Thursday, June 03, 2010
How we can collectively improve the analyst ecosystem...
Several years ago, I was at a 451 Group conference where an Enterprise Architect from Johnson & Johnson was publicly ranting about the lack of security within a particular ECM implementation. He believed this particular vendor product architecture was lacking where the ECM system should store content and not users. He also believed the vendor should seriously consider using a standards-based approach for externalizing entitlements. Independent of the technical aspects of the conversation, I observed another architect from Pfizer, one from Credit Suisse, one from Merck, one from AIG and one from Home Depot all echo his sentiments.
After the conference, this individual managed demonstrate some activism not usually witness in enterprise circles and organized a conference call with the above players and the product manager. He even extended the circle to include Allstate, Bank of America and New York Life. There were a lot of well-known heavily branded individuals all asking for the same thing of this vendor in a harmonious way. Care to guess what the outcome was?
Let's just say this vendor chose to rationalize why what major customers collectively were asking for wouldn't be on the product roadmap. Some of the reasons included how "difficult" it would be to clean up code citing its legacy design. This experience begs several questions of analyst relations professionals including but not limited to:
- Social media platforms are increasingly allowing customers to talk with each other. More importantly, analysts may be observing. Should you have visibility into the behavior of your product managers in order to prevent this from blowing up?
- Disgruntled customers may share a bad experience with a competing vendor who will use this to influence analysts in their direction. Do you know what the marketplace at large things about your ability to truly be a servant of the needs of your customer or are you solely focused on the financials and product features in your pitch to analysts?
- If you happen to learn about this via an analyst briefing, would you know how to work this challenge and provide timely corrections within your own organization?
Did you know that enterprises are at risk of losing their ability to be heard? Ten years ago, many venture capital firms used to routinely solicit the opinion of influential individuals within Fortune enterprises. They wanted to gain insight into the unsolved challenges that we face. Likewise, this conversation would stimulate the next startup or help refine the investment strategy of venture capital firms.
Nowadays, venture capitalists are no longer interested in enterprises and with good reason. The cost of sales is simply a lot higher than it is to pull off a startup focused on consumer sites around social media. Anyway, when the VC conversation disappeared, so did the opportunity for an enterprise to share its pain and to hope that someone would build technology they could buy in the future to help solve it.
Analysts are pretty good in determining weaknesses in current software offerings when compared against the competition. They are mediocre at best in determining gaps in software offerings after the product has been deployed in a production capacity since the customer/analyst interaction most often occurs at procurement time with no followup in the future.
Wouldn't it be valuable to analyst relations professionals if the analyst firms themselves asked the hard questions on their behalf after customers have deployed the technology where it wasn't just hand-picked customers, but also comprised the ones that were less than happy? Would an analyst trust you more if you provided them with a balanced-view vs one that is heavily skewed?
Of course the above question and its answer heavily depends on the individual personalities of the analyst themselves. Should analyst relations firms provide you with personality factors of the analysts you hope to influence? Do you know which analysts actually ask the questions that can help you create new products vs the ones who only can help you with making current products better? You should know the answer to this question. If you don't, shame on you...
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