In the AR almanac my peers will no doubt give a hearty thanks to the banking industry for changing the way we work. As budgets are squeezed then discretionary spend (as Mike Cansfield views it), gets cut first. Some execs view that analyst relations falls squarely within this field and as a result we will simply have to do more with less.
This topic (AR in a credit crunch) was the panel item for discussion a yesterday’s IIAR meeting hosted at Edelman. Analysts included Martin Hingley (ex chief research analyst at IDC and now set-up as a sole practitioner), Dale Vile and Jon Collins from Freeform Dynamics and the aforementioned Mike Cansfield.
As a result of the downturn, the analysts argued that they must become more accountable. Dale explained that there has been a trend for companies to use analysts more as a tactical win rather than a strategic one. Whereas previously they may have been asked to provide long term visionary thinking and guidance, nowadays the need for quick, justified ROI on a bespoke project is essential. I’m not too surprised about this as the analysts firms themselves have been calling on vendors to provide clear ROI metrics when selling their solutions. Guess the shoe is on the other foot now?
One of the harsh realities of a recession is that as budgets are cut redundancies become common place. This have effected AR and analysts alike. Both sets of professionals are having to increase their scope of work and prove themselves as indispensible.
For an analyst, this may mean their coverage increases (which you may argue is not such a good thing) and as mentioned before they are having to provide more tangible value. Maybe this is why many people have noticed that they are being proactively offered far more inquiries, advice and support than ever before.
From the AR side, we have found that our skill set is used in transferable ways to target influencers beyond the analyst community (e.g. consultants, associations). What’s more teams are being cut and we are having to look after more analysts with fewer resources. There was wide consensus that when this is done badly EMEA AR is handled by American teams.
The way we interact with analysts has also changed. No longer are we able to fly analysts around the world to hear the latest news and organise 1-2-1’s. Fireside chats, more TC’s and virtual meetings will become the way to go. Whilst we can’t underplay the value of face-to-face meetings in building strong relationships (the ‘R’ in AR), we have to accept that we have to look to alternative methods to keep people informed. There will always be a time when travel is required – the difference is that it will no longer be the norm.
Just as previous recessions have forced companies to change the way they operate, the same will surely be true for AR. I wonder whether people will ever go back to the ‘way it was before’ when they find out they can manage just as well with less. Will firms sign the ‘huge’ contracts with Gartner, IDC, Forrester et al without blinking on a year by year basis or will they simply settle just for one? Will there be an increase in project based work and will analysts be more adept at showing their own ROI?
Perhaps creativity is the answer. There has been moderate success in using analysts in alternative ways – from getting involved in procurement on behalf of a vendor to an increase in ‘open-source analysis’.
One thing to remember is that the recession will not last forever. Jon Collins explained that analysts can no longer go back on the gravy train but in the same way, they need to make sure they know when the recession is over otherwise they will be unnecessarily be eating gruel.
Note: Originally posted on Technobabble 2.0