Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Marketing Lesson For IT

In an earlier post of mine, "An Image Makeover for IT" I shared about a surprising meeting I'd had with our IT department -- where they were looking to learn how to better market their services within the company. I felt that this was a harbinger for the "New IT", and I think I was right...

Then last week I was given a draft Data Sheet by EMC's IT department.Whoa, you say. A Data Sheet? Isn't IT supposed to operate down there in the bowels of the data center keeping the "lights on"?

As you know, EMC's IT group has been progressive, from their virtualization initiative to building an internal Private Cloud for the company, to organizing for success, to marketing themselves as if they were a competitive service provider. Which is just the way more IT groups will have to think.

Why would IT Want To Market Themselves?
If IT is to think more "competitively" then they need to organize and act competitively, including driving demand/consumption for their services. This isn't about internal politics (validating their annual budget) but rather about driving awareness, demand, and preference for their services. Because IT's new competition is "shadow IT", the advancing commercialization of IT. More simple-to-use, aggressively priced external services are being offered to users who are accustomed to the convenience.  So IT finds itself having to do the same.

And there is the education component too... because while the enterprise consumer might want to compare internal vs. external services purely based on price (think: AWS, DropBox, MobileMe), IT has to show that there are hidden costs to these: Risk exposure, inability to prove compliance, cost of securing data, etc. etc. So IT turning to traditional marketing devices isn't all that odd in the final analysis.

A Data Sheet for IT...
Back to the Data Sheet I received. The IT dept did their homework - Like all good product marketing summaries, it included components to project leadership and to drive demand:
  • Service components: In this case, it is an IaaS style service, replete with the value proposition. It defined the service, the pain-points it alleviates, and why internal EMC engineers should consider using it.
  • Overall Value: IT also did a great job of illustrating the *total value* of the service - not just economic value, but the value of agility (time-to-provision) and convenience.
  • Value of Risk Avoidance: Some marketers like to market to the paranoid... in this case, IT illustrated the risks of not using an IT-sourced service.Security, compliance, SLAs, etc.
  • Competitive comparison: In particular, I like the fact that the internal private-cloud based service full-up cost was compared to that of popular public cloud providers. It illustrated that the actual cost of external services isn't always just the bare-bones hourly cost on your credit card...
  • Availability roadmap: I also like the fact that IT set expectations with its customers. What's available now, and what new services/features will be available when.
  • And a little bit of Esprit de Corps:Yep, good old pride in what the company is doing, and how the IT department is helping drive the top-line business. 
...And Enabled By New Roles, New Skills
If IT is to succeed as a "competitive" provider to the enterprise, simply publishing a Data Sheet is just one deliverable in a larger story. The organization needs to think, act, and hire like an internal service provider - and ask itself "How do successful SP's drive business demand?"

The process begins with a cultural and leadership shift to a desire to act not as an internal (monopolistic) cost center, and more like a competitive business catering to the varying demands of its internal customers. This is a CIO-level decision, often done in partnership with LoB's and even with the CMO.

And who executes on this new approach? What new functions need to sediment into IT? Well, it's not about technology skills anymore. Rather, IT will need to acquire traditional business and marketing skills. A few suggestions:
  • Develop In-bound and out-bound Marketing: This refers to classical Inbound product management (listens externally to customer needs, and helps determine product features, plans, pricing - and classical product marketing, helping drive external awareness, preference and demand. In both cases here, Inbound/outbound functions work as closely with internal lines-of-business to understand their needs, roadmaps and futures.
  • Initiate client "relationship management": Somewhat akin to a "sales" function, these individuals are assigned to sit closely-aligned with business users of IT, and work closely with in-bound product management. These folks detect leading indicators  of how IT can better serve the business, and look for ways to add value either with competitive technology, services or analysis.
  • Include Pricing and Financial Management: Pricing and costing of services is a shift away from tallying-up gross capital and operational expenses, with a move instead towards activity-based costing. The ability to discern the true usage-based cost of an IT service means that the organization can better align supply with demand, and make better buy-vs-build decisions. This "financial transparency" allows the CIO, CFO, and Lines-of-Business to make better overall decisions regarding using IT to support the enterprise.
If IT is to be competitive, it has to act competitive. Marketing of IT is far from the only shift that needs to be done - and arguably, it probably follows shifts in IT technology and IT operations. But marketing IT is nonetheless an illustrative example of what is to come with a larger IT transformation initiative.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Act Now! Top Opportunities for IT Transformation Services...

It's become obvious of late that cloud computing is not a technology end-in-itself, but rather an enabler of broader IT  transformation. I've heard it from CIOs, CTOs, and even EMC's own IT department. All said, it's clear that IT transformation affects the entire organization - its consumption model, operations, organization, finance and more.It's not just about products anymore.

IMO there is a massive opportunity for leading change-management organizations to work with IT organizations to help them assess and execute this transition. Technology alone will not make IT more competitive.

So I'm a bit shocked that this era isn't a windfall for services providers who will help shepherd IT organizations through the change management process. It should be. To me this seems like thre's a huge investment opportunity to develop service practices. And, it's a huge opportunity for IT organizations to take pause and assess what their structure, operational model and business model will be a few short years from now. And how they plan to get there.

Follows are a few observations - and opportunities - I've made in the hope that a rising tide lifts all ships:

No Show Offs?

Where are the services providers, consultants and change-management professionals at trade events?

Given the tons of IT, cloud, and tech related trade shows, I'm continually amazed at how 99% of floor exhibitors are hardware or software firms. The show managers occasionally include special floor sections for "cloud" or "security" and such, but never for services providers or consultants who would assist the attendees in implementing the technology and change management needed to leverage technology.

I'd like to see an "IT Transformation Services" section in the large shows (i.e. VMworld, Cloud**, etc.) including consultants, organizational design firms, HR firms, IT training and talent management organizations, certification boards. etc. This would be where firms could hawk their services and compete for the non-product enablers for the CIO. Show producers ought to offer incentives to capture these firms and the value they provide.

I'd also like to see more intentionally-produced tracks at the shows that talk about real-world IT transformation successes... without inclusion of product or technology. Topics?  Financial transparency. Organizational design. Service-oriented design. Line-of-business customer focus.

Where Are the Big Guys?

Next, why aren't Accenture, Deloitte, CSC, Cap Gemini, Accenture etc blazing the IT change management trails? Perhaps they have IT change management practices. But I read next-to-nothing from these folks regarding philosophy, approach or successes. I'd like to know more about what they're doing and/or planning.

From where I sit, most System Integrators and management consultants either have 'low-level' practices where they thrown technologists at a problem, or high-level management consultants who produce reports and strategies. I'd like to see the middle-ground, with practices that work with the CIO and their lieutenants, to assess what type of transformation(s) would make the IT organization most valuable to the lines of business.

Where are the books, keynotes, articles and methodologies developed to show-off the IP I *hope* these folks are developing? 

And What of Professional Certifications?

No, not technology certifications; I mean IT Skill certs. Cloud Architect. Cloud Engineer. IT Services/Product Management. IT Marketing (inbound, outbound). IT Business Liaison. IT Financial Services Management. Not all of these are traditional IT roles, but they will be in demand shortly as IT re-tools itself to act and operate as the equivalent of an internal Service Provider.

And while we're at it, I'd *love* to see more business and MBA programs offer technology leadership and change management for CIO's style coursework.  Technology leaders will no longer need to be technologists themselves.

And in closing...

At EMC's recent IT Leadership council, it was clear to attendees that Transformation of the IT org was not about the technology anymore. It was about skills, roles, organizations, culture.

I am continually impressed by what EMC's IT department has done in most if not all of these domains. And I know that our own EMC Consulting arm has deep bench strength in this area. And as a company, we're going so far as to offer professional certifications in these emerging domains.

But as I said above, a rising tide lifts all ships.... I'd like to see broader activity in all of these areas from partners and competitors alike. The best way to make the new cloud computing paradigm successful is to make the IT departments successful in their transition. So, where is the help?

Post-Blog Updates
  • Recent announcement from Deloitte for Cloud Service Providers