Today we ask our probing questions of Jon Collins from GigaOm (@gigaom, see related posts). Jon ( LinkedIn, @jonno) is an analyst at GigaOm, a columnist for IDG, a member of the @Institute_BE editorial team and @pluckdifferent ukele. Jon was elected as IIAR’s European Analyst of the Year award in 2009.
I’m looking at emerging technologies and their impact on the business landscape. I know this remit is broad, but it distils down to integration and orchestration, data management/governance and above all user experience — and reflects the challenges faced by CEOs, CTOs and CIOs the world over:
(a) Machine learning, in particular how it can integrate with other systems to turn insight into action
(b) Communication and collaboration, with a focus on enabling innovation, productivity and engagement
(c) Internet of Things, keeping an ongoing view on developments and vertical applications e.g. asset tracking
(d) Platforms and the API economy, enabling companies to grow and changing the business landscape
(e) User experience, emphasising augmentation and integration, e.g. VR, connected car dashboards
(f) Vertical applications of technology, particularly in retail, healthcare, agriculture and creative industries
2. What are your opinions of the IT Analysis Marketplace and where do you see it going?
First off, I do understand the view that the only type of industry analysts that matter are those directly involved in buying decisions. That view has its place – particularly for enterprise-facing vendors who are more concerned in maintaining their traditional sales channels. At the same time, I also understand the counter-arguments: that there is more to technology delivery than procurement; that it’s important to engage with other stakeholder groups; that the analyst role is to educate as well as influence; and so on. Beyond all of this however is an underlying sea change in the role of technology, not as something ‘out there’ to be bought and deployed, but as an intrinsic element of business models. We’re seeing the impact in terms of how suppliers network, how consumers engage, how and where value is created. There will always be a place for ‘old style’ IT, and therefore for more traditional analyst models; however, if organisations want to get their heads round many of the technology topics that tax them today – IoT for example, they find that they can’t procure their way through, nor can they hope any one big vendor or service provider will follow suit. I think a word in business is ‘bifurcation’, which is about separating the static and dynamic parts of the business; similarly, the analyst marketplace has to bifurcate, to cater for both old and new.
3. What’s your typical day like?
When I’m not travelling I have a bit of a routine – it starts with a coffee in the ‘thinking chair’ where I plan activities for the day. As most of my work boils down to research and writing, I tend to work best in 2-hour bursts, broken up by a short walk or similar. Where I need to get my head into something, for some reason I find myself gravitating to Radiohead. A luxury I know, but I try not to work in the evenings as I need my head clear for the next day. Evenings are a good moment for some research about a topic, so I will have a 20 minute drink from the fire hydrant so that data can be ‘‘considered’ overnight!
4. Now, c’mon, tell me an AR horror story?
My best personal horror story is where I was going to see the Metro shop of the future with Intel, due to a rep being ill I had to find my own way there… and ended up at a hypermarket in the middle of nowhere. On the other side, most horrors are quite dull, usually involving sitting through some content-free (parts of) events where time could be better spent. I know, I should get out more! Many horrors boil down to expectation management, for example being expected to say something is cool or adds business value when it patently isn’t, or to say something the research doesn’t reflect.
5. How do you position your firm? What is your business model?
GigaOm’s current revenues are partially based on sponsored content services to vendors – blog posts, webinars and so on. Within the model, we have a pretty free rein on topics – in general they are about looking for the business consequences, and therefore what organisations need to think about. We also produce blogs and reports internally on more general topics, opinion pieces and so on. In addition, we produce a series of research reports which can be licensed. As the company finds its feet, I look forward to supporting a broader range of services, including end-user enquiries. (where are your revenues coming from, mix between users and vendors?)
6. What is your research methodology?
In typical analyst fashion, the answer is, ‘It depends’! In general research is desk-based, with the addition of direct F2F, primary research where useful. Because the topics are more about emerging technologies, straight questions about adoption are not always the best approach. (e.g. primary research, F2F or phone, secondary only, etc… in 255 characters or less)
7. Tell us about one good AR practice you’ve experienced or one good AR event you’ve attended.
When AR works well, it stops being a numbers game – metrics like company score, mentions and so on become a spin-off benefit. AR is greatly enhanced by a vendor have something genuinely valuable to bring to the table, in which case it is up to AR to be sure that knowledge reaches the right people. When AR is used primarily to maintain a façade, the results are frequently unsustainable. Best practices therefore should be designed to help very busy people build a picture of a (sometimes complex) vendor and retain it over time. As a consequence, my ‘favourite’ AR pros are usually the ones who ‘get’ where the value lies in having a direct, transparent interchange between analysts and vendors, and who I can both have a beer with and be critical to. Trust is everything.
8. Any hobbies or favourite restaurant / food that you’d like to share?
I’m in a ukulele band, in addition I make bread and make candlesticks. So I really am a baker and candlestick maker…
9. What is your biggest challenges for the upcoming 6 months? And for the next 30 months?
I genuinely believe we are on the brink of some fundamental transformation in how technology is used, building on top of what might be termed a ‘digital foundation’. Understanding and articulating this will more than fill my time. In the next 30 minutes, reviewing this and sending it off without getting distracted!
10. Is there another analyst whose work you rate highly?
As well as all my mentors and colleagues in companies I’ve worked, from Robin Bloor to Dale Vile, I’ll call out Claus Egge of IDC, who is sadly no longer with us. Claus was one of the first analysts that I met when I started in 1999, and he had a deep influence on how I viewed, and continue to view the role –with diligence, integrity, objectivity and even- handedness.