Archive | AR

MQs, accreditation and a debate on IT services – all in the same evening

Those of us fortunate enough to be able to attend* yesterday’s IIAR Forum enjoyed a treat.

Ed Gyurko presented the latest IIAR whitepaper on Magic Quadrant submissions (available from Monday, free of charge to members).  It will prove immensely useful to those who have to work on the seminal Gartner reports.

Following Ed was David Taylor who spoke about the IIAR’s plans for AR accreditation. These are really starting to take shape. David and the group he’s been working with deserve a lot of thanks for their hard work to date.   There’s more that still needs to be done – but it’s definitely getting there and that’s very exciting.

And then we had the third highlight of the meeting – a spirited and informative debate with analysts from three firms that are focused on the IT services market:  Kate Hanaghan of Bathwick, John Willmott from NelsonHall and Puni Rajah of TechMarketView (who was joined by her colleague Anthony Miller).

There are some clear differences between the three firms but all three are in agreement: relationships with clients are the key for success in the next 12 months.  There was also consensus that good analyst firms would survive but there would be casualties among those unable to demonstrate the value they deliver.

While all three acknowledged the difficulties of doing business in the current market, TechMarketView was very upbeat about the future.  Puni and Anthony are predicting that the overall analyst market will grow in size over the next year (and as a result, there will be more demand for AR people).  It will be nice if those predictions come true.

There was plenty more discussion and our hour was quickly over. If you couldn’t make it, then I’m sorry. You did miss a really good meeting.

Finally, thanks to our analyst speakers for coming along and taking part in an absolutely fascinating debate.

Also a big thank you to Robert De Souza who chaired the analyst discussion, Laura Woodward who hosted the meeting and Hannah Kirkman, the IIAR secretary for bring it all together.

* Attendees came from a wide range of companies including Accenture, BT, Capgemini, Cisco, CSC, CustomerClix, Edelman, HCL, Hill & Knowlton, Logicalis, Nortel, Oracle, Prasada, Richmond Green, Sunesis, Weber Shandwick and Zeus.

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Don’t forget analysts have a unique vantage point

Carter usefully reminds us, via a post from Jeremiah Omywang, that analysts can do their jobs (provide detailed analysis on market trends and ICT vendor strategies) because they have gained over time un-matched access to leaders at ICT vendors:

Access to those with access – One reason why end users buy analyst advisory subscriptions « SageCircle Blog

Analysts providing advisory services to end users also bring into the mix the ability to cross-reference those sources with end-user input gained through their conversations.

Analysts are often “wicked smart” and sometimes excentric, so when it combines with that level of access on both sides of the marketplace, it always makes up for interesting conversations. That’s one of the reasons why, after all those years, I still find AR exciting and never dull!

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IIAR research highlights importance of International AR

As a result of doing some research on International AR practices and gaining input during the January IIAR forum in London, the following paper onWhy do International Analyst Relations matter? (subscribers only) is now available to all IIAR members.

As AR professionals, we all are familiar with the value and sales influence of industry analysts. It can sometimes be a hard sell internally, because for ethical reasons analysts do not speak about their end-user client engagements. But anecdotal evidence shows that IT analysts influence most, if not all, large deals

But can you articulate the value and business drivers of International AR?

How many of us can rattle off the main business benefits for complementing corporate AR with an International AR program? Do we know the most important business drivers for regional and country level AR? Do we all have visibility on the multiple ways in which analysts in Germany, India, Singapore, Brazil, and China are impacting vendor sales, marketing and strategy daily, not to mention the ways in which they influencing end user procurement decisions?

And most importantly, are our stakeholders aware of the potential negative impact on the sales pipeline by not having any global AR outreach?

Why do International Analyst Relations matter? aims to provide a balanced set of answers for all these questions, and more.

What do you think?

Tell us what your experience of international AR is if you’re analyst or an AR professional. Would this fit into your company model and culture? Have you similar ideas you would like to share?

For comments and input, please contact ewarner -at- analystrelations -dot- org.

Methodology and industry best practices for International AR is covered in a separate white paper, I’ll blog about this soon.

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Gartner engages in debates on their blog

Following some critical comments from a vendor on a Magic Quadrant, Gartner analyst Andreas Bitterer posted an answer on his own blog: Setting the Record Straight

While personally I would not say that publically challenging a research piece is likely to produce a positive outcome for a vendor, it’s refreshing to see a Gartner analyst engaging in a public debate on his blog: it does a lot for transparency and credibility of the research.

So, kudos to Andy for taking the time to debate openly.
Related post: IIAR publishes Best Practice Paper on Managing the Gartner MQ

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What’s my job?

I started a draft a long time ago to describe what my job is, and as usual Carter was quicker off the mark 🙂 

He wrote a nice one on Defining “Analyst Relations” (SageCircle Blog), see my comment below his post.

What do you think AR is?

I also bookmarked a while back those links:

Any other links I should add here?

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Are local analysts “untouched” and influential?

Following a long week at Oracle Open World, I attended the West Coast IIAR meeting organised by Peggy O’Neil from H&K and hosted by Evan Quinn from HP, with several of my colleagues and a room full of AR peers.

Carter from SageCircle interviewed me (and Annemiek Hamelink from Wagged) after that exhausting week:
Oracle’s Ludovic Leforestier with a quick update on the Euro IT analyst landscape « SageCircle Blog

What do you think?

Are independent European firms doing well?
Are they influential and “largely untouched”?

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In memory of Michael Selwyn

Michael Selwyn

We are very sad to share the news that Michael Selwyn, one of Europe’s most well  known and highly respected AR consultants, passed away last Friday. Michael was an active and enthusiastic member of the IIAR, always ready to share his great experience and knowledge, and he will be sorely missed.

Our condolences go to his wife Elizabeth and daughter Solange.

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Analysts: When you’re looking for a briefing – help me to help you

As much as Analyst Relations professionals spend time pitching briefings to analysts, we also spend alot of time fielding briefing requests from analysts with specific needs whodon’t always appreciate how much work is required to set up a briefing. Before we actually get everyone in the same room or on the phone, we AR professionals need to:

  • Understand the depth and scope of the information requested by the analyst: is it strategic, forward-looking and under NDA or is it available in existing content such as publicly delivered decks, collateral or online content
  • Identify the right spokesperson(s): is she/he authorised? AR trained? Does he/she have all the knowledge or do we need multiple spokespeople?
  • Select the best delivery method for this content and how long will it take: are we talking about an all-day live demo or will a series of shorter phone-based conversations do the trick?
  • Make sure the content is right: Does the spokesperson knows how does this fit into the overall corporate messages? If based locally, is the spokesperson familiar enough with the Corporate content and possible future releases and other upcoming stuff?
  • Do we need to include customer or partner evidence and, if so, what form does that need to take: a case study or a phone call w/ an actual customer?

We then need to steal time from those people’s day. For instance, if it’s a local briefing using pre-sales, how can we justify spending one full day of on screen demo with a local analyst when that resource could be working on a RFI for an important deal?

All that is not always easy, even if good AR folks are like swans: maintaining serene appearances while paddling frantically.

How can analysts help then? By being specific and actionable. For instance, if you just write a show email asking for a meeting like the one below, it doesn’t contain enough information to be truly actionable:

Good morning dear X,
How are you? Very well I hope. I have learnt that you had taken over responsibility for topic X at Vendor A.
I just wanted to make sure you knew that our firm had invested in the space and we now have a full time analyst covering topic X. His name is Y.
Could we schedule some time to meet, and we could perhaps meet some people on your team?

The easiest is to send us a professional (rather than personal), corporate-sounding email, that we can easily forward stating the following:

  • Who you are and what your firm does?
  • Your areas of coverage?
  • How the briefing you’re asking fits into your research schedule?
  • What is the research process you’re using?
  • What’s the end deliverable? A report? How long? Does it mention other vendors? Who’s the intended audience?
    Etc….

It doesn’t need to be War and Peace but it does need to contain enough information to help the AR professional fulfil your request as quickly and completely as possible.

Thanks to Naomi Higgins for her contribution to this post.

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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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