Archive | March, 2008

Analyst of the year – submit your answers today

IIAR Analyst of the YearQuis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Or more to the point, who analyses the analysts? In this case it is the Institute of Industry Analyst Relations (IIAR).

In a marketing world that is dominated by PR, the creation of a dedicated body to promote AR best practice and stand as a forum on issues has been warmly welcomed by the community.

One of my responsibilities in the IIAR is running a task force which in this instance has focused on compiling the ‘analyst of the year’ survey. This survey aims to answer questions such as:

  • Which analysts deserve the title ‘analyst of the year’
  • Which analyst companies deserve the title ‘analyst firm of the year’
  • Which firms have most increased / decreased their relevance in 2007

The survey is open to in-house and agency AR professionals, and a summary of the results will be sent to all respondents. Please note that anonymous responses and those from analyst firms will be discarded. Individual responses will be kept strictly confidential and only aggregated results will be shared.

To take part in the survey please click here.

Preliminary results will be shared at the IIAR forum meeting at Lighthouse on 3rd April where Chris Lewis and David Mitchell from Ovum will be the guest speakers.

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Around Robin Bloor from Hurwitz & Associates in 12 questions

robinbloorhimself.jpgIn the second of our series of ‘email interviews’, we open up the IIAR blog to Robin Bloor (@robinbloor) of Hurwitz & Associates (and yes, the founder of Bloor Research) to share his views on the industry.

1.What are your coverage areas?
All technology except business applications such as SAP ERP or Oracle’s PeopleSoft.

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Around Clive Longbottom from Quocirca in 10 questions

Clive Longbottom / QuocircaThis ’email interview’ is the first of -we hope- a long series, in which we will open the IIAR Blog to analysts and get their insight on the industry. Being the quickest off the mark, the privilege to test this format comes to Clive Longbottom, the founder of Quocirca. Read below on his unabridged views on the industry… and one of the most unusual hobby/ice breaker conversation topic I’ve ever heard!

  1. What are your coverage areas?
    Predominantly, communication and collaboration approaches, along with business process. However, I’m a bit of a generalist who can cover most areas at a push. I come from a business background, and firmly believe that technology is just a means to an end – it is not the answer in itself. I also believe that analysts who are too focused cannot always advise anyone to the required extent – a business process is both dynamic and broad reaching, and someone who can only discuss one part of the process could well be like an automotive engineer who specialises in brake pipes trying to sell someone a whole car.
  2. What are your opinions of the IT Analysis Marketplace and where do you see it going?
    The market seems to be in a bit of flux at the moment – we have many different approaches from many different companies with different influence models. As the recession bites deeper, I see quite a few of the smaller companies starting (or continuing) to struggle, and many one man bands being given up as the analysts move back in to the “safer” big company model. In the long run, it’s probably safer to look at the overall “influencer” market, rather than just analysts, as many journalists have changed their models to be less focused on the headline (although, it has to be said, there seem to be quite a few analysts who have changed their model to be more focused on the headline rather than the content!), and many consultants are also seeing themselves as being a sort of analyst.
  3. What’s your typical day like?
    A mix of vendor briefings, report and article writing, reviewing of other Quocirca analyst’s output, discussions with existing customers, travelling, researching, prospecting for new work, web site management, and grabbing some sleep wherever I can. I tend to meet with a large number of smaller vendors – these are the guys where newer ideas are being tried out. They may never make it as a company, may never spend any money on research or analysis, but they help to coalesce views that we may be seeing elsewhere, and provide viewpoints on where the market may be going a year or so down the line.
  4. Now, c’mon, tell me an AR horror story?
    The best has to be Palm, when launching the original Treo. This is far enough in the past such that few people involved will still be around, so hopefully, it won’t upset too many people. Palm briefed the press in the morning (who all went “ooh, how pretty” as it was a gadget) and then briefed the analysts in the afternoon (who went “Aah – this is not a proper phone, it’s not a full PDA like other Palms, the battery lasts around 12 minutes, the interface sucks and it generally can’t be recommended by us at all”). Then, the press phoned us all up for our comments – which were negative, and were printed in full. Palm learnt, and briefed the analysts first from there on, listening far more to input.There are also those vendors who can only see as far as the big analyst companies, believing that the smaller companies or one man bands have no part to play in the influencer markets. I think I’ll leave that one as it is…
  5. How do you position your firm? What is your business model?
    Quocirca is a company that carries out “perceptional research”, along with the creation of business positioning reports, provision of strategic advice and analysts for presentations, seminars, webinars and so on. Our customer base is the vendor community who come to us for various reasons. We do not do market sizing, concentrating instead on the perceptions of end users as to how any emerging, evolving or maturing technology will impact them and their organisation. We interview end users on a continuous basis as a core part of our model, with world-wide coverage for telephony based interviews, all carried out in the respondent’s native language to minimise any mis-understandings in the surveys. Our end-user output is provided completely free of charge to the reader, and Quocirca has a reach to many tens of millions of possible readers through our agreements with the many large multi-national and global portal sites we work with. These agreements mean that Quocirca reports reach organisations who have no access to paid for analyst output, who would normally not consider utilising analyst output (seeing it as too expensive to gain access to), as well as the casual reader within other analyst companies’ customers who may well be unaware of any existing agreement that may be in place. We also have very strong relationships with the trade and mainstream press, writing articles for many of the major UK and US outlets, and being one of the most quoted analyst houses around.
    Although our research, reports and presentations are all sponsored/commissioned. Quocirca is strongly independent. The customer has full view of what we are writing, and can argue their cases as they see fit, but Quocirca will not add something to a document that it does not believe in itself, nor will it take something away that it believes is critical to the final result.
  6. What is your research methodology, in 255 characters or less?
    Quocirca majors on telephony interviewing, with face-to-face or email being utilised in certain geographies where telephony is culturally less acceptable. We concentrate on gaining the perception of the respondent – not trapping them into trying to second guess hard facts, such as the exact amount that has been set aside for Project A next year. In the technology world (as elsewhere), perception is reality, and this approach has been shown to provide solid depth of insight to our many customers. (May be slightly more than 255 characters – you’ll have to count them!)
  7. Tell us about one good AR practice you’ve experienced or one good AR event you’ve attended.
    There are still many AR people around who see their position as ensuring that their customer or company gains the biggest number of ears for their message as possible. For me, the best AR practice I see is where the AR person realises that a core part of their job is in matching their customer’s/company’s requirements with the best analyst resource for that need. Outbound communications are important – as analysts we do need to know what is going on – but even during these sessions two way communication should be encouraged.
  8. What are your offerings and key deliverables?
    Quocirca offers business-focused educational reports driven either by primary perceptional research or through our experience built up through previous research and in discussion with end users. With primary research projects, we also provide “eyes only” analysis which may address issues with the sponsoring vendor’s messaging, possible market penetration, comparisons of differing levels of maturity within markets, comparisons by geography, type of user, size of organisation and so on. We also offer internal strategic help for vendors of all sizes who may be looking for help in defining or refining core messages, looking at channel strategies, looking to break in to new geographical or technical product markets or who want some external viewpoint presented to the sales force, marketing group, product managers or whatever. We also present, facilitate and moderate events, whether these be physical seminars/shows or webinars/teleconferences.
  9. Any hobbies or favourite restaurant / food that you’d like to share?
    I’m a qualified wolf handler, working with the UK Wolf Conservation Trust in Beenham, between Newbury and Reading. Favourite restaurant would be anywhere that serves good food, and favourite food would be fish.

  10. What is your biggest challenges for the upcoming 6 months? And for the next 30 mn?
    The weakness of the dollar is leading to a tightening of budgets, and it is probably inevitable that this will have a knock-on effect to UK and European analyst comapnies, as many budgets are held in the US. However, we are seeing that many US-based companies are seeing that UK and European analyst companies provide different approaches and services to many in the US, and we hope that this viewpoint will continue through any possible market turn-down or recession.In the next 30 minutes, my main issue is getting this finished so that I can get back to earning money.
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How do we decide that analysts are important?

A recent piece by Lighthouse Analyst Relations on “bloggers vs. analysts” raises some interesting questions about whether and how firms should target their limited AR resources.

One argument says that AR professionals should focus their efforts only on those analysts who have the most direct influence on sales by advising end users, and that because of the demands that they make, it is hard to maintain meaningful relationships with a broad constituency of analysts.

A counter argument is that there are some very smart and influential analysts working within the vendor-facing analyst firms and smaller, more specialised consultancies and an AR programme will be the poorer for ignoring them. Proponents of the latter approach also point to the indirect influence that analysts can have on a firm’s brand awareness and sales, for example through quotes in the media and blog posts.

At the core of this discussion is the understanding of analyst influence. Why are industry analysts such an important audience? 

Let’s be clear.  In our view, there’s no doubt about the influence of the industry analyst community as a whole on purchasing decisions by technology buyers. In a report by a team of analysts (including Ellen Carney and Kevin Lucas), Forrester Research recently published the results of a survey of 1,143 IT decision makers in North America and Europe which showed that independent IT research firms came a close fourth in a list of information sources relied upon when researching and comparing IT products and services (see Figure 1).*

Forrester Graphic_Cropped

Knowledge Capital Group, Lighthouse AR, Hill & Knowlton and Freeform Dynamics (to name a few) have all done something similar so this Forrester study is just the latest piece of research that shows the direct importance of the analyst to the technology buyer. 

It also shows that the media is an important source of information to the buyer.  So should we target analysts that get themselves quoted in the business media? Vendor web sites come top so perhaps we also need to talk analysts who can provide us a quote for the website – or will write a report that we can then post up as marketing collaterial? 

The way that analyst influence works is complex and multi-facted.  It changes depending upon where a buyer is in the sales cycle.  It varies depending on the buyer’s industry and country.

The bottom-line is that, as AR professionals, we all know analysts are important to our business and influential on our buyers.  The bigger question is how that influence works and how we can best tap into it. 

We’d love to hear your views.

* Source: Mastering the First Analyst Briefing Tour by Forrester Research, Inc., February 26, 2008. Reprinted with Forrester’s kind authorisation.

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Ethics and Independence Among Industry Analysts

There’s been a bit of a discussion going around lately on ethics in the industry analyst sector.

I understand why the ‘pay for play’ model can seem an attractive option for smaller companies looking to generate business but firms that go down this route always tend to get found out. Their credibility is eroded, they cannot attract quality analysts and their business slowly disappears.

Any analyst firm which values its long-term reputation in the market has to ensure that its research is independent (and also seen to be independent: for instance, I’d argue that there’s a greater need for analyst firms which produce sponsored research to be very open about their methodologies so they avoid any suggestion of conflict of interest).

However we do need to be realistic about the economics of the analyst business. Most analyst firms couldn’t exist without vendor cash – be it via sponsored research, consulting projects or speaking engagements.

And so long as analyst firms clearly communicate who is sponsoring their work, I’m fine with that. After all, the old principle of “caveat emptor” must always apply.

But what about:

  • the UK company that publishes a company profile – but gives no indication that the piece was commissioned by the vendor (and for which the vendor was effectively given copy approval)
  • the analyst that writes blog posts promoting a project that his consultancy is involved in – without disclosing his connection
  • the division of a large group that prioritises briefings based on the likelihood of selling reprints of the resulting company profile
  • the analysts that use a briefing as an opportunity to pitch their own services
  • the global company that says its analysts are more likely to recommend vendor clients to prospective buyers (because the analysts know clients better than those that are non-clients)
  • the vertical firm that refuses to take briefings with non-clients because it’s so busy doing consulting work it can only handle briefing requests from clients
  • and what about this experience highlighted by the corporate AR team at HP?

Thankfully these kinds of behaviour are limited and the examples are few and far between. But it does still happen.

As analyst relations professionals, we face a challenge. What responsibility do we have for ensuring these practices are stamped out? Are we proactive or do we just refuse to support them? Do we have a ‘quiet word’ in the right ear? Do we out the bad apples in public?

Or do we turn a blind eye – because actually it’s good to know that you can sometimes bung a few quid to an analyst and get something positive written-up about the company we work for?

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Gartner improves the vendor briefing process

In the most recent Gartner Analyst Relations Newsletter, Peter Kalinowski explains how the Vendor
process has been simplified based on feedback received from AR professionals.

Amongst other things, all analysts now have access to the materials and the scheduling is easier. Also, vendors are getting a single point of contact -a welcome return to the client relationship model that META Group used.

This is a great improvement however some other questions like materials under NDA and access by Gartner’s consultants have been raised at the last IIAR Forum and would merit being clarified.

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