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Archive for February 22nd, 2010

Technology Evangelism Demystified – Part II February 22nd, 2010

Vinod Kumar

The Part-I on Evangelism has been well received and I got a number of queries / questions that I thought this blog post will try to demystify. Obviously, there is a lot we can learn together and this is my understanding of Evangelism from the bottom of my heart. As I shared the passion around the topic on my previous post, this post can surely bring some interesting aspects to how one perceives “Technology Evangelism”. These might not be actually what the industry wants to define Evangelism as, but I wish it does someday.

As I start diving deep into the need for Tech. Evangelism, are organizations really clear about what / how they want to Evangelize their products / services? Or are current organizations making this as a buzzword to play at a level ground with their competition? I will surely try to stay away from these questions as they seem too basic and sometimes even shake some of the fundamentals we take for granted for what Technology Evangelism stands. At the core, Evangelism boils down to individuals and their passion to spread the word in something they believe in-deeply. If they believe in the products, services and the organization they work, then they are currently in their dream-job in my opinion. So, are you in your dream-job? More so in this dream-job if you were to Evangelize these to your customers, community and decision makers then that is what I call as pure “Technology Evangelism”.

Evangelism to me !!!

The source and origins of Evangelism does very much come from the Church and Christianity. But the genesis remains the same. As I read – “if you wish the world to believe what you say, you must live as if you believe what you say … Evangelism is not selling Jesus, but showing Jesus; evangelism is not mere telling about Christ, but about being Christ” – Source

Now it is important to understand that Technology Evangelism is way different than Church Evangelism but they do share the same passion and effect. First, technology is not religion. Believing a technology and being passionate on a technology cannot make it a religion. If you think otherwise, I am sorry – Technology Evangelists can switch religions then :) … A Technology Evangelist talks about how it solves a customer problem using the technology he is passionate about !!!

Evangelism to Organizations

Do organizations really need Evangelism? Infact, almost all organizations do have evangelists in some form or fashion. Just that they are not designated specifically as Evangelists. Anyone believing in a cause and promoting on behalf of your company is a typical Evangelist – Your Customers are your Evangelists for everyone. So don’t question if you need Evangelist or if you have Evangelists within your organization.

Evangelism or Marketing ? – Million $ Question

There is differences in Evangelism and Marketing / Sales in my opinion. Though the thin line that differentiates these two traits, Technology Evangelism is realism a.k.a. sharing of experience in solving a problem of your customers end-of-day and creating a positive perception for using and believing your product / service. Typically, in sessions that I have delivered, I talk about some customer engagement and how my performance tuning exercise solved a critical scenario for my customer. There are always an “Ahaa” expression that I see in my audience. Evangelist are real, many times needs to be hands-on.

On the contrary typical sales person always sees an opportunity to sell their product. Though the end-result of an Evangelist might trigger the same result but not realized immediately. That is what makes Evangelism tough to quantify, measure and explain. My friend Jani does outline some of these aspects in his Part II post … And if I could steal a quote – “Organizations should never treat Evangelists as pre-sales resources”.

Now, Marketing is targeted messaging to influence people and even sometimes influence sales :). But Evangelism is about paving the way to adopt the product in the future. Evangelists are always on cutting-edge products which in many cases might-not be on a product selling catalogue of companies. Creating awareness amongst potential customers and getting them excited is what an passionate Evangelist does. Looking back a decade when I joined the industry, I used to hear this buzzword called .NET by many MS Evangelists. Then, Evangelists talked about this lucid and powerful framework / platform. And now all those Evangelists can be proud that they have paved way for a Technology Adoption a decade down the lane – still going strong :). So Evangelism is not marketing but something beyond that – Changing perception and creating adoption for the future.

Evangelist Vs Fanatics

Technology FanaticYou dont hire an Evangelist, you find them.”

I strongly believe in the fact that Evangelists are intrinsically an Evangelist and they are not made on-job. There is no-way one will take a college kid and turn them around as a rounded Evangelist (exceptions exist though :)). If you read the attributes I outline in my Part-I, these are some qualities one needs to have from with-in.

Now, the fact is – Technology Evangelist is not a fan boy a.k.a fanatic which a lot of people misread. I talked about the realism, customer orientation and finally the demonstration ability to solve a problem is what makes Evangelists standout. But Evangelists are surely opinionated about technology and anything that they experiment – this actually brings the best out of them and the technology. I hope you will next time see this hidden quality before dismissing someone either way.

Not everybody can be an all-around evangelist. It is enough if you find your comfort zone / medium for evangelism. Think about what you love to do the most and then start creating something around it. You will find traces of Technology Evangelism in various avatars – Blogging, Training, Public speaking, Social media, Websites etc. Take a deep breath and see where you are good at. Sharing is more important than “how” you share.

Measuring Evangelism

 “Whether you’re evangelizing to your employees or customers, find the right people, make them feel part of your team, and go make history.”

First, before anyone understands how to measure, the organizations must believe in Evangelism truly and deeply from top-down, all-over. I did call out before that Evangelism is without boundaries and cannot be quantified in anyway. Then the question, how can we measure the impact and results of Evangelism?

During measurement, organizations might call it metrics or anything is just a pulse. Just like our heartbeat to say, we are running too fast or we are idle and hence the rate is normal. It is important that one keeps a tap on this, as it helps in making course correction or make changes that will impact the result in 18-24 months timeframe. That is realism in Evangelism.

I always felt, the work that my earlier colleagues like Gaurav, Jani, Vineet might be reaping fruits today and a legacy of an Evangelist remains even when they are long gone in different paths. That is the power of Evangelism. And if you think there can be a metric to measure this – give me a nudge. Would love to hear from you !!!

Though all these look like theories, these are infact real concerns organizations have. To quote -

“One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety nine who only have interest.” – John Stuart Mill

An typical passionate Evangelist turns every customer, community member he meets as their own Evangelist. And if you have some compelling product or service then you have taken the right step. One needs to understand that Evangelists need to talk the language of their audience – CxO, Developer, Designer, Administrator, Architect etc really dont matter – they just make you feel, they are just like you solving the same problems like you have.

Conclusion

Dont be myopic in judging Evangelists. Evangelists have a passion that is so infectious and you can see the passion in their eyes. Dont think if your Organization needs one or not – Intrinsically, everyone is part of Evangelism inside your organization. We surely have a lot of dimensions to talk, but let me reserve it for the next time !!!

Feel free to pass me your comments.

Related Post: New face of Online Technology Evangelism

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New Web Application Toolkits! February 22nd, 2010

Vinod Kumar

Web Application Toolkits help ASP.NET web developers quickly complete common tasks.  Each Web Application Toolkit download contains reusable assets – e.g. controls, class libraries, endpoints etc. and a sample application that shows how to use them.  Earlier this year 7 Web App Toolkits were launched; IE8 Extensibility, Bing Search, REST Services, Mobile Web Applications, Template-driven Email, Social Web Apps, FAQs. 

What is new !!!

Web App Toolkit for Calendars 1.0

clip_image002Lots of Web sites store and display date information that is personal to their users. Users often want one place to manage their calendar for example Outlook, Windows Live Calendar, Google Calendar and so on. Web sites can make their experience more useful by allowing calendar clients to subscribe or import date information in standards-based formats so that information relating to their service is represented in a user’s primary calendar client. In other Web applications it may be necessary for a user to enter date information that is already in another service or calendaring client. By allowing a user to import or subscribe to a 3rd party calendaring information it makes it easier for the user and also increases the reliability of the data entry.

The goal of this Web Application Toolkit is to provide a standards-based service that can be reused in your own Web application to expose calendaring and events information for different users, using different data formats (iCalendar, XML, JSON). This service follows the REST principles and supports different query string parameters for data filtering: dates range, results count, text query, and so on. Additionally, standing from the client-side, you’ll find examples of how to consume the endpoint using the ASP.NET Ajax Library templates and the hCalendar microformat.

This Toolkit uses the standard iCalendar format as one representation for the calendar information. However, for simplicity purposes it does not support the full iCalendar specification (only Events). Also notice that the REST Service included does not provide support for all the CRUD operations that would be desired in production environment scenarios.

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Web App Toolkit for Bing Maps 1.0

clip_image004A common scenario for Web developers is to provide location based information rendered on an interactive map. For example, showing the location of an office or a store location. The Bing Maps SDKs including the Bing Maps Controls enables developers to incorporate both location and enhanced mapping features into their Web applications.

While creating location-integrated Web applications, developers often want the ability to customize the experience based on Web site branding to make push pins and other map features fit the look and feel of the Web site. This Web Application Toolkit provides reusable assets that tie together location based data from SQL Server 2008 to a Silverlight Web application by using the new rich Silverlight Bing Maps control, combining the power of Silverlight and Bing Maps.

In this Web Application Toolkit you will find a set of reusable custom controls built in Silverlight, which integrated with the Bing Maps Silverlight Control, make a perfect fit for some of the most common location-aware scenarios. With this Toolkit, you will also find a sample Silverlight application showing how to use those controls when implementing a “store locator” scenario on a Web site.

[Take me to this Web App Toolkit]

Web App Toolkit for “Freemium” Applications

clip_image006When offering services via a web site, a popular way to attract first time users is to offer a free version of the software that has limited functionality. A good way to convert that non-paying customer into a paying customer is to offer more functionality and features beyond what is available in the free version and allow the transition between versions to be seamless. This business model of delivering “basic services for free, while charging a premium for advanced or special features” is known as the Freemium business model.

Often developers create custom branches of their core application to enable this type of functionality but this is not the most cost effective solution as maintaining two code-bases is expensive. The migration between different Stock-Keeping Units (SKUs) of the product might also require work on the part of the customer and this is another barrier to adoption.

This Web Application Toolkit offers a more elegant and cost-effective way to solve this problem by using a SKU/Features matrix to manage which features are available in certain SKUs. The Toolkit makes it easy for the developer to ascertain which SKU the current user has paid for and also which functionality should therefore be available to them by using standard ASP.NET Role Management features together with WCF REST Services to retrieve the SKU/Features information.

The Toolkit also provides reusable ASP.NET MVC views and controllers for developers to create admin experiences for managing the SKU/Feature matrix and page templates to explain to customers about the different SKUs or versions available.

[Take me to this Web App Toolkit]

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