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The Superstars: Ray Wang, Jeremiah Owyang and Deb Schultz join Charlene Li at Altimeter

Pop quiz…

Question: what do you get if you combine the analyst of the year (Ray Wang), the analyst blogger of the year  and author of Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies (Charlene Li), the most influential social media analyst (Jeremiah Owyang) and the previous lead of the Social Media Lab at Proctor & Gamble in one analyst firm?

Answer: The superstars or the galacticos of the IT advisory world – now currently partners at Altimeter Group.

There has been a great deal of speculation ever since Jeremiah announced he was leaving Forrester as to where he would end up. The result is an incredibly smart one.

Ever since Charlene jumped the ship and setup Altimeter her mission has been to focus less upon future trends to a more pragmatic customer-focused model. She explains:

Instead of worrying about the next wave of technology, focus on what your customers are using – or not using yet.

I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with Jeremiah to understand what the future brings…

 

What is Altimeter Group?

We are a company that focused on emerging technologies. Whereas yesteryear people looked at faxes and mobiles – now the focus is social media. Now the big disrupter is social. Change is coming at an increased pace but companies don’t have a policy to respond. Altimeter aims to help companies by evaluating technologies, identify key players and let people test in a safe setting.

The future of business requires a holistic approach to adapting and integrating emerging technologies.

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Are you an analyst house?

We are not an analyst firm  – we are consultants. This is because an analyst is someone who has a research agenda. Instead we would like to have a few select relationships with clients and guide them through this process.

 

What are you each going to cover?

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Ray mentioned specifically that he is:

Looking at bridging today’s world of enterprise apps with the E2.0 world of connected business platforms

 

What’s unique to Altimeter Group?

One of our key announcements is The Hanger

Physical and virtual spaces to facilitate experimentation

I think this is a great idea as it will enable that testing station in a safe environment to evaluate the most appropriate technology for a client. Surely this is better than installing it, paying thousands on consultancy support only to find it was the wrong thing to do.

 

How do you hope to remain as influential now that you have left Forrester?

It’s quite interesting to see that I have already lost quite a few subscriptions from my blog after I left. Some people value the Forrester brand over mine. However, what I am after is to seek fewer relationships more in a deeper capacity. I want to have long term relationships with clients

 

What type of customers will you be targeting?

Primarily these will be large brands. However, we would also expect a small set of clients to be vendors who want help with their product. The percentage split will still be more end users./brands vs. vendors. The priority will always be  to help the buyers first.

 

You are all based in the US – any thoughts of having a more global reach – or does this not matter as social media enables global communities?

If things go well, we will go where our clients are but no plans yet.

 

Opinion

There are two major impacts on this announcement.

The first is understanding how the business model has changed. Jeremiah positions his company via an analogy of a general contractor for a building project. What they want to do is ensure that the blueprints and plans are right before anything is built. I like this model as it is far more pragmatic for buyers.

From an AR point of view, the main difference is that they are not analysts.

They are not out to replace Forrester. In fact, what they are set to do is complement analyst thinking. They are a small company based in the US that is not out to compete against Forrester think it is a moot point in the whole definition game of ‘what is an analyst’ – the key thing to remember from an AR perspective is that they are influencers in the buying process and must be respected and engaged with as such.

 

End note: This post was meant to be published at 5pm UK when the embargo was lifted. However, seeing as this has now been broken and Ray Wang has given permission for it to go early, this has now been posted.

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Ray Wang named IIAR Analyst of the Year 2009

London, 25 August 2009: The Institute of Industry Analyst Relations (IIAR) today named Ray Wang, most recently Vice President, Principal Analyst with Forrester Research Inc., as its Analyst of the Year for the second year running. Ray was nominated by a global survey of 137 analyst relations professionals. Runners up for the title were Jon Collins of Freeform Dynamics and David Mitchell of Ovum. Jon Collins of Freeform Dynamics was voted the EMEA Analyst of the Year. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given an industry-wide retrenchment in IT research spending, the traditional global analyst firms performed very strongly this year. Gartner, Forrester Research and IDC were ranked first, second and third respectively in the Analyst Firm of the Year category. The three firms were also highly rated in terms of their importance, achieving top three places in five of the nine industry segments. Nevertheless, boutique firms and specialists, particularly those based in Europe, also managed to hold their own in a tough economic environment. Freeform Dynamics, RedMonk and Quocirca all appeared in the top five Analyst Firm of the Year in EMEA, and their analysts scored highly in terms of importance in SMB, developer/IT Pro and Software, and green IT/sustainability, respectively. What do AR professionals most value when working with analysts? In addition to knowledge and market insight, flexibility in approach, responsiveness and willingness to listen all scored highly. “At a time when vendors are having to evaluate carefully where they should invest their limited funds, it is refreshing to see best-of-class analysts receiving recognition for the value they deliver.” said Jonny Bentwood, Board Member for the IIAR. “Now, more than ever before, analysts have to prove their tangible worth and those that provide independence, integrity, flexibility and deep industry knowledge of their specific areas are being recognised as true partners for vendors and IT buyers.”

Commenting on his award, Ray Wang said: “It’s a great honour to be recognised by the IIAR, especially in a year where clients challenge analysts to provide more actionable and personalised advice. As we rely more on social media tools to improve client delivery and outreach, I’m often reminded not to forget the other part of the equation – building strong relationships. In fact, the best AR pro’s I work with master the art of fostering strong relationships and understand that art often trumps science when dealing with people.”

A full list of the winners can be found at http://blog.analystrelations.org.

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Brief summary of the last IIAR Forum presentation by Datamonitor

Duncan Chapple from Lighthouse AR has posted on his blog the following entry: Datamonitor, Ovum & Butler cohabitation makes AR easier (Analyst Equity).

It’s a good summary of the last IIAR London Forum, kindly hosted by David Rossiter from Sunesis and at which Mark Meek / Datamonitor CEO and David Mitchell / SVP IT Research.

Overall, I would say the reactions were very postive, juste tempered by a “wait and see” attitude towards whether they will execute efficiently. This is my personal take on some of the reactions and by no means an IIAR position or the aggregation of all the present members opinions. We can’t say too much as we’re bound by an NDA, but here are my thoughts -for what they’re worth.

Still personally, I think this goes in the right direction and if they they execute it correctly, we will end up with:

  • one single point of contact for the commercial aspects
  • unified deliverables formats and research agendas
  • no more duplication in coverage areas

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AR professionals should canvass inside firms

It’s all too easy to assume that by briefing the lead analyst on a vendor or on a coverage area, your job as AR professional is done.

Don’t…

While some firms have robust sharing practices, such as repositories for presentations and vendor briefing teams that check which other analysts may be interested in a briefing, you can’t rely on those for the following reasons.

  • You know best what you’re trying to say.
    Vendor briefings follow the firms’ coverage model, and it usually works. However, you might want to brief some analysts in a “new” area, as you’re about to launch a new product or respond to new trends. Think for instance of Cisco entering the servers market, Oracle launching apps for the iPhone, etc…
  • Politics hinder the information flow Some topics breach the usual silos within analyst firms and as a result you need to brief several analysts. In an ideal world, we would all be working in happy-family-like-companies and all work together towards achieving the highest customer satisfaction. However, some analysts may not view positively others stepping on their coverage area while others may not spontaneously and proactively share the information. It’s not only job protection, it’s also the fact that they tend to have incredibly busy schedules, with some targeted to produce over 15 notes per year, in addition to the briefings, the sales calls, the events and the customer engagements.
  • Metrics can prevent analysts from collaborating
    The way people are incented can also play a role. In some firms analysts get more brownie points for notes they write solo (which is IMHO as perverse as incentives for long notes). So, do make sure you tell everyone what you’re up to to facilitate collaboration (but don’t force it).
  • The coverage model may not work for what you’re trying to say
    For instance, if your are doing AR for some products that are not part of a firm’s coverage map but may impact the edges of some analysts’ interest areas. There are also firms that have decided to cover “roles”, which can mean that they won’t effectively cover industries. In those cases, try to find a theme that’s of interest to some analysts or propose vertical case studies to horizontal analysts.

Key learning point: look further than the “obvious” analysts, remember your job is to sell ideas and not everyone’s buying off plans!

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Larry De’Ath’s Top 10 Best Practices for Analyst Relations

(Our thanks go to Steve Keifer for writing this appreciation of Larry De’Ath, who died this time last year. Steve outlines Larry’s views on analyst relations, which were always notable. I first came across Larry in 1999, when he was at Merant, but really got to know him in 2004 after he joined GXS. It’s a pleasure to bring his insight to a wider audience.)

Last April, Larry De’Ath, a good friend and colleague of mine passed away.  I had the opportunity to work with Larry for a little over four years during his time at GXS.  Larry had a number of things he was extremely passionate about – the RIM Blackberry device; drinking Diet Coke; golf trips to Thailand; Chinese history and culture; and most importantly, his two daughters.  But at work his passion was concentrated on analyst relations.  Before I met Larry I had never really given much thought to the function of Analyst Relations (AR).  To me, it was just one of those things that the Public Relations(PR) team did in addition to their core purposes of issuing news releases, seeking media coverage and shaping public opinions about the firm.   But to Larry, AR was the most important aspect of corporate communications.

It is amazing how when you meet someone who is very passionate about a particular hobby, subject or career, how that person’s enthusiasm can shape your opinions as well.  Such was the case with AR and Larry.  Through my work with Larry, I gained a newfound appreciation for the complexities of AR.  And I learned how someone who is highly skilled in the AR trade can generate significantly higher ROI from analyst firms and broader market influence.  AR is really about building relationships with people and attempting to influence their thinking on topics relevant to your company.  I think one of the keys to Larry’s effectiveness with AR was the fact that he held sales roles earlier in his career.  As a result, he had strong relationship building skills and he knew how to sell ideas.

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Having had one year to reflect on the lessons I learned from Larry, I decided to put together a Top 10 list of the Best Practices in AR he advocated.   My list is below, but I would encourage those of you who knew Larry personally to add your own comments as well.

#1 – Separate the research function from the relationship function
There are two primary functions related to analysts within technology vendors.  One function is primarily inbound and research-oriented, focused on reviewing secondary market research for the purposes of competitive analysis, market sizing and SWOT analysis.  The other is primarily outbound and relationship-oriented, focused on briefing analysts on new product releases; corporate strategy and customer case studies.  Larry believed that although the two functions were closely related and interdependent, there was also a logical segmentation between the two.  The process of analyzing the research and supporting inquiries from within the organization can be quite time-consuming, handicapping the ability to perform important outreach activities.  Consequently, Larry always recommended a clear division between the responsibilities so as to avoid any competing priorities.

#2 – Centralized management of corporate communications programs
Larry believed in centralized management of AR out of global headquarters.  Even regional activities local to Europe, Asia and Latin America, he thought should be coordinated centrally.  In fact, Larry advocated that not only PR and AR, but also Investor Relations (IR) should be owned by one group.  However, for public companies, Larry recognized that IR functions require a direct reporting relationship to the CFO to be credible.  The benefit of centralization was to ensure consistency and mitigate the risk of mistakes.  Larry also believed that maintaining relationships with analysts was a key function that should not delegated to an outside firm.  Consequently, he frowned upon the use of specialized, external agencies.

#3 – You can never have too many people at an analyst briefing
Larry viewed the role of the AR manager as a facilitator.  His job was not to be the expert on every aspect of the company’s products, customers, financials and strategy.  Instead, he viewed his role as providing analysts with access to the most knowledgeable subject matter experts for various disciplines.  He was not afraid to ask for time commitments from executives to ensure that each and every question an analyst had during a formal briefing could be adequately addressed.  Consequently, it was not uncommon for Larry to gather ten or more people in the room for an important briefing with a single Gartner, Forrester or AMR analyst.

#4- Invest strategically in Tier 2 research firms
Many marketing executives are tempted to concentrate all analyst focus on the top 4 firms (Gartner, Forrester, IDC and AMR).  However, Larry always sought to diversify his spend.  He would reserve a healthy percentage of his budget to fund other analysts he viewed as strategic, even if they did not have the brand name, reputation or reach of the Tier 1s.  For example, Larry was a strong advocate of firms such as Yankee Group and Current Analysis.   One of the key benefits Larry advocated in working with Tier 2-3 firms was the flexibility they could offer for custom market research, joint public relations and contracted marketing services.

#5 – Demand high-performance from the analyst account teams
Larry took his role very seriously and expected those supporting him to have an equivalent level of commitment.  If he believed he was not receiving adequate service Larry would not hesitate to escalate his concerns until the issues were resolved or a new point of contact was assigned.  Many vendors are reluctant to complain about poor service from the client managers at the analyst firms for fear of negatively impacting vendor reviews.  However, Larry understood the analyst firms well enough to know that their primary concern was client satisfaction.

#6 – Understand what is important to the analyst both professionally and personally
Larry would make a point to understand how analysts were measured and what flexibility they had to work with vendors. He would then focus on ways he could help the analyst meet their targets for research publications or end-user client inquiries.  Not only did Larry understand the professional motivations of the analysts he worked with, but he understood their personal ambitions as well.  For example, he could tell you whether the analyst was planning to have any kids; whether they were planning to have surgery; or whether they were planning to buy a second home on the beach.  Sometimes he would call analysts with no particular reason other than just to say hello.

#7 – Shape the marketing programs budget to benefit AR
Most executives recognize the importance of maintaining good-relationships with a group of key influencers in the purchasing process is known.  However, they are also cautious about committing too much budget to AR functions.  Larry was always creative in finding ways to supplement the core spend levels he maintained for research and advisory services.  One of the strategies I always admired was how he was able to leverage other marketing programs budget to effectively increase the total spend he committed to key firms.  For example, Larry would use analysts to judge customer awards programs; facilitate customer advisory councils; and present at executive planning sessions.

#8 – Advocate for the analysts internally within your organization
Larry recognized that the AR professional’s job was not only to advocate for his company with the analysts, but also to advocate for the analysts within his company.  Larry would hunt down customer references to ensure that his analysts had adequate end-user engagement.  He would proactively engage product managers to obtain pre-briefings for analysts on new product launches.  If an analyst was visiting headquarters for an on-site briefing, he would schedule a 1-hour briefing that anyone on the management team could attend.  All of these activities helped to increase the visibility of analysts within the company and supported efforts to justify continued investments in the AR programs.

#9 – Get executive face time
Larry believed strongly in providing one-on-one interactions between analysts and the CEO, CFO, CTO and other key executives.  This practice was a win-win scenario for the AR group.  The analyst valued the privileged access they were being provided to top level management.  And the executives enjoyed hearing both positive and negative feedback from the analyst firm.  The C-level sponsorship often resulted in much greater level of attention being applied to the issues, risks and challenges identified by the analyst.  As a result, Larry could then follow up with the analyst to demonstrate how their feedback was taken seriously.

#10 – Treat vendor evaluations like a multi-million dollar RFP response
Larry placed an incredible amount of energy and focus towards vendor evaluations such as the Gartner Magic Quadrant and the Forrester Wave.   He understood clearly the link between strong performance in analyst rankings and the competitiveness of the sales team in major accounts.  Poor placement on the Magic Quadrant or Wave could result in being excluded from RFPs from major clients.  Conversely, strong placement in the Leaders category along with advocacy from the leading analyst covering a technology segment, could be a key factor in winning large deals with multi-national customers.

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Softcopy formats

I first need to start this post with an apology to Merv, as I’ve kept calling him Adrian -it’s probably that it sounded more like a first name than Merv to my little French brain. So, apologies Adrian Merv!

Anyway, Merv started a poll on should AR Provide Soft Copies of Briefing Content? and asked me to relay this. I thought the question is interesting.

I always send the decks in PDF, because it’s a more open format than .ppt or .pptx -an old habit I got at IBM since no one could read Freelance decks. It’s also much smaller, which avoids getting flame mails from analysts on the move -I know this shows my age by I remember a conversation with an analyst stuck in Italy and trying to download 1 meg email (it was a lot of bytes a the time) over a 32 bauds connection. Even if the ubiquity of WiFi changed quite a lot of things (including removing the need to travel with screwdrivers to connect to telephone socket in Italian hotels…), sending an 8 MB deck isn’t well received by analysts who travel a lot. Oh, and I always send them in advance to let the analyst prepare, ask him/her if she/he has specific questions and suggest my spokespersons to frame the briefing and plan for 20-40 mn of content per 60 mn slot to avoid death-by-Powerpoint. Obviously, some spokespersons don’t comply and that’s the life of an AR manager 🙁

Merv also mentions that AR like the fact PDF can’t be changed, that’s also a point: it’s easier to send the PDF and then if the analyst needs a graphic, let him/her request it and then make sure that it’s employed correctly. Briefing decks aren’t always checked by Legal, etc, and AR needs to make sure anything can be reused. PDF’ing a deck also removes the speaker notes, which are often not in synch or updated with new decks and my contain unwanted information.

This leaves the problem of making notes on a deck, in electronic format that is. Annotating a PDF using the full-Acrobat is a good solution but some comments on Merv’s post point that analysts like to past a deck structure into a word processor and start draft a research note this way.

But what about webcasts?

Turning the problem the other way around, why don’t the analyst provide their research as a Wiki that can be updated, where you could see different contributions including vendor reviews? There would be many issues associated with this idea but I thought it’s worth a debate?

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IIAR publishes Best Practice Paper on Managing the Gartner MQ

Today the IIAR published my Best Practice Paper titled: “Managing the Gartner Magic Quadrant: a tool for analyst relations managers.”  The paper is free for all IIAR members and can be found in the Library section of the IIAR extranet.  In it, I discuss and give recommendations on the key stages of the Magic Quadrant and how to ensure you and your team are as prepared as you can be when the process begins; how to build internal support and manage expectations with your stakeholders; building the relationship with the relevant Gartner analyst; and providing customer references.

After I agreed to write an IIAR whitepaper about managing the Gartner MQ process I soon discovered that everyone has an opinion, in many cases an emotional one. In addition, I realised that the paper needed a focus or otherwise it could have easily been turned into a book. I will admit that I was selfish, that what guided me through the research and writing process was the question: what would have helped me in past situations working with the senior management at vendors? In the end, I aimed to create a pragmatic and useable document with sections that can be cut and pasted.

There’s so many people to thank for providing their insights and time. Moving forward I would like to keep writing about topics related to the MQs. I would welcome your comments, suggestions and stories (even under NDA).

IIAR members can read the full paper here > http://my.hdle.it/7601816

Related post: Gartner engages in debates on their blog

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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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Don’t forget analysts have a unique vantage point

Carter usefully reminds us, via a post from Jeremiah Omywang, that analysts can do their jobs (provide detailed analysis on market trends and ICT vendor strategies) because they have gained over time un-matched access to leaders at ICT vendors:

Access to those with access – One reason why end users buy analyst advisory subscriptions « SageCircle Blog

Analysts providing advisory services to end users also bring into the mix the ability to cross-reference those sources with end-user input gained through their conversations.

Analysts are often “wicked smart” and sometimes excentric, so when it combines with that level of access on both sides of the marketplace, it always makes up for interesting conversations. That’s one of the reasons why, after all those years, I still find AR exciting and never dull!

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IIAR research highlights importance of International AR

As a result of doing some research on International AR practices and gaining input during the January IIAR forum in London, the following paper onWhy do International Analyst Relations matter? (subscribers only) is now available to all IIAR members.

As AR professionals, we all are familiar with the value and sales influence of industry analysts. It can sometimes be a hard sell internally, because for ethical reasons analysts do not speak about their end-user client engagements. But anecdotal evidence shows that IT analysts influence most, if not all, large deals

But can you articulate the value and business drivers of International AR?

How many of us can rattle off the main business benefits for complementing corporate AR with an International AR program? Do we know the most important business drivers for regional and country level AR? Do we all have visibility on the multiple ways in which analysts in Germany, India, Singapore, Brazil, and China are impacting vendor sales, marketing and strategy daily, not to mention the ways in which they influencing end user procurement decisions?

And most importantly, are our stakeholders aware of the potential negative impact on the sales pipeline by not having any global AR outreach?

Why do International Analyst Relations matter? aims to provide a balanced set of answers for all these questions, and more.

What do you think?

Tell us what your experience of international AR is if you’re analyst or an AR professional. Would this fit into your company model and culture? Have you similar ideas you would like to share?

For comments and input, please contact ewarner -at- analystrelations -dot- org.

Methodology and industry best practices for International AR is covered in a separate white paper, I’ll blog about this soon.

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Gartner engages in debates on their blog

Following some critical comments from a vendor on a Magic Quadrant, Gartner analyst Andreas Bitterer posted an answer on his own blog: Setting the Record Straight

While personally I would not say that publically challenging a research piece is likely to produce a positive outcome for a vendor, it’s refreshing to see a Gartner analyst engaging in a public debate on his blog: it does a lot for transparency and credibility of the research.

So, kudos to Andy for taking the time to debate openly.
Related post: IIAR publishes Best Practice Paper on Managing the Gartner MQ

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What’s my job?

I started a draft a long time ago to describe what my job is, and as usual Carter was quicker off the mark 🙂 

He wrote a nice one on Defining “Analyst Relations” (SageCircle Blog), see my comment below his post.

What do you think AR is?

I also bookmarked a while back those links:

Any other links I should add here?

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Are local analysts “untouched” and influential?

Following a long week at Oracle Open World, I attended the West Coast IIAR meeting organised by Peggy O’Neil from H&K and hosted by Evan Quinn from HP, with several of my colleagues and a room full of AR peers.

Carter from SageCircle interviewed me (and Annemiek Hamelink from Wagged) after that exhausting week:
Oracle’s Ludovic Leforestier with a quick update on the Euro IT analyst landscape « SageCircle Blog

What do you think?

Are independent European firms doing well?
Are they influential and “largely untouched”?

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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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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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Dealing with AR

Alan Pelz-Sharpe In this article, Alan Pelz-Sharpe, Principal with CMS Watch and former VP North America for Ovum, shares some very interesting insights on AR from the analyst’s perspective.

Some tips on how not to deal with a critical ‘independent’ analyst

I have been an analyst and commentator for 10 years now – for most of that time I have written or contributed to detailed and critical evaluations of software technologies. My topic areas are the Content Technologies ranging from ECM and Document Management to e-mail Archiving – my audience is almost exclusively buyers and implementers of these technologies – and a typical deal size is in the high hundreds of thousands to the multiple millions. People read my research to create shortlist’s, and typically to ensure they have a better chance of selecting the right product. It’s a simple model really – much like a ‘Consumer Reports’ or ‘Which Guide’.

I play with the technologies, I see them in action, I talk to many users, I talk to channel partners, resellers and also consultants and integrators. I also talk to the vendors – but my use of vendors is more for fact checking, product demo’s and gaining insights on nit picky elements than anything else. I appreciate the help of vendors, but ultimately my research focuses on how products work and are sold in the real world, and the world of vendor marketing and sales is of peripheral interest. Granted that is an unusual research model, having been in the ‘industry’ for 10 years and having run research practices and undertaken extensive competitive intelligence, I am well aware that typically ‘research’ by analysts is heavily dependent, and in many cases almost entirely dependent on, ‘vendor briefings’. I am also aware that the vast majority of analyst firms are dependent on vendor funding of one form or another to pay the bills. Hence I go to great length with all those I write about to try and inform them of my requirements – and my methodology.

So to be clear, I am a realist – I know that most analysts make their money by selling ‘independent’ analysis to the very people they claim to be ‘independent’ of. It’s the way it is – whether I like it or not. I also understand that AR professionals have a very tough job to do. Frankly I do not envy your role – you have to try to keep everyone happy all the time, and that is an impossibility. I have deep admiration for many AR professionals, some of whom I am proud to call friends rather than contacts. I also have deep admiration for any vendor who stays in business more than six months, life is tough out there. Running a business or simply having responsibility for a P&L is always a challenge. At the same time, my job is to provide my customers with honest and critical evaluations of products. That means highlighting all the warts, along with spotlighting all the shiny positives. If anything my job is to focus on finding the warts. Because lets be honest, it is not hard for a buyer to find the positives. As they will be deluged by ‘White Papers’, Marketing Collateral and Sales Spin. Finding where the products sweet spot is or it’s drawbacks, is much harder. It’s my job to help them in that process, and by definition that is not going to make me popular at times.

It seems clear to me that some AR professionals simply don’t know how to deal with analysts like CMS Watch – and rather than continually lock horns, I thought I would jot down some thoughts to help the process – I am doing this as I am just about to publish a major report (major in the sense that it runs to over 300 pages) technical evaluation of 14 vendors. The frustrations and wounds of dealing with AR are very fresh! So here goes:-

1: Don’t assume the analyst is out to get you

You are not as important as you may think. The analyst is writing about many vendors, you are just one in a long list. You almost certainly have no context to judge their review of your product, in light of what they have said about your competitors – you may wish to consider slowing down before jumping to bias conclusions. In my most recent report, the AR group that had the biggest and nastiest hissy fit, ironically is the vendor that has received the best review of all in the report. They are also the vendor that had the biggest hissy fit last time they were reviewed (different product, different report, different analyst – again a great review). They are also the vendor that analysts from rival firms share AR horror stories about…. The firm has good technology, but a terrible reputation for bullying or attempting to ‘coerce’ analysts.

2: Do make an effort to understand the analysts research methodology

If the methodology is focused on talking to customers and partners and you have been asked to supply customer references. Respond in one of two ways – politely but immediately decline, or do your best to provide references. Ignoring the request for weeks or months is not a good policy. By that time customers and partners have been found by the analyst and interviewed. When critical views are captured from such interviews you cannot at the last minute claim “our customers love x or y or z” – we know they don’t and frankly you haven’t been able to supply any that do. Harsh as it sounds, we are not just going to take your word for it.

3: Don’t threaten analysts

If you don’t like what an analyst has written – try at least to be respectful and polite. You are far more likely to enter a dialogue that way. Provide facts to counter their critical assertions, if you cannot provide facts and instead rely on bluster you will only dig a deeper hole for yourself. Also remember that analysts are human, threats via nasty e-mails (the cowards way) or phone calls, hurt (no matter how long you have been in the industry) and they don’t get forgotten quickly. Using such a confrontational approach does not make the AR person look important or even imperious, it makes you look unprofessional.

4: Don’t quote your own press releases or other analysts reports as evidence

There is frankly nothing more silly than to tell an analyst that they must be wrong about your firm/product because “Forrester/Gartner/IDC…ranks us as a ‘leader’ etc”. The only thing that rivals this is to quote from your own press releases – trust me this has been done. Most of the time, this kind of response will simply result in an internal e-mail chain that shares the joke with other analysts. Bottom line, that kind of supporting evidence, looks desperate, patronizes the analyst, and suggests you have simply drunk too much of your own kool aid.

5: Never say “we provided an x% ROI…….to our client over six months etc etc.”

Its a silly thing to say, period – and its a daft thing to say to most buyers. It’s a little like Home Depot claiming that they dug my vegetable garden for me, when all they did was sell me a spade. You provide tools – people use the tools, the use of those tools provides business benefits (or doesn’t). And just like the spade I bought from Home Depot, most software likewise goes unused.

7: Understand the difference between a fact and an opinion

For every 10 vendors I evaluate there will be one or two that freak out – most work well with me and we agree to disagree, and where there are errors (I make many, and do my best to fix them) we work together to get them corrected. I never want my reports to contain factual errors, presumably nor do you. But my opinions are my opinions, I am paid to have opinions. To change my opinion requires a very different approach from AR. To change my opinion you need to understand why I have formed that opinion (see below) before attempting to ‘re-educate’ me. In addition, when you claim a report is full of factual inaccuracies, and then send an annotated Word document listing differences of opinions – and can quote no factual errors at all – expect your response to be ignored, and my respect for you to slip.

9: Understand that those that use and/or implement your systems have a very different perspective to share

Just as I will see your product or service differently to you – recognize that a sales person, a channel partner, a user, an implementer or a consultant will all have differing perspectives. When a report does not reflect your personal or corporately mandated vision, that does not mean it is wrong. Some vendors use my reviews of their products to change perceptions, in some ways they see my reports as free consulting – a fresh pair of eyes if you like. They recognize that the information and insights that I get are not usually available to them – they see criticism as potentially constructive. Some find out there are strengths to their product, that I have noted, that they had previously underestimated. Remember, if the only research you have read is from people you directly or indirectly pay – then it won’t be surprising if you find some kind of uniformity with your own viewpoint. True outside opinions will by definition differ from your own.

10: Don’t believe your own hype

We know it’s your job to be passionate about your company, about its product and its services. We understand it is your job to help sell this vision and to educate us all. But make the effort to really understand your competitors and your competitive landscape too. Work out who really influences your deals and those of your competitors – understand your competitors strengths in terms of product, sales focus, corporate culture etc – don’t live in a vacuum, analysts don’t. I applaud your enthusiasm, and I wish you and your colleagues the best of luck, I really do. But I wish all your competitors the same too. I am not passionate about your company, I am passionate about ensuring that buyers and users avoid costly and sometimes disastrous mistakes. That they pick the right product each time, and that they use it to its best advantage. We have different agendas, but they don’t need to be agendas in conflict.

Disclaimer: Alan is not a member of the IIAR and this post reproduce his own opinions, not those of the IIAR or its members.

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Around Robin Bloor from Hurwitz & Associates in 12 questions

robinbloorhimself.jpgIn the second of our series of ‘email interviews’, we open up the IIAR blog to Robin Bloor (@robinbloor) of Hurwitz & Associates (and yes, the founder of Bloor Research) to share his views on the industry.

1.What are your coverage areas?
All technology except business applications such as SAP ERP or Oracle’s PeopleSoft.

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How do we decide that analysts are important?

A recent piece by Lighthouse Analyst Relations on “bloggers vs. analysts” raises some interesting questions about whether and how firms should target their limited AR resources.

One argument says that AR professionals should focus their efforts only on those analysts who have the most direct influence on sales by advising end users, and that because of the demands that they make, it is hard to maintain meaningful relationships with a broad constituency of analysts.

A counter argument is that there are some very smart and influential analysts working within the vendor-facing analyst firms and smaller, more specialised consultancies and an AR programme will be the poorer for ignoring them. Proponents of the latter approach also point to the indirect influence that analysts can have on a firm’s brand awareness and sales, for example through quotes in the media and blog posts.

At the core of this discussion is the understanding of analyst influence. Why are industry analysts such an important audience? 

Let’s be clear.  In our view, there’s no doubt about the influence of the industry analyst community as a whole on purchasing decisions by technology buyers. In a report by a team of analysts (including Ellen Carney and Kevin Lucas), Forrester Research recently published the results of a survey of 1,143 IT decision makers in North America and Europe which showed that independent IT research firms came a close fourth in a list of information sources relied upon when researching and comparing IT products and services (see Figure 1).*

Forrester Graphic_Cropped

Knowledge Capital Group, Lighthouse AR, Hill & Knowlton and Freeform Dynamics (to name a few) have all done something similar so this Forrester study is just the latest piece of research that shows the direct importance of the analyst to the technology buyer. 

It also shows that the media is an important source of information to the buyer.  So should we target analysts that get themselves quoted in the business media? Vendor web sites come top so perhaps we also need to talk analysts who can provide us a quote for the website – or will write a report that we can then post up as marketing collaterial? 

The way that analyst influence works is complex and multi-facted.  It changes depending upon where a buyer is in the sales cycle.  It varies depending on the buyer’s industry and country.

The bottom-line is that, as AR professionals, we all know analysts are important to our business and influential on our buyers.  The bigger question is how that influence works and how we can best tap into it. 

We’d love to hear your views.

* Source: Mastering the First Analyst Briefing Tour by Forrester Research, Inc., February 26, 2008. Reprinted with Forrester’s kind authorisation.

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