Winter Edition 2022
Welcome to the belated Winter edition of Freeform Focus. Apologies for publishing a bit later in the season than usual, but 2022 brought one of the busiest starts to a year we have ever seen. This is probably no coincidence. As we touch on in our first article below, many in our industry seem to have taken the end of 2021 as a ‘punctuation point’ between the challenges of the last two years and a new forward-looking period of optimism. Hope you feel the same way, and enjoy what we’ve put together for you this time around.
- Freeform Dynamics Team
In this issue
IT teams getting back to strategic business
The importance of a good partner proposition
IT teams getting back to strategic business
As 2021 was drawing to a close, Freeform Dynamics surveyed 52 UK-based CIOs on their plans and priorities for the first half of the coming year. We use insights from studies like this to take a step back and consider where IT leaders are planning to invest. This in turn allows us to focus future research and content on the themes that really matter to technology decision makers.
Beyond the detail, however, a few very striking and positive data points emerged.
The picture we see here, which is corroborated by in-depth one-to-one discussions, suggests that IT teams are now very much regrouping following one of the most challenging periods in many peoples’ careers. Particularly encouraging is so many CIOs highlighting significant new activity relating to strategic initiatives with a long term focus.
This bodes well for IT teams, the businesses they work in, and the suppliers that serve them.
Other findings from the survey revealed that IT transformation is an implicit part of teams moving forward effectively and with confidence. As part of this, CIOs are looking to reorganise, refocus and retrain their staff to make better use of modern technology, services and delivery methods. Again it’s good news for suppliers as change and transformation generally translates to increased opportunity.
If you are interested in seeing more results from this survey, click here to see the full infographic.
The importance of a good
Most customers buy from the IT channel so it's critical that your partners are motivated to sell the solutions that are important to you. This is particularly the case when introducing new or unfamiliar products and services into the mix. Unless you take steps to lay out why it’s in the partner’s interests to switch time and resources, they’ll continue to focus on what they’re used to, which may include competitor offerings.
This might seem obvious when you say it, but all too often we see marketing teams doing a great job on customer messaging and related sales tools, but failing to articulate a clear and compelling proposition to the partner. Sometimes there’s an assumption that partners will work it out for themselves, and some of them will. But many - particularly those representing multiple vendors with significant ‘run rate’ business - often need to be prompted to lift their heads and take notice.
So what might you include in a partner proposition? Well you could highlight how your solution will help them stand out in a noisy market to drive increased pipeline, or allow them to change the customer conversation to boost conversion rates, increase deal value and create account stickiness. The specifics will depend on the product and type of partner, but the point is that the customer and partner propositions are different, and attention needs to be paid to both. And as a final thought, don’t be afraid to market *to* partners as well as *through* them!
It's never too early to discuss payment models
Many IT acquisitions start from a basis of: “we have a requirement and this budget, what do we do?”. Today, however, there's a multitude of ways in which your customers can pay for IT. Some of these will suit you better than others, and may even represent competitive weaponry. So, don’t leave the question of payment and financing models until the end of the sales process. Introduce it into the conversation early, even at the marketing stage, so you can take control and gain additional leverage.
Build sustainability into digital transformation
Calls for greater sustainability can sometimes feel like noise, especially for a manufacturer who’s already wrestling with other demands - and in particular, with the digital industrial transformation better known as Industry 4.0. Turn it around though, and pretty much everything that’s required for Industry 4.0 is also needed for sustainability and the broader ESG (environmental, social and governance) agenda. Help clients to start thinking of these as flip-sides of the same coin, and everything could start to make more sense, including your proposition.
A first-hand SMB perspective
At Freeform Dynamics, we cherish our SMB status. We can be more agile, focus on what we like doing, and go that extra mile when serving clients. An ongoing frustration, however, is selecting tech for our own use. Too often we get offered cut-down enterprise solutions that bring a lot of high-end baggage with them. Vendors serious about selling to SMBs need to focus on genuine simplification, not just hiding complexity!
Good design requires effective collaboration
In today’s world of short attention spans and content overload, everyone wants to make their material stand out, and creating visual impact is one of the best ways to achieve this. The problem is that during the design process, the visuals can all too easily end up deviating from the original source material. Even though the graphics stand out, the intended message is lost along the way.
Such issues occur when the authoring and creative parts of the process are handled by separate people who don’t have the opportunity to properly communicate. As an example, we sometimes see this happening when industry analyst content is passed onto a design agency to produce an infographic. The designer can latch onto the wrong things and spend time working up metaphors and imagery that look highly engaging, but miss the point and even cause confusion with the intended audience.
This is one of the reasons we brought design in-house at Freeform Dynamics. Our creative lead - Laura - is included directly and early on in the process to work up concepts and ideas interactively with the analyst and research team. Templates to capture ideas for visuals such as iconography are useful here, with iterations going back and forth over chat. For trickier jobs, however, discussing and developing concepts usually happens in real time via web conference. Either way, it’s always interesting to see a barely comprehensible analyst sketch turned into something meaningful and attractive in front of your eyes!
The main thing we’ve learned over the past few years of operating in this way is that no matter who is involved, you’ll always get a better result if design takes place collaboratively as an integral part of the overall content delivery process.
Analyst profile: Dale Vile
Role: CEO and Distinguished Analyst
(In)famous for: Having strong opinions and not being afraid to express them, and generally being impervious to industry hype.
Passions and interests: Beyond the wife, kids and cats, I love tinkering with and learning about any and all technology. My other big passion is photography, including wildlife photography out on our local salt marshes. Apart from the fresh air and exercise, this gives me yet more opportunities to play with tech. I’m a bit of what they call a ‘gearhead’ in the photography circles.
Biggest challenges at work: Balancing time between what really interests me and what pays the bills. Luckily these are mostly in sync but when they’re not I’m easily distracted.
Most rewarding part of the job: Getting to speak with and learn from people across the industry who know a lot more than me.
Best advice for briefing with analysts: Be open and honest. Appreciate that analysts are not journalists; they’re not looking for a scoop or to catch you out. Their main concern is to represent you accurately and fairly to your potential customers.
Modernising desktop delivery: has WFH broken the dam?
The need to rethink desktop delivery has been building for years. That’s because as digitisation proceeds it becomes ever harder, more complex and costly to supply and support the ‘digital workspaces’ that most process and knowledge workers now rely on.
And in too many cases, the pandemic made things worse. IT departments did an incredible job enabling home-working at very short notice, but corners were often cut, technical debt built up, and inconsistencies crept in as organisations bought and used whatever equipment they could get.
Look at the results, however, and for many users and IT departments it was like a dam breaking. Things they’d been blocked from doing for years, like working remotely and using public cloud, were now not just possible but almost mandatory.
Change often requires a compelling event or tipping point – it needs to break through before it’s enveloped and suffocated by organisational inertia. Could the post-pandemic clearance of technical debt be the tipping point that’s needed for companies to modernise their desktop delivery processes and structures?