Archive | IT Analysis Firms

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 Josh Krischer from Josh Krischer & Associates in 12 questions

Josh KrischerThis week, in our continuing series of analyst interviews, Josh Krischer, founder and principal analyst with Josh Krischer & Associates, shares his insight on the IT analysis market.

  1. What are your coverage areas?
    I cover Mainframes, high-end computing, storage, disaster recovery techniques and data center consolidation.

  2. What are your opinions of the IT Analysis Marketplace and where do you see it going?
    Vendors, in particular large companies, tend to devote too much attention to analyst firms rather than to individual analysts. Much bigger spending with the large companies and not enough support for the small, independent shops.IBM EMEA, for example range the analysts according to their influence and reputation and not for which company they work. For example, despite being a “small shop” I evaluated last year several RFPs among them most likely the largest storage RFP in EMEA (two digit million EUR)
    Some time ago, giving interview to a German journalist I was asked what is the difference between the services which a small company (like mine) can give in comparison to the large players. My answer was that in analogy it is like the differences between a department store and a boutique. I can tailor my services better to customers’ needs.
  3. What’s your typical day like?
    Every day is different; emails, projects, meetings, admin , marketing, vendor briefings, writing, etc. Storage is very dynamic industry, with constant flow of news on announcements, acquisitions and new innovations therefore I spent a lot of time on self-study and research.
    For example an excerpt from a proposal for RFP evaluation:

    Scope of the Work
    To fulfil the above obligation, the Service Provider will provide the Client with the Service provider who shall perform the following tasks:

    1. Prepare validity proof of the vendors’ claims.

    2. Set decision criteria matrix and assign weights for each proposal according to this matrix.

    3. Verification of the assessment prepared by the procurement team.

    4. Prepare numerical and graphical presentation of each vendor proposal.

    5. Prepare price comparisons (against the prices obtained in other, especially European, countries) and suggestions for the negotiations with the vendors.

    6. Deliver arguments for negotiations and support during the negotiations with the vendors

    7. Comparisons of the proposals from the strategic point of view and according to bank requirements

    8. Prepare management summary and recommendations.

    9. PowerPoint presentation of points 1-7

    10. Two days discussions with technical and management staff in xxxx .

    Depends on the RFP size such evaluation will take from 3 to 10 days to complete. In my previous life, working for a large analyst company the output was usually 30 minutes conference call sometimes followed by an email.

  4. Now, c’mon, tell me an AR horror story?
    Too many; all the vendors which „danced around me“ when I was VP research in Gartner but disappeared since I left.
    A funny AR story (not bizarre) on NDA and confidential information:
    Being a new analyst I called Steve Bardige (AR manager EMC) and ask him about a project with code name „calypso“. After asking the question I could hear Steve fainting on the other side of the Atlantic. After few second he answered; „Josh, you are not supposed to know about this project and not to mention even this code name, how did you find about it?“ I answered, „it was easy, one of EMC marketing guys in Germany made a presentation about Calypso on GUIDE/SHARE (IBM users forum) meeting in Hamburg.
    The morals of the story are: 1) that in some companies the AR are too paranoid in relation to secrecy 2) Giving information to customers before telling it to analysts may put analysts ( who the users expect to know everything) in inconvenient situations 3) sometimes an analyst may know more than you may expect.
  5. How do you position your firm? What is your business model? (where are your revenues coming from, mix between users and vendors?)
    In 2007, about 60% of my turnover came from IT end users: I work with them on various projects, including RFP evaluations. With vendors, I author positioning papers, technical white-papers and carry-out sales training.

  6. What is your research methodology, in 255 characters or less? (primary research, F2F or phone, secondary only, etc…)
    Trying to attend any vendor briefing which I can (and trying to stay awake), speaking with customers and trying to learn from their experience. Trying to listen and to ask as many questions as possible. Searching daily for new information and evaluating it. Usually have more value speaking with CTOs or product managers than with CEOs.
  7. Any favourite AR professional you’d like to mention? And why?
    Hans-Jürgen Rehm IBM Germany, Bill Reed of IBM EMEA, Ludovic Leforestier of Oracle (ex-IBM EMEA), Steven Zivanic of DataDirect (ex-HDS US) – always very helpful in good times and bad times.]
  8. Tell us about one good AR practice you’ve experienced or one good AR event you’ve attended.
    Never lie to analyst and try not to waste his time
  9. What are your offerings and key deliverables?
    RFP evaluations, Assistance with RFP preparations, Pricing evaluations & negotiations with vendors, Strategy development, Proofs of concept, Refresh of knowledge.
    Competitive analysis, SWOT analysis,Operations management & engineering
    Presentation preparation & delivery, Market analysis & business development

    Pre-sales consulting, Authoring & education, Keynote speeches, Revitalizing and motivating sales organizations, Sales training, New product opportunity – research and introduction ,Major account development and management, Marketing communications planning
  10. Any hobbies or favourite restaurant / food that you’d like to share?Gardening, carpentry. Any food ( with the exception of English) which is “dead” in particular Thai, Lebanese and Italian]
  11. What is your biggest challenges for the upcoming 6 months? And for the next 30 mn?
    To be the best analyst in the areas which I cover
  12. Is there another analyst (a peer in your firm or with another firm) whose work you rate highly?
    Dave Russell, Gartner – professional, fair and modest
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Around Ray Wang from Forrester in 10 questions

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

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

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Around Rüdiger Spies from IDC in 9 Questions

R SpiesThe IIAR has started a series of email interviews, where analysts from around the world are presented. We have talked to Rüdiger Spies from IDC . Thanks again fo him for the time he spent to give us some insight about IDC and the industry.

 

 

1. What are your coverage areas?

A) It’s pretty broad – basically Enterprise Applications (ERP, CRM, SCM, DW / BI, etc.) combined with architectures (SOA), integration technologies and related applications (i.e., BPM, workflow, mashups, social computing). As enterprises tend more and more to establish a common platform as their backbone system, integration among the different pieces becomes more weight than pure point to point approaches technologies. Seamless integration and cross system, cross dependent and cross enterprise workflows become paramount to success in multi-enterprise business networks.

B) A second focus area is intellectual property (i.e. patents, trademarks, IP portfolios, licensing). I am working with the patent law firm DHS in Munich, Germany and focus on the high-tech industry.

 

2. What are your opinions of the IT Analysis Marketplace and where do you see it going?

The market has matured and will continue to do so. A number of niche and boutique firms have grown under the price umbrella of the three big players. Computer technologies will continue to need advice at management level, however required skill levels and visible engagement of solid analysts will continue to increase. Lightweight analysis is in many instances already available on the internet. I think also the
requirement to think across technologies, across vendors and across subject area will increase.

 

3. What’s your typical day like?

Well, in the morning I get up, have my tea and start to work. That might be in Munich, Paris, London or in Boston or wherever our services are required.

 

4. Now, c’mon, tell me an AR horror story?

The day before the official analyst conference started the vendor had organized some outdoor activities. Unfortunately, two of my colleagues got seriously hurt during the outdoor activities. That was not a good
start to the conference.

 

5. How do you position your firm? What is your business model?

We are global IT and related industries market and trend watchers with the longest successful track record in the IT analyst market.

 

6. What is your research methodology, in 255 characters or less?

The research is going into many dimensions. There are ongoing market development studies that are based on a globally integrated model.
There are region or country specific studies and there are studies that are developed as part of special interest groups. All quantitative results and qualitative trends are based on primary industry research. In the vertical industries we rely on a team of experienced industry professionals. Overall the approach is structured and consistent – the best results combining a top down and a bottom up approach.

 

7. Tell us about one good AR practice you’ve experienced or one good AR event you’ve attended.

Good events respect the time constraints of analysts and care about travel convenience. Don’t choose strange locations. And the best AR people should work in a similar manner as analyst do. This way vendors are able to coordinate AR work on a global level.

8. What are your offerings and key deliverables?

 

In a nutshell – on one hand everything vendors need to know to make future oriented strategy decisions … and on the other hand everything required to tactically address specific markets. End users get the best insight into trends and mid to longer term developments in the industry that is influencing their ability to operate

9. Do you have any hobbies or favourite restaurants / food that you’d like to share with us?

 

Analysts are in many instances social people, however they still care about their privacy.

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Blog readership continues to double

IIAR blog readership continues to rise Readership of the IIAR’s blog has continued to rise over the last few months. In fact, the number of visitors doubled in February, March and April.

David’s post on Ethics and Independence Among Industry Analysts has caught huge attention, as has Jonny’s Analyst of the year survey.

The next most-read article was about our 2007 survey which showed that IIAR members felt Forrester rose in influence. Ludovic’s post our dream for a collaborative AR platform was also popular.

Of course the readership of the blog also reflects the IIAR’s growing audience. 150 people have joined us on Yahoo, 33 on LinkedIn, and even 32 hipsters on Facebook. There are also 18 on the German-language list. To find our more, visit us at analystrelations.org.

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Around R. David Hofferberth of Service Performance Insight in 12 questions

R. David HofferberthContinuing our series of analyst interviews, next into the hotseat is David Hofferberth, from Service Performance Insights, one of the few analysts covering the Professional Services market -a huge but little spoken about industry.

  1. What are your coverage areas?
    I cover business applications that are used in the professional services sector. Traditionally, these have boiled down to include Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Professional Services Automation (PSA). However, now I am also beginning to review other applications that include Human Capital Management (HCM), Procurement and Business Intelligence (BI) The lines have begun to blur as more product-driven organizations realize services will become one of their core differentiators going forward, I am now actually spending more time now talking to the professional services divisions of these companies.
  2. What are your opinions of the IT Analysis Marketplace and where do you see it going?
    There are obviously fewer major analyst firms than there were a decade ago, similar to what I have seen in the business application market. I would expect there will always be three to five large IT analyst firms to keep the market competitive and provide different points of view. However, I have seen a number of analysts, including myself, who have ventured out on their own. This independence has allowed us to focus on specific areas of interest, without the need to change our area focus every time some new supposed “breakthrough technology” comes along.
  3. What’s your typical day like?
    I have a long but enjoyable day typically. My commute is very short, as I only have to walk up one floor to my office. That is when I am not traveling. I begin each morning scanning the e-mail I received overnight as well as the headlines from the various technology and business-related periodicals. In the morning I normally interact with people over in Europe, while later in the day I speak with people on the West Coast and Far East when necessary. I try to deliver any information that is asked of me in the morning, as I prefer to spend my afternoons conducting research and writing.

  4. Now, c’mon, tell me an AR horror story?
    I have only had two AR interactions that went a poorly in my ten years of being an analyst. The sessions were argumentative and not very productive for either me or the company I interviewed. Ironically, neither of these two organizations lasted six months after my meeting with them. It probably came down to their ego in trying to tell me how the world has changed, and my disagreement that what they were doing was really world-changing.
  5. How do you position your firm? What is your business model? (where are your revenues coming from, mix between users and vendors?)
    I established my firm so that I could continue my research into workforce productivity through the use of information technology. Ideally, I conduct research in the professional services sector and how they use technology, then publish the research and sell it on my website. From time to time I do consulting with end-user organizations when they have a specific need such as an independent opinion of their application infrastructure and where they should go ahead going forward. I also give speeches at a number of software conferences as well as other independent conferences focused on specific topics that interest me. These conferences generally bring leads for additional work, as well as provide me contact information on organizations that I eventually survey. Currently my revenue is approximately 75% from end-user organizations and 25% from independent software vendors.
  6. What is your research methodology, in 255 characters or less? (primary research, F2F or phone, secondary only, etc…)
    I conduct primary research via surveys, by phone, or in person. I believe that primary research is fundamental to my ongoing success.
  7. Any favourite AR professional you’d like to mention? And why?
    I will say a Ludovic Leforestier of Oracle because he is the one who introduced me to this Blog. Most of the AR staffs that I have met with keep me informed on a regular basis. However, Ludovic does a better job than most of keeping the current with Oracle’s activities.
  8. Tell us about one good AR practice you’ve experienced or one good AR event you’ve attended.
    The larger software firms typically have the most seasoned and polished AR practices. They understand the importance of keeping analysts informed in a timely manner. Analysts don’t like to be caught off guard when announcements are made. I especially like it when they provide me with concise information on current announcements in a book or PDF format, so that I can keep it and review as needed. I also like when these organizations provide me with a CD or thumb-drive with all of the relevant presentations on them that I can use as needed.
  9. What are your offerings and key deliverables?
    My firm has a number of offerings: from marketing strategy, to solution development, to presentations to reports. Each of the offerings have key deliverables that range from a one page a write up of the meeting that I attended to more customized research and analysis, which ultimately leads to presentation slides.
  10. Any hobbies or favourite restaurant / food that you’d like to share?
    One of the great things about being an analyst is that during your travels you have the opportunity to eat at many great restaurants. Currently, my favorite restaurant is Boulevard in San Francisco. However, it is always nice to stop at a Wolfgang Puck restaurant during my travels. In London, my favorite restaurant is the Bleeding Heart, which combines excellent food and an intriguing atmosphere.
  11. What is your biggest challenges for the upcoming 6 months? And for the next 30 mn?
    When I became an analyst again two years ago I thought that I would be spending a majority of my time covering the PSA market, as that is where I gained market credibility a decade ago. However the ERP solution market has begun to make significant inroads in the professional services sector. I must continue to research the ERP solutions, as they are much more complex than the PSA solutions I spent most of the last decade covering. It is important for me to understand each of the vendors’ integration strategy, and how that will improve performance going forward. I suppose for the next 30 minutes I must work hard to get this document completed, as well as handle a number of phone calls that continue to interrupt me.
  12. Is there another analyst (a peer in your firm or with another firm) whose work you rate highly?
    There aren’t many analysts who cover business solutions for the services. I would suppose that I always had a lot of respect for Matt Light at Gartner Group who occasionally ventures into this area.
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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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Around Clive Longbottom from Quocirca in 10 questions

Clive Longbottom / QuocircaThis ’email interview’ is the first of -we hope- a long series, in which we will open the IIAR Blog to analysts and get their insight on the industry. Being the quickest off the mark, the privilege to test this format comes to Clive Longbottom, the founder of Quocirca. Read below on his unabridged views on the industry… and one of the most unusual hobby/ice breaker conversation topic I’ve ever heard!

  1. What are your coverage areas?
    Predominantly, communication and collaboration approaches, along with business process. However, I’m a bit of a generalist who can cover most areas at a push. I come from a business background, and firmly believe that technology is just a means to an end – it is not the answer in itself. I also believe that analysts who are too focused cannot always advise anyone to the required extent – a business process is both dynamic and broad reaching, and someone who can only discuss one part of the process could well be like an automotive engineer who specialises in brake pipes trying to sell someone a whole car.
  2. What are your opinions of the IT Analysis Marketplace and where do you see it going?
    The market seems to be in a bit of flux at the moment – we have many different approaches from many different companies with different influence models. As the recession bites deeper, I see quite a few of the smaller companies starting (or continuing) to struggle, and many one man bands being given up as the analysts move back in to the “safer” big company model. In the long run, it’s probably safer to look at the overall “influencer” market, rather than just analysts, as many journalists have changed their models to be less focused on the headline (although, it has to be said, there seem to be quite a few analysts who have changed their model to be more focused on the headline rather than the content!), and many consultants are also seeing themselves as being a sort of analyst.
  3. What’s your typical day like?
    A mix of vendor briefings, report and article writing, reviewing of other Quocirca analyst’s output, discussions with existing customers, travelling, researching, prospecting for new work, web site management, and grabbing some sleep wherever I can. I tend to meet with a large number of smaller vendors – these are the guys where newer ideas are being tried out. They may never make it as a company, may never spend any money on research or analysis, but they help to coalesce views that we may be seeing elsewhere, and provide viewpoints on where the market may be going a year or so down the line.
  4. Now, c’mon, tell me an AR horror story?
    The best has to be Palm, when launching the original Treo. This is far enough in the past such that few people involved will still be around, so hopefully, it won’t upset too many people. Palm briefed the press in the morning (who all went “ooh, how pretty” as it was a gadget) and then briefed the analysts in the afternoon (who went “Aah – this is not a proper phone, it’s not a full PDA like other Palms, the battery lasts around 12 minutes, the interface sucks and it generally can’t be recommended by us at all”). Then, the press phoned us all up for our comments – which were negative, and were printed in full. Palm learnt, and briefed the analysts first from there on, listening far more to input.There are also those vendors who can only see as far as the big analyst companies, believing that the smaller companies or one man bands have no part to play in the influencer markets. I think I’ll leave that one as it is…
  5. How do you position your firm? What is your business model?
    Quocirca is a company that carries out “perceptional research”, along with the creation of business positioning reports, provision of strategic advice and analysts for presentations, seminars, webinars and so on. Our customer base is the vendor community who come to us for various reasons. We do not do market sizing, concentrating instead on the perceptions of end users as to how any emerging, evolving or maturing technology will impact them and their organisation. We interview end users on a continuous basis as a core part of our model, with world-wide coverage for telephony based interviews, all carried out in the respondent’s native language to minimise any mis-understandings in the surveys. Our end-user output is provided completely free of charge to the reader, and Quocirca has a reach to many tens of millions of possible readers through our agreements with the many large multi-national and global portal sites we work with. These agreements mean that Quocirca reports reach organisations who have no access to paid for analyst output, who would normally not consider utilising analyst output (seeing it as too expensive to gain access to), as well as the casual reader within other analyst companies’ customers who may well be unaware of any existing agreement that may be in place. We also have very strong relationships with the trade and mainstream press, writing articles for many of the major UK and US outlets, and being one of the most quoted analyst houses around.
    Although our research, reports and presentations are all sponsored/commissioned. Quocirca is strongly independent. The customer has full view of what we are writing, and can argue their cases as they see fit, but Quocirca will not add something to a document that it does not believe in itself, nor will it take something away that it believes is critical to the final result.
  6. What is your research methodology, in 255 characters or less?
    Quocirca majors on telephony interviewing, with face-to-face or email being utilised in certain geographies where telephony is culturally less acceptable. We concentrate on gaining the perception of the respondent – not trapping them into trying to second guess hard facts, such as the exact amount that has been set aside for Project A next year. In the technology world (as elsewhere), perception is reality, and this approach has been shown to provide solid depth of insight to our many customers. (May be slightly more than 255 characters – you’ll have to count them!)
  7. Tell us about one good AR practice you’ve experienced or one good AR event you’ve attended.
    There are still many AR people around who see their position as ensuring that their customer or company gains the biggest number of ears for their message as possible. For me, the best AR practice I see is where the AR person realises that a core part of their job is in matching their customer’s/company’s requirements with the best analyst resource for that need. Outbound communications are important – as analysts we do need to know what is going on – but even during these sessions two way communication should be encouraged.
  8. What are your offerings and key deliverables?
    Quocirca offers business-focused educational reports driven either by primary perceptional research or through our experience built up through previous research and in discussion with end users. With primary research projects, we also provide “eyes only” analysis which may address issues with the sponsoring vendor’s messaging, possible market penetration, comparisons of differing levels of maturity within markets, comparisons by geography, type of user, size of organisation and so on. We also offer internal strategic help for vendors of all sizes who may be looking for help in defining or refining core messages, looking at channel strategies, looking to break in to new geographical or technical product markets or who want some external viewpoint presented to the sales force, marketing group, product managers or whatever. We also present, facilitate and moderate events, whether these be physical seminars/shows or webinars/teleconferences.
  9. Any hobbies or favourite restaurant / food that you’d like to share?
    I’m a qualified wolf handler, working with the UK Wolf Conservation Trust in Beenham, between Newbury and Reading. Favourite restaurant would be anywhere that serves good food, and favourite food would be fish.

  10. What is your biggest challenges for the upcoming 6 months? And for the next 30 mn?
    The weakness of the dollar is leading to a tightening of budgets, and it is probably inevitable that this will have a knock-on effect to UK and European analyst comapnies, as many budgets are held in the US. However, we are seeing that many US-based companies are seeing that UK and European analyst companies provide different approaches and services to many in the US, and we hope that this viewpoint will continue through any possible market turn-down or recession.In the next 30 minutes, my main issue is getting this finished so that I can get back to earning money.
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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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A dream for a collaborative AR platform

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

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

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

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

My Gartner-Facebook site would look like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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IIAR members feel Forrester rise, Bloor falls

Horizontal is external influence (external of the vendors). The vertical percentage is the nett of (percentage of respondents who think the firm is rising in influence - those who think it's falling).

At Thursday’s IIAR forum in London I presented results from a recent survey of vendor-side Analyst Relations managers. It asked how influential they rated certain analyst firms as being, and then whether they are rising of falling in influence.

Credit for the survey belongs to Jonny Bentwood and the others on the IIAR’s survey working party, who selected the firms listed.

The chart above shows the results, after the ‘falling’ percentage’ (for each analyst firm, the percentage of IIAR members surveyed who felt that its influence had fallen) has been subtracted from the rising percentage (thanks to Ludovic for working out how to embed the chart in this post).

For those in the know, the results are not too surprising: Forrester is the big riser, with IDC, Ovum and Yankee all doing well. The big losers are no surprise either: Bloor, Frost and Butler.

But what interests me is the trend line: generally, AR managers fell that the smaller and less influential firms are falling in influence, while the larger firms are generally rising in influence.

This really reinforces my opinion about the smaller analyst firms that trade on free research and internet profile. While their research is certainly worth reading, some vendors’ inflated expectations of 2006 now seem to be turning into sober judgement about where the real influence is building up.

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