Around Jennifer Belissent from Forrester in 10 questions

Jennifer Belissent, PhD. is  a Senior Analyst at Forrester, serving the Vendor Strategy professional role within the Tech Industry Client Group. Having recently moved from the US Jennifer now lives in Les Houches, France, about an hour outside of Geneva, and regularly spends time at Forrester’s offices in Paris. Jennifer can be heard via her blog and on twitter

1.   What are your coverage areas?

As I like to say, I am not a technologist; I study context. My coverage area is the context in which technology is purchased and used. As my bio reads “My research focuses on technology adoption and deployment patterns in emerging markets and in the public sector with a strong emphasis on “smart cities” and new business models to enable them.” Forrester serves 19 roles across business, marketing and strategy and technology industry professionals, and so I serve the Vendor Strategy role in tech industry companies. To help them do their job as successfully as possible, I look at what governments and businesses in Europe as well as globally are buying and why, who is doing the buying and from whom, and what the business terms are that enable the purchase.  The “story” fascinates me. What is motivating leaders to invest in technology: cost cutting, growth opportunities, competition, political mandates, social unrest etc? And, I’m particularly interested in new business models that enable governments to invest in information and communication technology (ICT) particularly at a time when all we seem to hear about is municipal bankruptcy and public sector debt crisis: revenue sharing, performance contracts and other forms of public-private partnerships. And, finally, what is the outcome of that investment?

2.   What’s your typical day like?

The only thing typical about a day is that there is nothing typical. I travel a lot so a day could just as easily start with the bustle (or panic) of getting the kids off to school or with breakfast in some fancy hotel somewhere.  I spend a lot of time reading, writing and speaking to clients. But an analyst doesn’t just sit around and think, and analyze.  Actually that would be a luxury.  The life of an analyst is a classic story of multi-tasking: trying to finish a report while rushing between client meetings, or participating in a project scoping call while waiting to board a plane.  The thread that ties it all together is that I’ve always got my eyes and ears open.  I pick up material for my research from all sources: newspapers, airplane magazines, clients, billboards.  One of my favorite pieces of advice came from an Accenture billboard in which Tiger Woods was trying to figure out his next shot: “Opportunity isn’t always obvious.”  The campaign was poorly timed for Tiger but the advice made its way into a report I wrote on market expansion into emerging markets.

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

“Horror” for some is humor for others.  People laugh at horror movies.  I try to laugh at what others might consider an “AR horror story.”  What counts?  Is it a 20 hour flight to India, arriving at midnight and starting the next day at 7am?  Is it being asked to step in at the last minute to take over for another analyst to present his or her PowerPoint slides? Being interviewed in Russian and being sent the YouTube link by your mother-in-law? Yes, that happened to me.  No, those are the funny ones.  My “horror stories” are usually more mundane, and often have to do with time management.  On days when your calendar is filled with back-to-back 30 minute inquiries or vendor briefings, there is not even time for a break.

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

Let me give you the party line here. Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR) is an independent research company that provides pragmatic and forward-thinking advice to global leaders in business and technology. Forrester works with professionals in 19 key roles at major companies providing proprietary research, customer insight, consulting, events, and peer-to-peer executive programs. For more than 28 years, Forrester has been making IT, marketing, and technology industry leaders successful every day.

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

Forrester conducts data-driven global research. What distinguishes us is that we conduct primary research both on the supply-side of business technology – through our Wave vendor-evaluations and vendor briefings for example – as well as on the demand-side through our numerous global surveys of consumers, IT and business decision-makers and employees, as well as our extensive database of inquiries and our research interviews.

6.   Any favorite AR professional you’d like to mention? Any why?

My favorite AR professional is a composite of several – and bottom line is that it is someone who understands the job of an analyst and makes it easier.  My favorite AR professionals make a point of understanding my role and coverage area, and facilitate contact with the relevant experts and executives within their company.  They reach out regularly but not too often; they develop a professional relationship that makes them someone I can reach out to, and someone I genuinely want to work with.  And, they don’t try to count how many times I reference their company in a report or blog, comparing the number to references of their competitors – yes, that happened to me.  “Jennifer, you cited them 13 times and us only 5.”

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

What makes a good AR event.  Customers!  One of the best events I’ve attended was not a glitzy event in an exotic location but rather an up-close-and-personal view of several specific projects. Steria, an IT services provider, invited analysts to Northern England in the dead of winter – and we went. Rather than a beach location, we donned our coats and umbrellas and headed for Newcastle, England. We visited two of their customer sites: a police authority representing three towns and a large public sector shared services facility in the north of England. Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love the exotic beach locations or any fun venue, but the real value is to get a better understanding of how the vendor or service provider is actually helping to meet their customers’ needs.  Another event I just attended was with Schneider Electric in Copenhagen. They had several sales teams and their customers walked through their engagements—not just a cookie-cutter challenge, solution, benefit presentation but a full view of the project from bidding process to implementation and finally results. Combining the sales teams’ views with the customer gave a complete picture of the process as well as the outcome. That kind of transparency between vendor and customer is refreshing as well.

8.   What are your offerings and key deliverables? 

As a member of Forrester’s Technology Industry Client Group, Vendor Strategy team, I work with technology product and services providers on how to better understand and exploit market opportunities – ranging from technologies for smart cities, to telecom operators and cloud computing, to the use of video in education, to opportunities in emerging markets.  I conduct messaging reviews, strategy workshops, sales training or client-facing webinars, in-person customer presentations, and extensive custom research.  And, all of that is in addition to my own research reports, teleconferences and blogs which chronicle my travels and various topics of interest.

9.   Any hobbies or favourite restaurant / food that you’d like to share?

First and foremost, I am an intrepid traveller and will accept an invitation to just about anywhere.  I grew up in a military family – Coast Guard actually – and moved about every two years for most of my life.  My first job out of college started with a one-way ticket to Bujumbura, Burundi.  After two years in Africa, I ended up in Eastern Europe and Russia.  And, the traveling has continued.  I now live in the French Alps with my husband and two boys; we are avid hikers, skiers and anything outdoors.  But I’m also a little bit urban, and fortunately my work takes me to cities across the globe where I can get a good dose of museums, restaurants and the bustle of the crowds.

10.   What are your biggest challenges for the upcoming six months?

Work-life balance – both of which I love.  The interest in my research on smart cities and opportunities in emerging markets is growing, and I increasingly find the need to balance travel and work with family and fun.  I am extremely lucky that they can often all be combined.

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