Archive | AR debates

Gartner Wields the Most Influential Influencers, Peers, Not Analysts

A Glimpse into Peer Connect

Every AR person knows that many of the most influential analysts in the information technology industry work at Gartner.  But analysts are not the most influential influencers out there, peers are – IT buyerPicture showing ranking of influencerss and practitioners most trust the insights of other IT buyers and practitioners who have been through similar buying and implementation processes. The historical blockades to peer-to-peer exchange, however, have been (a) finding qualified peers and (b) providing a safe harbor for peers that prefer to remain anonymous in order
to participate. Continue Reading →

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[GUEST POST] Money, analyst attention, and implied analyst endorsement

This post, first published on Strategic Messaging,  is reposted here courtesy of the author, Curt Monash (bio, @curtmonash)”

This was and is meant to be a generally-applicable post. It just turns out to be laced with examples from my own experiences. I hope those aren’t too distracting from the broader points.

It is widely believed among analyst relations professionals that one should engage the services of the analysts most influential in one’s industry, in the hope that the analysts one pays will speak well of one’s company, publicly or privately as the case may be. Thus, the best way for an analyst to make money is:

  • Become influential in the industry s/he covers.
  • Say nice things about the companies in it, especially the ones with larger budgets.

On the whole, I think I do better at the first of those tasks than the second.

Sometimes the connection between money and saying nice things is pretty blatant. For example, I’m often asked “Hey, would you be interested in doing a white paper that highlights our product’s advantages?” Unfortunately for my bank account, I almost never think it’s a good idea to accept the commission. It’s not that I dispute that it is possible to be ethical when writing white papers. I just don’t find it easy. And frankly, even analysts I regard as ethical commonly turn out white papers with somewhat more bias than I like to see in documents carrying my name.

Even more directly, I’m occasionally grilled to the effect “Is your view of us sufficiently favorable that we should retain your services?” Those discussions generally don’t end up in a paying relationship, but so be it; the companies who do that aren’t clients I’d much enjoy having anyway.

[READ THE REST ON STRATEGIC MESSAGING]

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[GUEST POST] Trends: Influencers Aspire For Market Maker Status

(This post is cross-posted on the SoftwareInsider blog.)

Eight Major Influencer Types Exist Today

Analyst relations, public relations, influencer relations and other interested parties have witnessed the rapidly evolving and emerging buy-side and market influencer models.  In the past, eight influencer types followed five distinct traits (see Figure 1):

  1. Fame. Awareness, notoriety, perceived market status.
  2. Fortune. Billing rates, wealth, earnings.
  3. Market impact. Buy-side decisions making, sell-side product direction.
  4. Personal impact. Individual decisions, behaviour changes.
  5. Initial business model. Revenue drivers, monetization strategy.

Figure 1. Five Traits Of The Major Influencer Types

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Gartner details the MQ process

Magic Quadrant ChartFollowing some debate on Quora ( How much does it cost to be included in Gartner Magic Quadrant?,  do make sure you check Nancy Erskine’s answer), Lydia Leong from Gartner did publish a very useful blog post on The process of a Magic Quadrant.

Gartner’s MQ continues to be the source of much debate, mostly since it pits vendors against each others some are bound to be disappointed (a MQ with all vendors in the leaders quadrant won’t probably be of much use to IT buyers).
Gartner has overhauled the process in the last 5 years and made it quite robust now, though the weightings and ratings are still not publicised (a key difference with Forrester’s wave and IDC’s Decision matrixShort List).

No one asked for my opinions, so here they are:

  • it’s better to be in than not, even if in the niche quadrant
  • an MQ is better than a Marketscope (I don’t like rating vendors against a linear scale because it implies you should choose the one to the right)
  • an MQ is still only 2 dimensions (hear below Gideon Gartner on this point)
  • allocate enough time, about 100-120 man hours per MQ on the vendor side
  • make sure you manage your constituents expectations and get their support
  • IIAR members should read @edgyurko’s Best Practice Paper (link below)

Does this help? What is your experience? Do you have any tips?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7zzl1RM02U]

Related posts:

 

13/1/11 edit: corrected the “IDC MQ” name after Vuk’s comment (below).

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[GUEST POST] Outsourcing Analyst Relations: A viable option?

Last week I participated in an interesting discussion regarding influence and the role of analyst relations (AR) – specifically around the issue of how AR staff could increase their influence through a variety of different mechanisms or channels. But one key point that kept creeping into the conversation was one of limited resources: “we simply don’t have the staff to aggressively pursue everything that we would like to accomplish” (a point echoed by many in smaller or fast-growing firms).

After a bit of digging, two basic issues kept making their way into the discussion: a lack of full-time resources and a lack of “R”-level funding (which is often split between Analyst Relations, Investor Relations, Public Relations and Marketing).

That said, there seemed to be a general consensus that yes, there are “parts” of the AR function, regardless of the size of the firm, that could be outsourced based on the size/type of organization, the goals that need to be accomplished and the availability of “outside” resources (or more importantly, funding) – all with the understanding that there must be an accountable person in-house to properly manage and drive the effort. Continue Reading →

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[GUEST POST] Help – I have just hit the glass ceiling

Posted originally on Marcduke’s Blog, thanks to Mark for his permission to repost.

I have been having a number of great conversations with members of the AR fraternity about all things AR. Smart people whose work I respect and opinions I value too.

One of the comments that really got me thinking (and now finally blogging) was as follows (paraphrased as this was a conversation I had a while back):

‘The problem I have is that I feel I have hit a glass ceiling with AR, there is only so far I can go with it. Plus in the organisation I work in, its part of the PR framework and I feel there is a limit to what I can do’

Is that really the case??? At an analyst event I put this view to an analyst and got a very interesting response:

‘Yes I deal with some really smart AR people, they really understand how we work and how to make things happen for us, and we likewise help them as well, but some take too short-sighted a view about working with analysts and need to look further than the briefing/messaging process’

In effect it comes down to what you make of AR, I have written in the past about marketing oriented AR and feel that this is the key to breaking the glass ceiling. I for one will always look at ways to push the boundaries!

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AR and social media: it’s the interaction stupid!

I’m back from the Forrester IT Forum last week, where I was invited to the AR Council (thank you @liz_pellegrini).
There I stumbled on a nice graph (right) published on John Rymer’s blogs and thought it summarises pretty well why AR should care about SocMed.
My research lifecycle
Many of my peers see blogs as an output for free research and Twitter as drinking from a chit-chat firehose. My argument there is that they’re missing the point.

Here’s the reasoning:

  1. Social media is declarative (people say what they want, where they want and choose to participate or not). This means you need to interact with a given audience where they are -on Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn or in the good old fashion way, at the pub. And chose the appropriate topic for the appropriate channel.
  2. Social media is a conversation -it’s the place to discuss and interact. I take many briefing requests from analysts on Twitter, post some comments on their blogs (if I’ve got something relevant to say and that complies with my employer’s blogging guidelines), all that to say it’s not a one way street.
  3. DO: use SocMed as a research tool. John is illustrating well how an analyst can test an idea, exchange with other analysts (this point is far tool little documented actually), etc.  But it’s also a great research tool for AR pros to see what analysts are thinking about.
  4. Timing is everything. Research is nothing if not followed up by actions: being better connected with web 2.0 tools allows AR managers to insert the right proofpoint, topic, idea, in a conversation with much better chances of being picked up by analysts because it’s more relevant to their research agenda. The idea is to switch away from being reactive to being more proactive.

Nothing really revolutionary as good AR mangers already do all this by calling regularly their key analysts, but social media is a conversation accelerator, allowing AR pros to follow more analysts and interact with them in a more timely and proactive fashion.

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Proteiform Analystus -the multichannel dilemna for IT analysis firms in the socmed era

I was reading Merv’s post on Analysts Don’t List Themselves on Social Media « Merv’s Market Strategies for IT Suppliers and it coiincidentally resonated with a conversation I was having this week with an account manager at an IT analysis research form.

Merv’s point that twitter handles and blogs are not listed on analyst bios raises a good point: I mean surely this is so obvious that someone should have thought about it already. After some checking, someone already came up with this IDEAs (sorry, bad play on word but it’s Friday).

My comment on Merv’s blog was:

Going even further, when I do a search on gartner.com, idc.com or forrester.com, I would expect the blog posts to come up as well.

Why is the blog content not aggregated in the research portals???

Indeed. In today’s two-zero’s world, analyst output is proteiform (see Should the analysts be blogging?), so why segregate it by channel?

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[GUEST POST] Analyst Relations Basics – part three

NB This is a cross-post from the Buzz Method blog, where it was originally posted in February 2010 as the third in a series of articles on Analyst Relations basics. Please note that the views expressed within the article do not necessarily reflect those of the IIAR – they are the opinion of Dominic Pannell, founder of Buzz Method Ltd.

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[GUEST POST] Analyst Relations Basics – part two

NB This is a cross-post from the Buzz Method blog, where it was originally posted in November 2009 as the second in a series of articles on Analyst Relations basics. Please note that the views expressed within the article do not necessarily reflect those of the IIAR – they are the opinion of Dominic Pannell, founder of Buzz Method Ltd.

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Should the analysts be blogging?

Phil Fersht (ex. AMR) started an interesting conversation on his Outsourcing Blog: Horses for Sources with a post titled  The great analyst firewall: will banning analysts from blogging damage the traditional research business, or help create an entirely new one?

I really like those quotes in particular, the first one depicts the onset of the analyst scene in the noughties (IMHO Phil, it happened a bit before though):The Skills of Star Performers Aren’t Portable

The “rock star” analyst had arrived. People paid good money to spend time with these people, to hear their views, use them as a sounding-board, or just to be associated with them. And their growing corporate stables certainly didn’t refuse the increasing moneys that came rolling in off the back of their growing relationships and influence. The rock stars created buzz and drove the industry, challenging both vendors and customers to innovate and transform business models.

However, like anything else, corporates like to monetize their brands to the max, scale their businesses and drive down their costs. It’s business economics one-on-one, and the big analyst firms are no different.

And its consequence:

We want Bill, not Ben

Having their clients say “I want Bill, not Ben” was (and still is) infuriating to the analyst firms. They want their clients to pay the same for the 28-year old fresh from her MBA, than they did for the rock stars of yesteryear. And they’re currently succeeding, as there aren’t too many alternatives right now.

Now, as a self-confessed “ex-Rockstar” puts it, it doesn’t go without implications for the business model, and maybe this is why Forrester, but also Gartner restricts analysts to blogging on their coverage areas to their corporate site, while Ovum doesn’t even feature their analyst bios on their extranets:

A (now departed for vendor land) fellow ex-analyst at IDC used to say that most of the firms could never figure out how to deal with an analyst transitioning from labor to talent since you pay each of those people in very different ways. Talent drives revenues, but paying people as talent is bad for profit plans.

To me this is quite obvious: the result of analysts work (read when paid by their employers) is intellectual property. And since that IP is not only created during business hours (whatever that means nowadays), it rightly belong to the analyst firms -just like inventions and patents they might come up with. This is purely hypothetical because never has one ever heard of a patent filed by an IT analyst. (DISCLAIMER: yes, provocative statement, but who knows we might learn something cool from the comments of this posts?)

So, just get over it, who gives a damn anyway? BTW, check Josh’s comment in the thread and you’ll see the Forrester blogs debate has no raison d’être. Merv also blogger here about the different policies here, good wrap up with lots of quotes.

More intriguing are firms without a presence at all in the online conversation -I’d say they’re missing out, both on branding, influence, research validation, etc… There’s little evidence to back this up (cf. Gerry‘s comment).

So, where does it lead us? One sub-header gives up a clue to the real issue, and that’s way beyond blogging:

Aren’t analysts supposed to create buzz?

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[GUEST POST] Analyst Relations Basics – part one

NB This is a cross-post from the Buzz Method blog, where it was originally posted in November 2009 as the first in a series of articles on Analyst Relations basics. Please note that the views expressed within the article do not necessarily reflect those of the IIAR – they are the opinion of Dominic Pannell, founder of Buzz Method Ltd.

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[GUEST POST] Measuring online influence

This second post on online influence looks at how one might measure influence using online metrics. It follows on from last week’s post which posed a lot of questions, but few answers. Fair cop.

But first, I think there are a couple of principles of influence to consider:

1. People buy people. Therefore influence measures need to identify individuals. It’s not sufficient to conclude that Gartner (for example) is influential – duh. Vendors need to know (a) who within Gartner is influential, (b) what’s their influence relative to other analyst influencers, and (c) what’s their influence relative to other non-analyst influencers. Influence isn’t distributed equally, either within organisations or throughout the market.

2. Influence is multi-dimensional. Some influencers are subject gurus, some command statutory authority, some are thought leaders and idea planters, some structure the financial elements of procurement, and so on. It’s important to understand why someone is influential, as much as the fact that they are influential.

So. Let’s look at some of the ways influence claims to be measured online:

– Citations – this measures the number of times a source refers back to an originating source. Google PageRank works this way: it rates pages highly if other people link back to it. It’s also how academic research works: a recent paper will refer to previous papers, and the more references a paper gets the more influential it is considered to be. Its strength is its weakness – it will persist in referring back to previously cited sources, even if they become superceded. It also build in something called the Matthew effect, where longevity is favoured over originality.

– Connections – how many outbound links a source has. LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter (following) and other social networks work this way. Count the connections to determine how well connected the person is. It’s also easy to fake, by link swaps, indiscriminate “friending” and so on.

– Subscriptions and readership – Technorati works this way, measuring the number of readers a blog has, and Twitter also publishes this information as followers.

– Noise – references to subjects and/or individual firms. Radian 6, Techrigy, and a bunch of other providers do this, measuring the number of times your firm is mentioned. Some also claim to measure the sentiment of the mention, usually using natural language processing tech.

All of these measures are indicators of online activity, and you can see the usefulness of them, as far as they go. They are, in my view, the equivalent of PR clippings services.

However, none of them measure whether the critical community, decision makers, are remotely influenced by online channels. It’s always necessary to ask: Influence on whom? Do any of these measures accurately assess the impact on real decision makers? In other words, do they measure the likely impact on behaviour of a buyer? Because if they don’t, if they measure a vague notion of industry activity or sentiment, then do they really reflect the ecosystem of influencers that impacts decisions?

More critically, can vendors construct marketing programmes around these measures to improve knowledge, lead generation and useful sales collateral? Because if they can’t, what are these measures useful for?

Tssk – more questions.That last one was rhetorical.

Next week’s post will probably pose more questions about how AR can use online channels to increase influence on their firms’ prospective customers.

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[Guest Post] Have online channels changed the nature of influence?

Determining the impact of the growth in online channels such as social media is one of the things that taxes most of us. I’m forever seeing new ‘influencer tracker’ services pop up, and in the world of analyst relations there’s continual discussion on whether and how to engage in online options like blogs, podcasts and social networking.

In response to the explosion of online influencer tracker services – there are over 100 nowadays, and counting – Nick Hayes and I wrote a paper* on how we think they are misleading marketers. The paper led to an invitation to post on the IIAR blog, to hopefully spark some discussion – thanks for the invite, Ludovic.

This first post focuses on whether influence as a concept has changed with the use of online channels. The second will look at how influence can be measured using online metrics. And the third will discuss the implications of online channels for AR and Influencer Relations professionals.

There’s an important context to any debate on influence, online or otherwise. It is that ecosystems of influencers are highly fragmented these days. Most decision makers are influenced by the traditional journalists and analysts, but also by consultants, academics, regulators, financiers, sourcing advisors, procurement professionals and other specialists, as well as peer end users.

Much of the influence exerted by this group has been enabled, in large part, by online channels. This has been an ongoing process for a decade. The web and search engines make it easier for anyone to reach the market, and easier for buyers to find what they’re looking for. Blogs and podcasts increase the reach of anyone inclined to use them. Social media is just the next step in this evolution – there’s no social media revolution going on.

But social media has provided a new channel for those people with the potential to influence, making communication between those people frictionless.  To reach a group of like-minded adopters of a technology you used to have to organise a meeting in a mutually inconvenient location. Nowadays, you organise an unconference or participate in an online forum. It used to take months to organise an event, now it can take hours.

But has the nature of influence changed? Are decision makers influenced in different ways through online channels? You’d think so, given the hype, but as Nate Elliott at Forrester observed, “the huge majority of users influence each other face to face rather than through social online channels.”

It makes sense to understand the attributes of influence – the ability to discuss and persuade, knowledge and experience, willingness to express an opinion, the authority and gravitas with which to communicate that opinion, the opportunity to convey that opinion to the right audience at the right time. And so on.

Some of these attributes are facilitated by online channels, for sure. Others are removed from online impact completely. There’s no doubt that some of the smaller analyst firms, for example, are benefitting from their online presence, in terms of reaching their potential audience through blogging and other social media technologies. But these channels are not creating expertise or authority – simply the means to communicate them.

Can social media create a new kind of influence, by collative the collective wisdom of a connected crowd? After all, there is safety in numbers in doing what the crowd does. We used to have a version of that in the IT industry – no-one ever got fired for buying IBM. Imagine the power of that kind of statement, communicated instantly over the blogosphere. Or would it be immediately challenged and rejected by real users’ experience?

So, are analysts influencing via online channels? How is influence really conveyed by analysts to decision makers? Has it moved mainly to online or is it still by telephone enquiries and face-to-face advice?

*Free registration required, or email me at duncan.brown(at)influencer50.com. Barbara French also contributed to the paper.

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Is shooting on the referee productive?

Originally posted here: Contentious conversations in analyst relations

As a side note, shooting on the referee rarely helps -the IIAR now has a best practice paper on how to deal with the Gartner Magic quadrants available to our member on our extranet.

Contentious conversation 1 – integrity of analysts and the future of AR

Blog my Tom Bittman from Gartner – A Rant – My Integrity as an Analyst

Summary: Gartner analyst angry that he has to justify his integrity

My view: Edelman trust barometer consistently shows that over the past few years analysts are the most trusted

Key comments: Vinnie Mirchandani questioning whether Gartner’s reliance on large vendor subscriptions means that their reports are truly representative

What this means:

There is an ongoing fight regarding how independent an analyst can be if they receive money from vendors. Whereas some firms in the past have been ‘White Paper for hire’ houses, they tend to lose industry respect very quickly and go bust. What can not be in doubt is that in subscribing to an analyst house, you have the ability to pay for more time in front of the analysts leading to a greater chance to educate them – often this will result in a more favourable position. I am not saying that to be successful in AR you need to have subs, it is more a case of – it helps.

The secondary argument (and possibly more important) is by having a look at who the key participants in this debate are. On one side we have the analyst and the other we have the IT advisor. The latter group frequently comes from an analyst background (see Vinnie Mirchandani, ex-Gartner; Ray Wang, ex-Forrester) but in their current role do not have a research agenda. By default this does not make them (in their mind) an analyst.

However, I believe we are playing semantics. Our view in AR needs to be simple: if they affect IT buying then they are an influencer and need to be dealt with accordingly. AR most closely deals with these individuals – we may need to adapt a different name so that they don’t get upset by being labelled analysts but they will remain a key audience for us to engage with and should continue to enjoy the same disclosure benefits that traditional analysts enjoy. With the growth of firms like Altimeter Group, this fundamental shift towards a larger influencer group will become more important than ever over the next few years.

 

Contentious conversation 2 – analysts liable for ‘incorrect’ positioning

Article in IT Knowledge Exchange – Email archiving vendor sues Gartner over Magic Quadrant

Summary: Claiming that Gartner’s MQ constitute “disparaging, false/misleading, and unfair statements” about its email archiving product that have done damage to its sales prospects, ZL filed suit for damages of $132 million to account for lost sales.

My view: This fight has caused great PR for ZL but someone’s position in an MQ should not be a surprise. If a vendor believes they are unfairly positioned the time to argue this point is before the quadrant is published.

Key comments:

The power of a positive ranking in Gartner is immense because it is often the case that large purchases of technology are based exclusively on the MQ Reports…For instance, the Office of the Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently conducted an investigation into the use of the Gartner’s MQ reports in connection with the VA’s $16,000,0000 purchase of certain leases and services from Dell. The Office of Inspector General reported that the VA made this large purchase based solely on the leadership rankings in the relevant Gartner MQ report. (source: initial complaint)

In Mark Logic’s excellent analysis of this case, he makes the following comment about whether having the best technology means that someone should be positioned superior to another company who simply has better sales and marketing.

While Ingres arguably had the best database technology in the 1980s, Oracle’s sales and marketing prowess caused it to win the market and any analyst who — focused solely on the technology — would have recommended Ingres at that time would have done his customers a disservice.”

What this means:

Like it or not, Gartner are the original 800lb gorilla. Whether it is right or wrong, the fact remains that their MQ inherently has an influence in IT buying behaviour. What AR pros need to do is work with the analyst ideally six months prior to any publication to fully understand what success criteria are to be better positioned as a leader and work towards those goals. A great way to understand how to work with an MQ can be seen in the great IIAR White Paper.

We have to accept that the firm with the best technology does not always win (see Betamax vs. VHS) – for a company to be successful, they will need to have a great product that is complemented by a sound go-to-market strategy. Luckily for us this is where AR can help.

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MQs, accreditation and a debate on IT services – all in the same evening

Those of us fortunate enough to be able to attend* yesterday’s IIAR Forum enjoyed a treat.

Ed Gyurko presented the latest IIAR whitepaper on Magic Quadrant submissions (available from Monday, free of charge to members).  It will prove immensely useful to those who have to work on the seminal Gartner reports.

Following Ed was David Taylor who spoke about the IIAR’s plans for AR accreditation. These are really starting to take shape. David and the group he’s been working with deserve a lot of thanks for their hard work to date.   There’s more that still needs to be done – but it’s definitely getting there and that’s very exciting.

And then we had the third highlight of the meeting – a spirited and informative debate with analysts from three firms that are focused on the IT services market:  Kate Hanaghan of Bathwick, John Willmott from NelsonHall and Puni Rajah of TechMarketView (who was joined by her colleague Anthony Miller).

There are some clear differences between the three firms but all three are in agreement: relationships with clients are the key for success in the next 12 months.  There was also consensus that good analyst firms would survive but there would be casualties among those unable to demonstrate the value they deliver.

While all three acknowledged the difficulties of doing business in the current market, TechMarketView was very upbeat about the future.  Puni and Anthony are predicting that the overall analyst market will grow in size over the next year (and as a result, there will be more demand for AR people).  It will be nice if those predictions come true.

There was plenty more discussion and our hour was quickly over. If you couldn’t make it, then I’m sorry. You did miss a really good meeting.

Finally, thanks to our analyst speakers for coming along and taking part in an absolutely fascinating debate.

Also a big thank you to Robert De Souza who chaired the analyst discussion, Laura Woodward who hosted the meeting and Hannah Kirkman, the IIAR secretary for bring it all together.

* Attendees came from a wide range of companies including Accenture, BT, Capgemini, Cisco, CSC, CustomerClix, Edelman, HCL, Hill & Knowlton, Logicalis, Nortel, Oracle, Prasada, Richmond Green, Sunesis, Weber Shandwick and Zeus.

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