Author Archive | Ludovic Leforestier

Analysts: When you’re looking for a briefing – help me to help you

As much as Analyst Relations professionals spend time pitching briefings to analysts, we also spend alot of time fielding briefing requests from analysts with specific needs whodon’t always appreciate how much work is required to set up a briefing. Before we actually get everyone in the same room or on the phone, we AR professionals need to:

  • Understand the depth and scope of the information requested by the analyst: is it strategic, forward-looking and under NDA or is it available in existing content such as publicly delivered decks, collateral or online content
  • Identify the right spokesperson(s): is she/he authorised? AR trained? Does he/she have all the knowledge or do we need multiple spokespeople?
  • Select the best delivery method for this content and how long will it take: are we talking about an all-day live demo or will a series of shorter phone-based conversations do the trick?
  • Make sure the content is right: Does the spokesperson knows how does this fit into the overall corporate messages? If based locally, is the spokesperson familiar enough with the Corporate content and possible future releases and other upcoming stuff?
  • Do we need to include customer or partner evidence and, if so, what form does that need to take: a case study or a phone call w/ an actual customer?

We then need to steal time from those people’s day. For instance, if it’s a local briefing using pre-sales, how can we justify spending one full day of on screen demo with a local analyst when that resource could be working on a RFI for an important deal?

All that is not always easy, even if good AR folks are like swans: maintaining serene appearances while paddling frantically.

How can analysts help then? By being specific and actionable. For instance, if you just write a show email asking for a meeting like the one below, it doesn’t contain enough information to be truly actionable:

Good morning dear X,
How are you? Very well I hope. I have learnt that you had taken over responsibility for topic X at Vendor A.
I just wanted to make sure you knew that our firm had invested in the space and we now have a full time analyst covering topic X. His name is Y.
Could we schedule some time to meet, and we could perhaps meet some people on your team?

The easiest is to send us a professional (rather than personal), corporate-sounding email, that we can easily forward stating the following:

  • Who you are and what your firm does?
  • Your areas of coverage?
  • How the briefing you’re asking fits into your research schedule?
  • What is the research process you’re using?
  • What’s the end deliverable? A report? How long? Does it mention other vendors? Who’s the intended audience?
    Etc….

It doesn’t need to be War and Peace but it does need to contain enough information to help the AR professional fulfil your request as quickly and completely as possible.

Thanks to Naomi Higgins for her contribution to this post.

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Around Neil Ward-Dutton / MWD in 10 questions

Neil Ward-Dutton from MWD Advisors

This week, it is my pleasure to welcome one of the Neils of MWD Advisors.com, only shortly after he kindly participated at our last IIAR Forum: Neil Ward-Dutton. Those two ex-Ovum analyst have founded MWD in 2005, and this year have hired two more analysts and launched their first continuous advisory services. They also have a blog called On IT-business alignment, and related thing.
  1. What are your coverage areas?
    At MWD we organise ourselves around two things: “IT competency areas” (like process management, governance, software delivery, collaboration and so on) and “disruptive trends” (things like SOA, SaaS, virtualisation, Web 2.0, and so on). In our model, these form a matrix that we try and cover. As well as helping to run the company my main job at the moment is to run our research programme in the process management competency area, and also help to lead our work in SOA.
  2. What are your opinions of the IT Analysis Marketplace and where do you see it going?
    How long have you got? This is a question I’ve spent many hours debating (mainly in bars at conferences). There’s a lot of talk, amongst both our vendor and enterprise customers, about dissatisfaction with the inflexibility, high prices and complexity of dealing with the big firms. However they still have a huge amount of momentum in the market and massive mindshare, and that isn’t going to change significantly any time soon I don’t think. I like to think of them as “the furniture” – we can’t compete with them directly; they’ll always be there. They’re a bit like IBM and Microsoft in the enterprise software market. Still, though, we see a lot of opportunity for firms like MWD which are prepared to think differently and work really hard to deliver great customer service. I was recently asked about the outlook for MWD, given the uncertain economic conditions, at an IIAR round table event. My response, which I’ll stick by, is that the quality of our work and our pricing structure mean that we find there’s no shortage of business out there for us – our main challenge right now is finding the resources to go after it in the most effective way.
  3. What’s your typical day like?
    Long. But fun. The best days are spent working with customers face-to-face, helping them solve problems, or working through ideas with my teammates; the worst days are spent doing back-office stuff
  4. How do you position your firm? What is your business model?
    We’re an advisory firm focused on helping organisations align IT and business, and maximise the business value they get from their IT investments. Our starting point in everything we do is that focus. When we started the business we decided we needed to build a community and a footprint in the market: so we decided to give all our research reports away for free for the first 3 years. So until this year, all our revenue came from one-on-one consulting – with vendors and with enterprises. We’ve just launched two subscription advisory services, though, and these offer a layer of “value added” research reports and interactive decision support tools separately from our free “guest pass” research library. These are pitched primarily at European enterprises, but we’re also selling them to vendors.
  5. What is your research methodology?
    We use f2f and phone-based primary research with vendors (looking at capabilities, directions, SWOT etc) and enterprises (uncovering perceptions, challenges, maturity, etc). Some of our enterprise research in done in partnership with Freeform Dynamics.
  6. Tell us about one good AR practice you’ve experienced or one good AR event you’ve atttended.
    At a big analyst event last year, held at a swanky hotel, we had beautiful weather but most of the sessions were scheduled in a set of dark, windowless rooms in the basement. In one breakout, the session leader said “sod it, let’s go outside”. So rather than stand up and give a prepared death-by-Powerpoint talk, he took a group of us outside. We sat by the pool and had a great, informal round-table discussion. He was prepared to go off-piste, and I think that he (and the rest of us) got much more out of the session as a result.
  7. What are your offerings and key deliverables?
    As mentioned above our big focus right now is our new annual subscription advisory and research services (we currently offer one focused on BPM, and another focused on collaboration). These provide a mixture of vendor capability comparison tools, European best practice research and case studies, European market maturity research and enquiry time. They have “open licensing” terms that allow anyone in a customer organisation to access the research and (if the customer wants) place enquiries. In addition to these packaged products we offer custom enterprise consulting services (strategy reviews, procurement assistance, benchmarking and best practice workshops primarily) and vendor consulting services (quarterly strategy/messaging review retainers, competitive intelligence input, speaking at customer/partner events, and some very tightly-controlled creation of vendor-neutral thought leadership papers). We’re always developing new ideas, so check back regularly!

  8. Any hobbies or favourite restaurant / food that you’d like to share?
    When I’m not working or spending time with my son, I try to find time to play guitar, write songs, grow veg and cook for friends. I’m currently trying to persuade my wife that we can keep chickens. If I ever have a chunk of money that I can throw at something completely self-indulgent I’ll always aim to take my wife to a really good restaurant.
  9. What is your biggest challenges for the upcoming 6 months? And for the next 30 mn?
    For the next 6 months: continue to build our new advisory services business on a shoestring, so we can invest in some dedicated sales, marketing and customer service resources. For the next 30 min: finish some emails before my crappy laptop battery runs out…
  10. Is there another analyst (a peer in your firm or with another firm) whose work  you rate highly?
    Well of course I think my MWD co-founder, Neil Macehiter, is a brilliant analyst and consultant. Without him we’d be all over the place. But outside MWD, I’ve also had the privilege of working with lots of great analysts. Dale Vile, Gary Barnett, Katy Ring, Jessica Figueras and Eric Woods (in no particular order) all spring to mind.
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TGIF!

A Friday post, just to wind-up my friends at IDC and DQ (Hi Claus, Fabs, Eric, Chris, Ivano, Bo, Angela, Bob… and all the ones I forget!)

From Dilbert.com

And a serious thought as well: would more transparency in the research process help with objectivity and vendor independence?

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Around Ray Wang from Forrester in 10 questions

Ray WangThis week we have the pleasure of interviewing R “Ray” Wang from Forrester Research. In his spare time, he also contributes to the insightful Software Insiders blog. Thanks to Ray for his insights on the Software industry and also some thought provoking views on the IT Analysis industry too.

  1. What are your coverage areas?
    Research agendas for the business process and applications role focus on sustainable enterprise application strategies that include areas such as organizational readiness, vendor selection, software licensing and pricing, contract negotiations, instance consolidation, and SOA strategies for packaged apps such as ERP, Order Hubs, and Project Based Solutions. In addition, research focuses on business processes such as the order management cycle and continuous customer management, and I look at functional areas such as customer data integration and the impact of service-oriented architecture (SOA) on packaged applications. From a technology strategy perspective, I spend time evaluating the the emerging area of software ecosystems for SI’s and ISV’s.

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Gartner improves the vendor briefing process

In the most recent Gartner Analyst Relations Newsletter, Peter Kalinowski explains how the Vendor
Briefings
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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A dream for a collaborative AR platform

Gartner Inc. (NYSE:IT) came around yesterday for the IIAR forum at CA’s offices (thanks to Geoff Dorrington for hosting). So, thank you Aaron Yaverski (GVP High Tech Provider Product Management) and Andrew Rosenblatt (from Product Development). They presented some of the roadmap for the “Gartner for AR” offering and this got me thinking…The first thing they spoke about was the progress they made on the granularity and refresh cycle of the inquiry mining service. This is great news for vendors as it means they can now have an idea of what sort of things IT users are asking Gartner analysts. Of course, for confidentiality reasons we can’t access the details but it’s fantastic to have some insights on the conversations Gartner analysts are having with their end-user clients. IMHO, this is really the value of Gartner, not the actual research notes they produce.And as David Taylor commented, having a deeper understanding of how Gartner’s Influences the sales cycle, could a great step forward in solving the “Holy Grail” of measurement.

About that research, another point of importance is that the five star rankings are now available to IT vendors, but we can’t rank them let alone comment on them – like we can do on Forrester’s. While I understand there may be some sensitivities around this, it would be great to see Gartner opening the kimono and harness the community around itself.

Then we went in to “pie in the sky mode” as Gartner asked what we’d like. It was very encouraging to see Aaron and Andrew proactively soliciting views and opinions from the European AR community on what we would like to see in the future.

For me, we need a paradigm shift: Gartner needs to move from being a super Google, from presenting us information in the best way they can (and they’re doing a good job at that) towards a partnership approach. I’d like Gartner.com to be more like Facebook and less like my online banking site: of course it’s great to be able to check which bank transactions I’ve made but it would be way better if I could use the site to work with the analyst.

My Gartner-Facebook site would look like this:

  • I could check the analysts availability and that would help solving one of the biggest headache AR people have: scheduling briefings for busy execs and busy analysts who have more chance to meet in the airport lounge than in my customer visit centre. Oh, and by the way, if that Australian analyst that I deal with all the time is planning to visit London, I’d like to know please. It would be both a best use of analysts time as their travels would be optimised and save vendors money collectively.
  • Andrew showed us a “my activity” box which displayed the latest searches any given user has made. But hang on, that’s NOT my activity with Gartner. What I’d like is a report of all my inquiries, all my briefings and all my SAS days, etc.. This would help solving my second problem: reporting back to my boss my interactions with Gartner.
  • Next is the collaborative aspect. We spend a lot of time PDF’ing, zipping and sending Powerpoints (because we like our 50+ slides decks with lots of customer logo pages and our email systems don’t like anything over 10MB), receiving draft research notes and sending them back with our comments. I’d like to be able to post them on the “analyst wall”, check she/he’s got access to the latest version of our deck because otherwise he’ll be advising customers using old information. And also, make it available to his/her colleagues –or not if it’s under NDA.
  • For SAS days, the GartnerFacebook site would have a project page with a checklist and attachments: first scoping call, presentation abstract and title if it’s a speaking gig (that’s important for our marketing teams to send invites), briefing material, agenda of the day, logistics, etc…
  • The list could go on and on, but I guess by now you understand what I’m up to: I’d like a workflow extranet to interact with analysts. Some of the pieces are there already: at the IIAR we use Google Docs to share and peer review documents, I use Google Calendar to discover that I can’t attend the Forrester drinks because it clashes with the School Bingo Night, we have an extranet to post content, etc…

So, in short, what I’d like is a tool that reflects what we do together with the analysts, rather than something were I can just consume research. Gartner for AR is going in the right direction with providing us better insight into our clients and prospects’ mind, but it’s still a one-way street.

PS: From what Aaron and Andrew said, there are going to be many more discussions in the next few weeks and months. I’d encourage you to share your views and thoughts with Gartner – either by commenting on this blog or talking to Gartner directly. It looks like there are going to be some good and interesting developments happening later in the year. Now is our chance to make sure our voices are being heard.

PPS: thanks to Hannah Kirkmann, Marius Jost, David Taylor and David Rossiter for their input and for reviewing this post.

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this blog post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle or other members of the IIAR. While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and compliance with copyright laws, we can’t be held liable for any unintentional misrepresentation on this post but are happy to correct any wrongs quickly.

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IIAR Member Directory

The new IIAR Member Directory has just been posted to the IIAR website – to view, go to the Library section, under IIAR General Information (membership required for access).

The directory will be updated regularly so if any members who are not included would like to be added to future editions, please just drop me an email. If any information included is incorrect or out-of-date, please let Hannah know.

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Blogging…

I never thought this would be so difficult!

Duncan kindly suggested WordPress because it’s much better, which I did. It’s much more difficult to set up than blogger and as soon as I did Catherine was commenting on Twitter that it’s buggy. I finally got around redirecting it but still can’t get the domains to work on WordPress (apparently I have to do something to the INAME or whatever) so that it’s seamless between the blog and analystrelations.org.

Anyway, it’s now up and running and all the IIAR members can post. We’ll be accepting guest posts too.

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Welcome to the IIAR blog!

During yesterday’s forum, kindly hosted by Susan from Logica and masterfully chaired by Janine from Vodafone, it has been decided to create a blog for the Institute. So, here here we go.
In accordance with the IIAR philosophy, it will be open to all the members and won’t be a single version of the truth -because we don’t see the world in black and white. We want this blog to be a community forum where we can debate openly, some posts might be controversial and that all more intesting.  As such, it is also a way to share thoughts and engage with the analyst community, about analyst relations the industry in general.

We will also post here survey results highlights, Task Forces thoughts, ideas around best practices and more.  However, the detailed results, best practices papers, presentations will remain on analystrelations.org‘s members area.

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