Today we ask our probing questions of Scott Liewehr from Digital Clarity Group (@Just_Clarity, see related posts). Scott ( LinkedIn, @sliewehr) is the founder and CEO of Digital Clarity Group, voted New Analyst Firm of the Year by IIAR in 2014.
1. What are your coverage areas?
Customer Experience Management, Digital Transformation, Service Providers (specifically digital agencies and SI’s), marketing and ecommerce technologies, vendor and service provider selection, content management technology.
2. What are your opinions of the IT Analysis Marketplace and where do you see it going?
There’s some quality research and thought leadership being done, but unfortunately it all addresses only a small portion of the overall problem. Organizations are trying to figure out how to transform themselves digitally and to meet the ever-changing expectations of their customers. Various categories of software go a small part of the way to solve this, but a much larger portion of the delta between where buy-side companies are and where they want to be lies in how they implement this software, and then what they do with it once it’s installed. Agencies and integrators are on the front lines doing most of this work, yet IT analysts typically turn a blind eye to this fact because there are so many of service providers and they’re much harder to evaluate. Organizations can find oodles of information and plot graphs about the best hammers on the market, yet no one even tries to point them to an appropriate carpenter. It’s too bad, really.
3. What’s your typical day like?
Most days have something to do with an airplane and/or a hotel, but along the way I find myself on phone/web meetings most of the day, taking vendor or service provider briefings, conducting advisories / inquiries with buy- or sell-side clients, or talking to prospects about how we can help them. I also spend a lot of time in PowerPoint, crafting one presentation or another. And, finally, I spend a lot of time on internal affairs as well, interviewing talent or working with the team in some way or the other to push our agenda and research forward. I tend to do most of my actual work after 11pm since my days are usually taken up on calls or in meetings.
4. Now, c’mon, tell me an AR horror story?
I think my favorites are the few times I’ve received loud and expletive-laden calls after critiquing a vendor publicly, either on my monthly show (cms-connected.com), or in writing. Most know that I’m fair, and I’ll say two positive things for every criticism (and the AR person will ALWAYS know where I stand in advance), but a very small percentage of AR folks are hyper-sensitive and want to make an enemy out of anyone who doesn’t buy the BS their executives like to spin. I love being the calm one in the conversation, providing data and back-up to each point with which they take issue, and having them finally say, “yeah, fine, but you didn’t need to say it”. I actually think I’m pretty reserved in my public commentary, but sometimes you just strike a nerve.
[BTW, now that the show is recorded in advance, I always give the vendor a heads up that it’s coming — that wasn’t always possible when the show was streamed live. And blogs and papers will always be discussed or sent in advance.]
5. How do you position your firm? What is your business model?
Our mission is to help leaders leverage digital to optimize / transform the experience they deliver to customers, prospects and employees. To do this, we work directly with the buy-side to help them establish roadmaps and then to select the right technologies and services partners to get them there. We also offer executive councils and retainers, but most of our research and thought leadership follows the freemium model. On the sell-side, we work with both technology vendors and service providers in fairly typical ways — advisories, thought leadership, partner programs, speaking engagements, inquiries, workshops, etc. We also find ourselves working with private equity firms a fair amount, advising them through their due diligence, inorganic growth and exit strategies.
6. What is your research methodology?
We spend a lot of time on both primary and secondary research. Our new VOCalis program (C-Sat service about the service providers) has us talking to hundreds of buy-siders about their experiences with agencies and SI’s. We’re proud to have more data and insights on this space than anyone, bar none, and we’ll be putting it to great use in 2016 and beyond.
7. Any favourite AR professional you’d like to mention? Any why?
There are so many I like, but to name a few, Beth Torrie (Sitecore), Paige Pace (Adobe), and Brielle Nikaido (Salesforce) are standouts. Also Cassandra Allen (Razorfish), Teri Green (PwC), and Manoj Kumar (HCL). Finally, John Taschek at Salesforce, Darren Guarnaccia at Sitecore, and Kevin Cochrane at Jahia aren’t AR professionals, but their approaches to working with analysts are probably the best out there.
8. Tell us about one good AR practice you’ve experienced or one good AR event you’ve atttended.
I think Salesforce’s annual Analyst Summit is the best event I’ve attended. It’s 100% focused on the analysts, includes a good mix of roundtable interactions between execs and analysts (where Salesforce gets to ask *us* the questions — smart!), good 1:1 opportunities, and great food / location. It’s a smart event on their part, although having it the first week of the New Year makes me pity their AR team who must lose their holidays to planning. 🙁
9. Is there another analyst whose work you rate highly?
There are a lot, actually. I think my own colleague, Tim Walters, writes better than anyone in the industry. I’ve always appreciated Stephen Powers and the work he’s done at Forrester, although he may not think so because I’ve disagreed loudly at times (but I’ve praised him even more). I’m jealous of Ray Wang’s drive and the way he seems to extend his days to 30 hours apiece. I also appreciate his counsel and friendship — he’s constantly disrupting the norm. And finally, I’d say I enjoy reading Esteban Kolsky because of his relentless willingness to speak the truth according to himself. He’s true to his thoughts and belief system — sometimes they’re raw, but it’s an honorable quality nonetheless and enjoyable to read from afar.
10. Any hobbies or favourite restaurant / food that you’d like to share? I love to coach. I travel a lot, so I become super-dad on the weekend to my three kids. Right now I’m coaching four soccer teams, and once spring starts, I’ll be adding two baseball teams into the mix!