...a special thanks to Christopher Park for his fine editing skills!
Our generation is witnessing an evolution of how businesses interact with customers. Effective marketing is more than employing traditional media to broadcast features and benefits of a product or service. In this age of global communications, marketing often involves an interactive, engaging discussion between companies and consumers. The clever marketer presents a grassroots message, something that resonates with and excites the target audience. As with traditional marketing, brand exposure is usually the end purpose. However, social marketing focuses on the needs of the consumer instead of the function of the product or service itself. The message that the effective marketer must convey is how the product or service genuinely improves life or business for the target consumer.
Our continuously evolving marketplaces demand agility, but this does not mean that speed trumps all. Marketers should understand the core message of every communication before the message is released; few things are more mortifying than belatedly finding errors -- or worse -- in your marketing materials. The medium of the message is equally important: a post on MySpace has decidedly different connotations from a story in a local newspaper. The best medium, of course, has always been positive word of mouth between friends and colleagues. For this to occur your company must really sell its value and support the value continuously as it is consumed.
Even if you have the good fortune of positive word of mouth, as a marketer you`ll have to continue to guide your company`s presence in the marketplace. In place of intermittent, short-lived campaigns, consider putting your efforts behind an ongoing and evolving message. Most people are very aware of the traditional megabrands like Coke and McDonalds, but without a continuous presence in the marketplace even those fade from front-line visibility. How much more true for small businesses relying on social marketing techniques and word of mouth!
One of the best ways to continuously reinforce your message is through a consistent symbol, something seen again and again in various contexts. A spokesperson, someone who provides a human story, is perhaps the best symbol of all. Subway gained phenomenal momentum by introducing us to "Jared," the man now famous for losing hundreds of pounds through their products. Subway`s success came not from presenting bullet points about their Club Sub, but from relaying a compelling story. The campaign began with a series of strategically placed articles in newspapers and journals, and then transitioned into a series of ongoing television advertisements. Social marketing and traditional marketing techniques often augment one another.
Social techniques appear faddish to some, but these concepts are rooted in one of the core tenets of good marketing: serve your customers with value. In today`s landscape of corporate behemoths and offshore call centers, consumers cherish the experience of genuine service and real connections with people they perceive to be like themselves. Social marketing is a way to humanize your organization in the public eye, and that can make a world of difference to your bottom line. If you listen to your customers and deliver true value to them, you might even find that word of mouth is taking off on its own. Is there anything better around which to build the rest of your business?
GBlackwell3/3/2009 7:50 PM
The Miracle on the Hudson
I’ve been contemplating the recent emergency landing of the
US Air jet into the Hudson River. I was
initially amazed with the pilot’s ability to save the 155 passengers on
board. But during the past 2 weeks I
sensed that I was missing a larger perspective regarding the importance and
significance of this event.
The world’s economy remains in a state of uncertainty. While I am extremely fortunate with an
adequate income, I recognize that others remain and will enter dire straits –much
of which I cannot possibly understand. I
believe that many of us want to help others and the economy at large, but have
no idea what action to take. I also fear
that many are waiting for the government to solve the problem and will
ultimately become disappointed with the actual value delivered. My final concern is where people place their
faith –on money, other people, jobs, etc.
Now let me explain why I am randomly discussing a plane
crash and the economy. As I understand,
the plane had just lifted from the ground with the co-pilot in control. The plane unpredictably hit a flock of bird
that caused an engine to explode into flames.
The pilot responded by taking control, announcing to the passengers the
situation, and guiding the plane gently into the river.
Much like our economy, no one was expecting the engine to
explode. Some declare that the economy’s
situation was predictable. I
disagree. Just like the pilots may have
been able to see the birds, I anticipate that they did not expect the destruction
of a core component that enables their craft to operate. I believe that we need to respond much like
the pilots –assess the situation, be genuinely honest with everyone, and focus
providing the best long-term solution.
Now is not a time to worry if people’s feet will get wet and cold, that
some luggage will be lost, or that a plane will be damaged beyond repair.
I also believe that we should respond like the people
surrounding the area. The Hudson had
numerous ferry boats performing various activities. As the plane descended, the captains of the
boats did not wait for orders or wait for the coast guard to help. They turned their ships to serve in any way
they were able. One of the first boats to
arrive was captained by a 20 year old female who was able to immediately offload
the passengers. Kudos to this individual who did not wait for authorization or
acceptance from others, but simply reacted with a serving heart.
Finally, we should respond much like the passengers when the
pilot announced to brace for a crash landing.
Every article that I read relayed the passengers’ response was to
pray. Often, we demand the worst of
times before we realize how vulnerable we are and that we need to rely on
something much greater than us. The
passengers also celebrated as they stepped on the wing with their feet soaked
in frigid water. They recognized that
while life is not perfect that they were alive.
We are in troubled times that economists believe will
continue to worsen for about a year. And
even after the economy begins to turn, we will face several years before normalcy
returns. We need to respond similarly to
the people in and around US Air flight 1549.
Recognize that tough times are ahead, don’t wait on the government, do
whatever you can to help others and pray.
While we are not in the best of times, we are not in the
worse. The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) measures
the total amount to goods and services produced in the nation and the primary
indicator that relays our economy’s health.
The GDP fell an annualized rate of 3.8% during the 4th
quarter of 2008. When the average rate
is positive 3%, that indicator sounds horrible.
But, consider the Carter years when GPD fell 4.9% during the 4th
quarter of 1981 followed by 6.4% in the 1st quarter of 1982. The media is causing us to believe that the
sky is falling and only the government can save us. But don’t assume the whole story is always
presented. We’re not in good times, but it will turn. Just respond like those involved in the
Miracle on the Hudson.
Many developers begin developing by unknowingly using the concept of
Separation of Concerns (SoC). They
dedicate their time to develop software by designing and developing features
(concepts) with as little overlap of functionality as possible. This approach
is how I once programmed when I was a developer. It provides instant gratification. Unfortunately, this methodology succeeds for only
very trivial applications. The approach
is completely inappropriate for large-scale or enterprise-level solutions.
The Purpose of Software
The purpose of a software application is driven enviably by the developing
organization. The goals are generally driven
with commercial requirements and the ultimate solution must deliver an
acceptable ROI. In most cases, the
system’s future return must be promoted to gain buy-in before any investment is
allocated. And in many situations, the
architectural design must be leveraged to demonstrate the value and viability
of the future system.
The Value of Architecture
I parallel the need for software architecture with the construction of
a physical structure –specifically… I
like to relate every system I design as a
Tree House, a Home, or a Skyscraper.
The Tree House Architecture…
As a father of 2 children, I enjoyed the assembly of a multi-level, tree
house. I simply fastened boards repeatedly
using a level as needed to ensure horizontal floors and vertical walls. The effort never required pencil, paper, or
really much thought. Similarly, I have
developed applications with the same approach –no advance design, just
coding. Unfortunately, the demand for
some of these applications exceeded my expectations and brewed into the inevitable
The Home… While it might be
possible to create a home with no plans or design, every family appreciates the
architecture of a well designed house. The
general contractor must properly lay a stable foundation while considering all
components of the house like plumbing, electrical, rooms and walls. The GC must also allow some flexibility for
the homeowner to acclimate their living conditions within the structure. For example, while the home’s design must
predetermine the location of the kitchen, the homeowner has the opportunity to
select the appliances and the exact location of the kitchen table. When designing the kitchen, the architect
must enforce enough structure to enable reliable functionality (the proper
operation of the oven and dishwasher) while offering the future owner to
determine where they want to place the silverware.
The Skyscraper… An enormous
building relates directly to the enterprise application, demanding considerable
design prior to digging the first shovel of dirt. An architect must respect abstract concepts
like the mission and vision; consider al needs, desires, and demands from all
relevant stakeholders; encompass all functional requirements; and design to
achieve all quality attributes, like scalability, responsiveness, real-time
availability, maintainability and/or reliability (often referred to as the ‘-ilities’). Understanding and achieving the appropriate architecture
demands a substantial effort, a focused team, and dedication from all stakeholders.
Listening Is Key
The architect must begin by considering a diverse pool of concerns from
all stakeholders (users, developers, management, investors, customers,
etc). It is during this initial
gathering of information that often forms fundamental flaws in a system. By neglecting the insights from a key
individual, the architect may fail to incorporate a core attribute for the end
solution. Although many circumstances
may contribute to design flaws, I believe that the primary issue that surrounds
the inability to actively listen to others.
People naturally want to explain their thoughts to support their
intentions. But, this is not the activity
for the architect at this phase. A
related problem is the inability for the architect to communicate his or her
intentions. –But, we’ll save that issue for a later discussion.
What is Software Architecture
At its core, software architecture is a compiled distillation of needs
and expectations from all stakeholders.
From its definition, we can recognize that the architecture of a software
application will never be flawless.
This is because software always evolves. While software continues to be used, it is
never complete. Why is software never
complete??? Because stakeholders (anyone
who is affected by the software) will change their minds, some stakeholders
will depart while others will join (Yikes… even after the system is released). So how do we shoot a moving target?
Shooting a Moving Target
There are 3 tools that I use to enable sound system architecture: Pillars,
Patterns, and Modeling Criteria. At the most abstract level, an architect should
incorporate a set of Pillars throughout the entire system’s
design. A pillar (by my
definition)is a central, foundational, abstracted concept that supports the
operation and reinforces the mission of the system. Because each pillar sustains crucial functional
support, a pillar can never be removed. For example, during the discovery of
stakeholder’s needs, the system architect may uncover that the solution must
allow for a customizable, role-based security model and all actions must be
logged and comply with FDA regulations. The
concepts would be 2 pillars of the new system.
Pillars should be documented in concise, understandable terms and
leveraged as a litmus test against every designed task.
The concept of a design pattern involves a common reusable resolution to
a commonly occurring problem. The concept and use of design
patterns has gained popularity and for good reason. Design patterns speeds development, increases
quality, and lessens maintenance efforts by improving readability for
programmers who are familiar with the repeated pattern. Because this concept is well documented, I will
not dig into the details relating to the various patterns.
The final concept that must be incorporated to deliver a robust,
scalable and reliable solution involves modeling criteria which must be pre-determined,
documented and applied consistently within all designs and code at its lowest
level. Modeling criteria supports the
key aspects surrounding quality assurance which facilitates “Fit for Purpose”
and “Right First Time.” Examples of modeling
criteria that I often apply include:
....tasks must completely succeed or completely fail
....changing one component does not
affect the other component)
....components may be opened for extension, but closed for
....high-level components should
not depend on low-level components
ConclusionSoftware will constantly evolve throughout its entire life. Do not attempt to stop the evolution. Rather record
key principles surrounding the project to architect the best solution. As a final remark, I relate software
architecture with the design of an airplane.
The wings of a plane maintain sufficient structure to lift the craft
into the air. At the same time, the
wings are designed to flex 22 degrees up and 18 degrees down to prevent a total
failure during turbulent conditions, protecting not only the craft, but also
all stakeholders. Architects must understand and address all discoverable needs
while incorporating a fine balance between structure (for functionality) and flexibility (for customization & user acceptance). By applying Pillars, Design Patterns,
and Modeling Criteria, an architect
can achieve a proper design to deliver a scalable, maintainable, and reliable
system.Gordon BlackwellTechnology & Entrepreneurial EvangelistRaleigh, NC"Some see things and ask Why... I dream and ask Why Not..."Author Unknown
Developing a strategic operation plan is essential to ensure
a valued delivery of any product or service.
If you believe that valued quality can occur without purposeful intent,
then you may also believe that a dictionary can be created by randomly
An organization must develop a broad set of policies and procedures
firm to produce the maximum value from all resources of a firm. The policies and procedures must also align
with the business’ long-term mission.
Policies extend corporate decisions to staff members that do
not possess the authority to make corporate decisions. With policies integrated in its operations, a
company can speed and improve responses for internal and external customers by preemptively
extending decisions to lower-level employees.
With a parallel purpose, Procedures document optimal methods that
produce a specific result. While
Policies and Procedures differ slightly, both predetermine effective actions to
produce the greatest amount of value.
The challenge, especially for young, rapidly-evolving
start-ups, is the constant change of internal and environmental factors. However, change does not excuse the need for
structure. Change actually supports the need
for structure. While policies and
procedures are documented, both should continuously adapt to organizational
change, customer demands, and learned knowledge. I refer to this concept as “Agile-Structure”. Another common term is “Best Practices”.
Regardless of the term, operations must not allow their
policies and procedures to become unyielding routines, dictated by inaccessible
executives. Instead this structure
should become a technique to produce value more effectively than simply performing
in an ad-hoc manner. Organizations must
be adaptive, listening actively to their employees, investors, clients, vendors,
and the community. With well tuned and
applied policies and procedures, a company can increase the value and quality
of its products and services.
"Some see things
and ask Why...
I dream and ask Why
GBlackwell1/23/2009 8:57 AM