Interview: Kalyan Ramanathan, VP of Product Marketing at AppDynamics
Kalyan Ramanathan is the VP of Product Marketing at AppDynamics, the leading Application Intelligence solution provider. Kalyan brings 20 years of experience in software and marketing. He most recently served as CMO at Crittercism, the first mobile app performance management vendor. Previously, Kalyan served as VP of Marketing at Electric Cloud, a DevOps automation leader and as Senior Director of product marketing at Opsware/HP, where he oversaw marketing efforts for the HP data center automation and application performance management suite. Prior to Opsware, Kalyan led product marketing and product management functions at Collation (acquired by IBM) and Portal Software (acquired by Oracle). Kalyan has an MBA from Stanford University.
Like most B2B sales-focused enterprises, the product marketing team is responsible for the following key disciplines at AppDynamics:
Messaging and positioning: In a nutshell, positioning focuses on understanding the target buyer, the problem they face, and articulates the solution features and benefits in a differentiated way to said audience. At AppDynamics, we focus on distilling our company, solution, and product message to address market needs effectively.
Thought leadership: A thought leader is an individual or firm that prospects or clients (and even competitors) recognize as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialization. This results in the thought leader being the go-to individual or organization for said expertise. The product marketing team at AppDynamics constantly explores and executes programs that position us as a thought leader in our space and position our solutions as years ahead of what’s available in the marketplace.
Marketing programs and campaigns support: Marketing programs and campaigns feed the sales funnel. As the market and product subject matter experts, product marketing teams are responsible for supporting various marketing programs, such as public relations, lead generation, and campaigns to keep the funnel healthy and chockfull of prospects.
Sales support: These activities include one-on-one meetings with customers and prospects, as well as creating the right collateral to help the sales team work through the funnel efficiently.
2. What differentiates AppDynamics from rivals, and why would potential customers be better off selecting your solutions over the competitions’?
At AppDynamics, we believe software is transforming businesses around the world and all enterprises are becoming software-defined businesses. Our Application Intelligence Platform provides businesses with real-time, actionable IT and business insights into application performance, user experience, and business outcomes. These insights empower businesses to act timely on precise information about where and when issues arise with respect to their software applications, and to correct them before they significantly impact results or the quality of customers’ experiences.
Other key differentiators include:
AppDynamics believes that there is a need for a common language across Dev, Ops, and the Business side of a company, in order to deliver on the expectations of a software-defined business. That common knowledge is the notion of a business transaction. Our products and solutions are built on the idea of an end-to-end business transaction, so that’s what helps us to deliver on the promise of ensuring application performance and improving user experience, while still delivering on business outcomes.
One unified platform to monitor everything— end user applications, databases, servers, and infrastructures— to provide a comprehensive view of the various components of an application. This comprehensive view enables us to quickly identify and fix user issues.
Our product is extremely easy to download (with a free trial offer) and use. Additionally, our customers can see value almost immediately after deployment. We deliver value from our product in a matter of hours or a few days versus weeks or months like our competitors.
We offer various deployment options (on-premise, cloud, and hybrid), which provide flexibility to our customers.
AppDynamics is a very customer-centric company, as evidenced by our NPS score, which is currently 87. We not only understand our customers’ needs, but also deliver on promises to them.
3. With north of 20 years of experience in the software and marketing space, you’ve no doubt seen a lot of changes and developments. What specific changes or trends do you see in the marketing of software these days compared to when you first started in the industry?
There are a few key trends I’ve seen, especially when it comes to enterprise software.
First, the buying process for enterprise software starts well before the prospect starts talking to the vendor. For example, CEB (Corporate Executive Board) research states that prospects and customers have gone through more than 60% of the buying cycle— identifying the problem, researching and evaluating solutions, understanding price points, narrowing down vendors)— well before starting the conversation with a particular vendor. This is a big trend, which dramatically affects the way we market solutions. Today, we have to understand customers are well-educated before beginning the conversation with us. We must now get ahead of that curve and engage with prospects early in this process through thought leadership content that makes us the go-to company in the market.
Second, the enterprise software market has seen the rise of freemium offerings (free download and try options), which enables potential customers to see the inner workings of a product and evaluate the solutions in their real-world environment before they make the final buying decision.
Lastly, because of the growing consumerization of IT (use of social networks, mobile apps, cloud-based apps), there is an expectation that enterprise IT products be extremely easy to use and provide value very quickly. Companies that don’t support that model are going to be left behind, while companies that do follow the model will be extremely successful.
4. One of the things you’ve covered in your own blog is the importance of monitoring performance metrics. Why is this important, and what are the possible consequences if this is not done?
Monitoring performance metrics is critical for a couple of reasons.
First, you cannot improve what you don’t measure. By not having the right metrics identified and/or not being manically focused on collecting the proper metrics, you will not know where you stand or how to grow/improve.
Secondly, metrics provide you a way to compare your performance against industry benchmarks. Metrics help you understand how you’re doing against your peers in the marketplace— are you better or worse? It also provides the roadmap to focus and improve your positioning against your competitors.
Lastly, metrics provide you the baseline to constantly improve your services. As you keep iterating on your software and services, metrics help you understand if you are improving or regressing with regards to user experience and performance – which is critical to any business.
5. In your opinion, are companies generally aware of, one, the need for performance metrics monitoring and, two, how to do it?
I think most companies are generally aware of the need for performance monitoring. However, while many companies know that tracking end user experiences and business outcomes are extremely important, they struggle to monitor and manage these metrics.
Leading IT organizations have deployed best-in-class solutions to monitor user experiences and business outcomes, while the laggards are still focused on managing server (and other application components). The problem is that the bottom-up component monitoring doesn’t focus or monitor the end user experience, which are the metrics that matter.
6. How can a company go about developing the sort of corporate culture where things like the monitoring of performance metrics is a given?
There are two simple ways by which companies can make metrics a culture:
- Companies need to be focused on data and metrics from the top-down. Every level in a company (from VP of operations down to the IT operators) should be looking at and asking for metrics and then measuring things based on these metrics.
- It’s also important for companies to establish a reward structure focused on data and metrics, which are based on user experience and business outcomes. From there, companies can align on the work being done to focus on the right metrics that businesses should be supporting.
7. On any given day, what sorts of things are you tasked with doing?
AppDynamics is a highly innovation-focused company and is constantly rolling out new product releases. Product launches are a major focal point of mine, as is ensuring that we are messaging the product launches to support the company’s overall messaging.
Another task of mine is to support marketing programs, such as public relations, campaigns, lead generation, etc., so we can keep the programs engine running effectively. Lastly, I am constantly looking at the market that we serve to discover trend, as well as understand our competition and their positioning. This enables us as a company to constantly stay ahead of the competition.
8. What is the most enjoyable part of your job, and what is the most difficult?
The most enjoyable part of my job is taking concepts and representing them in a very simple form that can be delivered to the marketplace, sales team, press, and analysts.
Marketing has become a very complex discipline and attribution of results/outcomes to activities has become extremely difficult. For example, it is significant to get complete visibility into every marketing engagement (and the critical touch points) that led to a successful sales campaign. At AppDynamics, we use many tools to understand these prospect engagements and are continuously looking to improve the process, as are many other organizations.
9. Are there developments on the horizon, while not necessarily on the radar right now, could be big-ticket issues sooner rather than later? If so, please explain?
Due to the rise of DevOps and microservices, applications will become more complex, more decomposed, and rolled out in a much faster and agile fashion. With that in mind, the process of ensuring applications’ performance will become much harder to do. This is something top companies are already struggling with and will become a more mainstream phenomenon.
Companies also are increasingly recognizing the need to connect business outcomes to application performance. Therefore, we will see a fast convergence of APM and analytics solutions in the near future.
Finally, the rise of mobile and IoT are becoming big-ticket issues rapidly. Both introduce the need for billions of endpoints that need to be monitored and analyzed on a real time basis. This need will put huge scale and architectural issues on the shoulders of performance monitoring solutions.
10. What advice would you give to a college or university student who wanted to eventually go on to be a VP of marketing at a software company?
My best piece of advice is to get a broad set of experiences early in your career. Spend a stint in many disciplines that you will have to work in on a day-to-day bias, such as engineering, product management, sales, and finance, to understand the workings of various teams within the enterprise. As you learn what makes these roles and organizations tick, you will engage better with them in the marketing role.