to get a coffee around the corner at Starbucks while you waited. Bloomingdales in Silicon Valley does this. Personally, I’d expect that from Bloomingdales, but my natural cynicism would question why a bank would want to buy me a cup of coffee. I’d rather hope they save the money and give me a better deal on my banking. But hey ho. Point taken.

Another example: what if you conducted a FaceTime chat with a mortgage advisor. Then, when you went into the physical location, the bank used location-aware branch recognition, to continue the discussion, so you didn’t have to repeat the entire conversation? Now that I could get behind. The idea of applying for a mortgage, or re-mortgage, is daunting in the extreme. All that paperwork. I’ve done it. More than once. And it’s a miserable, friction-filled experience.

Cisco estimated that by removing friction and lighting up some of these financial ‘dark assets,’ a $10B financial institution could generate $392M of growth, even accounting for implementation costs.

Retail use cases for lighting up dark assets

In the retail world, Google is beginning to know as much about you and your shopping habits as Amazon. With their driverless cars, and/or drones, they’ll come to know what you want to eat, and when. They can be predictive. Safeway isn’t predictive. At all. Even though I use a Safeway Club card, and presumably Safeway captures my whole shopping history, they don’t know when I walk in the door of Safeway and don’t change behaviors as a result. They can’t predict that the things I buy aren’t on the shelves. If big box stores can predict — from car traffic patterns, from location aware devices, from tags on shopping carts, from video cameras — how shopping changes in real time and accommodate those changes accordingly, it can rack up big savings. A store can move staff from the back warehouse to the front to avoid queues.

Using some proprietary technology that Cisco has built in combination with big box retailers (they didn’t say who), they have combined, and patented, video cameras with video analytics to send a very specific alarm when a particular item is running low in stock. Typically these kinds of alerts have been very imprecise, and ‘stock out’ is big business. It can have an 8-12% impact on the bottom line, so retailers care very much about it. Being hyper aware in real time of stock out means money.

Another example in the retail store environment: Cisco is also working on tablets that help associates alert when a line is getting long much faster than relying on a supervisor’s line of sight and a tannoy system.

In both these use cases, Cisco showed that the big box retailer they worked with got a revenue increase of $98M, and a reduction cost of labor of $94M. No indication of which retailer, over which time, and for which number of stores. But the savings were real.

Similarly, she spoke of a ‘global coffee house chain’ — is there more than one? — that is using video and video analytics to understand their ‘balk rate.’ This is the rate at which customers enter a queue, over the rate at which they leave a queue. This chain wants to know when, why, and what demographics come and go — which gender? which age group? how long they stay? Knowing this information can help predict how to solve the problem.

Overall, an interesting talk, which though it lacked real hard core specific data, for obvious reasons, underscored the massive sea-change we are going to witness with how companies and brands interact with us as consumers. (And the consequent privacy questions raised.)

I will be better served, more understood, prodded, peered at, offered all kinds of things I want but don’t need in the coming years. Will I be a happier customer? I hope it will result in a better experience than I get today with the bludgeoning I feel from blunt instruments of spam emails and re-marketing ads. But the knife-edge of privacy and personalization is going to be a serious challenge for businesses to balance upon.




Reach, depth, and relationships — a few excellent social initiatives

One of the best parts of being in London is how delightfully energizing it is to make new business connections in this fantastic city. In those meetings, conversation often turns to what social and marketing campaigns and digital initiatives have particularly caught my attention by brands recently.

I think it’s particularly useful to look at digital campaigns and strategies through the Marketing RaDaR lens, as described by Nate Elliott of Forrester. Nate takes a no-nonsense approach to evaluating how businesses are tackling social and digital marketing. He reminds us — as if we should need reminding — that we should think about our channels as our customers do. Customers don’t think about paid, earned and owned channels. That’s for our convenience. Instead, he encourages us to think about Reach, Depth, and Relationship instead. I have found it helpful — because it helps focus on the purpose of that strategy.  What do you really want to achieve? It’s hard, but not impossible, to do all three in one sitting. But it is more achievable to focus on one at a time.

What do Reach, Depth and Relationship mean in this context?

Reach — a focus on word word of mouth and discovery, to encourage a wider audience to discover what you’re all about. Reach can obviously go beyond social to in-world advertising and TV. But here, my focus is on digital and social.

Depth — a focus on telling the story, through websites, stores, salespeople — everywhere that customer might find you.

Relationship — a focus on working with existing customers, or those who have expressed an interest, and staying in touch with them.

So, with that in mind, here is a selection of interesting Reach, Depth and Relationship programs and strategies worth learning from.

Reach (B2C) — Family memories, made in the great Smoky Mountains

The context for this campaign was that the average family doesn’t know what the Smoky Mountains has to offer. This team found an influential blogger — James Kicinski-McCoy who lives in Tennessee — and sent her, and her family, to the Smokies for the first time.  The blogger’s family was filmed by a Sundance award-winning documentarian.

The result was the Tennessee Bleubird campaign (yes, that is how you spell it, and I do it wrong every time I type it). It is a charming film.

Watch the Tennessee Bleubird Film on Vimeo
Watch the Tennessee Bleubird Film on Vimeo

Family Memories. Made in East Tennessee from TNVacation on Vimeo.

But the creativity didn’t end there.  It also came also in how they approached “reach.” They obviously needed as many people as possible to watch the film, but didn’t want to spend a huge amount on paid media. The first coup came in setting the film to an acoustic version of Dolly Parton’s “My Tennessee Mountain Home,” recorded by Ms Parton herself. She shared it to her millions of social followers. There simply couldn’t have been a celebrity more appropriate to the context, and having her involved was pure gold.

Second, the team got Rolling Stone to debut the film exclusively. In an online world where everything is everywhere instantly, and for free, giving an exclusive to the right outlet with a large audience, even for a short period, can give content a boost if that outlet agrees to high-level promotion. Within hours of the debut, the film had reached 30K views. With little paid media, the campaign generated 1.7M social impressions, 131K social engagements, and thousands of potential visitors. The campaign team quotes an increase in total travel to the region by 10-12% for the quarter in which the campaign ran.

You can read more about the Tennessee Bleubird campaign here:

Relationship (B2B) Autodesk

Autodesk is a world leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software, and last year they launched what they called a Total Community strategy, involving Facebook, Twitter and a community hub built on Lithium. This community involves a group of Expert Elite users from around the world — individual community members who have made extraordinary contributions to the community.  The hub also includes a really detailed Knowledge Network, webinars, and other educational tools.  The community now has upwards of 1.4 million registered users.

What makes this strategy so successful, is that it builds on the knowledge of the crowd. It gives community members a chance to share knowledge and expertise — because people who know and understand complex products like Autodesk really honestly do want to share and help one another. The community enables new users to ‘help themselves’ when they have a problem to solve. Building a community like this, in pre-social days, would have been different. Today’s users understand the value of sharing, commenting, and participating. The Lithium platform builds in ‘kudos,’ which lets users vote up the contributions of other users — an inherently social activity.

You can read more about the Autodesk community on Lithium’s blog.

Relationship (B2C) Sephora

The BeautyTalk community on Sephora has, for quite some time, been one of my ‘go to’ examples of great community building — and dates all the way back to 2010.  (I can’t really believe it’s been that long, but the Lithium blog says it launched in September 2010, so it must be true.) On the BeautyTalk community, makeup experts answer pressing questions from other experts for no other reward than being helpful and knowledgeable. It’s a wonderful thing.

Depth (B2C) Adobe’s Photography Program

There’s nothing like a change in pricing or availability of a product used by a large and vocal community to challenge a brand. As if moving the entire Adobe suite of products to an online model wasn’t sufficiently complex enough. Adobe took the challenge of finding, and informing, their users everywhere on the changes head on.  And with humor, grace, and humility.  It was impressive.

Adobe showcased original creative on all their social channels using a funny cast of characters, all very unique — just like Adobe users themselves — and all complaining about Adobe. At first.

One of the aspects I liked the most was making “real time” cover photos for social channels that included real quotes from real users.

Adobe Infographic from the Photograhy Program
Real time cover photos, made from community comments

Adobe’s primary goal was to drive awareness and adoption, and to reduce negative sentiment, and they indicate they managed to turn negative sentiment around into a significant positive sentiment increase.

You can read more about the Photoshop “for everyone” Photography campaign on Adobe’s blog.