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Managing Your Brand: Marketing for Today’s IT

Most IT departments lack expertise in how to market their capabilities and communicate value. Now, more than ever before, IT organizations have to contend with outside service providers that are typically more experienced in marketing their services and must accept that managing customer perception is essential to staying competitive. Marketing your IT services and capabilities is not just building out your IT implementation campaign; it’s changing the internal culture of your IT organization to think and act like a hungry service provider.

In this short video by Alex Salicrup—“Managing Your Brand: Marketing for Today’s IT”—you will learn about the key areas to consider as you build your marketing and communication strategy.

 

Alex Salicrup Video Marketing for Today's IT

 

 

Managing Your Brand: Communications and Marketing for Today’s IT

By Alex Salicrup

Let’s talk about the subject in which every IT department lacks expertise — and that is how to effectively market your capabilities and communicate value. And readers may think I am exaggerating on my next statement: IT departments around the world are ubiquitous in that their consumers usually have a less than favorable opinion of them.

Of course, we know that this perception is not true in all cases. However, in my experience, IT does not do a good job at managing consumer perceptions. And in the IT service provider world, managing these perceptions is critical. Unlike yesteryear, IT service providers now have to compete with public cloud providers that manage their brand very well and educate prospects on how their capabilities map to consumer needs.

During my time at VMware, I’ve had the pleasure of working with industry-leading global entities. Many of their IT organizations claim that their consumers are not taking advantage of using external providers, only to find out that they actually are — and in a big way. Others have accepted the fact that competition exists, and that they must address it.

Many IT organizations have concluded that they must manage consumer perception of their capabilities and offerings. In other words, they are trying to figure out how to sell their brand and services internally. Most have no idea how to achieve that. That’s where I come in.

IT communications and marketing is not just building out an IT education campaign.  It’s making a significant change in how IT strategizes and changes its internal culture to think and act like a hungry service provider. IT begins looking at a service as though it were a puzzle, with consumer needs as pieces of the puzzle.

Let me share a few areas to consider as you begin to develop your communications and marketing strategy. I concentrate on eight areas when assembling a marketing and communications plan:

  1. Understand your audience
  2. Interpret consumer perceptions
  3. Define your brand
  4. Identify the catalyst for change
  5. Create your vision
  6. Who, how, and what to communicate
  7. Managing organizational change
  8. Brand perception metrics

Understanding Your Audience
In every organization there are three main levels of strategic and tactical execution, as shown below:Salicrup-Comms Mktg graphicExecution is different at each of the three levels. Individuals within each level listen to and address solutions based on their domain of responsibility, and they understand solutions only from the point of view of addressing the needs of their level. This in turn needs to be addressed with the appropriate message for each level.

Interpreting Customer Perceptions
Marketing campaigns are designed to create perceptions (we’re better than those other guys). Consumer perceptions are always our reality. Understanding consumer perceptions help us identify how to manage them, and, how to package a solution.

The problem with negative consumer perceptions about your IT organization or the service you provide is that those perceptions are hard to change. So how do you communicate to your consumers that your people and services are the best solution for their unique needs?

Defining Your Brand
Brand is synonymous to reputation but also aspiration. However, a positive brand, as with reputation, takes time to build and is easily tarnished. Service providers have a good awareness of their brand perception with their consumers. This allows the provider to shape a consistent message, improve credibility, and enhance its brand through advertising its goals and achievements.

Identifying the Catalyst for Change
Change is not easy. There are two groups within any business that have to experience change. The group most impacted is the IT group. They are transitioning from traditional IT delivery to a service provider model. Therefore the hardest task — the part takes the longest — will be converting the IT personnel. Identifying why change is necessary and “what’s in it for you” can motivate your staff to follow your vision.

Creating a  Strong Vision
The critical aspect of a successful service communication strategy is the clear articulation of the vision.

Your vision must:

  • Be strategically feasible
  • Be effective
  • Incorporate the current position of the enterprise and catalyst(s) of change
  • Be ambitious
  • Be evidently accomplishable

Managing Organizational Change
No one is really happy about change. Turning your organization from traditional IT or project-based consumption to a service-based consumption model will incur role and cultural changes. The former is easier than the latter, and it needs strong leadership to guide it there. Furthermore, IT is changing the way that the business deals with IT. This is why organizational change management is so important. It is not just a operating change, it’s a massive behavioral change that people need to be guided through. If this is done crudely it will impact the brand severely and cast doubt about IT’s capabilities.

Effective communications are key — it’s very important that IT staff understand the unified message. They should become active ambassadors of the IT brand and the services the team provides. Communication, in this sense, refers to the art of persuasion. Crafting a message that is persuasive is a learned skill and essential if a perception is to be changed successfully.

In order to be persuasive, the IT team really needs to learn how their consumers think, and, predict what consumer reaction will be to events and solutions. People who are good at persuasion develop a keen sense of what solutions work and how messages need to be successfully crafted. This is paramount for any emerging service provider. Communication is about knowing what influences decisions at the three levels illustrated in the figures above. Therefore, different messages need to be crafted to persuade the different levels.

However, one of the highest risks a service provider has is individuals within IT not believing in the solution, the need for it, or how it’s being delivered. These individuals that are skeptical pose a threat of creating doubt within the consumers of the solution and its merits or capabilities.

A critical and difficult aspect of change for the IT staff is the understanding, adaptation, and dissemination of the vision and how they choose to communicate it. It is essential that leaders understand the dynamics of their teams, customers, and stakeholders. Understanding how to communicate and use your team to promote your brand and vision is important to your success. (Stay tuned for a future post, where I will talk more about individual motives and capabilities and how they can be mapped to three distinctive groups…)

Measuring Success — Brand Perceptions Metrics
It is imperative that an IT organization gauges how its consumers feel about the services they’re consuming from the service provider. The IT team needs to put in place metrics that capture performance against the needs of the customer and set realistic targets on what is to be measured.

This does not have to be complex — a simple 5-question survey is a great way to start. If the response is mainly positive, the IT team can include that message to its consumers to reinforce the positive perceptions. If the response highlights challenges, it’s a great way for the IT team to focus energy on fixing them — a catalyst for change.

In conclusion, I have covered steps and actions in this post that are fairly simple — perhaps perceived as common sense. However, IT traditionally does not have these communication and marketing skillsets. And, the IT organization has not needed them before the advent of public cloud — but they are needed now.

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Alex Salicrup is a transformation strategist with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services and is based in California.

How to Keep an IT Professional Happy

by Alex Salicrup

It’s 6:00AM; my alarm clock just went off.  Another day started in a hotel bed hundreds of miles away from home and family. As a consultant, I do this half of the week most weeks, working with my customers. And, my team’s experience is very similar to mine.

We meet this morning, all traveling from every corner of the U.S., to discuss several challenges that two of our clients are facing while making the cultural transition from traditional IT to service providers. Both clients are two of the largest, everyday brands we consume worldwide; both strive to achieve similar outcomes.

The mood in our conference room is passionate, yet full of humor and laughter. Sometimes we have tough days, but as innovators, we are always motivated by the answer yet to be formulated—we are IT explorers. We all believe in what we do and have seen the success that each of us uniquely brings to the problem-solving process.

As a strategist, I could likely secure a lucrative position within a major IT department. I receive emails every week for consultant-, director-, even executive-level roles. I pay no attention to them. Yes,  I endure long separations from my family and heavy travel. However, it’s difficult for me to contemplate leaving a job environment where I get to collaborate with amazing and motivated individuals and have a positive influence on so many organizations. To me there is no greater satisfaction than seeing my customers increase their skills and develop their capabilities to morph into a culture that uses a lot more of their annual budget innovating rather than reacting.

Why do I use myself as an example? Because I am the outcome of a well-aligned service provider. Because my attitude is likely to mirror any employee’s within your IT organization. All IT professionals would love to forge new routes, develop plans, and create innovative ways to forecast and meet or exceed business needs. No one is satisfied with reacting to repetitive requests and remediation.  These tasks still need attention, and there are more effective ways to address them. For many IT organizations, there just isn’t time or in-house experience to change status quo.

Unfortunately, most IT resources are still dedicated to reactive tasks. Many of the IT organizations I work with have tried to move away from this behavior but without the best practices to achieve service-driven ambitions, many stall in spite of their efforts. In the end, I believe the skill to execute is what’s lacking. Few IT organizations systematically tackle transforming their operations by subscribing to a roadmap that embraces the key pillars of a successful service provider.

Three key pillars of a successful service provider include:

  1. A proactive service culture,
  2. Robust processes that drive automation as well as using technical tools and,
  3. The technical skills required to operate the new environment.

Many organizations try, but find it hard to do it on their own. They may be so immersed in their culture that they can’t see the opportunities change will bring. The motivation may also be lacking to get them to the finish line.  This can change with the right focus and, possibly, the right help.

In my experience, it’s a fact that IT employees who embrace and subsequently become part of a service-driven culture enjoy their jobs significantly better—and like me, increase their productivity through efficiency. Over time, they find it hard to let go of those opportunities to innovate. Everyone loves it when a plan comes together! They learn new skills that are less tactical and more strategic. And the attrition rate among service-driven IT organizations is much lower than traditional ones.

I partner with clients to understand their goals and act as a shepherd to guide them in developing these results by constructing long-term road maps with game-changing milestones throughout their journey.  With the right direction and tools, the short-term wins soon amass to reach the organization’s end-state goals.

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Alex Salicrup is an IT transformation strategist with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services.

Move at the Speed of Business with an ITaaS Model

Salicrup-cropby Alex Salicrup

I knew this would be no ordinary customer engagement when the CEO of a global food retailer announced he expected to triple revenue in five years. I also knew an ITaaS model could exploit the cost and operational benefits of a software-defined data center.

But was their existing IT infrastructure capable of meeting his business goal? Simply put—no. Read the story behind our strategic approach and the company’s progress toward an end-to-end transformation in my post on the VMware Consulting blog.

Alex Salicrup is an IT transformation strategist with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services.

The 4 Components of a Service-Focused Culture


Author: Alex Salicrup

I have made bold observations in my recent blogs about the need for a cultural shift to that of a service-driven culture. This is a culture with a strong focus on customer needs, customer services, and meeting deadlines. This type of culture also allows the IT organization to scale and adapt to changing business needs rather than rigidly following old strategies. Although a cultural shift like this might seem an insurmountable task, I’ve seen it occur—and faster than you might think.

Here are the four components of a strong service-focused culture, according to my experience with today’s successful IT organizations:

  1. Strategic vision: IT must have a strong strategic vision that is anchored to the broader business goals. Short-, near- and long-term success criteria should be clearly defined and routinely reviewed by the full spectrum of stakeholders.
  2. Vision translation: The executive and director-level managers still need to disseminate the strategic vision to IT staff but should work hand-in-hand with service owners. Together they present a far more efficient method for evangelizing the strategic vision and leading a service lifecycle management process that keeps functional groups focused on internal deliverables as well as the interdependent needs of other groups.
  3. Strategic framework: The service owner is a key role, but he is like an orchestra conductor—he needs to have the sheet music from which to direct the many individual musicians. The strategic framework is that sheet music. This framework should outline the operational readiness of IT and prioritize the work streams necessary to deliver on the IT strategy and services. This is also an opportunity to establish a roadmap to the desired service capability maturity level.
  4. Risk: IT organizations tend to mitigate most risk within their sphere of control. They are uneasy asking other business groups to mitigate risks, even though these groups may be better positioned to do so. It is a wasted opportunity to have a great service-driven strategy if the business areas that IT depends on can’t catch up. This is where a strategic vision that is tied to a business-wide strategy can help, by clarifying which business functions are best suited to assess specific risks and giving them an outline for doing so.

Of course, no single plan will cover every IT organization’s needs, but this will present a good place to start a conversation. When I’m called in to help an organization with establishing a service-driven strategy, I start by establishing the end-state vision with the executive representatives for the organization, and then assess the operational capabilities of the business to deliver on that vision. The assessment then allows the IT organization to create a strategic framework by which the areas of improvement can be prioritized and remediation can be executed. This process has proven to expedite the journey of organizations in reaching service-driven capabilities.

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Alex Salicrup is a business solutions architect for VMware Accelerate Advisory Services
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Cloud, End-User Strategies Guard Against Data Breaches

Author: Alex Salicrup

The Fifth Estate hits theaters October 18, and with it a reminder of the corporate and government secrets exposed when WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange obtained breached classified data and released it to the world.

Assange and WikiLeaks, as we know, gained access to classified documents through US Army Private Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst who was recently sentenced for espionage. In addition to this breach, there was Edward Snowden, the contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) who outed the organization’s telecommunications monitoring programs.  — See related by Richard Rees on the VMware Consulting blog: The Snowden Leak: A Windfall for Hybrid Cloud?

In the 80s and 90s the spy scandals centered on individuals passing secrets to enemies of the state, like Aldrich Ames and Richard Hanssen, government employees who sold sensitive information to Russia for big bucks.

These days data breaches are more likely to be driven by a cause than cash. Widely described as hacktivism, breaches and malware attacks are made against corporations—not just governments—often by organizations that see themselves as the arbiters of online justice (like Anonymous). Two-thirds of all data breaches last year were made by installing malware on corporate systems. Almost all breaches were made from external sources.

Since its breach, the NSA, which already had plans to build a private cloud, has accelerated its implementation, largely because it sees automation as a key to eliminating the need for contractors like Snowden. In my experience, this is a good start, but only when it is followed by security policies focused on data classification rather than per application or system.

One of the advantages I see to software-defined networking is that it allows better visibility into where data, platforms, and infrastructure reside as part of the larger virtual infrastructure. The closer to a software-defined data center a corporation gets, the more control and visibility it has over its data security.

I was recently part of a deployment where the client designed innovative ways to classify and secure data, making it harder to breach, easier to monitor, and mostly automated. That’s a scalable solution that delivers enhanced security of precious data.

End-user computing (EUC) is another area where the right strategy needs to safeguard data accessible from devices that can potentially be accessed by someone besides the intended user. In my experience, if a company does not employ a comprehensive EUC solution, staff members will eventually bypass data security policies in order to have access data on their mobile devices.

Organizations will do well to start an internal assessment of how well-positioned they are to manage their data securely in the age of hactivism. Are there opportunities to enhance data security using virtual infrastructure and software-defined networking? Which is more cost effective and efficient? How much would a breach potentially cost? Is your organization capable of managing the infrastructure needed to support virtualization and EUC initiatives?

Let’s face it: No one expects to have their data breached. And yet, the majority of US corporations are victims to it every year. Why risk being one of them?

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Alex Salicrup is a business solutions architect for VMware Accelerate Advisory Services.

 

CIOs, Lead the Cultural Change!

Author: Alex Salicrup

In my earlier blog, I described the challenges of competing with third-party service providers that many modern CIOs face. And, I closed by promising to come back with tips on how to transform a reactive, risk-adverse IT organization to one that’s more proactive and customer-centric. Here are some suggestions:

Automate
Your IT organization needs to run operations with the fewest number of IT staff possible. Now, don’t get excited—I’m not talking about reducing headcount. Rather than focus on reacting to requests, trouble tickets, and other events that can be fully automated, what I suggest is that your headcount be utilized to innovate, plan, and execute on new strategic initiatives that provide business results faster. In fact, companies that the Accelerate team has worked with and that have tried this approach discover that their attrition rate reduces as their employees learn new skills and gain focus in more rewarding tasks—job satisfaction increases.

Average Revenue Per User (ARPU)
It’s a strange term considering we’re talking about business users, but it translates to what is your average business user expects to pay for the average service they receive. What are your business users willing to pay AWS or other IaaS and SaaS providers for infrastructure and application solutions versus those of your IT organization? ARPU forms the basis of any service that is designed and added to the IT service catalog—this number drives everything. If your service is more expensive than the competitor, then what is the value that you are providing the user to justify that premium?

Service Offerings
Keep your service catalog relevant and enticing—but as lean as possible. Rather than offer a large number of bundles, narrow it down to basic offerings that will meet the needs of most of your users. Augment those services by adding additional features that have proven valuable to your users or your competitors’ users. These decisions can be complicated. This is one area I find most IT departments have to exercise constraint. The advice I give to my customers is that a small number of offerings can meet the need of the majority (70-80 percent) of users. When exposed to many choices, users will only be confused and distracted from your value proposition.

Business Cases
From this point forward, think of your IT department as a start-up company. Every time you have a business initiative that requires capital, you need to fight for it from other startups in the enterprise. It’s not good enough to prove how your initiative will mitigate a risk. Your business case will need to show projected service uptake over time, and how profitable it will be within an acceptable timeframe. Yes—I used the word “profitable.” Profitable should be the end goal for an IT organization. Even if internal finance practices are not suitable for this type of profit setup, it’s a cultural mindset that you will thank me for adopting.

Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
Your SLAs have to be aggressive and comparable to what external service providers offer. Why? Service providers are very innovative about how they mitigate all risks, including SLA risks, without expending a lot of capital. The same goes for the modern IT organization. This is an opportunity to let your business users differentiate between the levels of service they would like versus what they are willing to pay for. If your users want tighter SLAs, provide an SLA matrix with varied levels of risk mitigation (time-to-resolution, availability, performance targets) to choose from—they will pay according to level of risk assumed by IT.

An SLA matrix also sets users’ expectations for what can be demanded as a response from their IT organization. In my experience, this is typically a significant improvement for an IT organization’s service management. Of course, the organization will need to deliver on these SLAs, and metrics will be essential in keeping IT honest and to be able to demonstrate the value of SLAs. The business user must have a compelling reason to pay for the premium, which usually translates to consequences if SLAs are breached. Some are monetary penalties; some are services not charged for during breach. Your organization’s solution will be unique to your environment.

These are my high-level observations and suggestions based on personal experience as a service provider in a former life, as well as through my work with our Accelerate customers. Most of the IT organizations I work with have been running in reactive mode for years, and their biggest challenge in transforming to a more proactive role as service provider is cultural. To form a new partnership with business stakeholders based on the ability to deliver real business value, I encourage CIOs to guide the discussion from one that’s risk adverse to one of innovation and opportunity. Success is out there if you know how to get there.

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Alex Salicrup is a business solutions architect for VMware Accelerate Advisory Services.

VMware AccelerateTM Advisory Services can help you and your key stakeholders understand the IT as a service value proposition—our consultants quantify the potential benefits, develop architectural designs, recommend organizational and process changes, create a migration plan and advise during implementation. Visit our Web site to learn more about our offerings, or reach out to us today at: accelerate@vmware.com for more information.

Would you like to continue this conversation with your C-level executive peers? Join our exclusive CxO Corner Facebook page for access to hundreds of verified CxOs sharing ideas around IT Transformation right now by going to CxO Corner and clicking “ask to join group.”

Business Units to IT: Change speed and course, FAST!

Author: Alex Salicrup

I loved my military career and still tend to use this nautical analogy with many of my IT customers. At sea, small frigates are designed to be agile, maneuverable, and nimble. They can effectively change course, increase speed, or stop very quickly. The aircraft carrier, however, carries great momentum and displaces such a massive amount of water tonnage that it requires five miles to stop. Because of that substantial weight, changes in speed and course take time and a lot of effort from both crew and machinery to execute. So, when frigates and carriers navigate as part of a group, the carrier actually holds the frigates back.

Today, IT organizations can be compared to the carrier, and the new breed of business units and users that IT serves are the nimble frigates. Business units are relying more and more on their IT organization to get things done and have a perception that if IT is not fast enough, they’ll seek a public service provider to get what they need, when they need it. In their view, they have options and no longer have to wait on IT.

In the last year alone, the Accelerate team has received many an SOS from executives of Fortune 100 corporations who need help transitioning their IT organization to act like a competitive service provider.  When I do meet with the CIOs and executives of these organizations, I find that they do not have technology impediments to act as a service provider, rather that they lack the culture, processes, and structure to do so.

IT has tried to fend off the influx of external services from vendors such as Dropbox for storage, and infrastructure and application offerings from AWS or Google, but also acknowledges those services are widely available, easy to access, and require little to no customization. Facing sluggish sales to IT groups during The Great Recession, IT service providers got smart and shifted their attention to cater to the emotions of the new breed of users who want and need connectivity right now.  These users now lead marketing, engineering, and sales departments across the nation and have expense accounts. They are using IT services from third-party providers of IaaS, SaaS, and other services that appear to be more cost-effective, readily available, and perceptively easy to provision compared to what IT can provide.

We can’t deny it—internal business customers are getting impatient with the way services are provisioned to them. Today’s business user is significantly more technology savvy than ever before. They know enough or even more about services available to them than their internal IT gurus—or at least they think they do. And, they’re getting better at justifying these services every day, armed with a credit card and the URL for your least-liked IaaS or SaaS provider.

This rattles the CIOs I meet regularly with for so many reasons. In the most extreme cases, IT can’t control what workloads their users are sending out to the public cloud or how they access it—which could violate every governance security policy and best practice IT has spent years developing.

So who are we really dealing with? This new talent is forging the future of corporations worldwide—a new breed of decision-making business users who grew up with ubiquitous access to a computer. Most had access to the Internet for much their life, if not all their adult life. They had a high-tech environment at school and could access content and applications anytime, anyplace.

In my first year in the Navy, the most radical technological advancement in modern nautical warfare was the NAVSTAR Global Positioning Systems satellite network. Today—20 years later—a typical business user has about 10 times more power in their smartphone than we had during the Gulf War, and it has a more accurate GPS chip, too! Technology moves fast but IT often doesn’t. Sometimes IT simply can’t keep up with the value offered by the technology they keep.

The business world is driven by technology. We use applications for most tasks, and we access most of our personal services via several devices and with consistent experiences on each device. Most users are expecting the same from their business services, and business units want to give it to them. The response from IT organizations in many cases is similar to a 12-step program—refusal, fear, denial, fear, aggression, fear—and so on.

IT organizations are recognizing that they must act like a service provider in order to satisfy today’s business needs. Although their efforts seem to be focused and well motivated, many find it very challenging to transform their business model. The cultural mindset of a service provider drives methods to address risk mitigation that are very different from those IT organizations subscribe to. Simply put, service providers want their customers to allow them, as the provider, to assume much of the risk—for a fee, that is! It’s a value proposition that they can and do charge for.

IT organizations spend a lot of time and effort fending off risks in a variety of ways, and many incur significant internal costs to implement or manage risk mitigation practices. Third-party service providers may not be able to justify the same level of risk mitigation that enterprise IT organizations deploy—it would add cost to the solutions they offer and interfere with price points. Nevertheless, the service provider is able to provide a lucrative solution and still publish a lucrative price point to its customers.

Stay tuned for part two in this series—I’ll share my tips on how to move from a vintage IT organization to one that’s service-driven.

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Alex Salicrup is a business solutions architect for VMware Accelerate Advisory Services.

VMware AccelerateTM Advisory Services can help you and your key stakeholders understand the IT as a service value proposition—our consultants quantify the potential benefits, develop architectural designs, recommend organizational and process changes, create a migration plan and advise during implementation. Visit our Web site to learn more about our offerings, or reach out to us today at: accelerate@vmware.com for more information.

Would you like to continue this conversation with your C-level executive peers? Join our exclusive CxO Corner Facebook page for access to hundreds of verified CxOs sharing ideas around IT Transformation right now by going to CxO Corner and clicking “ask to join group.”