Tracy Shouldice / Trend Micro (blog, @TracyShouldice, LinkedIn) is the IIAR AR Professional of the Year 2017 – North America and kindly accepted to share a bit about him and what led to this award.
1. What’s been your career path to becoming an AR pro?
I’ve been in & around AR for 20 years now. In the late 1990s I realized that nobody at my company at the time was paying attention to these important influencers, but that we needed to. My company was a small startup at the time; my boss said, “well, if you can backfill your Marcom job, you can work with the analysts.” Since then, I’ve done AR at Entrust, Cognos, Nortel (RIP) and now Trend Micro. I also worked four years at Forrester, which gave me good perspective on the inner workings of research firms and their analysts.
2. What are your opinions of the IT Analyst Marketplace and where do you see it going?
The biggest trend I’ve been thinking about is that from the perspective of the IT buyer: there is Gartner; and there is the highly-fragmented collective of everyone else. Gartner has earned its way to its dominant position in the research/advisory space with exceptional execution and some clever acquisitions – so by no means am I trying to trivialize its well-earned success.
But unlike some industry watchers, I do not believe that the end of the traditional analyst firm is near, by any measure.
The smaller analyst firms simply cannot compete with Gartner for the minds of the IT buyer in the large/very large enterprise. Big IT is not typically going to drop seven figures of technology investment based on a blog post by an independent, or an anonymous peer review.
So the question is: who is willing (and able) to throw down the gauntlet and challenge Gartner as a legitimate second opinion for the IT buyer? I see many smaller niche players out there (pun intended) and some visionaries (ditto), but I’m sure I speak for many AR peers (and also from the IT perspective) in saying that a little competition at the high end of the market would be a good thing to keep the landscape vibrant. The opportunity is there … but who will step up?
3. What’s your typical day like?
One thing that I have always loved about AR is that there really are no two days alike. Sometimes we interact with analysts on the phone, sometimes at conferences, sometimes over email. Sometimes you are doing the talking; and sometimes you’re listening. Hopefully a good balance of both.
And we get involved with everyone in our company, north-south and east-west (execs, product experts, evangelists, marketing, etc.).
It’s this variety, and working with super-smart people, that keep things interesting!
4. Now, c’mon, tell me an Analyst horror story?
There was one event – a large user-group conference hosted by my company – in which we had hired an analyst to deliver the Day One keynote address. It was at 9:00am, with over 1,000 people in the room. He showed up at 8:15 – with no computer, no slides, nothing. He assumed that I would have his slides already cued up (through some sort of magical process, apparently). In fact, they were on a file server behind his firewall/VPN (did I mention he didn’t bring a PC?). It was a mad scramble, but after some frantic phone calls and a tortuously slow download (this was before high-speed Internet, people!) we got the slides onto one of our computers in time for the presentation.
5. Tell us about one good experience you have had with an analyst or analyst firm?
Early in my AR career, I spent a lot of time with a relatively new analyst at a major firm. I educated her on the general space that she covered, in addition to what my company itself did in that space. She really appreciated the time I spent with her, sending me a really sincere “thank-you” note for my efforts to make her smarter in the space she covered. She later provided me with a glowing reference for another AR position I was competing for.
6. Which analyst firm do you miss that’s been acquired or analyst that’s left the industry?
I think META Group … and not from the perspective of individual analysts (many of the analysts acquired by Gartner are still there, and provide great coverage). But there was something about META’s culture – their analysts were very accessible and liked to have fun in a refreshing, self-deprecating kind of way – and I think that element of the company’s personality got lost over time.
Plus, they were a legitimate “second opinion” to Gartner in the large enterprise IT advisory space (see my other answer, above) – and I truly believe that this is a void that needs to be filled.
7. What’s your favorite niche analyst firm and why?
We’ve been going a lot of good work with Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG). While not as big as Gartner or Forrester, they have really good people and we’ve found that their analysts are very smart and capable. The firm is also very client-focused: I appreciate their flexibility and willingness to collaborate with us in many different and creative ways.
8. Any hobbies that you’d like to share?
I am an avid distance runner. I started running seven years ago; I’ve run three marathons now, and more half-marathons than I can count. I run for charity, and will often join forces with other runners to raise funds for those less fortunate. Over the last seven years, I estimate that my running teammates and I have raised over $120,000 for some very worthy causes. It’s a privilege to be able to run, and to help others in the process.
9. What is your biggest challenges for the upcoming 6 months? And for the next 30 mn?
For the next 6 months: I think the biggest challenge we face right now (and believe we are not alone on this front) would be the “peer review” properties popping up everywhere (think Gartner Peer Insights, G2 Crowd, TrustRadius, etc.). Some of these are analyst-branded or will soon be. The challenge with these is scale: the reviews require that your customers to fill out extensive surveys, and there are only so many favours of that sort that one can ask of even one’s most fervent customer advocates. I think that addressing these sites strategically will be the toughest nut for AR pros to crack this year.
I also challenge representatives from analyst firms who may read this to think about these sites strategically – while they are certainly an opportunity to build the business, are you perhaps undermining the perceived value of your own research and advisory services?
Challenge for the next 30 minutes: getting onto my briefing call, on time. with my spokesperson!
10. In your experience what’s the best way to get more engagement with the executives that you support?
I’m very lucky in that my executives already see the value of industry analysts in the IT purchase/decision-making process. So it’s not difficult for me to convince them that analyst engagement is mission-critical.
I do believe that AR is a “virtuous-circle” proposition: if you invest in the function, you reap the rewards and thereby earn more investment. That said, the opposite also holds true: if you neglect AR, you’ll fail abysmally … and thereby lose credibility and support.
So for those who need to “win over” their executives, I would suggest that you narrow the aperture of your AR program to the analysts who matter in context of the IT buyer (that is: Gartner; Forrester; and one or two mid-tier firms like 451 or ESG). Take a year and build out a set of meaningful, two-way interactions that establish credibility and goodwill with the analysts. You’ll start to see the benefits of this approach pay off. Then, overcommunicate those benefits with your executive stakeholders to build more support. Rinse and repeat.
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