Recently we had a great day at our HQ with Nasry Angel from Forrester discussing our Roadmap and Visions. During the discussion, we talked about different approaches to architecting software.
If you simplify it, you can categorize these approaches into two main categories.
Here it is all about The Expert, and an assumption that this solution will handle everything from here to eternity. Or perhaps with this expert aura it simply becomes too many features within one solution, and too few that dare to challenge the solution. In the 90s this was a popular way of approaching software architecture. Trying to build and capture THE Enterprise Model that would solve everything and with that false expert know-it-all notion this could be done. Meanwhile, the business had to wait while the experts sat down and did their analysis, and after that it was done. The only thing that now remained was for anybody or somebody to implement their flawless design and voilà the one model was built.
To quote Jimmy Nilsson on why this did not work on the 90s and why it will not work in the future either:
This approach often leads to a big on-premise monolithic design. Over time this will not scale with new creative ways of solving real business challenges, but more be a war for preserving a state and design that was built and invented during the analysis and the creation of THE Enterprise Model.
Here it is all about knowing that we do not know what the future holds, hence we need to approach our domain with that notion. Understanding and accepting that everything we add will create complexity, so being very aware of what type of business challenge we are solving is paramount. Because we know that the domain and business challenges will change many times during the lifetime of our design. If other or tangent business domain opportunities arise, look for other services or collaborations to solve it. This approach of moving forward in small steps and failing fast, but with tiny failures that quickly will lead to a path towards an efficient design. In hindsight, this path will look crisp and clear, but without these small failures it would have been impossible to find it.
This approach often leads to a SaaS-based design with Microservices as base architecture, which often gives more flexibility and more purpose-built features . This often fits better within an organization. Because of the natural state of a IT-landscape where a lot of different systems and services often needs to coexist. To assume that ONE system would solve this challenge in the most efficient way is not very realistic. If you on the other hand are working with modern service-based solutions, this will put you in a much greater position to be efficient in maximizing the effect of your investments.
A couple of weeks ago me and our CEO, Niclas Mollin returned from San Francisco after attending the great event SaaStr 2017. The reinforced insight we left with was that all inRiver customers deserve a modern approach to delivering software. We have, for a long time, believed in a Cloud Service Approach, but with that transition we had to go through a lot of changes. To get where we are now, we have “killed a lot of darlings” on the way. With this I mean things that were thought of as absolute musts in our solution, and could not be changed. As always with these situations, time and commitment will help you in finding an alternate route. In this change process, The Microservice architecture is something that has helped us in our ambition to ― together with our community ― create an easy-to-use and fast-to-scale SaaS approach. The feedback we have received is very positive, the agility we can provide and the speed of change our design offers is very appreciated by our customers.
Think big – Start small - Scale fast
Jimmy Ekbäck, Executive Vice President Products & Services, inRiver
I sometimes find that there is some confusion around the definition of product management versus product marketing. So, let’s clarify the difference before we dig into the details. Wikipedia defines it well: "Product marketing is the process of promoting and selling a product to an audience. Product marketing, as opposed to product management, deals with more outbound marketing or customer-facing tasks (in the older sense of the phrase)."
Pretty straightforward, isn't it?
An efficient product marketing process is a foundation for successful product launches, effective SEO, eCommerce, and much more. Without compelling high quality product stories—including descriptions, specifications, how-to videos, images, cross-sells , and so on—it is very hard to provide a great product experience. The product experience is such a vital part of the customer's buying journey that, without a great one, it is almost impossible to convince anyone to buy anything. Unfortunately, despite its importance, product marketing is often not considered as a strategic process.
There is a big difference in how you need to communicate to B2B Buyers versus B2C Shoppers. It is important that you know to whom you are marketing before you start communicating with them, so there is always a need for buyer personas regardless of industry. However, personas are not persons, and persons have different contexts and intents during the buying journey. Most customers will move across touchpoints and devices, creating a need for content to be developed and stored granularly to help the front-end solutions select the right pieces and adapt the product story—in real time.
There seem to be a misconception that micro-moments are only happening within B2C, but B2B buyers are mobile too, and thus are constantly connected. The B2B buying journey is now as fragmented and unpredictable as it is within B2C. According to Google, 89% of B2B buyers use the internet during the B2B research process. Think with Google has written an interesting piece about this. With B2B marketing, also comes the complexity of often having more than one decision-maker, each of whom can have a different persona and be in a different phase of the buying journey.
Digital marketing is extremely competitive. To win, companies need to have the resources, processes, and systems in place to create large volumes of high-quality content, manage knowledge about the customers, communicate effectively in real time, and have ways of analyzing and optimizing it all.
It is time to realize that without this in place, the other strategic processes and systems that are managing transaction and logistics, such as ERP, are going to have less and less to do in the future when sales are going down. That is why you need to make product marketing a strategic process. If it is not considered strategic to your organization already, it is time to make it so.
Johan Boström, Co-founder and Evangelist, inRiver
Marketing is one of the areas where the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) is growing rapidly. This marketing revolution is happening due to many reasons, but mostly because of a growing amount of customer touchpoints, combined with increasing data volumes that make it hard for humans to crunch the numbers. Secondly, micro-moments and fractured buying journeys make it necessary to optimize the marketing message in real time, something that simply cannot be done manually.
AI and ML augment already existing marketing technology, and at the same time, create completely new ways to make marketing more efficient, from real-time personalized merchandising to chatbots that can answer customer questions and take orders. The use of AI and ML within marketing is evolving and is rapidly shifting from early adoption to broad acceptance. Most modern "searchandizing engines," eCommerce platforms, and e-mail marketing tools already use some AI and ML to optimize marketing and sales effectiveness. Voice recognition services like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple's Siri, and Google Home are already assisting us with everyday tasks, including shopping.
Most companies want to sell more products and increase revenue. To do that they need to be more relevant than their competitors when presenting their products to customers in each micro-moment. Relevancy is no longer just about adapting to customer personas; it is about the person. What makes things even more complicated, it is also about the customer’s intent, as some shoppers are prepared to buy and some are only in research mode; some are looking for a birthday gift, and others a solution to a problem. You have to be relevant and tell the right product story to all of them, in their context, in real-time.
The answer to achieving real-time relevancy is not to simply just buy all the new shiny pieces of hyped-up software—especially if you do not have the content in place that can act as the fuel for the AI and ML engines. If you do not already have the content, you need to start by producing it before you can create better customer experiences by reaping the benefits of the new marketing technology. To keep up with new product launches and increasing customer expectations, creating the content is not a one-off thing either. It needs to be an ongoing process that continues to churn out high-quality product stories.
This constant production process of product stories, continuously improving itself to produce more content with higher quality is what I call a "content creation factory." Its sole purpose is to create better customer experiences, fuel all the new initiatives and take advantage of the enormous possibilities that the new AI-powered marketing technology brings. So the time has come to say goodbye to "Product Information Management" because it is no longer enough just to manage information. It needs to evolve into "Product Marketing" as the new purpose is telling better product stories that increase the customer experience by fueling and taking advantage of an AI-powered marketing tech stack.
Johan Boström, Co-founder and Evangelist, inRiver