Posted by Tom Grant on August 7, 2009
The other big project this week was a detailed analysis of a company's corporate and product marketing. We have a specific methodology, called a Vendor Positioning Review (VPR), that measures the ability of a company's publicly-available marketing materials to speak to both technical and business audiences. We also assess the connections (or lack thereof) between the corporate and product marketing content. We put these details into a tool, and out pops an assessment that suggests some important changes that may be necessary.
The VPR is based on what Forrester calls the IT to BT shift. In this shorthand, IT (information technology) delivers value only if the right combination of business and technical experts, working in tandem, can figure out whether there's any business value in it. BT (business technology) delivers value more quickly, because its creators design and market it to address particular business problems that plague people in particular jobs.
We see the effects of this IT to BT shift all the time. In a way, it's a congratulatory message to the technology industry: "Good for you! You've become an integral part of the lives and work of billions of people!" Unfortunately, that also means that the self-same billions who now rely on this technology have strong opinions about whether or not it works for them, and significant power to determine its purchase and adoption.
Many companies in the technology industry struggle to speak the business user's language. Some of them act like the "freaks and geeks" crowd hanging around the fringes of a high school dance, uncomfortable with talking to anyone outside their circle. Trying to make the astronomy club sound cool might not be worth the effort, particularly if you feel that you're doing fine with the crowd of people who already understand you. (By the way, I was in astronomy club, and it was pretty cool.)
Others might be more aggressive about discussing their favorite arcane pursuits, which may hold no appeal for most other people. Going out to the desert with your buddies, getting blind drunk, and chasing jackrabbits with your three-wheel ATVs might seem awesome to you, but not to the young woman you're trying to impress.
Unfortunately, you do need to explain the value of technology to people who might otherwise not care to hear it, even if it's the most "techie" of all technology. If there are no business benefits, then why should someone spend money on it?
I'll use the JSR-168 portal standard as an example. If you go to the web site of a vendor who supports this standard, chances are you'll find some relevant product marketing materials. This finely-crafted material might be as gripping as the last season of The Wire...For a purely technical audience. Rarely will you find a statement of business value as straightforward as, If you buy technology that supports this standard, you'll spend less time training people on integration APIs, or maintaining your portal, etc.
And if you still think that the ability to speak in both business and technical terms is unnecessary for your product...Well, I guess you're a happier person than me, since you've probably missed the great economic implosion of the last year or so. Cling to your child-like innocence for as long as you can.
[Cross-posted at The Heretech.]