A proven model for targeting IoT developers

Not all developers are the same, and their needs vary wildly, so any attempt to effectively address them all with a single messaging and outreach strategy is doomed to fail. At the same time it would be impractical to have one strategy per developer, so a more intelligent approach is needed.

What if you could identify a handful of developer personas, or segments, each with a very distinct set of needs and interests? What if on top of that set of developer personas you also had some guidance as to how to address each one of them, what to include in your outreach campaigns targeted at them in order to make them more effective?

Our new IoT Segmentation report provides exactly that. Building on our proven segmentation model it sheds light to the IoT developer personas, their needs, and the message most suited for them. As such, it presents you with a valuable developer marketing tool of proven effectiveness. Taking a deep-dive into the segmentation model the report is an indispensable tool for those who wish to:

  • Optimize the value proposition of their developer product
  • Identify the type of developer they are best positioned to be targeting
  • Fine-tune their messaging and outreach strategy, so that it resonates with the developer segments of interest.

We know, from the data presented in the report , that 63% of IoT developers are fun-loving Hobbyists or Explorers, but they aren’t the only segment more interested in gaining knowledge and experience than making money, and reaching out to that audience requires a specialist approach.

To further illustrate our segmentation model we have prepared a very detailed infographic presenting the 8 different IoT segments that are formed based on the goals that determine developer choices , namely : Self-improvement, Direct Revenues and Improving an existing business.  


1000 skills: Amazon Alexa as a metaphor for the IoT developer community

iot segmentation
If you haven’t heard about Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa, and its incarnation as the Echo consumer device, you should definitely check it out. Alexa is a centerpiece of Amazon’s Smart Home push, and quickly growing to become one of the most promising attempts at making a successful Smart Home hub, connecting all other devices around the house together. What’s more, Amazon has opened Alexa to developers, who can incorporate it in their own devices as well as add new functionality to the assistant, in the form of so-called Skills (services, integrations, or use cases). In the beginning of June, Amazon announced that over 1,000 Skills are now available on the Alexa platform.

But today, I want to talk not so much about Alexa’s merits as such, but use it as a metaphor for the IoT developer community. IoT developers, too, are in the process of gaining a proverbial 1,000 skills, and are growing fast to become the centerpiece of the IoT economy.

Like Alexa, the IoT developer community is seeing impressive early traction. The number of IoT developers is clocking in at over 5 million, and growing at almost a million developers per year. This said, both Alexa and the IoT community are still in the early stages, searching for their place in the world. In Alexa’s case, most recent reviews of the device still focus on: “what can I do with this thing?” Is it a speaker? Is it another Siri? The Skills store is still in its infancy, with little curation or discoverability. IoT developers, on their end, are still discovering what they can do with this flood of new IoT technology coming their way. VisionMobile’s IoT developer segmentation model groups developers in eight segments based on their key motivations to do IoT. A whopping 63% of IoT developers are either Hobbyists, developing for fun, or Explorers, learning the technology to put themselves in a good position to capture future opportunities. That percentage is much higher in IoT than in other sectors, like mobile or cloud.

By the way, Alexa has competition, too, in the form of Google Home, a device similar to Echo and powered by Google Now that the company announced in May, and Apple’s Siri, which it opened to developers at its WWDC event in June. The competition of such major platform players creates uncertainty about the future. The lack of clear leaders in the market is a key part of why developers are exploring – developers don’t want to commit to a platform just yet.

Back to Alexa, whose Skills are exploding – there is a 7x increase in Skills supply since January. IoT developers are also working hard at improving their skill set. The most important measure of success for IoT developers is how much knowledge and experience they have gained. Learning is the main goal for Explorers, representing almost a third of the developer population. But it goes far beyond that In a sense, all segments of IoT developers – not just Explorers – are still exploring opportunities and figuring out what their personal position in this space will be.

iot segmentation report

Amazon first goal is not to be a consumer electronics company. The e-commerce giant is in the habit of selling its devices at a price close to the cost of production. It gains instead from being on the first row – right in front of you – at the moment you decide you want to buy something. Likewise, most IoT developers are not in a rush to make bucketloads of money. They don’t prioritise making revenues straight away. As we said, learning is more important for a sense of success than how much money is made, how many users are reached, or how many costs are saved. On a personal level, culture and emotion play a huge role in the lives of developers; more so than business objectives.

Most IoT developers are Hobbyists and Explorers, learning is a key motivator, and business success is not (yet). If you run an IoT platform, developer tool, or API, or you’re marketing to IoT developers for any other reason, these insights might be counter-intuitive for you. If you want your product and messaging to resonate with IoT developers, it must match their current state of mind. In our new IoT Developer Segmentation report, we dive much deeper into our data from 4,400 IoT developers to provide you with an effective marketing tool that describes the causal motivators that drive developer decisions. Check it out!

Google’s Instant Apps is the power grab that ActiveX couldn’t make

At this year’s Google I/O conference the search giant announced Instant Apps – Android applications dynamically downloaded, installed, and executed, with a single click. Slick functionality, certainly, but functionality which comes at the price of undermining the openness of Android as a platform. Instant Apps will be part of Google Play Services, not Android, and so alternative distributions will be left in the cold.

20 years ago Microsoft tried something very similar, and with the same justification. Microsoft failed, so it’s worth taking a moment to see why Google will probably succeed.

It was 1996 when Microsoft broke out of the browser sandbox with ActiveX, a technology providing the same functionality as Instant Apps. Just like Google, Microsoft’s primary motivation was extending its control over the platform, but Google will likely succeed where Microsoft didn’t, so what’s altered since ActiveX failed to change the world?

ActiveX was designed to compete with Java Applets – a technology from Sun which solved the same problem using Java. Java Applets run within a slightly-larger sandbox, designed to prevent the applet doing any damage, while permitting more functionality than a web page alone.

ActiveX didn’t come with a sandbox: downloaded code runs native with all the performance, and capabilities, that implies. These days an ActiveX download requires user approval before running, but at launch the only protection was the digital signature from Microsoft.

Which wasn’t enough. The public overwhelming recoiled from the idea of letting downloaded applications automatically run without a sandbox, while the Java Applet sandbox proved woefully insecure. Modern browsers (Chrome and Edge) don’t support either type of downloaded content by default, forcing companies still reliant on ActiveX to use IE or install extensions.

But the concept was valid, and sandboxed content is more popular than ever. JavaScript is part of almost all web sites, and executes in a sandbox in much the same way as a Java Applet. Native applications, meanwhile, are getting more restricted as mobile platforms pioneered the idea of applications that could be trusted a bit, but not entirely.

Android and iOS provide granular security, a sandbox-with-extensions. An application can ask for permission to access the camera, but won’t be allowed to make phone calls if it didn’t request the right.

At first glance Instant Apps look very much like ActiveX. Digitally-signed applications will be downloaded and executed without user interaction, and will be able to access device resources which would normally sit outside the sandbox (such as the camera and NFC chip). These applications will be signed by Google, but the user will not be given a list of requested permissions, and will not have the option of rejecting them either. While it might seem that Instant Apps inherent all the downsides of ActiveX, it’s been a long time since ActiveX failed as a web technology, and much has changed.

ActiveX suffered from having to support multiple operating systems, and slow download times, but Instant Apps are only on Android and when a single web page already averages more than 2MB* the additional load of a small app isn’t significant.

Which brings us back to security, and why Google will do a much better job than Microsoft ever could. The fact is that Android, and other modern operating systems, are compartmentalised into sandboxes at every level, making the sandbox the default operating environment rather than an exception to the rule.

Once it had been approved, and digitally signed, an ActiveX application could do anything – write to arbitrary memory addresses, interfere with data stored by other applications, rewrite the OS to act as a reproduction engine (the latter being why we call them “viruses”), enjoying a level of freedom denied to any approved application running on Android, no matter who approves it.

The architecture of Android means that Instant Apps won’t rely on the certification process of Google Play. They will still run within the sandbox which surrounds all Android applications. Even more importantly – all the Instant Apps will be delivered from Google’s servers. That means a misbehaving app can be instantly removed from circulation, and Google will curate the applications to ensure none make use of permissions they don’t need.

The paternal management is new. A company like Google can keep a careful eye on how Instant Apps develop, and tweak their capabilities as they go along. The permanent beta has become Agile development, and the company managing the platform has become a guiding hand which won’t let go.

Instant Apps will have security issues, the Android compartmentalism isn’t perfect and there will be a few well-reported breaches, but Google will move swiftly to patch and secure the system. Alternative distribution stores, tolerated on Android, will likely be excluded from Instant Apps, and users won’t be permitted to opt out of Google’s control.

Competing distributions of Android will struggle to provide similar functionality, and even if they do it won’t be compatible, bringing Android more under Google’s control. Instant Apps will provide useful functionality, just as Google has been demonstrating at its developer conference, but at the cost of locking out the competition.

Instant Apps will succeed where ActiveX failed. Better compartmentalisation and centralised management will secure it, and users will appreciate it, but the real winner will be Google who squashes alternative app stores and outmanoeuvres alternative Android distributions, all in the interest of providing greater web-site functionality.

* http://www.httparchive.org/interesting.php?a=All&l=Apr%201%202016

Developer Personas as a Revenue Growth Tool

Nike, Adidas and Under Armour have digitally opened up their fitness and athletics products. McCormick Foods and Campbells Soup have released flavor profile data. Walgreens digitized their photo printing and prescription filling order services. Philips released programmable lightbulbs. Edmunds transformed from a car classifieds site to a digital sales inventory and vehicle information service. Most recently banks like Capital One and BBVA are encouraging developers to build new products based off banking data. All of these companies are growing because they saw new opportunities in helping third party innovators extend their products by creating new software.

To succeed today, businesses are transforming into platforms on which others can build new software. Competitive, forward-thinking businesses of all kinds — startups, medium-sized companies and enterprise — are all beginning to release their data and services in a programmable form in order to encourage new business partnerships.

Developers are at the center of those partnerships, as they will be the ones who enable a business to extend its reach, create new products using the company’s assets and services, and open up new revenue-sharing opportunities.

John Musser, VP of Tech at Basho (one of the world’s largest application database providers), serial entrepreneur and founder of ProgrammableWeb, says one of the most misunderstood terms in business today is ‘developer’.

“There is such a gross generalization as to what a developer actually means,” he says. Musser stresses that for any effective business model, knowing your customer segments is vital. “Without thinking about which type of developer, where they go for information, what they do, the companies they work with, the languages they use, their skill-sets, their pain points… many a business model has floundered or failed because of inadequate developer segmentation. You are not going to go after any market without first defining some type of segmentation.”

Developers are a key business customer and partner segment, as they are the external business partners who can speed up an enterprise’s digital offerings — for example, by creating mobile and wearable apps — as well as help connect an enterprise to fast rising stars like the current generation of tech platforms including Uber and Slack, and support business units to operate more efficiently by connecting processes and data internally.

Musser says when a company is thinking about how to reach different developer audiences and engage with them as business partners and growth generators, it is also worth recognizing that internal developers working behind the firewall are a segment that can be approached and engaged. These developers have their own motivations and can play a major part in encouraging consistent tech design internally. They are also responsible for building automated operational processes that create time and cost efficiencies.

Preparing developer personas is a methodology that aims to document the characteristics of key developer segments that are expected to be using a business’ APIs, data, or microservices to build applications or to integrate tech solutions. VisionMobile regularly conducts global surveys — now having reached over 20,000 developers — to build and validate the world’s most comprehensive developer segmentation model across mobile, cloud, desktop and IoT platforms. This data is used to produce detailed reports, such as the recent Cloud Developer Segmentation, that focus on segments working within a specific sphere, and These State of the Developer Nation Reports are global deep-dive resources that can be used by business to segment and understand developer motivations and characteristics. A business can then craft more customized segments for each category based on their own use cases that match their specific business’ growth plans. “Segmentation used to be about which technology the developer uses, or what platform they were targeting, but now we’re more concerned with what they are trying to achieve – what does the developer get out of it?” as VisionMobile’s senior analyst Bill Ray puts it.

VisionMobile’s developer segmentation model helps businesses divide their developer customers/partners into groupings not based on their skill-set — such as which platform they develop on — but on their motivations and goals as a way to organize developers into key audience groupings.

This can help frame how those developers are incentivized and what resources they are provided with. While there is a return on investment for development engagement activities, a business can only pursue so many market segments at any given time. Developer segmentation helps a business identify how to prioritize developer engagement resources to create a constant wave of S-curves. Depending on the business/tech cycle stage, this may first involve supporting developer Explorers and Scouts who are looking at the horizon and will be creating the next generation of products a business can market. Then, new revenue opportunities are created by harnessing Guns for Hire and Hunter devs who are building third party apps. A third wave of dev engagement then focuses on Enterprise IT and Product extenders who will use software to improve efficiency or engage customers more effectively.

Kristen Womack is a consultant who works on digital strategies, and has helped several businesses document their developer personas. She gave a talk about approaches to documenting developer personas at the API Strategy and Practice conference last year.

“I gravitate more to understanding the sentiment and the feeling the developer is having,” says Womack. “For example, for a lot of developers what really wows them is when something works smoothly and is a little bit clever. I try to focus on the feeling because the skills are irrelevant as more developers move between platforms,” she says. By focusing on the motivations that drive a developer, Womack says, a business has a much higher success rate of engaging effectively.

Jérôme Louvel, CEO of Restlet, one of the world’s largest open source IDE platforms, says creating developer personas is a user research activity that must be carried out “like for any other agile IT project”. He suggests creating developer personas and then generating user stories around how they engage with the various resources the business provides to help them achieve their goals. Understanding their motivations is crucial for documenting user stories.

But beyond that initial interaction, Louvel says that developer personas can be used to keep a developer community engaged with the business. “We see an increasing awareness of the importance of the overall developer experience, which encompasses not only initial application development, but also the operations and engagement activities on an IT project, as a whole,” says Louvel.

“The key here is to personify, categorize and prioritize correctly the developers that will use your APIs, your app backend, your microservice or your integration process so that it becomes more natural to think about the experience that those developers — depending on their goals and skills — will have at various level of interaction with your solution.”

Womack says that for developer personas to drive revenue and build out a successful ecosystem, the personas must be used as regularly referenced business tools.

“I see most people create them and they just sit there,” Womack warns. “What I recommend is an ‘information radiators’ approach: if you put up the information you want people to absorb, there is more likelihood they will be referred to and used regularly.” Womack says she has seen developer personas posted on lab walls, given a specific spot in standup meetings, and even had slackbots created so that a dev persona can chime in on a feature channel discussion, for example. “It is a bit like that quote about Jeff Bezos always having a chair set aside in meetings to represent the customer, it is about making room and space for the developer persona.”

Womack also recommends assigning a team member to maintain the persona, to perhaps ask at standup meetings on a regular basis, “Is there anything we learnt about Amy, one of our developer personas, yesterday?”

Louvel is heartened by how the current interest in developer personas he is seeing in the enterprise: “I see a growing trend that puts the developer persona at the center of the API creation process, especially for private APIs,” Louvel says.

“The developer who will consume a business’ API needs to have tighter and tighter control over the defined API. If the developer is involved too late in the creation process, then they won’t be able to build the proper solution such as a mobile or web app UI.”

Increasingly, all businesses — whether they be Nike, McCormick Foods, Walgreens, Philips, or Capital One — across all sectors are becoming tech businesses. As part of this shift, businesses are opening up their data and services as components that can be integrated into applications and processes by third party partners. In this economy, developers become crucial to enabling revenue growth and can help extend market reach by helping a business create new digital products, or integrate into other digital platforms. Business models and business plans must better target developer segments in order to leverage new growth. Developer personas are a key tool to successfully build these new partner relationships.


The Cloud Developer Segmentation Report by VisionMobile, is based on the 10th edition of the Developer Economics survey that reached over 21,000 respondents from 150 countries and provides detailed data on thousands of cloud developers. The  report looks in detail at the cloud developer segments, seeing how motivations map to tools and business models, providing an insight into what applications they are creating and how they are creating them. Consequently it divides developers into eight segments, based on what they want to achieve rather than the tools they use to achieve it.