Wednesday, March 17, 2010
The value of Industry Analyst Relations
In my interaction with analyst firms such as the Burton Group, Forrester, The 451 Group and others, I think it is nirvana to repeatedly find an analyst that can understand technology deeper than their clients. However, reality is far from nirvana in that the value proposition of analysts is more about offering insight that us end customers either cannot do for ourselves because we only have a single lens (our own business) or it would be too costly to develop ourselves.
Increasingly, at annual review time, many enterprise end customers in my network have complained about the trend of their bosses turning their strengths into weaknesses. Whether this is good for business is up to the reader. What I can say that sometimes in the world of analysts, this weakness can become a strength when leveraged appropriately. Sometimes, the best peer reviews and insight don't come from tenured senior industry peers but those who ask innocent questions that the rest of us take for granted. I have changed more presentations because my eight year old sons commentary in one year than I have from feedback from executives.
So, if I put aside ego for a moment, one has got to ask the question of analyst interaction with analyst relations folk. Maybe there is merit in an analyst relations context to help shape a new analyst where they may be new to the profession over working with seasoned professionals. If you are going to measure influence, wouldn't the best model be to influence those who are new and don't yet have a strong informed opinion?
Another general observation I have had regarding industry analysts in general is that typical background is usually one of two categories. First, there is the typical graduate from a journalism background who is really good at writing research reports that read well. Journalism teaches a person how to recognize general industry trends which can be beneficial to making the right strategic purchases. The second category are analysts who come from end-customer client organizations where they grew up in the trenches and can go a lot deeper into understanding the struggle that buyers of technology face. The analyst relations model needs to treat these two audiences differently, but more importantly need to figure out what type of analyst benefits their vendor's strategic intent.
In case you haven't noticed, we are in a recession and modern CIOs arent struggling with how to purchase SAP or other large dollar multiple year packages. They are however struggling with how to optimize their processes, how to leverage the technology they already have, and novel ways to innovatively deploy products they have installed in their data centers. This clearly gives analysts who are practitioners an advantage over their journalist peers in most scenarios. The question that analyst relations firms aren't asking themselves are whether they are gravitating towards journalism simply because it is easier to understand how to interact with because it feels like your existing marketing program with a few tweaks.
One may ask why does an Enterprise Architect for a Fortune 100 enterprise care about industry analysis in general and analyst relations specific. The answer to this question is deceptively simple. Industry analysts are one of the few professions where one is a participant in a continual process of reinventing oneself as experts. Technologies change, the business change, the coverage areas change, etc. This skill is something that is beneficial for any and every Enterprise Architect to observe, understand and emulate. I have observed the likes of Brenda Michelson, JP Morgenthal, James Kobeilus, Andrew Jacquith, Anne Thomas Manes, Nick Selby and others successfully transformed throughout their career and at some small level I want to learn their secret...
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