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.

  • What are your opinions of the IT Analysis Marketplace and where do you see it going?
    There is a real concern that analysts no longer make the tough calls and that overall analyst quality has declined. Analyst firm business models continue to shy away from star analysts who bring charisma, real world experience, and an ethos of quality. The trend forces many firms towards a lower cost Accenture and Corporate Executive Board model that is the antithesis of a McKinsey or the original intent of Gartner, Meta, and Giga. There is hope though, as end user clients and vendor firms can push for analysts with deeper knowledge and expertise. Also, new models are emerging in which end users can engage analysts with new Web 2.0 collaboration technologies. A focus on roles makes sense but must account for the fact that some job titles span multiple roles.

  • What’s your typical day like?
    I serve our global clients so it’s typical to have 1 or 2 early morning inquiries, followed by a few briefings. By afternoon, the focus is on research projects and advisory work for clients. Late in the evening I am on scoping calls and inquiry with our APAC and EMEA clients. Somewhere in between, I get the kids to school and make a few meals for myself. It’s fast paced and more importantly fun.

  • What is your research methodology, in 255 characters or less? (primary research, F2F or phone, secondary only, etc…)
    Forrester focuses on role based research and I serve the business process and applications role. I try to focus on best practices, strategy, and product evaluations backed by some of our deep Forrester survey data and data panels. Primary research and phone interviews drive what we do and I often seek a lot of input from our end user clients.
  • Any favourite AR professional you’d like to mention? Any why?
    Allysa Mack when she was at Ariba was very responsive, energetic, and collaborative in the AR community. Carolyn Layne at Comergent (now Sterling Commerce) when she was the CMO always kept the analyst abreast of customer wins and product direction. She had that special relationship touch that’s often missing in AR programs. Mitchell Nitzan at Oracle before he left for Information Builders, was quick to respond, invested in the relationships, and cared enough to ask the right questions. Moreover, he wasn’t afraid to challenge an assumption in a very polite manner.

  • Tell us about one good AR practice you’ve experienced or one good AR event you’ve attended.
    Lawson Software always has the most entertaining end user events with their executives role playing a theme and story. It’s frankly the best key notes on the AR circuit for software, especially now that Shai has left SAP. Oracle and Microsoft have done good jobs about regular briefings looking at the key areas of product updates, customer wins, go-lives, organizational updates, and partner updates.

  • What are your offerings and key deliverables?
    I handle about 95% of all the SAP and Oracle contract negotiations, focus a lot on vendor selection, and spend considerable time on packaged application strategies for our end user clients. What’s really fun are speaking engagements that interact with end users.

  • Any hobbies or favourite restaurant / food that you’d like to share?
    Great sushi always hits the stomach, but I’m a fan of regional home style cooking. Whether it’s french countryside or soul food from the south, I enjoy the food experience each micro culture brings. Now there are a few things off limits like any animal blood, bizarre internal organs, etc…

  • What is your biggest challenges for the upcoming 6 months? And for the next 30 mn?
    The challenge as an analyst is the balance between time management and thought provoking research. While today’s business models may seem to favor vanilla and boring research delivered by kids coming off a school bus facilitating “sessions” and then writing about it, there’s still a lot of great analysts out there from analyst who bring 20 to 30 years of experience to the table. These analysts serve as great role models because they still call it like it is, are not susceptible to vendor smoke screens, and are true artisans. My challenge is to figure out how to learn from the masters, break the current analyst mode, collaborate, and write what end user clients truly care about…despite what new fads emerge, trends management teams impose, or TLA’s the business world comes up with.

  • Is there another analyst (a peer in your firm or with another firm) whose work you rate highly?
    I’ve always been a fan of Bruce Richardson’s work at AMR. With his breadth and decades of experience in AR, he’s the AR equivalent of Helen Thomas. As many of you might know Helen Thomas is a world renown white house press corp correspondent that has covered ever president since John F. Kennedy. Another analyst I’ve always admired has been John Rymer at Forrester. As a client of Giga, we always found him to have the right balance of experience, perspective, and integrity. As a colleague, it rings even more true today.
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