Product marketing is a very well-defined topic, with clear advice for differentiation, go-to-market strategies, sales, branding, and the like. However, there’s a distinct lack of documented guidelines for offering professional and managed IT services. In an attempt to capitalize on the mature product marketing strategies, many businesses are working on productizing their services to solve common issues that are inherent to offering professional services.
Productization talks about creating fixed or tiered deliverables with specific timelines and prices. This is not the case with a lot of professional services, where the project itself depends on the nature of the organization, existing environment, size, regulations, business unit, budget, in-house knowledge, and other characteristics.
By nature, professional IT services are deployed on a case-by-case basis. Marketing efforts are getting prospects in the right ‘problems you’re looking to solve’ ballpark, while the details of what the service looks like are almost always on a bespoke basis.
Here is where service offerings are a very useful tool – define once, use many. Rather than going through the same motions with every prospect, a documented offering can help prospects self-serve to prequalify your service and have rich conversations earlier in the engagement.
An offering describes the parameters in which a service is packaged and delivered to provide enough clarity to buyers, while leaving room for tailoring the service to the customer’s environment and needs.
Development agencies, system integrators, ISVs, security consultants, and other professional services providers often subscribe to a ‘we can do anything’ approach. Within that vendor’s specialty, it could be a fair statement. By definition, a developer can develop anything. However, that’s a poor sales strategy, where prospects need to invest a lot more time and energy in initial engagements without being able to truly understand a vendor’s specialty or service capabilities.
This is a common pitfall and can be found manifesting itself in many places. For example: What’s your total addressable market? The whole world.
Most vendors’ sales and marketing collateral lack the specifics which help prospects prequalify vendors, with the level of detail staying at an ‘application development’ or ‘improve security posture’ level. Common solutions to this problem include niching down. Let’s say you would only target highly regulated industries and get all the compliance and certification in place. Or, you specialize in AWS services. Another common solution is productizing services to define off-the-shelf solutions at fixed prices with fixed deliverables.
A more suitable and strategic technique is to define offerings, which provide a way of clearly articulating what you offer to get qualified leads, have clear customer conversations and differentiate yourself, target the right customers, develop a content strategy, and build authority in the space.
In this guide, we will describe how to define an offering, best practices for writing, and we will also assess publicly available offerings from notable professional IT service providers.
Imagine being in a conversation with a prospect, and you hear one of the following statements:
What would be your response? Generally – and this is good practice – is to diagnose the problem by asking clarifying questions. Once that’s done, we make notes of what’s needed and put a proposal together to be sent later.
Now, how would an offering look?
What are we trying to communicate here:
For all of the above, notice the level of flexibility. We are not locked in to a vendor, tool, programming language, or such. Enterprises may already have these tools in place. We are offloading their mental workload and denoting that we have the right expertise.
This is a balancing game, and the key here is understanding what enterprises need and want.
There’s a fantastic article by Brian Chambers, enterprise architect at Chick-fil-A, on what he and his peers look for once purchasing a tool or service. Some of the points relevant to this context include:
Here are a few more points on selling to enterprises:
A well-defined offering covers service aspects such as definition, title formulation, description and use cases, challenges addressed, methodology, and the expected deliverables and outcomes. This framework is not categorical. It can help define the information that should be present, but the structure or flow of an offering needs to make sense depending on how the offering is documented (i.e. website copy or solution brief), and the service itself.
The first step in writing a compelling offering is defining what the service is. These can take one of the following forms:
Alternatively, the above list can also be presented as design, build, and run.
Following that, we need to define the scope of the service. As such, we need to determine the following:
Note: The wider the scope, the lower the resolution.
In formal logic, there are eight rules for writing a definition. These are a surefire way to consistently compose them clearly and concisely. The definition must be:
For a real-world example of seeing these eight rules applied to define a new category, we will look at Andrew Green’s definition from the GigaOm Report on Edge Platforms:
Edge Platforms leverage globally distributed infrastructure to deliver content, computing, and security closer to end devices, lowering latencies, offloading networks, and improving service performance.
To walk the walk, here is the definition of what an ‘offering’ is from the beginning of the book.
An offering describes the parameters in which a service is packaged and delivered, enabling prospects to pre-qualify a service, while leaving space for tailoring the service to the customer’s environment and needs.
The title of the offering must be a clear representation of the service. Generally speaking, it must include at least the target and action.
Target (To what you do)
Action (What you do)
Data Center Network
With Cisco ACI
Write challenges such that they imply your solution. The opening line is precious real estate, so packing both the pain point and solution in a single line will make sure you won’t end up with:
“In a post-Covid world, cybersecurity is of paramount importance.”
The above is a real-world example from a reputable vendor.
Let’s look at an example of an unclear opening paragraph that highlights the challenges:
Rewriting it to imply the solution, we produce the following:
Here are some more examples of well-written challenges:
So how do you do that? Here is a framework you can use:
These are the functional aspects of an offering that describe how the end result of a service is achieved. While the service definition describes what it is and what it does, the feature provides additional capabilities that enhance the core activity of the service. To understand how to identify a service’s features, let’s look at the following two examples.
Data Infrastructure Migration to Cloud Architecture
Move data, infrastructure, and services from on-premises or legacy systems to scalable cloud environments.
Data Architecture Optimisation
Design scalable and modular data infrastructure to support data-driven business processes.
Most professional services have a similar methodology, which takes a high-level form of:
The key here is not the methodology itself, but the low-level details for how each is carried out. For example, the methodology for a web performance optimization service can say something along the lines of:
Outline the main deliverables or outcomes the client can expect from your service. The outputs can take one of the following forms:
Here is an excerpt from one of Palo Alto Network’s Deployment Services for Prisma Access:
Palo Alto Networks offers Deployment Services for Prisma Access to ramp up your implementation and
align it with best practices. Our experts will guide you through the design and deployment of Prisma Access in your environment to safely enable remote networks and mobile users in the cloud. Once the Services are conducted, you’ll have:
Let’s look at three examples of Application Modernization services from notable vendors in the industry and see what they do right and what can be improved.
Note – we are not evaluating the vendors’ capabilities, but rather the way the services are communicated in these publicly available assets.
Also note – large and reputable vendors are able to get away with unclear offerings, only due to the wide reach, existing customers, word-of-mouth, and large marketing budgets.
(Up to date as of July 2023)
The Application Modernization service is built on top of Cognizant’s Modernization Acceleration Platform to help businesses migrate to the cloud for better scalability and refactor or redevelop legacy applications to better deliver digital services.
The core idea of the offering is fairly clear. If I have a monolithic application hosted in an on-premises environment, then Cognizant’s offering can help me migrate that to the cloud following a set of best practices, where new developments and iterations are easier to deploy. However, for most audiences in the enterprise IT space, this whole concept is already implied in the name of the service – application modernization. What is missing are the specifics of what I get from Cognizant.
(Up to date as of July 2023)
PWC’s application modernization offering is well-placed in the context of the wider portfolio and communicates fairly well the service’s features. Readers with knowledge of IT can determine from PWC’s offering if it is suitable for their business.
The structure of the page is solid. The introduction sets the scene well for what the service is and how it fits in the wider picture. The following section splits the service into the application and data components, explaining each one individually. The ‘our approach to modernization’ describes the methodology well, quoting a number of compute models that can be used in the cloud. The benefits section also helps readers align their needs and intent with what the service can deliver.
While the opening paragraph sets the scene well, the ‘challenges’ or ‘need’ paragraph fails to provide anything of substance.
The offering includes both application and data modernization, and while the application modernization is explained well, data modernization falls short. Just as above, the wider the scope, the lower the resolution.
The choice of words denotes that the web copy was written by a non-technical person. For example, ‘redesign new cloud architecture and operating systems’. I cannot imagine any redesigns of operating systems as part of this service. Perhaps it refers to migrating from on-premises Windows to Linux-based containers, but it definitely subtracts from the value they are trying to communicate. Similarly, what are ‘cloud service providers (CSP) funding models’? Another questionable statement includes ‘Serverless allows developers to focus on your application development instead of the headaches of managing and operating servers or runtimes’. There are plenty of situations where developers would prefer the headache of managing infrastructure instead of using serverless.
Missing – the offering talks about what PWC can do, but not what they do.
The benefits section talks about very high-level concepts of improved ROI, and breaking free from the ruthless shackles of legacy systems. However, we are missing tangible information on the expected outcome, such as a ‘lifted-and-shifted application hosted in the cloud with high-availability designs, hosted in an availability region closest to your head office.
(Up to date as of July 2023)
Rackspace have positioned themselves in an advantageous position, having published this service not as website copy, but as a .pdf file hosted in an iframe. While this makes it easier to explain a service by not adhering to a website copy-type style of writing, the offering is much better defined than the previous two and is a great example to follow.
Structure is very strong, with distinct and rich sections for strategies, approaches, use cases, and focus in AWS.
The opening line, which says ‘Leverage a team of experts to successfully elevate your existing applications and unlock the power of cloud-native development’ gives us some key information. First, we’re employing a professional service delivered by (AWS) certified practitioners. Second, we know the service is related to cloud-native development. We highlighted earlier that modernization and cloud-native are not mutually inclusive. That still applies here, but at least the scene is set from the start.
The following paragraph describes the challenge very well, i.e. migration without modernization is unlikely to produce any benefit.
The strategies section provides an (almost) exhaustive list of techniques, including serverless refactoring, container adoption, and replatforming. Between the three, on-premises applications can be modernized to fit the purpose, rather than trying to refactor everything to microservices because it’s the cool thing to do.
The use cases section defines really well the target audience for the solution. Capitalizing on their specialization, enterprises with a legacy .NET application would unavoidably be attracted to Rackspace service as opposed to other competitors. SaaS-ifying applications is another use case that’s very specific, yet a very likely challenge among large enterprises.
The ‘our approach’ section describes the expected engagement in a good level of detail. Prospects will know what to expect and how to plan for an engagement with Rackspace.
While this offering ticks most of the boxes, the title misses an important aspect. Namely, the AWS specialty. The lack of alignment between the title and the AWS aspect of it begs the question of whether Rackspace can deliver the service for non-AWS clouds. To improve this, Rackspace can specifically call out AWS only or mention vendor-agnosticism.
Now that we have evaluated the above offerings, check out DXC’s Application Modernization services and identify the good, bad, and ugly. You can ask questions such as:
An offering only exists when it is documented in a written artifact. Let’s explore some of those.
A sales battlecard is a short, often one-page document that provides prospects a quick, easy-to-understand overview of an offering. It’s used by sales representatives to bring up in conversations with prospects to address objections and differentiators from competitors’ services. Battlecards are highly tailored to target specific industries, objections, and technical levels.
A one-pager is a succinct, single-page document that summarizes a product, service, or solution. Compared to sales battlecards, which are tools used by the sales teams during calls, one-pagers are designed for prospects to self-serve. It should highlight what the service is, key features and benefits of the service, and use cases. Visual elements like graphs or diagrams can add some visual interest and condense more information onto the page.
Solution briefs provide a chance to wrap a narrative around the service. These are longer documents that provide more detailed information about a specific service or solution, including its features, benefits, use cases, process, and technical and non-technical features.
A notable example of a solution brief is Accenture’s Managed Security Service for the Federal Government. Here are some highlights from the solution brief:
Blog and articles are a fantastic opportunity to market services and built authority simultaneously. They serve multiple purposes, are publicly available and are search engine friendly. In the context of this book, we suggest using blog posts to tackle highly targeted challenges and use cases, which provide benefits such as search engine presence, reference documentation for customer engagements, and demonstrating subject matter expertise.
I came across Codilime multiple times for different topics while researching the networking space. While I’m no longer in a networks engineering role to purchase the service directly, I found the content they release so good that at the very least I can give them as an example for good technical blog posts.
These include goodies such as:
These are the types of hard problems only really researched when there’s a need for deep expertise.
Call-to-actions are highly important in this case. With the risk of spoiling an informative blog post with a sales CTA, prospects researching the space are a hot lead for the service.
Don’t use LLMs to write content for you. Instead, Use them to surface ideas to speed up the content creation process.
Consider the following prompt structure:
Write a service offering for [type of service] service that uses [tools/technologies] to [what the service does] for [deliverable].
Provide details such as
Let us replace the variables with some examples:
Write a service offering for [an end-to-end data analytics and business intelligence] service that uses [Snowflake and Grafana] to [collect customer data from multiple platforms such as website and mobile application] to [produce real-time dashboards about usage and other metrics].
The LLM response highlights some important characteristics that, if relevant, can be used as reference points for defining the offering. Let’s see the challenges that the LLM produced:
I’ve condensed this non-exhaustive category into three categories. Namely, sweet nothings, infomercials, and internal jargon.
Typically referred to as marketing speak, are phrases which try presenting benefits without context or backing. These are not inherently bad, but often need more to them than just a couple of words. For each of the examples below, I will also describe how to rewrite them such that they can fulfill their intended purpose (and also do better SEO-wise).
Sweet nothings can also be longer than just ~3 word headings. For example, can you tell me, just from this paragraph, what the solution is?
“To bring IoT to life, your business requires close synergy between business needs and the technology stack needed to connect and manage billions of devices simultaneously”.
This “has this ever happened to you?” type of copy intends to make the readers problem-aware. However, I would argue that we should write landing pages with the assumption that the IT buyers are already aware of the challenges they face. I don’t browse enterprise IT websites for fun to end up on a landing page and think: “you know, I am actually drowning in IT tickets”.
I don’t have any recommendations to improve those. I would just strongly advise you to take them out.
This one assumes that readers who are not aware of your company or product would understand what you mean without explaining it first. This leads to readers thinking “You keep saying this, but I don’t know what you mean”. Terms such as Application-led Migration, Hybrid Connected EdgeOps and the like.
A lot of professional IT firms try to leverage values such as honesty, integrity, and passion as reasons for prospects to select them over competitors. These are not and should not be used as differentiators for two reasons. Firstly, writing some website copy for how the company has a people-first approach does not translate into how the company actually behaves. Second, these types of values need to constitute the basis of every human interaction. Just as ‘our workforce uses desktops and laptops to do their jobs’ is a redundant statement, so is ‘we have a strong moral compass’.
Let there be a Request for Qualification/Proposal (RFP/RFQ) for a $100m contract for a digital transformation project for a multinational organization. This exercise evaluates not your core technical capability for delivering the service, but rather the ability to scale and deliver on a large project. Now, let’s go through the following process:
Working with an enterprise and organization with multinational presence to define a long term (>5 year) contract that includes design, build, and run activities.
For this book’s call-to-action, we shall employ the tools presented in this book to create our professional service offering, technical content writing.
Technical Content Writing for Enterprise IT
We help businesses in the B2B technology space to improve their public-facing resources, downloadable assets and internal documentation. We aim to offer your prospects all the necessary information to educate themselves on your technologies when conducting product research and market analysis.
To produce clear and convincing marketing and sales technical content, enterprises need to leverage skills from different areas in the business, which include technical knowledge, copywriting, and industry awareness. While coordinating all these efforts leads to long turnaround times and high costs, producing content without all three components leads to either technically inaccurate content, hard-to-understand assets, or poor positioning in the market.
Precism sits at the overlap between all three key skills, providing you with a single point of contact for producing written assets such as articles and blog posts, ebooks and whitepapers, datasheets, solution briefs, and website copy. Our writers have experience from both the buy and sell sides of IT services, with areas of expertise including networking, security, cloud, edge, data infrastructure and analytics,
To produce content that best highlights your competitive differentiators, Precism produces content with the following process:
Iris brings together her background in Communications and Public Relations with her technical expertise in cybersecurity to help enterprises clearly define and articulate complex value propositions. After having helped dozens B2B technology companies refine their messaging, Iris decided to formalize these efforts and co-founded Precism.
Andrew is a technology research analyst and writer with a background in engineering and product management. He has a deep understanding of how enterprises work in terms of governance, supply chain management, compliance, and stakeholder management, which he uses to help businesses streamline the selling and onboarding of new services.
Drive digital CX and business outcomes
We engineer applications for modern businesses. We help organizations deliver maximum digital value and unleash an unbeatable competitive advantage by leveraging modern software engineering principles, homegrown platforms, deep industry expertise and strategic partnership networks.
Accelerate digital with predictable outcomes
Modernize applications, improve technical value, harness cloud-based development and develop your digital portfolio with our Cognizant® Modernization Acceleration Platform, Cognizant Cloud Acceleration Platform and extended third-party tools.
Application-led cloud migration
Employ a platform-driven approach to cloud migration, making applications digital-ready while ensuring business agility and elastic scalability.
Modernize legacy applications and their ecosystem to a cost-effective modern platform, using a fully automated, tools-based approach.
Technology stack modernization
Upgrade technology cost effectively, and migrate applications with automated assessments and remediation.
Unlock the future value for the business and improve speed to market using our Digital Footprint Diagnostics.
Cognizant Modernization Acceleration Platform
Industrialized, insights-driven approach for strategizing modernization
Cognizant Modernization Acceleration Platform is a unified and comprehensive platform that defines and orchestrates your modernization strategy and execution by leveraging proprietary IPs and partner tools across the modernization lifecycle. Our platform enables automated discovery, portfolio analysis and execution planning to derive the modernization strategy and further enables contextual solution recommendations by using Modernization Acceleration Kits for faster execution.
Application and data modernization solutions
Move beyond migration to embrace modernization. Companies are looking for ways to rethink their business models and processes to drive more collaboration, respond more rapidly to fluctuating market changes and improve overall user experiences. With modernization, businesses can create even more value and accelerate their transformation through reinvention:
Reinvent what’s possible: Our application modernization solutions help your business rebuild and redesign new cloud architecture and operating systems designed to increase agility, flexibility and scalability across critical business functions. As a result, your business moves from an outdated legacy system to a modern infrastructure with on-demand resources.
Our approach to modernization
We’re reinventing the way your applications and infrastructure are built using our industry expertise and leading cloud-native tools and technologies. With our iterative build approach, we help your business become more efficient and responsive to quick changes. We leverage our industry standard automation tools and cloud service providers (CSP) funding models to build a cloud modernization strategy that aligns with your business. Here are some of the modernization approaches we have experience in:
Monolith to Microservices
Microservices are a collection of smaller, independently running bits of code that make complex cloud applications faster and easier to scale. We can help you break up large monolithic applications into singular units for scalability and increased agility.
Containers and Kubernetes
Containers contain essential software components to run in a self-sufficient, isolated environment; they make your applications in the cloud work more efficiently. We have extensive experience working with open source platforms such as kubernetes to simplify the management of your containerized workloads.
Serverless architecture is a way to build applications without requiring server management. Serverless allows developers to focus on your application development instead of the headaches of managing and operating servers or runtimes.
Mainframe modernization improves legacy mainframe infrastructure and applications. Our end-to-end solutions reinvent costly, traditional mainframes by bringing them to the cloud to ensure business agility and operational excellence.
Migration moves your most critical applications and data centers securely to the cloud. With a business-led approach, we go beyond the technical elements of lifting and shifting your workloads to focus on your end goals.
Leverage a team of experts to successfully elevate your existing applications and unlock the power of cloud native development.
Early approaches to cloud adoption focused on infrastructure and application migration, with very
little attention to the underlying code. While the cloud delivered the benefits of elasticity and scale,
its full benefit can’t be unleashed without application modernization.
Cloud native application development allows you to unlock the full potential of running applications
in the cloud. If you’re hindered by the complexity of public cloud technologies and modern
architectures, we’re here to help with guidance and support for reengineering your applications and
updating your workflows. With specialization in .NET to .NET Core, cloud native SaaS platforms and
a proven framework for monolith to microservices decomposition, we’re ready to help you maximize
the agility, reliability and cost-saving benefits only the cloud can deliver.
There is no one-size fits all pathway to modernization. Our architects will assess your
applications and infrastructure in the context of your business goals and your team’s strengths to
determine which combination of cloud technologies and architectural patterns will best fit your
Serverless refactoring: Build self-healing, auto-scaling, applications, unchained from the limitations
of servers. Serverless architectures offer the highest efficiency and cost benefits of the cloud by
pushing nearly all infrastructure and software management to the platform.
Container adoption: When serverless isn’t an option, containers are the preference for deploying
modern, complex, distributed applications. Containers often require minimal changes to the
application, making them the perfect evolutionary step when significant refactoring isn’t appropriate
Cloud-Native Replatforming: Incrementally modernize your application by adopting managed
platform services as drop-in replacements for databases, messaging, API management, logging,
monitoring, alerting and more.
NET to .NET Core: Eliminate pricey Windows licenses by leveraging containers and serverless technologies in your legacy applications. After performing a thorough audit of your codebase and application architecture, we’ll recommend and execute on a strategy to refactor your legacy
.NET applications to .NET Core.
Monolith to microservices: A key tenant of a modern application is organizing it into logical services that can be developed, scaled and deployed independently while giving service teams the freedom to choose the appropriate technologies for their needs. Our experts can accelerate your effort to break up your existing monoliths by applying proven techniques to incrementally refactor your application without
requiring years of investment or stopping new feature development.
SaaS-ify legacy apps:
Users are demanding an application experience that is available anytime, anywhere and constantly updated without the need to manage and run software. By refactoring your legacy desktop, on-premises and singletenant applications to be delivered in a web and mobile SaaS model, you can reach these users while improving your product and reducing your operating costs and complexity. We can guide
and accelerate your SaaS journey with our unique experience in building and refactoring SaaS application in the cloud
Through a collaborative process, our team of business analysts and architects will review your
application portfolio to understand existing architectural patterns, infrastructure, tools, and processes.
We’ll evaluate the current state against business, functional, technical, and cost objectives and align
your teams’ skills and gaps with modern development processes and technologies.
Roadmap and Design
Based on the assessment and your business goals, our solution architects will categorize your
applications by modernization approach and design a reference, blueprint architecture. We’ll select
tools and technology and define a roadmap that focuses on early wins that build momentum
and maximize ROI.
Following the adage of “think big, start small”, we’ll start the modernization with a pilot project that
focuses on defining repeatable patterns, rapid delivery and demonstrating business value. Through
hands-on work, our teams will continue to refine the architecture and processes that enables large scale
modernization of your portfolio.
Large Scale Modernization
Building on the momentum from the pilot project, our team will consolidate best practices into a
foundational platform that enables building, deploying, and operating modern applications at scale.
Our delivery process prioritizes agility and transparency, enabling your teams through our “do with”
Drive digital CX and business outcomes
Unlock value through apps modernization
Drive out costs and simplify
Securing the Government Enterprise
The Case for Managed Security Services
Federal government agencies face unique and growing challenges in securing their enterprise from cyberattacks. They have a higher threat profile than many of their commercial counterparts, coupled with institutional constraints in acquiring, hiring, and implementing the critical resources needed to fully protect their agency.
Against these challenges, managed security services like extended detection and response (XDR) can dramatically improve their overall cyber resilience, enabling them to detect, defeat, and recover from increasingly sophisticated attacks faster and more confidently.
By standardizing and automating core security operations and integrating streaming analytics and threat intelligence, XDR can improve overall performance, financial predictability, and cost-effectiveness.
While federal agencies perform admirably in protecting their environments, many are asking if their current cybersecurity cost structure is sustainable, especially as attacks become pervasive. According to Accenture’s Third Annual State of Cyber Resilience Report—Federal Edition, most (75 percent) federal agencies report year-over-year cost increases for cybersecurity, with 1 in 5 reporting cost increases exceeding 25 percent. Leading this charge were higher costs for network security, threat detection, and security monitoring. As a result, 60 percent of these federal leaders say these cost increases are unsustainable.
Federal agencies face a host of inherent constraints that make protecting their networks and infrastructure both costly and challenging. These factors include an inability to readily hire qualified talent, an overly complicated IT architecture and environment that is expensive and difficult to protect, pervasive compliance mandates, and a procurement system not conducive to agility.
These factors leave too many federal agencies reliant on highly manual processes, outdated technologies, and understaffed and undertrained security operations centers (SOC) to protect their exceedingly fragmented environment against a growing number of more sophisticated attacks.
Zero trust takes center stage
Let’s walk through your technical sales and marketing collateral requirements.