Wednesday, 20 July 2005

SPAR-ing partners

We just noticed Duncan's post asking What sort of AR association is needed?, which is a nice summary -- and more or less the only public one -- of some discussions going on about getting AR people closer together, including our repost yesterday from Stephen England.

As we posted last month, around three dozen people were represented at a Palo Alto meeting recently to discuss setting up an analyst relations professionals association. This is the third such attempt, and we hope it will be 'third time lucky'. A follow-up meeting will be held in Palo Alto in a few months' time, and a meeting will be organized in Orlando for attendees at Gartner's Symposium.

This is a promising development, and something we've talked about before (See our May post 'First signs of a professional association?'). The AR community is atomized and there is little wide-spread adoption of, or agreement on, best practice.

However, previous attempts to develop similar associations have failed. Those organizations struggled to gain scale, organizational resiliance and widespread acceptance. To succeed, this society needs scale, resiliance and respect.

Those who gathered at HP's offices were energetic, enthusiastic and appreciative of Carter Lusher's initiative in gathering them together. Nevertheless, that goodwill and energy is no guarantee of progress, no more than steam without a turbine can produce power.

The core issues of scale, resiliance and acceptance were not fully addressed in the discussion. Without resolving those tasks, the meeting at HP can be as successful as Kensington Group's AR Forums, KCG's Connect sessions or Lighthouse's European AR Club (which some in the Bay Area have also had a taste of). However, the appetite of some at the meeting is for a global and respected AR organization: that requires resolving these three issues.

Scale. Should colleagues 'tainted' by media relations or consulting be allowed to participate? Some forums are limited to those who organise AR outreach full-time. But then what about Microsoft's PR agencies, which contain almost 100 AR and PR specialists? Less than a handful of them work on AR full time, but surely there must be a lot of insight there. And what about the AR consultancies? ASG, Kensington, KCG, Lighthouse and the rest have a lot of insight and, as consultancies, they will have very broad experience that most of us don't have. We just don't see any good reason for excluding anyone. It looks really bad too. Some cynic told me the rule is there because Lusher and Hopkins will take any excuse to avoid seeing each other. Whatever.

Resiliance. Carter has huge energy and self-confidence, but broad active participation and professional organization will be needed. However, so did the earlier projects. If we want something that is representative, then it needs to be professionally organized. That needs a formal structure. If we reply on people to do it as a hobby, then it will fall apart.

Respect. It's not clear if we are launching a valley, national-wide or global organization. I would guess that the people at the meeting at HP represented 8% of people managing AR programs in California; 4% of those in the US; and 2% of those worldwide. Here we are, preparing charters and deciding on names. If we are organizing a Valley-wide networking group, then that's fine. However, if we assume that we have the authority to establish a global body, then that will stink of arrogance. It needs to be a slow and respectful process; not just a show of hands at a meeting at the US Symposium, while ignoring folk who attend Symposium in other countries, or who can't make it along that day.

1 comment:

James Governor said...

i dont know whether or not this association will be successful but i ask that you please consider a formal commitment to serving analyst firms beyond Gartner, Forrester and IDC. Too many major technology vendors seem to have a policy of not sharing information with smaller analyst or "third tier" firms if they can help it. That is not a good basis for market communications, or intelligence - selective disclosure is bad news. its illegal in the financial analyst community.