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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.

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Blog readership continues to double

IIAR blog readership continues to rise Readership of the IIAR’s blog has continued to rise over the last few months. In fact, the number of visitors doubled in February, March and April.

David’s post on Ethics and Independence Among Industry Analysts has caught huge attention, as has Jonny’s Analyst of the year survey.

The next most-read article was about our 2007 survey which showed that IIAR members felt Forrester rose in influence. Ludovic’s post our dream for a collaborative AR platform was also popular.

Of course the readership of the blog also reflects the IIAR’s growing audience. 150 people have joined us on Yahoo, 33 on LinkedIn, and even 32 hipsters on Facebook. There are also 18 on the German-language list. To find our more, visit us at analystrelations.org.

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How do we decide that analysts are important?

A recent piece by Lighthouse Analyst Relations on “bloggers vs. analysts” raises some interesting questions about whether and how firms should target their limited AR resources.

One argument says that AR professionals should focus their efforts only on those analysts who have the most direct influence on sales by advising end users, and that because of the demands that they make, it is hard to maintain meaningful relationships with a broad constituency of analysts.

A counter argument is that there are some very smart and influential analysts working within the vendor-facing analyst firms and smaller, more specialised consultancies and an AR programme will be the poorer for ignoring them. Proponents of the latter approach also point to the indirect influence that analysts can have on a firm’s brand awareness and sales, for example through quotes in the media and blog posts.

At the core of this discussion is the understanding of analyst influence. Why are industry analysts such an important audience? 

Let’s be clear.  In our view, there’s no doubt about the influence of the industry analyst community as a whole on purchasing decisions by technology buyers. In a report by a team of analysts (including Ellen Carney and Kevin Lucas), Forrester Research recently published the results of a survey of 1,143 IT decision makers in North America and Europe which showed that independent IT research firms came a close fourth in a list of information sources relied upon when researching and comparing IT products and services (see Figure 1).*

Forrester Graphic_Cropped

Knowledge Capital Group, Lighthouse AR, Hill & Knowlton and Freeform Dynamics (to name a few) have all done something similar so this Forrester study is just the latest piece of research that shows the direct importance of the analyst to the technology buyer. 

It also shows that the media is an important source of information to the buyer.  So should we target analysts that get themselves quoted in the business media? Vendor web sites come top so perhaps we also need to talk analysts who can provide us a quote for the website – or will write a report that we can then post up as marketing collaterial? 

The way that analyst influence works is complex and multi-facted.  It changes depending upon where a buyer is in the sales cycle.  It varies depending on the buyer’s industry and country.

The bottom-line is that, as AR professionals, we all know analysts are important to our business and influential on our buyers.  The bigger question is how that influence works and how we can best tap into it. 

We’d love to hear your views.

* Source: Mastering the First Analyst Briefing Tour by Forrester Research, Inc., February 26, 2008. Reprinted with Forrester’s kind authorisation.

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IIAR members feel Forrester rise, Bloor falls

Horizontal is external influence (external of the vendors). The vertical percentage is the nett of (percentage of respondents who think the firm is rising in influence - those who think it's falling).

At Thursday’s IIAR forum in London I presented results from a recent survey of vendor-side Analyst Relations managers. It asked how influential they rated certain analyst firms as being, and then whether they are rising of falling in influence.

Credit for the survey belongs to Jonny Bentwood and the others on the IIAR’s survey working party, who selected the firms listed.

The chart above shows the results, after the ‘falling’ percentage’ (for each analyst firm, the percentage of IIAR members surveyed who felt that its influence had fallen) has been subtracted from the rising percentage (thanks to Ludovic for working out how to embed the chart in this post).

For those in the know, the results are not too surprising: Forrester is the big riser, with IDC, Ovum and Yankee all doing well. The big losers are no surprise either: Bloor, Frost and Butler.

But what interests me is the trend line: generally, AR managers fell that the smaller and less influential firms are falling in influence, while the larger firms are generally rising in influence.

This really reinforces my opinion about the smaller analyst firms that trade on free research and internet profile. While their research is certainly worth reading, some vendors’ inflated expectations of 2006 now seem to be turning into sober judgement about where the real influence is building up.

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