ET Developer Evangelists: A Look Back…and Forward

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ET Developer Advocates: A Look Back...and Forward

We explore how our Developer Evangelists have impacted IBM–and what’s next for the team.

Over the years, IBM Emerging Technologies has established a reputation for developing very cool stuff. Part of our mission is to advocate new and emerging technologies for IBM, our customers, and the communities we are a part of. In fact, we’ve been doing just that for 20 years with our Developer Evangelists. While evangelizing new technologies may sound simple, in practice, it’s a lot of hard work: creating demos for technologies that may be undergoing rapid changes and iterations, putting together compelling illustrations of how a tech might be used in many vertical businesses–and it’s potential impact on those verticals. Speaking at conferences, conventions, and meet-ups around the world. And hoping that when we’re up on stage, our demos actually work. Murphy (and his law) occasionally like to make an appearance when we’re on stage. So what it really means is a lot of code, a lot of demonstrations, a lot of frequent flier miles, and a lot of hard work. All for one reason: an attempt to put out to the tech community what we’ve been exploring, and what the potential business impact of those technologies may be. And that in turn feeds directly into our role in Emerging Technologies: identifying, creating, demonstrating, and delivering solutions based on new technologies that eventually turn into IBM products, technologies our partners can leverage, as well as contributions to the open source community.

Sometimes it feels like we’re speaking another language. And that can be literally true as the technology is often brand new and changing (as is the business model). However, what’s always been amazing is the feedback we always receive about the new technologies we’ve dived into. Even better: that feedback goes right back into IBM as a vehicle to advocate change, influence product development, or even help us decide what makes for a good investment or not. When you think about it that way, the role of advocacy of new technologies is a critical piece in how we evaluate technology.

Bluemix: how ET Developer Evangelists impacted IBM

Which all sounds good, but how about a practical example? Over the course of the past two years, Emerging Technologies has been home to a group of Developer Evangelists focused solely on IBM’s cloud platform, Bluemix. We’ve been creating business based demos, building on new capabilities and services as they’ve rolled out onto the platform, and listening to the feedback the community has given us. We then in turn, would pass along that feedback to the platform, providing a very real and direct line from Bluemix’s initial target market of early adopter developers right back to the platform team.

Real results

In fact, the Developer Evangelists traveled over 1 million miles, attended over a 150 conferences and seminars around the planet, created dozens of demos and apps for the platform illustrating the use of most of the services available (at the time) on the platform. We were early adopters of Watson services, of Watson Internet of Things, of mobile and analytics services. And we even were frequent contributors, on the internal IBM side of the equation, to efforts to help diagnose and help understand when things didn’t exactly go right. In essence, we were the advocates not only for IBM, but also for the developers who were trying to use the services and offerings on Bluemix.

ET Developer Evangelists David Barnes and Niklas Heidloff prepare for a video shoot at Javaland 2016.

ET Developer Evangelists David Barnes and Niklas Heidloff prepare for a video shoot at Javaland 2016.

“…in 2015, when we presented and participated at conferences and seminars, Bluemix noted an uptick of +12.9% in conversions. This not only meant more people were signing up for the platform, but that those very same people were 24.7% more likely to convert into paying customers and actually increased subscriptions to the platform by 46.7%.”

And what an impact we had: in 2015, when we presented and participated at conferences and seminars, Bluemix noted an uptick of +12.9% in conversions. This not only meant more people were signing up for the platform, but that those very same people were 24.7% more likely to convert into paying customers and actually increased subscriptions to the platform by 46.7%.

How did we do this? Simple: by showing people what they could do with the platform. It wasn’t magic (well, it may have seemed like that at the time), it was going out and showing the market not only what they could do with Bluemix, but more importantly, how easy it was to do really cool things. And the market listened. Bluemix registrations have gone through the roof. Actual customer signups have increased so much in the past three years, that in Bluemix’s first 18 months of availability, it actually surpassed the number of registrations that some of our competitors had…in their first five years of existence. Although we’d never suggest that our team was responsible for that (Bluemix’s teams are very talented and did all of the heavy lifting regarding creating and promoting the platform), we did lend a hand in helping the market understand the potential of the platform, and to be curious enough to give it a good kick in the tires. And given the conversion and pay/subscription numbers, we know that folks who signed up during our events were much more likely to actually become paying customers.

IBM Emerging Technologies CTO, David Boloker, at CeBIT Australia, 2016.

IBM Emerging Technologies CTO, David Boloker, at CeBIT Australia, 2016.

A retrospective: it’s time to move on.

So why are we talking about this? Well, our time as Emerging Technologies Developer Evangelists for Bluemix has come to an end. Oh, the role of developer evangelists for the platform won’t end–there are now new teams that have been stood up by IBM to maintain the relationship with developers, and to show the market all the cool new stuff that is being rolled out for the platform (almost on a daily basis). But for Emerging Technologies, as with all of our projects, at some point it becomes time to move on. While we will absolutely continue to leverage and develop for the platform, we’re now focused on advocating and demo’ing the next new techs that we’ve been busily exploring in parallel to the evangelist activity. With this in mind, we’re very much looking forward to chatting with you, face-to-face, about the new techs–and toys–we’ve been working on. You might have seen our other posts talking about Conversational Commerce. And of course our Dynamic Dashboards work. There’s also interesting work being by our team on mobile security and identification, as well as bringing Spark to IBM’s big iron technologies. And then there’s work on multi-modal, IoT, and techs we’re working on to make developer’s lives a bit easier as the spider web of techs continues to accelerate and grow faster and faster. More on that to come.

To infinity and beyond

But we wanted to take a moment, reflect, and share with you our thoughts and fond memories of working on evanglizing and advocating Bluemix for the past three years. While still remembering all of the good people (both IBMers and non-IBMers) that we’ve had the pleasure of working with, we’re also proud of the impact we’ve been able to have on a company with the size and momentum of IBM: it was fun, exciting, and satisfying work. But as the platform (and any technology, for that matter) matures, our mission dictates that we move on to the next new shiny object–even while we continue to develop for and support Bluemix. In fact, many of our new projects are based on Bluemix. Stay tuned, we have a boatload of things to share with you for the second half of 2016…and beyond.

While we may transitioning away from the developer evangelism for Bluemix (we've had a great time working with the team) ET will be continuing evangelism for other projects in 2016...and beyond.

While we may transitioning away from the developer evangelism for Bluemix (we’ve had a great time working with the team) ET will be continuing evangelism for other projects in 2016…and beyond.

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