By: Ludovic Leforestier
After a fascinating presentation from Neil Pollock (see his blog post here [Guest Post] Why IT Vendors Should Take Industry Analysts (More) Seriously), Forrester came “en force” to give IIAR members an update on the company strategy. Tom Pohlmann (@tpohlmann, LinkedIn), Forrester’s CMSO patiently presented and answered IIAR members’ questions. My take on this is that the firm is on a journey to deliver strategic research advice up the food chain and deliver at a strategic level - they’ve started with IT managers, then moved on to CMO’s in the past and are trying to better penetrate the rest of the C-suite. Forrester disagrees with this statement.
The firm has strong credentials in the market space, with good coverage, high profile analysts and strong data offerings such as Technographics and FORRsights – including a few related acquisitions such as Strategic Oxygen and Springboard Research. About 40% of their analysts now cover strategy and marketing (the rest have a pure technology focus). I’ve seen evidence they’re well respected by end-users in this space, so coupled with their capabilities they clearly have a strong play there. Forrester intends to grow in their existing customer base with a more practically-oriented content set (Gartner is also going in this direction). I believe that this may create some positioning and GTM issues. Specifically, can they address two distinct segments at once? And are there potential conflicts with customers such as marketing agencies?
To me, Forrester are the farthest in transforming their clients’ experiences, a necessary transformation to avoid experiencing the same fate as the music industry (read Analyst firms: rock star bands or record label dinosaurs?). Having in the past moved from just selling CIS (continuous information services) to providing RAS (research and advisory services), Forrester is now in a position to provide their clients an experience that includes networking (via Forrester Leadership Boards and their conferences), a more social delivery of research (forrester.com users can not only rate but also comment research notes, their analysts engage more actively via blogs and SocMed than its direct competitors) and last but not least content that’s easier to consume.
On the other hand though, while the aim of increasing the linkage between marketing and strategy research with the technology aspects of this research is certainly laudable, in my view there’s a danger that technology research might become too high-level and less relevant for ICT vendors. It’s possible. In my experience I have continued to observe inconsistencies in the depth of research which I find concerning.
The good news for us Europeans is that they’ve confirmed they’re investing in Europe (including the creation of an international accounting/finance hub based in Europe), investment in sales (the proportion of end-user sales hasn’t been disclosed) and analysts. This latter point I find interesting, as they have still quite a number of positions open, something I’ve long been concerned about. So this is great news for us, EMEA AR folks but overall I feel that there are still some coverage gaps and additionally personnel turnover remains an issue for Forrester’s management. Pure speculation on my behalf, but for me the question of inorganic growth this side of the pond is not if but when… after all, George is sitting on a neat $250m cash pile.
We also understand that there has been a change to analyst metrics but that’s not something for this post. This can have a profound impact on AR and needs to be watched carefully – for instance if analysts are pushed into doing more consulting, they’ll do less research. If the metrics are not well tuned, an analyst could be very successful doing a lot of consulting with vendors peripheral to his/her coverage area and not have enough time to produce core research.
On the sales side, it’s worth noting that the latest reorg has done away with the segments and Forrester has now moved to an account size view of their clients. There was a passing comment that the event format will be revisited, I guess I was not the only one that was nonplussed with their 5 in 1 concept.
Thanks for bearing with me so far, the playbooks are coming. Rewinding back to the roles, the criticism I had was that I’ve always viewed industries as more important – sorry @gcolony- and thus I was concerned they could not address both. Now after a few years of role plays, they’ve now let analysts have a bit more freedom to conduct some industry primers.
So, is the next role play the playbook? (see this blog post for an example). The idea of grouping research by stage to better align it to business needs, in itself is sound, just like the idea of aligning research to roles. They’ve done much research on the subject and carefully listened to customers. They said that navigating research was like drinking from a fire hose -something less of a concern for AR pros as they should hopefully know their way around industry analysts firms’ websites. And so they’ve come up with this neat matrix, not only to organise reports, but also to provide users with an easier, standardised way to navigate a set of more practical deliverables – see picture below.
The salient points, as I see them, are:
- Playbooks provide a consistent structure to each initiative covered
- The information included is both strategic and tactical in nature
- Playbooks will contain vendor evaluations, some as Waves (not for each playbook), some as Landscape reports
- As with every cultural change, it will be difficult especially with analysts who tend to be seasoned, experienced and opinionated.
- The skill set of Forrester research does not currently match this set of deliverables. They will need to rebalance their research skillsets i.e. hire/fire and re-train. The playbook roadmap also looks ambitious for the existing resources. I raised this question, Tom responded that they’ve looked at this aspect and is confident they’ll be able to fill all those playbook cells.
What do YOU think?
- AR pros should monitor European analyst hires such as this one. More are to be announced early October.
- AR pros should also try figure out the playbooks. Good luck.
- AR pros should align their outreach and programme to analyst metrics and agenda.
- Nothing new there, just realign when they change.
Thank you to Belinda (@bsimm) for making this happen.
PS: Neil, here’s Jonny’s MQ downfall parody
Note: this is my opinion, not my employer’s nor that of other IIAR members or its board. Forrester reviewed this and did not agree with all my statements -that’s what the comments field below is there for…