Friday, August 20, 2010


Answers to Questions asked by Analyst Relations Professionals

Last week, I put out a message on Twitter asking analyst relations professionals what would they like to know about end customers and our interactions with industry analyst firms. I received two great questions and figured I would share the answers publicly...

Ksenia Coffman asked: How do end customers of analyst firms perceive "magic quadrants" on the scale from "pay-per-play exercise" to "bible"
Michael Myers asked: How much weight do end customers give to the analysts vs other sources of information?

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Star Analysts according to James McGovern: Part Two

In my previous blog entry, I commented on who I believe are the Top Fifteen Star Analysts. Today, I will provide insight into the common characteristics...

Below are six traits of star analysts...

Quantitative vs Qualitative
Some analyst firms are overly obsessed with metrics. While I too believe in the use of metrics to enable informed decisions, the vast majority of metrics captured by analyst firms have nebulous value to end customers. Consider the scenario where I am looking to purchase a relational database. Does knowing that Microsoft and Oracle are the top contenders from a metrics perspective add value to the conversation? Would it add more value if I were to see those metrics sliced and diced between industry verticals? For example, we know that Sybase is very popular on Wall Street but otherwise gets lost in the mix if you look outside of financial services. Let's face it, some products are generally applicable to all industry verticals while others tend to have an affinity to particular verticals. In order for metrics to be useful, analysts would need to provide more of a dynamic way of allowing customers to get customized metrics. Otherwise, they are of questionable value.

Qualitative analysts on the other hand tend to do a lot better job of explaining a problem through the lens of a customer and not primarily reliant on the metrics they have captured in surveys. We all know that the grass is always greener in the neighbors yard and this scenario applies to enterprises as well. Should I care what 74.2% of the insurance companies at large are up to or do I really care more about what Travelers, Progressive and Geico are up to?

All of the analysts that made my list are masters of being qualitative and are able to provide deep insight not only on their particular coverage area but able to understand the industry vertical slice as well.

Abstraction can morph into distortion
The quantitative people will respond with the notion that sometimes a customer simply needs a number. I believe that sometimes a customer simply needs a name. Did you know that our media relations policy doesn't allow for me to be abstract in my communications with the outside world? I cannot hide behind the fact that I work for a Fortune 200 enterprise headquartered in the Northeast. I must use my company's name. Which of the below phrases do you feel is more informative:It is important to understand that a customer doesn't know whether you have done your research or are simply making it up on the fly. The later is more professional in that it shows that the person understood the question by not only responding with a technology answer, sliced and diced it not only to a particular industry vertical, but to specific companies in the vertical as well as gave you a credible hint as to how to satisfy your answer more deeply if needed all without violating the spirit of non-disclosure.

All of the analysts that made my list are masters of contextual name dropping without violating non-disclosure.

The Responsibility to be Social
All of the analysts that made my list are participants in a variety of social media forums ranging from Twitter to Facebook. This means that they are doing their part to keep an up to the minute pulse on the industry and what people are talking about. Waiting around for surveys and conferences in order to figure this out is minimally lazy and more than likely not timely.

If you observe an emerging trend before others, you are a true analyst. If you observe a trend after everyone else has already analyzed it, you are a historian. All of people on my list do not practice archaeology but are true observers, participants and most important amplifiers to those willing to take risks and lead.

Open Source
When in an enterprise setting, sometimes we are looking for a strategy around commercial vendors. At other times, we simply need to know the cheapest thing that can possibly work. Many analysts sit back and wait for vendors to schedule briefings with them. This behavior causes many analysts to not have visibility into viable open source product offerings. The best of the analysts do their own homework and don't wait for information to come to them.

All of the analysts on my list are literate when it comes to open source and follow all forms of software regardless of its cost or lack of.

The Buck doesn't stop at Procurement
The vast majority of analysts seems to spend less time understanding products and more time analyzing vendors. At some level, they are doing their end customers a big disservice. We all know that if an enterprise spends a million dollars on a product at procurement time, that we will spend order of magnitudes more throughout its lifecycle and therefore some focus on not just what it take to procure it but what should we do after the product has been purchased is in order.

Maybe the shortcoming of analysts who didn't make the list are the ones who were never practitioners and therefore wouldn't have a clue as to how to understand what occurs in an enterprise after it has been procured? With a few exceptions, the vast majority of analysts that made my list held senior-level IT positions in large enterprises at one point in their career. They weren't English majors who studied journalism and decided that being an analyst was more lucrative.

Briefings are Good, Conversations are Better
Sometimes there are burning questions that pop up out of nowhere within an enterprise. Do I really want to wait a week or two until the analyst is free in order to have a dialog? Sometimes you have a question that doesn't require a conversation and you simply need to be pointed in a better direction. This can be accomplished via thirty year old technology known as email. Sometimes when I ask a question, I fully expect a few links to come back and nothing more.

All of the analyst that made my list not only will communicate with end customers the way that end customers want to communicate, but they will usually maintain a relationship after a dialog has ended. The vast majority of analysts look at scheduled briefings as being transactional and miss the importance of building a relationship. I really like it when an analyst sends me a link that contains something of interest to me especially when I wasn't expecting it. This shows that the analyst isn't just interested in achieving some arbitrary internal metrics set by his firm but is interested in a long term relationship.

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Thursday, August 05, 2010


The Secret Relationship between Enterprise Architecture and Outsourcing: Part Three

Many believe that enterprise architecture is all about strategy & planning where outsourcing tends to focus on software development and/or operations. This level of abstraction hides many considerations. The touchpoints are much deeper than the handoffs as you transition into the software development lifecycle...

The vast majority of enterprise architects have never thought deeply about how they can make their employer more successful in outsourcing work to other countries. In my experience, outsourcing fails because there may not be an adequate feedback loop into future strategy and planning.

One of the worst practices is to believe the hype that an outsourcing firm has the same capabilities for delivering as an in-house team. Common sense may dictate that someone who has been in the same enterprise for twenty years will obviously know many things better than someone in another location who knows nothing about your culture and may even be considered a senior developer even though they have been in IT for only three years.

Let's face it, the skillset of the average offshore resource is lower and therefore your strategies must adjust to accomodate. Anyone can take a team of experienced people and lead them to a successful outcome, but it takes not only a thoughtful strategy that acknowledges a reduced skillset but also a team that is willing to do the emotional labor required to make outsourcing work.

It is painfully obvious that way too many employees complain about the lack of skills in the outsourcing firms, but this is simply stating the obvious. What enterprise architecture teams need to noodle is how to help those who may not yet be capable of running on their own be successful.

The strategy of outsourcing is liking teaching your five year old how to ride a bicycle. There will be many accidents, bruises, cuts and scrapes but sooner or later they will learn to ride a bicycle. Maybe in ten or so years, they may even be world champion cyclists.

The journey to successful outsourcing is long and in order for it to be successful requires the enterprise architecture team to commit to long term strategies and emotional labor in order to make it successful. The definition of long term in this context may require thinking past five years...

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010


Star Analysts according to James McGovern: Part One

I have seen the likes of Ray Wang and former Forrester analysts talk about the notion of being a star analyst but without providing any guidelines for determination. I figured I would first start with whom I believe are the top analysts, why I believe it and finally some criteria in which you can use to create your own list...

Whether it is the folks from Altimeter or even the analyst relations crowd and the likes of Barbara French of Tekrati or Carter Lusher of SageCircle, the biggest gap is the simple fact that no one has ever asked an end customer of analyst services for their opinion.

Software vendors spend a lot of money in attempt to influence analyst thinking in hopes that this will influence people like myself who are employed by Fortune 100 firms with $1B in IT spend annually. Shouldn't the conversation include at least some hint as to what we like in certain analysts such that they can influence the people we care most about?

Without delay, I will list the top fifteen industry analysts that have the biggest influence along with my own opinion as to why I follow them. This list is not in any particular order.
  1. Bob Blakely (Gartner): Whenever Bob publishes he doesn't just provide the usual journalism approach of a titillating headline and spoonfeeds you a thirty second elevator pitch but instead makes you look at something from a totally different perspective. I remember having multiple dialogs with him in a work context where he put political correctness aside and said a few things that would have insulted many of my peers but resulted in me choosing to get smarter instead of being offended. How many analysts have ever said on a dialog "that is just plain dumb" He spares his followers writing about the latest vendor X to acquire vendor Y or other stuff you can find in newspapers. Many analyst firms are good in helping their clients make a procurement decision, but Bob helps you think about what to do after you have procured a product.
  2. James Governor (RedMonk): Open source analysis was the first thing that caught my eye, then followed up with brilliant insight into compliance-oriented architectures (a must read for the enterprise architecture crowd). He continues to pioneer not only new ways of performing analysis but does so in ways that I could only dream that the larger firms would embrace. Redmonk doesn't overload its clients with benign surveys attempting to quantify things that don't matter but instead focuses more on the qualitative aspects that enterprises are struggling with today. He is one of the most enterprise relevant analysts I know.
  3. Donald Light (Celent): There are a handful of firms that cover insurance technology but Celent is the dominant player. Donald has not only good understanding of core insurance systems ranging from policy and claims administration but has dug deep into the challenges of the ecosystem at large ranging from using ACORD as part of a service-oriented architecture to rolling out federated identity to independent insurance agents.
  4. Brenda Michelson (Elemental Links): She is the ultimate conversationalist. I like the fact that she is more of a consultant that happens to publish than a traditional industry analyst who publishes research that sits on the shelf. She directly engages enterprise architecture practitioners via a variety of means ranging from Twitter to simply picking up the phone and making a call. She isn't sitting back waiting for someone to initiate a dialog. In fact, she tends to be the catalyst for dialogs that discuss current challenges around business architecture as well as conversations that need to happen around standards, reference architectures and technology leadership.
  5. Jason and Ron (ZapThink): We all know that hype is the plague on the house of software and that cloud computing is its latest victim. In order to be successful at cloud, you need to be successful with service-oriented architectures and these guys continue to push a topic that many think is dead but still manage to come up with useful insights on a frequent basis.
  6. Nick Selby (Trident Risk Management): Want to understand early security trends before the rest of the world? Nick clearly is in a leadership spot. He stays on top of emerging trends and shares insights openly.
  7. Ian Glazer (Gartner): How many analysts are covering the topic of privacy? Is it because there are not a lot of products in this space or is it because the masses don't understand its importance? Ian has made me smarter in terms of understanding its importance in building robust enterprise applications.
  8. Andrew Jacquith (Forrester): The vast majority of information security professionals only have fear, uncertainty and doubt in their toolbox. Andrew helps enterprises focus on metrics and other quant approaches that are less about witchcraft and more about informed thinking.
  9. Andrew Hay (451 Group): Do I follow him for his devastatingly good looks or because he is a known leader in the information security community? He isn't just covering infosec but is living it. I know that he is one analyst that has walked in the same shoes as I and his guidance is grounded in what works. He is capable of looking past the hype.
  10. Michael Cote (RedMonk): Want to understand more about infrastructure and innovation? I have learned more about ITSM from Cote than I have in listening to the rants of our own infrastructure department. He has made me smarter in ways that I will leverage even outside of my current role.
  11. Neil Ward-Dutton (MWDAdvisors): I have been fascinated with the distinctions of how architecture is practiced in the Americas vs Europe and Neil has exposed concepts that work regardless of geographic cultural considerations which helps me strive to be a better architect in a truly global sense.
  12. Apoorv Durga (RealStory Group): I interacted with Apoorv when he worked at Wipro and he not only made me smarter regarding why certain things I attempted in outsourcing would not work in India, he provided corrective suggestions. Along the way, I also happen to learn an aweful lot about ECM technology from him as well. Too many architects are focused on structured data and we all need to get smarter about how to store, protect, encrypt, sign, etc unstructured data and Apoorv has some good insights.
  13. Jeremiah Owyang (Altimeter): Wanna develop a website and make it wildly popular? If you have led the development of multiple enterprise-scale websites such as myself, you would be negligent if you didn't understand how to make them usable in the way only Jeremiah can articulate.
  14. Josh Corman (The 451 Group): Ever heard of the Rugged Software Manifesto? If not, you need to google for this asap and it will become clear why I follow him.
  15. Dennis Howlett (AccMan): Need to be offensive and made to feel dumb? Seriously, Dennis is a no-nonsense individual who cuts to the chase and calls things out. He doesn't always help you be smart, but he most certainly helps you in avoiding being dumb.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010


The Secret Relationship between Enterprise Architecture and Outsourcing: Part Two

Many believe that enterprise architecture is all about strategy & planning where outsourcing tends to focus on software development and/or operations. This level of abstraction hides many considerations. The touchpoints are much deeper than the handoffs as you transition into the software development lifecycle...

The vast majority of enterprise architects have never thought deeply about how they can make their employer more successful in outsourcing work to other countries. In my experience, outsourcing fails because there may not be an adequate feedback loop into future strategy and planning.

Many people offshore will have lots of time on their hands prior actually starting work on your project. The delay of provisioning them an account alone will afford them the opportunity to do research on your project but only if you arm them with the opportunity to do so.

So, how many enterprise architecture practitioners are guilty as charged when it comes to keeping internal acronyms alive when industry standard words/phrases exist to describe the same outcome. I have yet to visit an enterprise where they didn't have a system named Omni, Alchemy or Prism. Can someone offshore do any research on these terms unless you make a conscious effort to describe things in industry terms?

Enterprise architecture would be more successful if they simply spent more time thinking about how to bridge vocabularies across the proverbial firewall...

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