IIAR Forum – Forrester’s Latest Strategy

It was with eager anticipation that IIAR members awaited Forrester’s Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer, Tom Pohlmann, to update delegates on Forrester’s strategy at both a regional and global level. The session at the IIAR London Forum did not disappoint.

In an open and honest exchange there was recognition of earlier strategies continuing but with some new developments that are of note to AR professionals.

Role-based strategy: Amalgamating with marketing

The role-based strategy will continue, some may say unfortunately!, but this will now be expanded to focus more on the front office, e.g. marketing, sales enablement and services, and their connection to traditional IT functions. Tom acknowledged that the marketing segment has been one of the fastest growing areas of the business apportioning more than a third of global revenues and so it is an inevitable growth area for the company. This also means Forrester are hiring with the skew towards marketing and strategy analysts versus purely technology analysts. This is a continuation of the past but what seems to be new is the direction they are taking to more closely align marketing and business technology teams, which will be reflected in client interactions and research material. Forrester see their USP as connecting the front office with technology.

European growth: Work in progress

There was a frank recognition that Forrester’s European record has not been quite as strong. They are making concerted efforts to ensure the company better represents the global technology footprint, i.e. by strengthening their bases in non-US territories. The latest Springboard acquisition was cited as a great success for building strength in the Asia-Pacific region. It is not yet clear how the company plans to expand its footprint in Europe aside from some new hires but they have a goal that by 2016 a third of the business will be non-US. Currently International is 28% of Forrester’s business, down from 30% at the start of the year. Of that about 65% is Europe, 35% Asia Pacific and Canada which Forrester count as International (note: Gartner include Canada in their US numbers). This makes Forrester’s European business about $55 million. This still makes them the second largest advisory research firm to Gartner, but not so far removed from many of the regional players. Acquisitions were not ruled out as a possible growth strategy for Europe, particularly when they remain reasonably cash rich (see latest Forrester accounts).

Playbooks: New

Forrester is positioning Playbooks as a new a framework for delivering research to align roles with initiatives and help end-user clients by providing clear business outcomes. Indeed, it will be a framework that guides nearly all of Forrester’s offerings across research, consulting, peer networking and events. They also hope that Playbooks will be a key enabler to expanding footprint within existing client accounts; the focus being to get more solution-focused and not just strategic in advice. Tom cited 85-90% of research being Playbook focused in the coming 12 months versus 10-15% focused on new research themes and big ideas.

Forrester has drawn up a four-step diagram to better explain the new Playbook format and both the marketing and business technology research plans will align with this. Their intention is to have 45 Playbooks in production by the end of FY2012 and 75-80 by this time next year. It’s an ambitious goal and relies on analyst support of the new strategy. This is a very significant cultural shift for the Forrester analyst community and will most likely also mean Forrester needing to expand the skill set in the analyst base (either through analyst turnover or re-skilling efforts) to include more expertise in areas like business process, change management, and performance improvement, as well as to change core metrics. Tom indicated a change in metrics but was unable to share the details. Clearly these changes could have an impact for IIAR members, should the focus change between the elements of analyst workload, and areas of focus. Further these are ambitious delivery goals and without rapid change some Playbook’s may be sparse in coverage in their first iteration – especially when it comes to regionally relevant content. It is, as yet, unclear as to exactly what these metrics mean and how analysts will be measured but they recognise a need to carefully balance consulting time with research time so that clients don’t have to pay over and above their subscription to get access to those analysts that really matter to the business. The jury’s out on this one for now as to how it will all work.

While Playbook’s include a Landscape category of reports these will not all necessarily be Waves. However, Forrester will continue to produce its Wave reports, and is looking to increase the published volume to 60 Wave reports by the end of 2012.

For those who listened to Neil Pollock’s fascinating talk (see his blog post here) it was interesting to hear the company try and justify why it chose no more than 10-12 vendors per Wave, if rather non-sensical.  This remains a problem for members and the group provided strong feedback to Forrester that this limitation is especially keenly felt by companies interested in a regional versus a global solution. The feeling amongst the assembled group was that many Waves, especially in areas covering services or software and services, remain too US-centric and that Forrester would benefit from increasing the number of regional-specific Waves as well as ensuring that the European analyst team is focused on areas of key difference in the market. Common with many US-headquartered research firms the global claim of the research, to many, still appears more claim than absolute reality.

What else did they say? The Forrester Forum concept this year didn’t work – they didn’t say that of course – but they did say that they would be reviewing the format for next year. Did I hear you all breathe a sigh of relief?!

Our sincere thanks to Tom Pohlmann and Belinda Simmelink at Forrester, to Simon Levin (IIAR Board Member) for moderating the discussion, and to Jonny Bentwood at Edelman for hosting the event.

IIAR members can access the full presentation and recording of Forrester’s presentation via huddle along with Neil Pollock’s presentation

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