This blog series is about driving business innovation through application development. This is not a new topic but one that deserves some attention as we enter 2015 and organizations are revisiting plans and strategies for the coming year. We will provide you with analyst points of view, case studies from current Microsoft customers and other relevant content to help you drive growth, strengthen customer relationships and find new business opportunities.
Hogarth Worldwide is a marketing implementation agency that produces advertising and other marketing communications with global reach. Long frustrated by the limitations and labor-intensive nature of traditional Content Management Solutions, the company spearheaded a new initiative: creating a multitenant environment in which they could run many websites in a common environment.
The result is I/AM/WW, a single platform for creating, managing, and localizing websites and microsites. And what’s really exciting is that it operates entirely in the cloud—it’s hosted in Azure and all development occurs with Visual Studio Online.
Here we talk with Mark Rodger, the Head of Development at Cortex, a Hogarth Worldwide company, about Azure, the Microsoft stack … and where he sees Hogarth headed.
It’s been a couple of months since we last talked, and we wanted to check in and see how I/AM/WW is performing.
Mark: It’s been a massive success, and the traction we’ve been getting is amazing. As you know from the case study we just did with you, we recently did a launch campaign with Dyson. The response right after the product launch was incredible. We were told to expect 50,000 requests to the site. During the next 24 hours, we received 1.6 million requests. It was a huge testament to the scalability of the platform and Azure as a whole.
What was the main reason you built and invested in I/AM/WW?
Mark: Marketers need to move fast, but they’re often slowed down by their companies’ slow IT processes. So marketers go out and create their sites, and over time there are hundreds of sites all created by different agencies and hosting companies. It’s a nightmare. Lots of clients don’t even know how many sites they have. We knew there had to be a better way.
At the same time, we started thinking about how to use a digital repository of assets to start building websites instead of coding everything using CMS’s. We started looking at the fundamentals of what clients were looking for. We put together a list of industry issues, like lack of localization, global reach, multiplatform requirements, etc. Ultimately, we put together a list of requirements that clients were looking for, and then we started putting together a platform that would address those issues.
Are you seeing any benefits that you hadn’t anticipated?
Mark: It’s a little embarrassing to say, but we have surprised a lot of people. We are a small, agile team that has been doing software and product development entirely using the Microsoft stack. We’re hearing things like, “This is only a handful of people, and they’re doing it. Why can’t we all do it like this?” Our methodology and process has raised a few eyebrows and people are sitting up and taking notice.
We are also seeing us lead engagements in terms of compliance and regulatory advice. We have built our solution using industry best practice standards on a secure, tested, Enterprise platform and we are now leading the way helping customers understand and gain the confidence that what we are offering is secure and compliant across various market operational policies and regulations.
Would it be fair to say that using Microsoft technologies is changing Hogarth’s business processes?
Mark: Absolutely. Let me give you an example. We have quite a lot of open source development internally, and that comes with all sorts of development practices, different asset stores, and methods of management. It gets the job done—often very well—but it can take a lot longer and require more administration.
Our way of working is much quicker and more agile. We’ve toed the line and said, “We will be using Visual Studio Online; that manages our backlog. We will be using SharePoint as our collaboration and team set. We will use Yammer for ad hoc technology discussions.”
How has this experience changed how you think about creating new businesses or applications?
Mark: The most obvious change is that we no longer have to think about things like hardware or networking—the infrastructure stuff. We have a platform that has global reach and scale, so now we just have to plan for the services that we consume and the services that we provide through our applications. The result is that going from a business idea to delivery is much, much quicker now.
Based on your overall experience, what advice would you give to other app development teams?
Mark: I would say to remain lean. Technology and market demands change so fast, and the ability to react immediately has really benefited our team. We’ve also benefited from our partnership with Microsoft. We have access to the Azure Center of Excellence and the senior product team. These guys have kept us informed and given us a hand when we needed it. That’s been vital.
Moving forward, what’s next?
Mark: In the next six months, we’re really focusing on doing a lot more with BI tools, Social Listening and Machine Learning. This is key to moving forward because it’s all about customer personalization through analytics.
We are also extending our development tooling and SDK to cover more of the industry standard platforms and toolsets. The more languages and platforms we support the better the service we can offer.
See more cases studies about driving innovation with apps: www.microsoft.com/app-development
NEXT BLOG POST IN THIS SERIES: Customer Q&A with Skanska USA. (Coming January 22)