Archive | AR

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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In memory of Michael Selwyn

Michael Selwyn

We are very sad to share the news that Michael Selwyn, one of Europe’s most well  known and highly respected AR consultants, passed away last Friday. Michael was an active and enthusiastic member of the IIAR, always ready to share his great experience and knowledge, and he will be sorely missed.

Our condolences go to his wife Elizabeth and daughter Solange.

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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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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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IDG to merge IDC with Gartner?

We have heard today (from three sources) that IDG, the parent of IDC, intends to buy Silver Lake Partners’ share in Gartner and the holdings of CEO Eugene Hall. As part of the deal Neil Bradford, former head of Forrester Americas, and Anthony Parslow, until recently head of Datamonitor, will replace Gene Hall as co-CEOs. Bradford will direct the US business; Parslow (who serves on IDG’s board) will head Gartner’s troubled operations outside the Americas. This is obviously news that will shape the industry – you have seen it first here!

Generally speaking, this isn’t a surprise.

– Silver Lake was, for a long time, the largest shareholder in Gartner. As the firm’s stock price rose it aimed to cash in its gains. Despite a large share buy-back by Gartner, the value of the shares has now fallen. Silver Lake is looking for opportunities to exit. IDG will pay a 7% premium over the current Gartner stock price.

– IDG has a strategic orientation towards expanding its share of the analyst industry. It narrowly lost out to Gartner in bidding for META Group. It sees the possibility for a roll-up spanning different price points across the value chain. IDC’s end-user Insights businesses could gain from the custom-consulting and mid-market work that Gartner cannot do economically. The businesses could also benefit from common base data, as the Datamonitor companies do.

– Gene Hall has revolutionised Gartner, and taken it to a new level. It’s a good time for him to cash in and move on.

However, we are skeptical of claims that IDG will merge IDC and Gartner. There are two strong brands with different positions. The main opportunity in the closer co-operation is for IDG’s non-IDC services to reuse and promote Gartner research, and to use IDG’s events business to rebuild Gartner’s now-sold vision events business.

To see a copy of IDG’s statement, please click here:
http://tinyurl.com/2q9j9y

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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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Ethics and Independence Among Industry Analysts

There’s been a bit of a discussion going around lately on ethics in the industry analyst sector.

I understand why the ‘pay for play’ model can seem an attractive option for smaller companies looking to generate business but firms that go down this route always tend to get found out. Their credibility is eroded, they cannot attract quality analysts and their business slowly disappears.

Any analyst firm which values its long-term reputation in the market has to ensure that its research is independent (and also seen to be independent: for instance, I’d argue that there’s a greater need for analyst firms which produce sponsored research to be very open about their methodologies so they avoid any suggestion of conflict of interest).

However we do need to be realistic about the economics of the analyst business. Most analyst firms couldn’t exist without vendor cash – be it via sponsored research, consulting projects or speaking engagements.

And so long as analyst firms clearly communicate who is sponsoring their work, I’m fine with that. After all, the old principle of “caveat emptor” must always apply.

But what about:

  • the UK company that publishes a company profile – but gives no indication that the piece was commissioned by the vendor (and for which the vendor was effectively given copy approval)
  • the analyst that writes blog posts promoting a project that his consultancy is involved in – without disclosing his connection
  • the division of a large group that prioritises briefings based on the likelihood of selling reprints of the resulting company profile
  • the analysts that use a briefing as an opportunity to pitch their own services
  • the global company that says its analysts are more likely to recommend vendor clients to prospective buyers (because the analysts know clients better than those that are non-clients)
  • the vertical firm that refuses to take briefings with non-clients because it’s so busy doing consulting work it can only handle briefing requests from clients
  • and what about this experience highlighted by the corporate AR team at HP?

Thankfully these kinds of behaviour are limited and the examples are few and far between. But it does still happen.

As analyst relations professionals, we face a challenge. What responsibility do we have for ensuring these practices are stamped out? Are we proactive or do we just refuse to support them? Do we have a ‘quiet word’ in the right ear? Do we out the bad apples in public?

Or do we turn a blind eye – because actually it’s good to know that you can sometimes bung a few quid to an analyst and get something positive written-up about the company we work for?

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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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Building the future of DARA and IIAR

Today, the German Analyst Relations Working Group, (Deutscher Analyst Relations Arbeitskreis, DARA) will meet for the first time this year (and for the 9th time since it was founded) at Fujitsu Siemens Computers‘ offices in Munich. It is interesting to see that more German-speaking professionals from technology companies are becoming interested in being a part in an organization that helps AR professionals network. One point we look forward to discuss will be the collaboration between DARA and the IIAR. Both organizations have made tremendous progress in the last few months:

  • Not only has the IIAR won new members, it has also helped to raise the profile of Analyst Relations as a profession and communications activity within the IT and telco sector. The IIAR has moved into the league of internationally recognized organizations which add value for analyst relations experts.
  • The DARA is just about to publish its book, “Industry Analyst Relations in Deutschland” and has produced a paper on ethical behavior in IAR. It has further developed its membership base and has become the most recognized German network for analyst relations professionals in
    the area.

What will be the role of DARA in the future? While the IIAR is an international organization, hosting guest speakers such as Gartner’s Aaron Yaverski, GVP High Tech Product Management and Andrew Rosenblatt, Product Development, the DARA could regularly contribute new pieces of
“local knowledge” to the AR community. For example, one guest speaker at the next DARA forum will be the Managing Director of Business Application Research Center, BARC, a growing Germany-based research house, mainly focussing on BI. Many DARA members are interested in learning more about this research firm and look forward to the session.

Simultaneously, the German forums will also transfer international knowledge to German AR professionals. The DARA will increasingly seek to host analysts from abroad, in person or via web conference: For example, Redmonk‘s James Governor will also present as a guest speaker at the forum.Of course, there is also the possibility to bring members from both locations together to organize an exchange of ideas and best practices. Such a forum would make a wide range of opportunities available and I think many of us believe something like this would be well worth a try.

In my opinion, one of the most important questions is where the AR community will see the most significant synergies between DARA and IIAR and how we can bridge any geographical distances better. A first step is already made: Two of the IIAR board members are German analyst relations professionals. Reflecting on the feedback from many IIAR members, I get the impression that these board members will have the remarkable opportunity to help connect both organizations better. They could facilitate further progress on the road to a global AR community.

I am interested in other views on this matter -please feel free to comment on this post.

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this blog post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of HFN Analyst Relations or other members of the IIAR. We can’t be held liable for any unintentional misrepresentation on this post but are happy to correct any mistakes or nonconformities.

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