“Content strategy is to copywriting as information architecture is to design. I find this analogy to be especially encouraging because six years ago, as the crest of the first wave of the web was about to break, people had no idea what “information architecture meant.” – “Content Strategy: The Philosophy of Data” by Rachel Lovinger
“Content strategy refers to the planning, development, and management of content—written or in other media. The term is particularly common in web development since the late 1990s. It is a recognized field in user experience design, but also draws interest from adjacent communities such as content management, business analysis, and technical communication.” – Wikipedia.
These two mind maps double as modeling graphs to help visualize the thinking behind a brainstorming exercise. The objective being content distribution and promotion of a new digital asset.
Both charts present a variety of concepts to facilitate a discussion on defining goals, utilizing tools and channels and, most importantly, outlining options and related trade-offs.
In this particular case, the asset was originally created in an experiential marketing project. It, therefore, involves interactive content successfully consumed in face-to-face conversations, which engage target customers and key influencers.
At the time of writing this, we are looking at content adaptation and augmentation for online distribution. Addressing self-service prompts questions on the right content mix to generate new leads. This now entails the development of additional content accounting for the needs of a different experience.
Your comments and feedback are very much appreciated. Feel free to email and/or contact me on LinkedIn as you see fit. Thanks again.
By the way, in case you wondered, the title of this (as well as other posts) is “high tech marketing” only because that’s the industry I work in, but the above insights are relevant to other sectors.
Working on the diffusion of innovations and marketing emerging technologies presents known challenges:
- fast evolving contexts
- shifting environments
- market timing and uncertain speed of adoption
- technical trade-offs leading to open dilemmas
- high signal-to-noise ratio often cluttered by chatter, hype and vaporware
- legacy systems’ last gasps given improvements and existing economies of scale
In this context, it is worth considering the following:
A – Thinking clearly and mastering clarity:
- Depicting and differentiating between what’s “state of the art” and readily available vs. concepts and future opportunities belonging to the “art of the possible.”
- Spelling out “incremental innovation” based on performance (technical, operational, financial) improvements when compared to today’s environment.
- Spelling out “disruptive innovation” exposing new unique capabilities which cannot be achieved with conventional and alternative solutions.
B – Thinking differently and mastering the element of surprise:
- “Abstracting out complexity” by striking a balance between Albert Einstein’s (above) and Arthur C. Clark’s (below) statements on simplicity and sophistication.
- Delivering the “wow factor” based on elegant know-how, technical prowess and by appealing to unequivocal easy to follow logic.
- Delivering the “cool factor” based on engaging simplicity and memorable experiences creating positive emotions.
C – Thinking about your audience and mastering the conversation:
- Understanding their journey, business, haves/have-nots, pain-points, behaviors, motivations, aspirations and decision making.
- Recognizing what belongs to “need to know” versus “good to know,” what’s core vs. added value to stay away from self-defeating information overload.
- Designing best of “breed solutions” in the context of the lifecycle of “end-to-end” systems.
This is not a comprehensive list, but a quick effort to synthesize a handful of guiding principles proven to work in past projects. As usual, I will welcome your emails to continue the discussion. In the meantime, I hope that some of the above are of interest.
“It was December 9, 1968, and as Kay watched from audience, Douglas Engelbart and his fellow computer scientists from Silicon Valley’s Stanford Research Institute unveiled NLS, an online system that included the world’s first computer mouse and presaged so much of today’s online software, including everything from window-like interfaces to what we now call hyperlinks […] Many didn’t understand it […] Short for oNLine System, NLS let you work and communicate with others in countless ways. You could edit text, draw images, manipulate and organize files, send messages, and even video conference. The idea was to supercharge human intelligence through collaboration.” – “Tech Time Warp of the Week: The Mother of All Demos, 1968“ by Daniela Hernandez, Wired.
Emerging technologies are easily subject to self-defeating hype and unfulfilled promises, making it hard to tell apart what’s real from vaporware. At that point, slideware and writings alone do not suffice, demonstrations and trustworthy testimonials become of the essence.
Please note that I’m not comparing what follows with the original “Mother of All Demos.” The above quote is rather a sign of respect and a reference model, something to look up to and strive for.
Our team at the Cloud Innovation Center has been extremely busy working on an NFV portfolio demonstration and, therefore, looking into a challenging questions on what it takes to deliver the mother of all of our NFV demos, and the purpose that it would actually serve… if any.
We thought that this means shifting from a piece meal approach based on showcasing product specific demos to helping everyone experience what happens when things work together across the board. A silo busting exercise.
The industry’s initial focus on “best of breed” needs to be coupled with a modular end-to-end systems engineering where the resulting value and efficiencies clearly exceed the mere addition of any of these elements. Going back to the “Mother of All Demos” reference, isn’t “supercharging” what synergies should be all about?
Following that train of thought, complexity becomes one other issue of concern, which can undermine any good intentions from the onset. For that reason, we made picture  be our other guiding principle, striving to deliver elegant sophistication in simple terms by engaging the customer in a first hand interactive experience, and making it be a memorable one for that matter.
One more thought… we also discussed what the right ratio should be between presenting “state of the art” and “art of the possible.” Going back and forth many times on this through the process, the team consistently stuck to an 80/20 ratio where 80% of the demonstration is anchored on what becomes available this year and the remaining 20% addresses the path forward and underlying design of future things. When dealing with hot technologies, the industry can get easily saturated with Proof of Concept (PoC) and me-too projects. The more reason to clearly spell out what the real deal is.
Any conversation dealing with emerging technologies should handle two other questions regarding incremental vs. disruptive innovation. We are defining “incremental innovation” as getting better with something that we happen to do today already: showing the delta in performance whether operational or financial. We are defining “disruptive innovation” as doing something that we couldn’t possibly do before when working with legacy and conventional technologies, something of “unique value” that is.
While this might or might not be how others might define incremental and disruptive innovation, we can go beyond semantics to agree on the need for addressing the underlying framework. By the same token, note that a “breakthrough” is not a differentiation in this context, as both kinds of innovations rely on this type of high impact discovery one way or another.
In addition to the above concepts, these few pictures outline some of the tools we used in the design and development of “NFV: Service Innovation & Lean Ops,” which we will be demonstrating in Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress in just a couple of weeks. Hope to see you there : )
 Refers to a set of guiding principles: the kind of stuff you go back to conduct a sanity check and when in doubt, which I discussed above. As an example: “if you cannot explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
 This is the kick off creative brief: just a one pager outlining the mission by answering “why/what/when/who/where” to being with… while understanding that the project is an iterative journey where we will make discoveries that can make us switch our course and speed as we make progress. Project management wise, it pays to keep an eye on status, flags, % completion and remaining resources, including time left.
 Ideation techniques using both regular post-it and easel size ones for different groups, prioritization exercises leverage location and color coding. Nothing goes to waste: 3M’s Post-it Plus App for Apple’s iPhone comes in handy to capture these “boards,” which helps with post-meeting processing, collecting snapshots of any brainstorming session and keeping up with Kanban scrum boards in software development.
 Conventional whiteboarding also taking advantage of capturing what’s happening with the same app, making an entire whiteboard become a post-it note joining other pictures taken at other sessions, zooming in and out as needed.
 A variety of frameworks have helped organize and communicate information with other teams, as well as a checking for consistency and alignment.
 Low fidelity sketches were used to start visualizing key concepts early on: an agile alternative to cumbersome requirement documents at each iteration.
 High fidelity renderings of photo-realistic mock-ups aiding rapid prototyping.
 Wallpapering in a meeting room where all team members can review designs, post new items and further brainstorm throughout the project.
 Dogfooding (eating your own dog food) means that everyone in the team gets a first hand experience and understanding of what’s being developed, joining testing and contributing to next steps.
 Field trips, going out there to look for best practices and sources for new ideas outside of our own work environment and industry clichés. As an example, these pictures were taken at demonstrations taking place at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and one of Fermilab’s control rooms for the particle accelerator complex.
 Last but not least, the workload involves observational (e.g. ethnography) and usability research coupled with sessions with customers, subject matter experts and in-house stakeholders.
This is an iterative process and the above 10 items might not all take place at each iteration and/or in the same sequence at each cycle.
“You have to be willing to press out there to take the risk to push to the edge to your own comfort zone to look for the next right answer (…) when I go after a photograph of an extraordinary vision (…) I try to celebrate what’s best in the shot (…) that connects us with our passion and emancipates the energy (..) our lives are about continuously finding the right next answer, continuously zooming in and out.” Dewitt Jones.
Working in high-tech entails a significant communication effort because innovations often present novelties and new paradigms which break with what we are accustomed to. Emerging technologies typically excite curious and open minds while deeply concern many others who might feel impacted by changes. Promoting necessary shifts can easily prompt a far more intensive communication campaign than what the inventors initially expected.
Developing technical content is a challenge when complexity results in convoluted presentations and self-defeating information overload, confusion and frustration. Just focusing on simplicity might lowball the value and potential of a great idea, which can then be deprioritized. In a recent discussion, I emphasized the need for content conveying elegant sophistication instead:
- elegant means pleasantly grateful, an ingenious and crisp solution which the target audience can understand and value
- sophistication is about applied wisdom, cracking the code by displaying intellect able to address complex and/or overlooked problems.
- elegant sophistication appeals to both our emotional and intellectual response systems, sets a new benchmark, delivers an iconic “object of desire.”
Plenty of the work that I have been involved in wrestles with technologies’ new jargon in the making. Discussing these requires well thought out materials because even brilliant concepts and good progress can otherwise be severely discounted. There is nothing worse than content perceived as disingenuous hype and vaporware.
Let’s also consider bloatware’s negative impact by loosing focus. This happens by overextending, “shooting at everything that moves” and/or pivoting in excess when “trying to be everything to everyone.” A good friend of mine would also add the kind of credibility issues that arise when well intentioned concepts “defy the laws of physics,” or “gravity” for that matter. But I do think that questioning and defying what we think we know is one of the sources of innovation.
Communications wise, it pays to outline storyboards that build growing interest and engagement levels as a well structured narrative progresses. Meaningful content draws from insightful abstractions and supporting facts, clearly stated assumptions and correlated need-to-know data. The best overall delivery creates memorable experiences that win audiences thanks to a genuine and lasting wow effect.
Following that line of thought, helping visualize concepts and data plays a fundamental role in our cognition. We happen to acquire far more information and we do so more rapidly by means of our vision than by what can be consumed by all other senses combined. Envisioning information enables a greater understanding for many of us as discussed in “the art of delivering quality content.”
For these reasons, the presentation materials and discussion tools that I create not only involve messaging, information architecture, storyboarding and infographic work among other items, but also real life photography. I like to take and display photos that matter, whether those are screenshots of actual user interfaces, pictures of gear and facilities involved or, better yet, capturing telling experiences and relatable moments, humanizing and making the technology more approachable in the process.
At the time of sharing these thoughts, this workstyle happens to stand out in contexts where generic graphic libraries and stereotypical stock photography seems to be at everyone’s fingertips. Relevant real life photography helps mitigate hype and vaporware perceptions: arresting enough images convey a more tangible sense of reality when based on assets and people who actually exist, instead of leaving visual communications to art work and graphic icons alone.
After writing the above, Alex F. let me know about Heidi Cohen’s “Seven Ways to Use Photographs to Support Content Marketing” where she covers the following:
- Make your products into stars.
- Tell your organization’s story.
- Enhance your brand.
- Show a human face.
- Educate viewers to use your product.
- Broadcast the news.
- Invite customers and the public to share product and brand related photos.
“Cloud Computing” remains a trending topic and is making inroads in the telecommunications sector. This first half of the year followed suit and my workload was, yet again, packed with a busy schedule featuring 10+ different technology events. I’m now taking a breath and stepping back to review some of the projects I have worked on for the past 6 months.
This first half of the year I kept busy with marketing projects ranging from conceiving new initiatives to planning and managing the subsequent effort and delivery. This also means setting a creative direction, coming up with new concepts, and developing content and discussion tools accordingly.
I enjoy authoring materials that contribute and help visualize the thinking behind our technologies and solutions. Moreover, I get to deliver these messages by conversing directly with customers, partners and analysts. This takes place when engaged in public speaking and conducting technology demonstrations at events, and in private sessions.
Last week I made it to Techweek here in Chicago. I attended talks on topics such as cloud computing and digital marketing, and got the chance to meet with old friends and made new acquaintances. Admittedly, being in there for the sole purpose of listening and learning from other people’s talks felt like an easy going undertaking for a change : )
By the way, at Techweek I heard that Chicago’s tech ecosystem is thriving. Built-in-Chicago reports in excess of $1B of local startup funding in 2013, this was about 170% higher than the year before. The same study highlights $3B generated by exits and public offerings, which is good news too. A couple of years ago, Equinix had already identified Chicagoland as one of the fastest growing and largest cloud hubs in the world. The Windy City already carries a disproportionate share of the country’s IP traffic and three of the planet’s largest datacenters located here. Forbes is listing Chicago as one of the top 10 American cities for entrepreneurs to get their businesses started.
So, here is a quick note to share that Naperville is home base for approximately 3,000 of us at Alcatel-Lucent, this being our company’s largest global campus in terms of both footprint and headcount, which doubles as a top tech employer in the Chicago area.
This past June we delivered the first NFV (Network Functions Virtualization) Town Hall Meeting, which was hosted at Alcatel-Lucent’s Naperville Conference Center, a facility on campus. We made 250 seats available and sold out in just 48 hours.
Spearheading this initiative to involve others, then gaining planning momentum and, eventually, overseeing all production aspects turned out to be a very fulfilling experience from beginning to end.
There is a need for crediting a remarkable group of insightful speakers such as Telefonica’s Diego Lopez, Intel’s Sandra Rivera, Red Hat’s Paul Lancaster and Alcatel-Lucent’s Dor Skuler, Cassidy Shield and Ted East who delivered:
- highly engaging talks
- informative leading edge presentations
- a sophisticated and quite compelling live demo
- a thought provoking panel session involving them all
We ran a live webcast and also handled back channel discussions online. There were video interviews conducted before and after the event, continued discussions at the speaker luncheon, and private sessions with more presentations and demonstrations at CIC, the Cloud Innovation Center, also on campus.
This event’s success reflects amazing behind-the-scenes-work by 30+ people from Alcatel-Lucent, Intel, TIA, Hewlett Packard and Twist & Shout. I would like to thank Cary, Debbie,Ted, Leigh and Shyrlene for their tireless contributions.
Light Reading, the organizers, reported 700+ registrations and Alcatel-Lucent was BTE’s top sponsor. Karyn Homer managed our presence and the agenda enlisted Basil Alwan’s keynote titled “Where Network Meets Cloud,” Dave Brown‘s introduction to the OIF (Optical Interworking Forum) Workshop and Marcus Weldon’s, Dor Skuler’s and Kevin Drury‘s respective panels panels on “The Network of the Future,” “NFV in Mobile Networks,” and “From 100 G to 400 G to…”
My take away is that there is interest in going beyond just understanding NFV’s orchestration and SDN’s (Software Defined Networking) service chaining capabilities. No longer worlds apart, this means figuring out where they intersect and possibly collide and, similarly, how they complement each other.
Both SDN and NFV come together as part of modular end-to-end solutions. As an example, CloudBand 2.0 is a carrier platform engineered for NFV which now deploys Nuage Networks’ SDN framework. Moving toward a dynamic “service onboarding, provisioning and delivery” happens to be the driver for most of this kinds of conversations, OSS (Operations Support Systems) being the backdrop from this point on.
While at BTE I attended the panel on “NFV in Mobile Networks” where Dor Skuler played a prominent role. I also found Caroline Chappell’s session on “Network Management & Orchestration Challenges for SDN/NFV” worth following. The telecommunications industry has switched gears from mostly debating these technologies’ disruptive merits to zeroing in what it will take to deploy and operationalize with confidence.
In May I traveled to Tucson to participate in IEEE’s CQR (Communications Technologies Quality & Reliability). CQR’s main concerns are network performance, RAS (Reliability, Availability, Serviceability) and security. This time around cloud computing dominated the event’s four day agenda and the pre-conference workshop.
AT&T’s David Lu was the keynote speaker and there were two of us representing Alcatel-Lucent this year. CloudBand’s Roy Amir is featured in the middle of the bottom right picture. His panel addressed cloud operations as far as NFV is concerned.
This was my third consecutive year speaking at this conference. This time around I was back on stage not just once, but for the following three sessions:
- Cloud/SDN/NFV/Domain 2.0 Services (upper right picture) chaired by Allot’s Scott Poretsky.
- Distinguished Expert Panel: Architectures, Technologies, Services and Apps that will shape Tomorrow (left picture) – chaired by IIT’s Carol Davids.
- Beyond Macro – chaired by Verizon’s Fran Walton.
Regarding the above first two items: I unveiled new content that I had been working in the preceding months, my presentation’s title was “NFV’s Path Forward;” then, the day after, my contribution to the Distinguished Expert Panel dealt with a variety of thought provoking insights, mostly drawing from first hand experiences on innovation management. Last but not least, in the Beyond Macro session I shared a portfolio solutions for “Small Cells for Stadiums” with a presentation prepared by Chris Kapucisnki, who I would like to thank for all of his help leading to this event.
My highlight for April is Edward Tufte’s Chicago workshop on “Presenting Data and Information” which I found refreshing and inspiring.
His teaching synthesizes what happens at the intersection of “image, word, number and art” as he puts it in one of his books.
He outlined a set of principles guiding information design which spell out how to best envision information to reason and help communicate, key benchmarks for anyone working on marketing in the high tech sector.
Here is Nuage Networks’ Houman Modarres in action at Network World in Chicago back in March. Houman’s keynote presentation was well received and clearly conveyed our thought leadership and innovativness in the SDN space.
Nuage is an Alcatel-Lucent venture. The team had approached me to support this event, though they had taken care of everything by the time I arrived. That freed up time for ad-hoc meetings, joining a luncheon with customers and attending AT&T’s and Comcast’s presentations on cloud computing.
Alcatel-Lucent was present at the Chicago Science Fair where five of us joined a small army of judges. This was my fifth year as a judge having reviewed computer and behavioral science projects so far. This is one of the many opportunities that we get to contribute to the community.
Winston Churchill was quoted saying: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. By giving just a little bit of our time, our skills or our experience, we can make a huge difference.”
In February we delivered another successful Mobile World Congress for Alcatel-Lucent. This is the largest and arguably the most impactful industry event in the telecommunications sector. I have worked on Barcelona’s MWC projects for six years in a row, mostly creating and presenting live cloud computing demonstrations.
Alcatel-Lucent grabbed headlines when:
- announcing our strategic partnership with Intel, which addresses “data plane acceleration”
- issuing press releases on ongoing NFV work with leading global network operators such as China Mobile and Telefonica
- hosting CloudBand’s Ecosystem Mixer
- showcasing two live and high impact NFV demonstrations focusing on ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) NFV’s Use Case for the Virtualization of EPC (Evolved Packet Core) and IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) in the context of “Mobile Meets Cloud.”
We geared up for MWC months in advance with PoC (Proof of Concept) development work. I had the pleasure to work with Dan Johnson and the R&D teams at IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) and CIC organizations.
Barcelona’s hectic schedule also included Light Reading’s MWC Cocktail Reception, TechCrunch & BoB event, Mobile Sunday, SCTC’s (Society of Communication Technologies Consultants) International Conference and, coincidentally, Pare Manyanet’s 50th Anniversary meet up (my high school) also attended by Irene Rigau, Minister of Education with the Government of Catalonia and Jordi Jané, Vice President, Parliament of Spain.
2014 got stated on the right track with a celebration as another new patent under my name had been granted, this time by the Korea Patent Office (No. 101353103). This technology has to do with multicasting high definition video over communication networks.
The twist when compared to conventional multicasting is an end-to-end systems approach factoring analytics and widely available storage devices that happen to be embedded in consumer appliances, a research project that we completed just a few years ago.
Most importantly, instead of taxing the network with ever growing video traffic and fostering a bigger problem in the process, we looked into how to best offset capacity impact while significantly improving the end user’s quality of experience, an otherwise elusive equilibrium point.
Going back to my current cloud marketing responsibilities, later in January I did a webinar hosted by SCTC for this organization’s members only. I presented “NFV: Moving from Vision to Reality” and I would like to thank IP Network Consulting’s Dennis Godhart for his kind invitation.
There is more than meets the eye and I will start blogging about content generated this first half of the year, which can now be adapted and shared. So, stay tuned ; )