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April 2013 Meeting Commentary

With the arrival of spring, the April AITP DC Chapter members gathered to here guest speaker Alianna J. Maren.  Dr. Maren spoke at the chapter meeting on her experiences as a newly-launched social entrepreneur.  Talking points from the presentation are included below.


Persona Targeting: The Secret to Matching Content to Clients

There is a special, subtle tactic that goes beyond these basics. This is the one tactic that will elevate you to "guru" status among the IT professionals who can help others set up their basic website/landing-page/opt-in/blog backbone. It is the power of mapping your client "personas" to the right communications and content, ensuring that their needs and interests are uniquely met.

Over two decades ago, the ideas of "personalization" and "one-to-one" marketing began to emerge. Then, Amazon became a forerunner, using neural networks to find and filter good matches for their clients. This led to the now-standard, "Customers who bought this item also bought ..."

Today, customers expect some degree of personalization. And nothing will turn away your "most valued" customers faster than the feeling that they're being treated like one of a "herd."


"Tribe" vs. "Herd" Mentality: How to Manage the Difference

The greatest client-connection wisdom these days combines the best of "tribe" thinking along with the technologist's and marketing guru's approach to "internet marketing." (

Even the best of these, though, haven't quite made one of the most important and powerful connections possible. Tribes are not homogeneous.

Tribes contain many people, each with different needs, goals, motives, and foci-of-attention. BUT - we don't have to model each person. (And we can't. We're not Amazon, and we don't individually have that technology.)


What we DO HAVE are "personas."

In 1998, Alan Cooper rocked the programming/design world with his now famous (infamous) book, "The Inmates are Running the Asylum." He challenged us to think in user-centered design terms. ( In particular, he introduced the notion of modeling detailed users (clients) who represented core groups of user (client)-types.

What successful program managers realized, long before this, was the importance of user-centered modeling - in fact, the role of specific "users" in Use Case Modeling (Jacobson, 1986,

As an entirely parallel line, over the past decade, more and more enterprises have put attention on modeling their internal knowledge bases as well as external content with enterprise taxonomies. For example, the U.S. Air Force has been conducting taxonomy projects for at least a decade, devising ways to do "concept searching" on their vast corpora of internal documents. (


Bringing Together "Personas" and "Content": Managing Opt-In Lists and Word Press Blog Categories

Most of us have far smaller knowledge bases than that of the U.S. Air Force. However, entrepreneurs - quickly learning the ways of blogging - readily start building significant content. Also, unless they carefully manage their process from the onset, they also build multiple Opt-In lists.

Your goal? Bring a sense of order, discipline, structure, and process to these entrepreneurs - or even to solid, stable organizations, who are wrestling with the new processes for reaching their clients.


After listening to Dr. Maren's talk, you will be able to:

1) Help your clients identify their optimal sets of diverse clients, each with a distinct representative "persona," and an associated Opt-In list.

2) Identify the driving needs and interests of each client-set ("persona") that will bring them to YOUR (or YOUR CLIENT's) site, services, and products

3) Translate those needs into KEY CATEGORIES that you can use to organize and manage client's content (both static and blog)

4) Develop a MAPPING from client-sets ("personas") to content-sets ("categories")

5) Manage the overall process for loyalty-building, more accurate product/service positioning, and upsells.

In short, you'll be MASTER of a new set of methods that will directly impact your (or your client's) bottom line.

Few have these skills. But to learn more - prior to the presentation, to follow up on resources, or to be included in invitations to similar talks - join Dr. Maren's "tribe" on her own Opt-In list. Go to:, and "Opt-In."


More about our guest speaker:

Alianna J. Maren, Ph.D. (, is a Chemist, Business Entrepreneur, Dance Instructor, Life Coach, and recently self-published author of "Unveiling: The Inner Journey," which has eighteen 5-star Amazon reviews. As a newly-launched social entrepreneur, she's learned (via trial-and-error, the "hard way") about the vagaries of marketing in the evolving world of internet and social phenomena.

Previously, as Co-Founder and Chief Scientist for EagleForce Associates (later Viziant), which she left in 2008, she received three patents for artificial intelligence and brain-based inventions on knowledge discovery. She led their efforts to do a Knowledge Discovery Survey and later a Predictive Intelligence study for the DIA, and participated in various tasks developing Air Force taxonomy/ontology components. She was the group co-leader for the Knowledge Discovery group, tasked by NCES (Net-Centric Enterprise Services) 2nd Working Group; Mediation and Discovery (March, 2004), presenting key finding and recommendations to the Defense Community.

Prior to co-founding EagleForce/Viziant, Dr. Maren was Senior Scientist at Accurate Automation in Chattanooga, TN, where she led multiple Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants as Principal Investigator, with a total revenue of more than $4M. She was one of the initial scientists to bring neural networks to popular awareness, as senior author of the "Handbook of Neural Computing Applications" (Academic, 1991). She also received a patent on Sensor Fusion (a "critical defense technology") that was named "Patent of the Week" by the NY Times.

Her Ph.D. studies in theoretical physical chemistry (Arizona State University, studying with the renowned theoretician Sheng H. Lin ( gave her a strong foundation for many of her inventions, particularly in the realm of complex nonlinear systems.

A strong desire to "get products to people" drove Dr. Maren to leave the corporation she had co-founded. While waiting out a severe non-compete, she completed a manuscript that she'd begun some fourteen years earlier. What was intended as a two-to-three month project took 2 1/2 years, resulting in publication of "Unveiling: The Inner Journey" (Amazon: trade and Kindle editions available;

Internet marketing is a long way from theoretical physical chemistry. However, anyone who needs to connect "products to people" has to move beyond the ivory tower. Dr. Maren is most fortunate that knowledge gained while at EagleForce/Viziant have given her insights into how to leverage the marketing technologies useful today.

To read Dr. Maren's blogs:

Archetypes for personal and corporate breakthroughs (building on material from "Unveiling: The Inner Journey"):

Women's personal growth, using Oriental dance, energy rejuvenation methods, and related topics: (Note: examples for categories and personas will be taken from this site.).

Science, technology, and business:



February 2013 Dinner Meeting Commentary

There was excitement in the air at the February AITP DC Chapter Meeting.  The speaker was excellent and the food superb.

Most people attending the meeting ordered the surf and turf and enjoyed a tender, delicious steak and nicely seasoned, buttery shrimp prepared by the staff at Alfio's La Trattoria Restaurant. 

AITP members met each others significant other and engaged in a variety of conversations during the dinner meal.   Conversations ranged from working for  the federal government, working for a non-profit organization, selling real estate, being an instructor at a cooking school, living in and traveling to Hawaii, and traveling to India, just to mention a few of the intriguing conversations.

Our guest speaker, Bruce Brizendine, spoke on his experiences working as a CIO for the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission.  He discussed all of his successes, mentioned his failures, and lessons learned.  He explained some of the politics that accompany the job of a CIO, and discussed parts of the work that he found most rewarding. Talking points from Bruce's presentation are included below.


Why should you aspire to be a CIO?

Why because you want to use your skills and knowledge and lead.  You want to make things better.

If you don’t aspire to do this, don’t.  Failure is very easy at this level.  You should never rise to your level of incompetence (Future Shock – Alvin Toffler).  The extra salary is definitely not worth it.


What is the difference between CIO and CTO?

A CIO – is responsible for the direction of organization, responsible for the technical support of organization, reports to Board of Directors, Executive Director.

A CTO – manages the technical side; computer center/operations center, answers to the CIO, usually takes the place of the CIO when CIO is absent (acting), advises CIO on technical issues, offering solutions and options.


Qualities required of a CIO 

Person should have a thick skin; person should have knowledge of Budget, purchasing and finance; the ability to keep up with IT trends – books, magazines, blogs, conferences, CIO magazine, and daily burps; the ability to keep up with vendors/sales people because they keep up with the latest trends; the ability to be a political/strategic thinker. 


Hurdles Faced

The CIO was a Deputy Director position when it should have been a department head.  Today it is department head position.  Unqualified staff – In late 80s, the majority of IT staff had no formal training.  No longer true today….they’re engineer types.  Not enough budget.  Never enough staff. Decentralized staff are usually in fear of the Centralized authority. New systems are extraordinarily expensive and take years to implement.  Often, the new system is not completed before the next system comes.


Mistakes and Regrets

Aligned myself with the technical staff and managers.  I should have aligned myself with the department heads/Planning Boards.  Department heads listen to their staff.  Should have demanded presence on corporate wide initiatives.



My hires: webmaster, project manager, network manager, purchaser, 2 aides.  Defined unknown: how many domains we had, how many websites, how many webmasters we had or staff working on web -2,000 employees.  We figured out the web environment.

We had a joint technology council made up of technical staff and non-technical managers.  It didn’t work.  I split it into 3 groups – IT manager’s meeting, IT technical manager’s, and IT Technical staff.  This arrangement was successful. 

Established Performance Metrics for all IT Units.

What I’ve Learned

Don’t sweat the small stuff.  The average tenure of a CIO when I started was less than 1 ½ years (7 months).  Today it is much longer. 

Inevitably technical staff will report to a non-technical manager and therein is the problem.  The non-technical managers rely on their technical staff.


Final Thoughts

Don’t accept lousy meetings.  Cut off the boors.  Have an agenda for all meetings.  Ask the why question?  Ask how does this benefit us?  Ask how does this make us more profitable?  Ask how does it make us do our jobs better or execute our business more efficiently?  Ask how does it save us money?  Ask for proof. 

Technology is the easy part.  People are the hard part.  It’s all small stuff.


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