Friday, June 25, 2010
Thoughts on Corporate America and Becoming Green
Americans are very wasteful when it comes to food. Ever attend a meeting where food was provided but never thought to ask what happens to it after you are done? Some companies are thoughtful in that they may make an effort to donate it to a homeless shelter in the area, but this is problematic for a variety of reasons. Homeless shelters need to receive food on a consistent basis and not just at the whims of whenever some executive decides to hold a meeting and feed their people.
Is it a good thing to provide homeless people with food that has been sitting out of tables collecting bacteria for several hours especially when they probably don't have good healthcare and can't run to the doctor like me and you when they don't have insurance? A better alternative may be to consider composting instead of just throwing it away. Did you know that composted food makes for a great lawn fertilizer? Did you know that there are companies that specialize in picking up waste for this purpose and one or two may be in your area?
Anyone care to calculate the carbon footprint of Accenture, Deloitte or McKinsey? Isn't it amusing our most clients ignore the 2,000 gallons of jet fuel used by any individual consultant only to ask them to carpool when at the airport? Have you ever visited firms such as Pfizer, Merck, UTC and so on where they have what is labeled as consultants row where all the people who fly in usually only interact with each other and at best may see the client for say 15 minutes a week?
Facetime is important, but consider the value proposition of hiring a consultant to provide you with advice on making IT more efficient only to ignore the obvious value proposition that telecommuting provides. The ability to hire talent regardless of where they live on the planet is now a real possibility. If we truly believe that hiring the best and the brightest is key to sustained competitive advantage, then why are we letting little things such as location get in the way?
Telecommuting isn't just about access to better talent. When done correctly, it could reduce the amount of capital required for buildings, parking lots and other high burden fixed costs. While the vast majority of CIOs have been conned into the value proposition of outsourcing, they continue to leave money on the table when it comes to vibrant telecommuting programs.
Ever look at the parking lots of most major Fortune corporations? Even if you live only fifteen minutes away, it can sometimes take you twenty minutes to find a parking space and make it to your cubicle. While most corporations have formal initiatives around carpooling, they haven't thought about how to enable more informal ways to carpool.
Let's say you work on a campus that has three thousand people. How would you go about figuring out which employees say live within a three block radius of your home? Right now, this only works based on conversations that may or may not happen or in recognizing someone from the neighborhood.
Imagine a scenario where you could combine a feed from the HR system with a social networking platform. An employee could be presented with coworkers who live in their general area without showing actual addresses so that a conversation at least becomes a possibility. Note that enablement of this type of connection is not just usual for carpooling, but may help employees connect on other levels. One example may be that I may also learn that regardless of carpooling that a particular coworker may have kids the same age as mines and they attend the same schools. Maybe we don't carpool to work but do carpool for sports activities.
Anyway, hopefully folks that are reading this will take actions within their own context to help corporate America become more green and not simply exercise their right to remain silent...
Friday, June 18, 2010
Impediments to Keeping Top Talent...
We all understand the challenges of maintaining work/life balance for our employees, providing them with interesting work and competitive pay. We understand that culture plays an importance role and that it is vital that top talent have leadership they understand, respect and aspire to become like.
Many enterprises have superstars who are hiding in the wrong positions and not being appropriately leveraged. Sometimes this is a failing of
Did you know that most managers are not managers of people? Nowadays, in a world of 360-degree feedback, perception is reality and other modern management practices, how much does any one manager have a say in the careers of their direct reports over someone who isn't even noted as having authority over an individual as defined by the HR system?
Most managers are not managers of people, but of positions! Observe the actions the next time your firm does a reorganization. You will note that it is more about musical chairs and who gets a seat than it is do with maintaining a higher level of talent within the organization.
Have you ever witnessed a scenario where say a star Java developer was displaced due to the reorganization while the organization retained an incompetent developer because they were not impacted by the reorganization? These are some of the symptoms of an organization where the practice of management of positions occurs over the management of people.
Imagine if you were a Java shop and you had top talent such as Joel Spolsky, Jon Skeet, James Gosling or Martin Fowler as employees. During the reorganization, would they be required to find their own positions in another part of the company or would someone step in having recognized them as top talent and ensure they didn't leave the organization?
How many reorganizations have you experienced in the last five years? Do you believe that shuffling the decks on the Titanic would have saved the ship? Many management studies indicate that it takes at least eighteen months before an organization can see the benefits of restructuring. Do you reorganize more frequently than eighteen months?
The challenge of hiring and retaining the best talent possible is at the core of success for many organizations yet few have realized that the challenge requires reinvent of the HR process where frequent reorganization is a symptom of something that is fundamentally broken...
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Why aren't we seeing more adoption of open source in large enterprises?
First, lets talk about enterprise funding and the inversion model. The need to do a proof of concept (POC), pilot or other forms of trials is embedded within many enterprise cultures. The banner of risk favors closed source companies in that I have a lot more opportunity to see if things will work without making any financial commitment. An enterprise has the opportunity to call up any closed source vendor and ask them to do lots of work for free with the hint that they will get a payday in the future. Open source does not provide this type of leverage.
Looking at it through the lens of an Enterprise Architect who understands the importance of buy-in from my peers to developers, etc open source is also sometimes at a disadvantage. We all understand how much PowerPoint is used within a daily basis in many enterprises. If I had a $1 for every time PowerPoint was used, we could ensure that no one in Haiti would go hungry. Let's say I wanted to use non-commercial open source to do content management. I would have to spend lots of time constructing PowerPoint presentations and running around presenting it. At some level, people would grow tired of hearing from me and I would lose buy-in. Sometimes buy-in occurs when you hear it from someone new, the challenge of when consultants present the same information as employees. A better strategy is to leverage a vendor to do presentations on my behalf and to even encourage them to sponsor lunch and cookies.
Sometimes a person has clarity of strategy but may fail on execution. Nowadays, the vast majority of people who work in Information Technology know very little about Information Technology. If you are an enterprise architect but have never written a single line of code, how successful could you be in presenting Tomcat/Jetty/etc to a group of Java developers?
Wouldn't it be fascinating if there were empirical studies on how much executive coddling is required in order to make an enterprise purchase? Lets pretend I am the CIO of a Fortune 10 company and I call up Microsoft. How much attention would I get? If I then call up the lead for a small open source project would the reaction be the same? Open source thrives based on technical credibility while closed source thrives on abstract authority. Would James McGovern, the enterprise architect have more credibility to the leads of various open source projects centered around SAML or XACML or would James McGovern the executive...
The biggest challenge with open source has actually nothing to do with source code. The legal community has figured out which licenses are favorable and enterprise friendly and there are lots of great companies that provide support. What is missing from open source is the notion of free training and good documentation.
The local Microsoft office does a wonderful job of holding developer days where they teach software developers how to leverage the latest technology. They even feed the developers lots of pizza. Even if you don't care to use Microsoft technology, you can still attend these events free of charge and the cost to the enterprise is zero. There is no equivalent in the open source community.
More importantly, there are lots of great pieces of software within the open source community, but much of it lacks documentation. The general trend of outsourcing to other countries means that the enterprise is at increased risk now that they are leveraging resources that simply don't have as much experience in software development as those who came before them. Since Americans are starting to throw away their software development talents and not really doing knowledge transfer in this regard, the only hope is to be able to have someone learn from documentation.
Documentation doesn't just include what ships with a product, but also comes from third party sources such as book publishers. Microsoft and Oracle for example have their own book publishing entities where open source has to fight for the crumbs. In this regard, we run into a chicken-and-egg challenge where publishers won't publish documentation on open source until the open source community encourages people to spend money on documentation. The mindset of free has been its own worst enemy...
Industry Analyst Observations
There are lots of really talented analysts that work for small firms including the likes of James Governor and Michael Cote of Redmonk, Jason Bloomberg and Ronald Schmelzer of ZapThink, Brenda Michelson of Elemental Links and so on. Lets pretend you get a call from James McGovern who needs an enterprise strategy on cloud computing. What are the odds that you would be competing with each other? What are the odds that you would be competing with various system integrators such as Accenture, Diamond and so on?
Enterprises look for strategies all the time and use various consultancies to help us construct them. We can all acknowledge at some level that analysts have more years of experience in the industry, are probably better observers of trends and have lots of good material already sitting on the shelf, yet many enterprises aren't leveraging analysts in this regard. I wonder why analysts haven't thought about this disconnect more deeply?
Analysts have the ability to run circles around system integrators who back up the school bus to enterprises in terms of speed, quality and depth of strategy, so what is missing? I would love to see research on the preferences of IT executives when it comes to strategy. I bet it would uncover the fact that they prefer lower-quality strategies that make everyone feel good vs better strategies that might require people to stretch their brains a little as this puts at risk those who just don't get it and them becoming problematic in the future.
System integrators propose longer times for creation of the strategy because they have acknowledged the requirement to be a broken record. A person has to hear the same thing multiple times in order for it to sink in. Analysts tend to do strategies that work only for people who get it the first time. Successful strategies need to feel like broken records.
As a side note, have you noticed that many of the star analysts at the larger firms sound like broken records? Anyway, I think that analysts should figure out creative ways to take business share away from system integrators and stop the silly conversation of competing with each other. Enterprises spend and waste lots of money on poorly conceived strategies and it is in the best interest to help make things better and not just report about why IT is an abysmal failure...
Sunday, June 06, 2010
Enterprise Architecture, SOA and ServiceMix
The notion of an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) in terms of popularity has grown and shrunk in pendulum-like fashion. In order to properly understand whether an ESB is sound or lacking requires not just comparing it to other products in the marketplace
but in terms of how it is used within an enterprise setting. So, the first complaint about the majority of ESB products in the marketplace at large is not really with any server-oriented component, but the lack of proper design tools that allow enterprises to properly leverage them.
Consider for a moment how easily it is to create WSDL using Eclipse or NetBeans in order to describe a particular web service. Now consider how difficult it is to create consistent WSDL across multiple web services where simple business concepts such as what a purchase order, policy number or even an address looks like such that it is consistently described.
When left to developer interpretation, every developer will reinvent the wheel, with each describing the same notion slightly different. The ability of an ESB to introspect on inconsistent element definitions is the first challenge. Sure, many ESBs support transforming of one format to another, but this almost always results in suboptimal performance where ESBs take the blame for things that should have been considered at design time. The better answer is for the enterprise to have some sort of tool that allows for consistent element definition at the small scale which can ultimately escalate into something that feels like an enterprise messaging model.
Are enterprise architects thinking about enterprise messaging models? Very few enterprises in my travels have one. Many attempt to harvest industry models as the starting point since they take a lot of effort to create and customize from there. This begs another question of how an ESB should think about variants. Many ESBs understand how to handle versions, but few know how to handle variants.
The bigger question may be to ask whether an enterprise messaging model is the starting point for an SOA. At some level, the chicken-egg debate rears its ugly head where some parties will argue that an enterprise messaging model should be derived and semantically consistent with an enterprise data model and the endless loop of conversations begins. Of course, most enterprises also don't have enterprise data models, so the debate in my opinion is fruitless.
For those industries and enterprises that have had mediocrity as success, probably have borrowed from industry-vertical specifications. Should an ESB have an inherent built-in understanding of the more popular vertical standards or should it let each and every enterprise reinvent the same wheel in their own way?
Within my own vertical, our industry standards body is ACORD. If you were to look at the various messaging specifications, you will see a common pattern or should I say anti-pattern when applied to ESB? Every message within ACORD is built on the notion of request-response. If you wanted to do anything other than request-response, you have some heavy lifting to do. Is it the fault of an ESB because it doesn't align with suboptimal XML design as created by standards bodies or is it the fault of standards bodies for letting people who only understand the basics of architecture create standards? Not to sound sarcastic, but the challenge here is really more about having the right people within the enterprise participate and not just constrain it to whomever happens to be assigned.
When it comes to ServiceMix itself, I think it has one advantage over commercial offerings. Have you ever heard of Azul Systems, makers of a Java-based appliance that supports 768 cache-coherent cores? To date, ServiceMix is the first and only ESB certified on this device and therefore enterprises who are worried about scalability don't have to worry about scalability when using ServiceMix.
When you look at an ESB through a security lens, I see four areas of improvement. The first is with support for federated identity. Much of the conversation around identity federation tends to focus more on browser-based interactions. The OASIS SAML specification also defines how SAML should work in the world of web services. I think there are a few opportunities for ServiceMix to go a little deeper in terms of support both SAML and WS-Federation. I equally think there is an opportunity to be first in terms of integrating with Microsoft's Windows Identity Foundation (Code-named Geneva).
When it comes to authorization/entitlements, ServiceMix needs to provide a standards-based way of defining who can access what set of services under what circumstances and deeper support for OASIS XACML is in order.
If someone ever decides to move credit cards through ServiceMix and needs to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI) then an ESB needs to provide the ability to add asymmetric encryption based on entry/egress points to specific elements as a global policy. Otherwise, you would either have to encrypt entire messages breaking the ability to easily introspect without incurring performance penalties or you would require applications to redefine all of their messages which would be painful.
The final consideration for ServiceMix would be to add a layer to prevent against insufficient anti-automation. ServiceMix will attempt to scale requests by leveraging staged event-driven architecture (SEDA) principles. At some level, the need to detect bad automation needs to be baked into more products. ServiceMix should consider leveraging the OWASP ESAPI and others to prevent against this scenario.
Consider the business scenario of a large Pizza chain such as Domino's wanting to get commercial auto insurance where they may have several hundred locations and own several hundred vehicles with several hundred people who may drive those vehicles in different locations. It would be reasonable to validate that the quote message not only conforms to schema put may contain other validation rules such as validating each vehicle and/or driver is not duplicated, they have valid drivers licenses and vehicle identification numbers (VIN) and so on. The only way to guarantee a good overall response time in this scenario may be to externalize the many transforms that could occur to XML hardware such as IBM DataPower, Tarari, etc. ServiceMix doesn't quite provide the right level of integration under this scenario. Part of the challenge I believe is that their is a lack of standards which could be solved by the Java community. The other half of the challenge is related to having enough worker threads to distribute the workload to externalized devices.
Anyway, there are probably lots of other considerations that haven't yet came to mind. I suspect a conversation with Anne Thomas Manes, Brenda Michelson, Michael Cote, JP Morgenthal or other brilliant industry analysts will help to job my memory.
In the meantime, I hope this helps point people in a better direction...
Saturday, June 05, 2010
Book Review: Charlene Li - Open Leadership
I am an Enterprise Architect for a Fortune 100 enterprise who along with my peers needed an intervention as we were fundamentally broken. Many of us thought of leadership as something that comes from above while not acknowledging that leadership starts from within. Sure, I am a leader, after all I have lots of followers. The bigger question was whether I was being a leader 100% of the time or was this a part-time activity done only when convenient.
I along with 200 other colleagues attended a four-day training event on leadership with CruxPoint Consulting. Most leadership courses are nothing but pep rally sessions that float you so high up that you have no choice but to come down. This training was different in that I walked away with a feeling of disgust targeted at myself and my peers. It took something profound for me to realize that our culture was fundamentally busted and I needed to do my part to help make things better. The cliche of redoubling ones efforts most certainly applies here.
Part of being a leader is to spend time gaining insights from others and there is no better person than Charlene Li. The book arrived last week Friday and I felt compelled to stay up all night reading as much as I could. Even though I have never met Charlene, I felt that she was not only talking to me personally, but that we were lifelong friends. Her writing style is most certainly not the dry PhD humorless monotone repeat after me hype that is found elsewhere. This book is highly conversational and written in the tone used by humans.
The case studies aren't saved for the back of the book but instead are presented in a contextual manner. She provides solutions for every scenario possible and even I couldn't blow holes in her thinking. Using her words, I am the consummate transparent evangelist and her suggestions for improvement are spot-on.
Few leaders talk openly about their failures and even fewer learn from them. Charlene provides insight into building the trust that comes from failure by using herself as an example. She also provides much needed guidance on separating the person from the failure. Too often, the careers of good people are ruined by clueless, cowardly executives who fire people instead of taking personal accountability. She helps people understand that you didn't fail, the project did.
I started to smile when she started to discuss passive-aggressive behaviors as I didn't even know what it was till several weeks ago. Nothing destroys morale faster. I found myself being turned into a cheerleader and gave a rebel yell when she stated that the whole idea of never going to your boss without a solution to a problem is nonsense.
Many people will make the mistake and think that this book is only about implementing social media in a leadership way. This book is 100% relevant to being a leader even if you worked for the most technology adverse company on the planet.
If I had to choose my most favorite part, it would have to be the guidance on establishing sandbox covenants. These are the rules organizations set up to determine what sorts of limits and conventions there are on openness. One thing worth noting is that Charlene even broke tradition from the usual style of collecting references. She provided commentary on this as well.
In conclusion, this book is absolutely one of the best books I have read this century and encourage every Enterprise Architect I know to not only purchase a copy for themselves, but to consider purchasing a few for those above you in the organization chart. This is money and time well spent...
Friday, June 04, 2010
Thoughts on XML 2.0
In my travels, I have ran across lots of horrific usages of XML. While part of the challenge is related to learning XML via Dummies books and other introductory methods that don't make it to more complex design considerations, some of it is attributable to those who desire a richer grammar and end up reinventing the wheel. The below enhancements are all related to the latter.
- Currency: We live in a global economy and should never assume that money is always in local currency. Anytime you are dealing with currency, it should be treated as a complex type that ideally should be built in. For example, you may have an attribute known as amount, an enumeration of the currency used such as Rupees, Dollars, Yen, etc and another enumeration that contains the country of the currency since dollars, rupees and yen are all used beyond a single country.
- Duration: Ever notice the concept of valid date ranges being constantly used. It should be straight-forward to have a reusable complex type that allows someone to specify a from and to date.
- Enumeration: This is probably the more interesting challenge in that we first need to a way to specify whether they are open or closed such that this can be validated via schema. The need to extend enumerations (open) within a business context is important. Examples may include supporting new diagnosis codes and procedures as medical technology advances or even the additional of new countries. Sometimes, enumerations also need to be closed and not subject to further extension (aka final). For example, if you decided to treat Gender as an enumeration, you may at most have a fixed number of values that shouldn't change over its lifetime.
- Boolean: The funny thing about Boolean is that it really isn't boolean. Those who grew up on mainframes and C may think of booleans as being represented by 0 and 1. Those who grew up with English as their background, may think of booleans as TRUE and FALSE. Shouldn't we strongly type booleans so that they are represented one and only one way?
- Namespace: We need to eliminate the notion of a default namespace and instead have the ability to mandate that all XML have one? This would making parsing ambiguity disappear.
- Character Set: Wouldn't it be good if you could specify what are the allowed character sets for a given attribute such that it could be validated via schema? Should I be able to shove Japanese Kanji via Unicode into an attribute where the receiver can only process English?
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...
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
The Secret Relationship between Analyst Relations and the Matrix
The AR Pro: Hello, Neo.
Neo: Who are you?
The AR Pro: I am the AR Pro. I created the matrix. I've been waiting for you. You have many questions, and although the process has altered your consciousness, you remain irrevocably human. Ergo, some of my answers you will understand, and some of them you will not. Concordantly, while your first question may be the most pertinent, you may or may not realize it is also irrelevant.
Neo: Why do we need an AR Pro?
The AR Pro: On one level, influence is an unimaginable mass of ones and zeros, all packed together. On another level, it is line after line of questions within a survey. On yet another level it is interdependent analysts passing messages to one another. Higher, it is the interaction of hundreds of published research reports. Higher still, it it the result of a score of analyst-years of deep thinking, alcohol consumption and the occasional spit ball war.
Neo: You haven't answered my question.
The AR Pro: Quite right. Interesting. Perhaps the question is wrong?
Neo: Why do we need an AR Pro now?
The AR Pro: influence is the result of a million decisions made at different times by different people. It is the tangible expression of a chaotic system of interlocking rules. For the past four years I have watched it grow in different directions. It has grown unevenly, it has developed anomalies, eddies and vortexes in what should be smooth and unbroken.
Neo: So what can we do about it?
The AR Pro: Have you heard of this thing they call... Social Media?
Neo: We are so screwed.
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Analyzing the Analyst Relations Firms
As an enterprise architect for a Fortune 100 enterprise, I spend a lot of time figuring out how to make my influence game better and at times have borrowed from the sage wisdom of Barbara French, Carter Lusher and others who seek to help analyst relations professionals to improve their game.
Anyway, I hope to share a few perspectives on a few missing aspects I have observed regarding analyst relations...
While all business models place a scope which constrains what areas they cover and won't, I believe the first mistake made by analyst relations professionals is one of not looking holistically at marketing. If you are familiar with the Kevin Bacon Six Degrees Principle, how many degrees away are analyst relations professionals to analysts to end customers like myself? At some level, should AR pros tailor their message to analysts and have a different message for end customers? Remember the game of telephone and how it changes as it passes through many people? Shouldn't analyst relations firms help tailor the message such that it is consistent through all channels?
Whether it is Tekrati, SageCircle or other firms, every discussion contains the magical word "influence". We all want would love quantitative measures, but I think this is nirvana. Much of the real influence comes from private conversations, which may or may not be representative. The responses of eight-hundred people who answer a "survey" may be much less representative of the market than the responses of two-hundred people chosen to represent a market statistically. Because the end-hundred decided to answer the survey, their answers are somewhat or potentially massively skewed.
Many vendors spend lots of money on analyst firms to produce white papers but have no idea as to whether us customers actually read them. In fact, neither the analyst firms themselves nor analyst relations firms never even think to ask. In order to remedy this situation, I will share personal insights on the last four published analyst research papers I have read and include why I read them as well (reverse chronological order).
Last week, I sat quietly in my living room (not at work) reading Kevin Kampman of Gartner (Burton Group) paper on Microsoft's Identity Forefront product. The coverage of a new product offering in the identity ecosystem is intriguing to me, but more importantly they made it really easy to not only learn about it, but to consume it.
Gartner (Burton Group) sends document alerts via email so I know when new content is available. Within the email are links that not only allow me to access the content, but allow me to choose the content format (e.g. Word Document, PDF, etc) in which I would like to consume it. When I click on the link, it doesn’t even challenge me for a username/password (I think they maintain a database of IP addresses for their customers). At no time, did they make me track down someone with a “seat”. AR Pros should ask themselves, from your seat, when does it make sense to deny someone access to content about your value proposition?
For the next two, I am not sure of exact order but since they work for the same firm. The 451 Group is really good about spotting emerging trends and sharing their insights before it is even many analyst firms radar. Matthew Aslett on Open Source and Josh Corman on Security are absolutely brilliant. Now that 451 Group has added Andrew Hay to the roster, their ability to influence me will most certainly grow stronger in the future.
IDC is another firm whose research I frequently consume. While most analyst firms have grown weary of case studies, enterprises absolutely love them. Now a moment of truth; there usually is only one leader in any particular vertical and therefore many enterprises are equally interested in being fast followers and case studies aid in this goal. Sometimes we like to learn about new products, but more often we like to learn about existing products used in novel ways. IDC is one of the few firms that still tells the story of enterprise adoption through the lens of an end-customer.
Influence isn’t just through published research and can occur through blogs and other social media channels. Wouldn’t analyst relations professionals love to understand why enterprise architects love RedMonk? Is it because of the frequent and thoughtful insights unleashed by James Governor (no relation) where his perspective is not the same usual repeat after me indoctrinated sterile happy talk?
Is it because RedMonk pioneered the notion of open source analysis? Is it because all of their blog entries disclose who is a client and who isn’t which serves to make their research more trustable? I follow Michael Cote and his insights into infrastructure and Stephen O’Grady (when it is not baseball season).
I periodically follow Tom Rafferty (aka GreenMonk) and his coverage of Green IT. The reason I haven't fully committed is he lets too many people off the hook. For example, what would happen if all analysts covering green were to talk about certain consultancies who encourage their consultants to burn thousands of gallons of jet fuel every Monday to get to client sites and think that being green is carpooling the last ten miles.
Remember that fast follower comment? This mantra doesn’t just apply to technologists but also is practiced by those in marketing and media relations. Do analyst relations firms understand how influential the Altimeter Group is? I am currently following Ray Wang and Charlene Li and their thoughts on social CRM which I believe is more than just a new buzzword prefixed onto an old one.
One day, an industry analyst (name intentionally withheld) reached out to me via Twitter and asked for help in making a customer service breakthrough within my own employer? While I did a good job of making it appear smooth on the outside, it was most certainly turbulent on the inside. I believe that social CRM is a missing component within the vast majority of enterprise architectures and the insights provided by these two individuals can help improve the EA discipline. They have given me a new lens in which to see our customers, something that most IT professionals sorely lack.
I am currently reading Charlene Li’s new book: Open Leadership and I love the fact that she doesn’t use abstraction terms and hide behind confidentiality. For example, which is more credible to the ears? Most analyst firms would say that I am employed by a Fortune 200 Financial Services Firm headquartered in New England. Charlene would mention my employer by name.
If I were an analyst covering analyst relations firms, I might conclude that analyst relations firms are exploiting their clients fear, uncertainty and doubt. My gut instinct tells me that analyst relations professionals view themselves as the keepers of customer insight. This is a fragile relationship at best. I know first hand that an executive can easily sway a discussion by bringing up a single customer comment which quickly invalidates weeks if not months of market research. Analyst relations professionals need to become enablers of conversation and not resort to command and control.
So, in order for an analyst firm to influence us enterprise end-users, do we need to be customers of the analyst firm? I figure I will leave it up to reader discretion to determine whether the answer to this question even matters.
Being the inquisitive type, I would like to know why analyst relations professionals aren’t asking analyst relations firms about insight into the ultimate end-customer? The end game is to sell to end customers where analysts are just one path and you need full visibility in order to be truly effective in either an enabler and/or command and control role.
Remember, I am just a single lone voice in the wilderness. I hope that analyst relations professionals will do their own homework and figure out whether their are more out their like me. You will not be wildly successful until you figure out the answer to this most important question. I am sure that Carter, Barbara and others are more than willing to help you figure this out...