Why You Need to Develop Buyer Personas
Author: Paul Arnold
Do you know your future customers? Probably not, reading the future is not in many people's skill sets. However, with some research and educated guesses, you can build a picture of future clients.
This process is called developing buyer personas. Buyer personas are composite pictures of your typical customers. There are a quite a few benefits to creating buyer personas, but the biggest ones are:
If you are considering beginning a sales and marketing campaign for your cloud SaaS business, you must create buyer personas. They are the heart of sales and marketing.
However, even if a plan isn't in the works, any business can benefit from in-depth knowledge about their customers.
How To Create A Buyer Persona
Creating buyer personas requires a lot of research and conducting deep customer insights. The more you do, and the broader you get, the better understanding you will have of prospective clients. You can begin with a survey of your current customers.
The survey should cover everything from basic demographics of buyers and companies, to asking about their current problems or strengths as they relate to your product.
What you are trying to find out is who and why a company would buy your service, the size of the business, their budgets, markets, and other information that helps you understand the ‘pains’ the company is experiencing.
But, the most significant question you will want to ask is, why do they take some actions and not others? Why would they use your service? Why would they consider working with your company?
But don't just research your current customers, you will also want to get out and talk to prospective customers, current employees, and communicate with other stakeholders in your industry and beyond.
The best employees to speak with about your prospective clients is your sales staff. They are the ones out on the front lines of marketing. They are on the streets and in the meetings learning about emerging needs of businesses. Speak with them and get a first-hand account of what they experience.
The next thing you want to do is compile all the data into one document. Then comes the next step, finding the trends.
Trend and Habits
After the data is compiled, start looking for patterns. What kinds of actions do your customers repeat? Are there trends that are specific to one group and not to another? Look for trends within industries, regions, size of budgets, etc. Look for patterns that explain behaviours or decisions within a company.
As you discover and list the trends, your buyer personas are going to emerge.
Create a buyer persona with a name and a representative photo and assign those habits and trends to the persona. Make up a name for the persona, because this will help during marketing meetings and keep things organised. This will give you a broad picture of who is buying your products, and who is most likely to buy your products.
How Many Personas Do You Need?
You need to create as many as you need to represent your customer segments. If you do business with a variety of industries, you may want to create a persona for each one. Or, if you do a lot of business with one company or government agency, you might want to create buyer personas for each of their departments.
There might also be a lot of differences between the people in your customer segments. These differences can range from education to cultures to geography. If necessary, you may want to create a persona based on one those demographics.
After all, a prospective client with a University degree in one area may have much different buying habits than a client with a University degree in another region.
Don't worry about having too many or too few personas. The idea is to understand the people most likely to benefit from your product. And, ultimately, direct your marketing towards them.
There are a lot of buyer persona resources available on the internet such as the HubSpot Tool - https://www.hubspot.com/make-my-persona
Buyer personas are a powerful tool for companies. If your company is considering a change to their sales and marketing campaign or want a better understanding of your market before going to market and raising investment, consider doing research and creating some buyer personas or, reach out to the Vivolution team who will be glad to answer any questions you may have. Contact us at email@example.com
How to Defend Against a Cyber-Attack
Author: Kevin Lonergan
Cyber-attacks are on the rise, as more companies undergo digital transformation and customers demand easier and more convenient access to information and services.
That means the risks and the stakes for companies responsible for data security are also on the rise, and focusing exclusively on preventing breaches is no longer enough.
Detecting active compromises inside IT environments as part of an incident detection and response (IDR) program is critical for effective cybersecurity. Here are our tips for defending against a cyber attack, and a list of ways that IBM Channel Partners could potentially help:
Cyber atatcks defense starts here, with a comprehensive view of both internal and external network activity and workloads. After all, it’s impossible to secure data if you don’t know where it is and what it is.
Visibility starts with the full knowledge of all the systems and data used by your organisation. A common challenge is monitoring actions taken off the corporate network, such as through cloud services or travelling/remote workers. If your business is using cloud services and cognitive technologies, then you’ll want to use a safe and secure network and infratrcture, like the IBM Channel Partner Cloud, to act as the foundation of your corporate structure.
This intelligence is the foundation on which the rest of your IDR plan should rest.
2 DATA COLLECTION
Centralised logging and endpoint monitoring are key components of a successful plan.
Collecting and analysing logs as well as installing endpoint monitoring solutions may require a significant initial investment. However, just as with gaining visibility into your systems and the data on them, data collection is essential for knowing what’s going on in your systems, both historically and in real time. This makes deep analysis of threats and proactive hunting, as well as coordinated responses by your organisation, possible. Intelligent enterprise solutions start with an awareness of the technology you are using – with IBM, you have acccess to the most mature and secure network possible, without compromising useability or functionality.
3 MONITORING THE ENTIRE ATTACK SURFACE
Cloud-based tools from IBM Channel Partners have made today’s workforce more productive than ever before. Employees can now work wherever and whenever they choose, benefiting professionals and enterprises alike.
But this added convenience comes with a price: greater exposure to cybersecurity risk. The solution is not to stop using these important tools or to prevent employees from using outside networks—without them, you cannot remain competitive—but to properly monitor and manage their use. In addition to properly securing endpoints and access to outside networks, applying advanced analytics to your data allows you to detect stealthy behaviour and prioritize where to hunt.
4 WORKING WITH YOUR PEOPLE
Security tools, no matter how good, can only be as effective as the people and strategy behind them.
That’s why a healthy Identification Defense Response plan also calls for tight coordination between IT and security teams, as well as key stakeholders across the company. IT teams must be incentivised to give security the same importance as optimising the systems under
their care. This vital “people” element is every bit as important as any other part of a well-developed IDR program.
5 RECOGNITION OF THE ATTACK CHAIN
Attackers typically work through five steps on their way to hacking the systems and data that they have placed in their crosshairs.
1. Infiltration and persistence
3. Lateral movement
4. Mission target
5. Maintaining presence
Most organisations have solid detection around Mission Target, unauthorised access to critical assets. However, many struggle to detect lateral movement and network reconnaissance. Map your detection program to the attack chain—where are
your gaps today?
6 UNDERSTANDING LIKELY THREATS
An understanding of the specific kinds of threats that your organisation will most likely encounter given its line of business—whether it’s a hack on customer data or on trade secrets—is one of the most important parts of an effective IDR program.
This allows you to focus your resources and planning where they will do the most good, for example securing the specific systems holding the most sensitive information.
A cyber-attack threatens not just the IT organisation; it can impact every area of your enterprise. Understanding the depth of the problem helps to invest in preventative measures that can help combat threats. IBM Channel Partners use a dynamic approach when it comes to security – monitoring threats in a way that allows you to prevent breaches before they happen. Don’t be reactive, think proactive.
7 AN ORGANISATION-WIDE WORKFLOW
A cyber-attack threatens not just the IT organisation; it can impact every area of your enterprise.
It’s vital to build an incident response plan, review it, and put it to the test. This includes when to loop in external parties and expectations around responding to incidents. Planning and testing your workflows will give your team the muscle memory to take swift action and lead with confidence. IBM has one of the most responsive cyber security systems in place, with a tried-and-tested method that will ensure that you stablise a security a breach as soon as possible.
IBM is an innovative market leader when it comes to facing cybersecurity threats, which means you can rest assured that your data, customers, privacy, and business are all safe from threats. By confronting the cybersecurity threats head on, IBM guarantee that your business is in safe hands.
To register your interest and to learn more about the IBM Channel Partner solutions then, reach out to Vivolution who will be delighted to make the connections – Find out more; get in touch today at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Justin Birley
The Ethical Implications of AI
Artificial Intelligence, and the technology that accompanies it, has always had to endure the somewhat problematic issue of ethics. While it often increases the efficiency with which simple and not so simple tasks can he completed, it has proven difficult to set up checks and balances, ensure privacy regulations are being met, and that automation processes don’t go haywire. In this blog we’ll explore how the healthcare industry is particularly affected by the ethical implications of AI and seek to conclude whether there is scope for the widescale implementation of these technologies in the near future. We’ll also discuss IBM Channel Partners innovative role in providing secure systems and innovative platforms for developing ethical AI that look set to change the nature of this debate forever.
AI in Healthcare
Many of these questions have been at the core at the core of the recent healthcare debates. Hospitals are often understaffed, leading to issues with the quality of care, and most departments are often stretched to their limit or worse, significantly beyond that limit. Perhaps even more worrying is the fact that archaic technology and inefficient systems and processes are still rife within the healthcare sector. Nowhere is this more evident than in the NHS, with reports emerging that over 900 deaths a year can be attributed to poor NHS technology and systems. The report came after several warnings that the NHS was not meeting basic requirements for Cyber Security and that it was prone to extortion and malicious malware. This raises serious concerns over the viability of current technology and has led many to assert that AI and new technology, when implemented safely, can provide some much-needed respite.
But how do we use AI properly? How do we stop it from exacerbating the issues already present within so many systems? And, most importantly, how do we use it ethically?
The big issue is deciding whether AI will be assisting people or providing the decisions altogether. For example, who decides the underlying values and principles that govern the algorithms of the technology? Various cultural and scientific opinions can create perfectly ‘ethical’ systems that simply adhere to a different definition of ethics, creating a semblance of morality that is still fundamentally at odds with other definitions (read algorithms) of ethics.
Introducing AI into healthcare won’t get rid of uncertainty and disagreement over which action to take; if anything, it will promulgate these differences on a wider scale. The question is how do we manage these ethical questions and what frameworks must be set up to ensure that the underlying moral criteria is being met? For example, for consumer goods, what is the weight of profits versus customer satisfaction and safety and who is responsible for that balance? Is it the consumer, the manufacturer, or an external regulatory body?
More than anything, these are questions we ourselves must learn to answer before we can rely on AI to implement these opinions. AI won’t remove the debate; we’ll still need to decide for ourselves what we, as a society, think is ethical and how AI can implement that fairly. As a result, more needs to be done to ensure that infrastructures are in place to provide the supporting network that AI needs to function ethically.
IBM and the future of AI
AI will continue to push innovation and development, allowing comprehensive systems to emerge, almost organically, from the big data that feeds our technology. For many developers and thinkers alike, IBM Channel Partners have become a crucial driver in the development and research into AI, which is underpinned by the increasing number of mobile Apps that make use of their wide range of API’s.
Not only does IBM provide a level of cyber security that is both unprecedented and reliable, but the infrastructure that governs the IBM Channel Partner platforms and systems provides a new level of data security and privacy that is particularly relevant for health techs and other sectors concerned with ethics. IBM’s major goal has been, and will continue to be, moving to a human-level of intelligence, which is where we’ll start to really see the widescale adoption of AI technologies in a variety of different sectors. As AI becomes more comprehensive and pervasive, we must ensure that systems are in place that build user trust and motivate innovation.
Vivolution is a big believer in that process. As a result, we’ve helped countless businesses and IBM Channel Partners connect in ways that push the possibilities of technology, cognitive decision making and AI closer together with healthtech scale-ups delivering innovative solutions. Contact us today for more information about the work we do and how IBM Channel Partners can help drive your AI and technological growth forward, in a collaborative and innovative approach.
How to engage with Disruptors Earlier
Author: Andrew McGee
Before any disruptor can cause a shift in the market – a ripple, if you will – they need the right systems and processes to do so. Often this means investing in the right partnerships and relationships that can aid them in making that transition from a big idea into a big game changer.
For IBM Channel Partners the challenge is, and always has been, to catch these start-ups and disruptors before they start to make that ripple, one that will eventually turn into a wave. It is at this point that start-ups need the right resources to help them avoid common growing pains. But, without the right acquisition strategy, it becomes increasingly difficult for IBM Channel Partners to find and qualify the right start-ups and disruptors. Plus, how do you recognise a disruptor before they’ve had an impact?
It raises a tricky question of how, but also when, to engage with disruptors and scale-ups, and at what stage. Vivolution has several years of experience facilitating the relationship between channel partners and scale-ups, and in this blog, we outline some of the most important points when it comes to engaging start-ups and ensuring that you have a sales-funnel full of qualified leads with a high probability of growing.
Understand the Process
Understanding the challenges and needs of start-ups will help you identify what stage they are at and whether they have the potential to grow out of these challenges and emerge as a real disruptor. Finding out what systems they depend on currently can help you to propose changes. A quick glance over their website should reveal plenty of clues, but if you don’t take the time to analyse these findings, you’ll just end up cold-calling. It’s when you take the time to understand their infrastructure and propose certain cognitive technology or API’s that really work for them that they’ll begin to see the value of your input.
This will also help you discover who their ideal buyer persona is – as a result, you’ll be able to find out much more about what’s important to the longevity of their business. After all, each and every business starts by understanding their client base. Even if your product is as good as you say it is.
Research and statistics only get you so far. After that point, you need the human element to provide a competitive advantage over other innovation labs and competitors. Attending events, engaging in meaningful conversations, and understanding the needs of their business is crucial in understanding them as a potential client and moving them from a start-up to your start-up. Asking them directly what their pains are and addressing these with specific solutions helps show them that there are measurable ways to add value to any given business without taking unnecessary risks. Nothing is more important to a start-up if they are going to trust you with their future growth.
It’s not a sales pitch, it’s a conversation
Too often Channel Partners insist on using technical lingo and letting sales pitches dominate the conversation. Focus on them. It’s not about your knowledge or your products; it’s about how you can nurture them into your process: the IBM way of doing things. To truly engage them, you need to be as innovative as the products you offer, by providing personal examples that relate to their sector, their business, and their situation.
This conversation starts by writing blogs, designing social posts, and coming up with helpful infographics and videos to illustrate the process, not just sell it. Features and products are all important, but the applications and relevancy of these to unique scaling models is of more interest to these young, often erratic, businesses.
Vivolution is the bridge between Channel Partners and Start-ups
Vivolution facilitates the engagement between the scale-up business and IBM Channel Partners; tapping into technical expertise, and systems whilst shaping the routes-to-market strategy via the international channel partners and their clients.
This creates the opportunity for the Channel Partners and IBM to demonstrate their ability to introduce innovative emerging technology scale ups to their global clients whilst growing the usage of the IBM Power Cloud and creating a funnel of next generation enterprise clients who have the hunger to grow.
At Vivolution we help IBM Channel Partners to find and nurture the most qualified start-ups and growth drivers in a proven approach. Contact us today to uncover the innovative healthtech and fintech solutions which Scotland is renowned for; developed by industry entrepreneurs, clinicians and academics.
How to Scale Your
How to choose a product development company
Author: Dr Gavin Scruby
I wrote this article after helping someone who had to engage a product development company for the first time. It's not really for people who work in product development professionally, or for larger projects. Nevertheless, it does contain though a lot of things I wish I'd known earlier in my own career when comparing product development partners.
Introduction at some point you may have a software product idea that you need to turn into reality. This can be both an exciting and a scary time. Often, you won’t have the development skills to build a product yourself so you’ll almost inevitably need to engage an agency or software development company to help. It’s a big step though to take your carefully nurtured idea and release it into someone else’s hands. This relationship can end up fractious and acrimonious even at the best of times, so choosing the best partner is incredibly important. I should note that this guide is aimed at people with little or no software product experience, taking on projects between £10K and about £200K. If they get much larger, you really should consider engaging professional expertise.
Right now, I work with both sides of this process: as a buyer in my role as CIO of SmartDebit and as supplier in my non-exec director role at Open Frequency. However, I've experienced both sides of this divide for many years, so I thought it might be helpful to note some things I wish I'd known earlier in my career.
I should point out here that it doesn’t matter whether it’s an app, a website or an enterprise software system, or whether you represent a company or an individual; the same concerns apply when choosing a partner. You will also have to be aware that for no sinister reasons, not all suppliers will suit all clients – their working processes just have to click with yours.
One often overlooked way to smooth this whole process is to hire in your own specialist product manager or project manager, separate from the product development company. This can look like a needless expense, but I've saved people significant amounts of time and money with just a few days consultancy. It really helps to have someone who has walked the walk on your side.
If you're going to do this yourself though, these are some areas that I've found are of particular interest: the company itself, its skills and ability to deliver, common gotchas and contractual considerations. There's far more of course that could be said, but these form a good basis for comparison.
The companyAn important thing to consider with any agency is its history and track record. Apart from the obvious checks that it's still going to be here tomorrow, you need to look at how customers are treated. Make sure you verify the following:
Repeat businessHappy customers come back. Dissatisfied ones don’t. Ask them how many of their customers come back, and crosscheck this with their promotional material.
Credible larger clientsThis isn’t because larger clients are better; it’s because they show that the business is real and has been able to attract, engage and deliver to a company that is likely to be bigger, more experienced and difficult to please than an individual or small company. Smaller agencies won't always have this, but larger clients have no issue using small agencies for work, so this evidence may well be there.
Available referencesIt goes without saying that if they have happy clients, those clients will be willing to talk to you. Even if you don’t want to talk to them, get the names and contact details anyway so you know they exist.
Product historyThis is an odd one, but important if you’re taking a product to market. You want to verify how much work the company has done producing real products, rather than one-off campaigns. Campaign apps are not products. Many agencies carry out a lot of “fire and forget” deliveries for single events. It can be their sole service. These don’t need the same kind of quality, scalability and processes in place to be delivered. You need to make sure that the agency (and the individuals within it) have experience delivering products with a lifetime longer than a few months. If they don’t get this right, it’s like trying to build a house on sand when you come to extend and scale your product.
How does it feel meeting them?It might seem an obvious question, but do you get on with them? It's not just about money. They have to feel right to fit with your way of working (or vice versa). In a relationship that will be tested when things inevitably start to fray, you need to know that your working relationship will be solid. Are they reasonable? Are they responsive? Do they get frustrated easily? Do they have the same ethos as you?
Skills and ability to deliverYou’ve found a supplier you trust who has the right track record. You now need to check that they have the right skills to deliver your particular product end-to-end. Just remember that a chain is only as good as its weakest link so if they fail in one of these areas, it may affect the whole project.
Business analysisThe business analysis stage is where you take your ideas and turn them into detailed requirements, like a low-level set of schematics. It’s often helpful to have an independent consultant help with this so you know fully what you want before going to a supplier. That way things don’t get missed. If you do leave it to the agency, make sure you find out if they will estimate costs before scoping or whether there’s a significant outlay first before they will produce an estimate or quote. Have a look at the kind of information they’ll produce during the business analysis phase. If it is comprehensive you can at least make a decision whether to go somewhere else for the build if the quote is too high.
User ExperienceUser experience (UX) is the modern term that includes user interface design. Sometimes it includes actual drawing and designing graphics for the interface but it can also just mean designing how the product will flow, what should be on each screen and how it should be laid out. Have a look at the supplier’s previous projects to see if the user flow is good and if it looks clean and modern. Many people have trouble recognising good design so if you have a design-professional friend, get them involved too.
GraphicsIf the supplier provides graphic design services separately from its products and UX, have a look at their other design materials too. Their designers will do the products as well so you can get a good idea of their product results from any design work they’ve done. If they don’t have designers, find out how they do graphics. If they use external people you may get charged cost rates for any extra work done during development rather than having the flexibility of in-house staff.
If you like their website, ask them if they developed it themselves. I’ve seen seen several agencies that get someone else to build their site when it’s a service they claim to offer expertise in themselves. If on the other hand you don’t like their website, why are you considering them as an agency?
DevelopmentLook at the pedigree of the supplier’s programmers. What have they done? Anything recognisable or big? How much experience do they have in the technologies needed for your project? Programming skills are probably the hardest thing to assess in product development, so you’ll need to rely on CVs, experience level and previous projects.
If you have engaged your own independent specialist, he or she can also vet the supplier for skills that would be relevant to the way he or she thinks your project should be built, or even help negotiate that approach with the supplier.
TestingHow does the supplier test things? Do they employ specialist (and ISEB or equivalently qualified) testers? What is their test regimen? Do they have automated testing as well as manual testing? What are considered passing and failing bugs (this is important to define at contract as something that may be really important to you may just be trivial or below the fix threshold for a supplier - check how they define acceptable issues)?
Early live supportWhat’s their warranty once you go live? How long is it valid for? What is out of scope? What's on paper may look good, but here’s where talking to previous clients can really help.
Ongoing relationshipWhat happens once your product is built, deployed and being used? Give some thought to how you will work with the agency thereafter, and whether you need specific terms in the contract to handle this. If you will be hiring your own team, make sure the handover costs are defined and that any essential documentation is included. If you want to continue the relationship with the agency, make sure you have a good idea of the costs and rates for follow-up work.
Company sizeIt doesn't really matter how big the supplier is. What matters is what resources can they draw upon when things go wrong. What happens if their key programmer is ill? Who is going on holiday during your project? What happens if a much more important client needs something done in the middle of your project? It's worth investigating the back-up resources available to you. For a small company, there may be nothing, but at least you can tell if they consider it a risk that they will take seriously. You can also investigate how they deal with some of the situations we've mentioned.
GotchasThere are some general things to check with a supplier. You could incur significant cost down the line if they're not clear. If the company is reputable, they should be happy to answer:
Contractual considerationsThat last point leads us onto contracts. With a software project there are a number of important things to consider in the contract itself, to make sure you don't get caught out. It's not that suppliers are often trying to fool you, but what is standard practice for them may not be obvious to a new customer. For example, you really need to make sure there are no hidden costs or licences involved that get exposed on delivery and that all Intellectual Property (IP) transfers to you at the end of the project. I’ve seen people get caught by suppliers who keep ownership of IP to lock the client in to them.
Let's look at some example clauses that might usefully be included. Of course, the notes below do not constitute legal advice and are not written in legal format: you should get all contracts drafted by a qualified lawyer. These are just some pointers to common things I've seen tripping people up:
Final thoughtsThis guide only scratches the surface of things you might consider. Different issues and considerations will appear for different kinds of project and supplier. The best approach is to engage a specialist who can help: on supplier assessment, business plan and contract analysis. Of course, when you're on a tight budget, that's not always possible - I've been there too. Hopefully I've provided some ideas on the types of things to assess when looking at potential partners.
The last thing to mention is that you never get this kind of analysis right 100% of the time. Even experts won't, so don't get too hung up on details - just make sure you're comfortable with the larger points. Good luck!