Thursday, 30 March 2006

Gartner Sales policing vendor interactions with analysts

Reports are coming in around the industry that Gartner Sales staffers are sitting in on many more inquiries, briefings, SAS pre-calls and other interactions than in the recent past. The Gartner Sales reps are being very aggressive about suppressing dialogue if it looks like the analysts are about to give the vendor attendees any advice or make observations if non-Advisor seat holders are on the call or in the meeting. It does not matter if the analyst wants to provide insights or the vendor is asking for the opinion, the Gartner Sales rep steps in and squashes the conversation.

With Gartner Sales playing such a prominent role during vendor-analyst interactions, Gartner is seriously undermining its position that vendors do not have to pay-to-play.

Tuesday, 28 March 2006

Ovum is floating -just about

As we announced before, Ovum has now gone through their IPO on the 10th at 190 pence. Their stock shot up to 219 on the 12th and went back to 198 on the 24th in small volumes.

Some in the industry have been speculating on what may happen next:

  • A mass exodus of suddenly enriched analysts?
  • An acquisition?
  • Aggressive development plans, for instance in consulting?

Read also:

Monday, 27 March 2006

Does Gartner podcasting from IBM events reveal a pro-IBM bias?

Gartner has done multi-analyst podcasts from two IBM events so far this year:

Why does only IBM get such coverage? Other major vendors like Oracle, Sun, HP, Cisco and Microsoft have held significant events in the last six months, but no dedicated coverage for them.

What is striking about both podcasts is that the analysts were overall very positive about what they heard. Yes, there was some perfunctory skeptical commentary, but the analysts were mostly cheerleading IBM’s positions and announcements.

So, two questions: a) why does Gartner podcast only from IBM events, but not other vendors’ events, and b) why is the commentary so positive? There are both innocent and sinister explanations for these two questions:

a) Innocent: IBM is simply more effective at putting on events that attract the analysts and has an AR function that is more effective than other vendors.

Innocent: Dave Cearley, Gartner's IBM lead analyst, is more effective than his colleagues about getting his topics covered as podcasts. For Cearley is a matter of intelligent self-promotion.

Sinister: IBM is paying SAS fees to Gartner to guarantee analyst attendance.

Sinister: IBM is likely Gartner’s largest client and the analysts did not want to annoy Gene Hall by not showing up at IBM’s events.

b ) Innocent: IBM has an excellent plan and messaging for Websphere and innovation, so as a consequence the analysts are positive with only token skepticism. In addition, superior IBM AR execution means that the analysts were used as consultants on strategy and message creation so that they had an emotional buy-in to IBM’s success and were already very knowledgeable before they arrived at the events.

Sinister: IBM is likely Gartner’s largest client and the analysts did not want to annoy Gene Hall by dissing IBM.

Semi-Sinister -- Sloppy research: Any person can be seduced by a well-run event with razzle dazzle. Perhaps the analysts were razzled and dazzled by what they saw at the event and turned off their critical thinking. Maybe if they waited a week or two, they would not have been as positive.

What do you think? Are there are other reasons to explain this potential bias? Please vote on the various innocent and sinister options.

Thursday, 23 March 2006

Should vendors institute a pay-to-brief policy?

Gartner managers have instructed their analysts to stop providing their opinion and recommendations during briefings if there are non-Advisor seat holders participating from the vendor side. Why? Gene Hall does not want to give away for free anything that he can sell. That is certainly Gartner’s privilege, but it raises an interesting issue: why should vendors give to analysts something of value – information that the analysts then resell-- for free? Perhaps the vendors should start considering selling or bartering their information. After all, it can take hundreds of hours by dozens of employees using up precious customer reference favors to provide Gartner or Forrester the information needed for a Magic Quadrant or Wave.

An example of bartering could that if the vendor is providing access to executives – say VP and above – then the briefing has to be a dialogue instead of monologue. IDC and Forrester analysts are already very good about engaging in dialogues.

Another approach would be giving credits the vendor could exchange for services. A potential menu:

$100k -- Magic Quadrant, Forrester Wave
$25k ---- Product and services shipment and revenue data
$10k ---- Executive session
$1k ----- Update by AR staff
$0.2k --- E-mail response to a question
$20k ---- Annual inquiry retainer

Vendors could decide to provide pro-bono briefings for boutique firms.

Of course this is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but Gartner and the other firms need to take into the consideration how much vendors spend to respond to their requests.

Tuesday, 21 March 2006

Why Gartner and Forrester will NOT be Disintermediated

In the chatter around Will the Borg be dis-intermediated? and The Governor, ancient Iraq and Gartner it seems that the main points for disintermediation are a) information is readily available via Google searches and the blogosphere and b) the large analyst firms are slow to recognize new trends and their insights and quality are subpar.

While both points are true, they completely miss the point of why analyst firms are growing instead of withering away – they deliver business value to the vast majority of IT managers. Vinnie was right in his comment about what “heartland customers” want: “well packaged, affordable offerings.” Like it or not, that is what Gartner and Forrester deliver for the average IT manager: information succinctly presented with reasonable quality and in a timeframe that is in sync with their needs.

With all the IT layoffs since 2001, IT managers simply do not have the time or energy to systematically gather information including talking to many of their peers, vet blogs for accuracy and synthesize conclusions. So tens of thousands IT organizations outsource market, product and management technique research to analysts just like they outsource PC help desk outsourcing, hardware break/fix and janitorial work. Why do 20 or 40 hours of research when you can read a couple of research notes and do a 30-minute phony inquiry? Yeah, they might be cutting corners, but that’s life.

So what if the analysts are a little slow publishing about new trends? They are still months or even years ahead of when most of their clients need the information. I sat in on some presentations at last October’s Gartner Symposium rolling my eyes in disgust when the analysts were discussing “hot new ideas” that my company and our competitors were pushing two years earlier – only to look around and see IT managers frantically making notes and whispering excitedly with their colleagues. It’s not that these IT managers are stupid or luddites, but they live in a real world of deadlines, budget cuts, headcount constraints and installed bases of hardware and software – as well as having families and lives. The latest coolest technology or tech gossip is not necessarily relevant to their world, especially when much of the hot new stuff will flameout before it is widely deployed.

There is another group of IT managers for whom Gartner and its ilk deliver value – shrewd contract negotiators and political operatives. For them, Gartner is a bludgeon to use on vendors and internal opponents. In negotiations or political squabbles, citing some anonymous blogger or little known indie analyst does not carry the weight of an 800 pound gorilla like Gartner.

Bottom line is that there is plenty of upside with end-user community for the major analyst firms as long as they don’t do something blatantly stupid.

PS: Oh, one last item. Why is it always a major firm like Gartner that is going to be disintermediated, but not boutiques like Interarbor Solutions (Dana Gardner) and RedMonk (James Governor)?

Wednesday, 15 March 2006

Is Gartner subtly going pay-to-play for briefings?

Gartner is making a number of interesting moves that seem to edge it toward a de-facto policy requiring vendors to pay one way or another to brief its analysts.

  • Vendors are being told that during briefings analysts will only give their opinion and advice if all the participants on the vendor side are Advisor seat holders. Because executives rightly see the back-and-forth with analysts during briefings as a critical part of the influencing efforts, vendors will be forced to buy Advisor seats for executives just for briefings, even if they never use seat for any other purpose.
  • Vendors are being told that executive buddy calls are allowed only if the executive buddy holds an Advisor seat. Because executive buddy programs are a great tool for briefings, relationship building and influencing, vendors will be forced to buy Advisor seats for executives just for buddy calls, even if they never use the seat for any other purpose.
  • Vendors are now being encouraged to pick up analyst travel expenses to vendor analyst summits – implication is that no paying for travel means no Gartner analysts will attend.
What will be next? It’s already an established policy that only clients can use analyst quotes in press releases and so on. What other “goodies” will only be available to paying clients?

  • Only vendors that pay SAS fees will have analysts attend a vendor analyst summit?
  • Only Advisor seat holders can attend a meal with an analyst?
  • Only Advisor seat holders can request a longer than 30 minute briefing?
Gartner should be concerned that this evolving pay-to-play policy will feed the perception that its analysts have to be bought and paid for. If executives see their companies buying Advisor seats just for influencing purposes with no other business value derived, then it will be nearly impossible for Gartner to change the perception.

Another issue that Gartner will need to address is the ethical underpinnings of a de-facto pay-to-play policy. What does the pay-to-play approach mean for equal access (small vs. big vendors) and what does it do to research fairness and accuracy? Will Gartner be shortchanging its end-user clients if vendors give up or significantly reduce the amount of briefings done because they do not have the budget to pay the perceived toll to access the analysts.

A potential outcome is executives will not want to participate in briefings with Gartner. This could be negative for Gartner analysts because executives are the people analysts most want to talk with about market trends and strategy. Another outcome could be an overall decrease in all types of briefings done with Gartner. This would also be negative for Gartner analysts as vendor briefings are an important source of information. There could also be a marketing downside as Gartner analysts will not be able to name drop top executives like they love to do. However, this could be a boon for the other analyst firms as vendors start doing more briefings, have greater access to vendor executives and pick up additional contracts because the firms have a more enlightened policy on briefings.

Forrester, IDC, AMR, Yankee and others should make it a point to contrast themselves with Gartner’s emerging pay-to-play policy in press releases, on their websites and in contract negotiations with end users in order to burnish their reputation while subtly taking Gartner down a notch.

How InformationWeek Missed the Point: Its About Access, not Bribes

Spending money (e.g., syndicated research with inquiry, analyst consulting day fees, picking up the tab for expensive meals, paying travel expenses to vendor analyst days, sponsoring conferences, speaker fees and so on) with the analysts is not about bribing the analysts in order to change the analysts opinions. Rather, the goal is to get access to analysts in order to pitch the vendors' positions.

In many ways, IT analysts are like US congressmen and vendors are like lobbyists. Smart vendors want to achieve an advantage by having more opportunities to whisper in the analysts' ears. For them the spending is a tool for access and nothing more.

Tuesday, 14 March 2006

What is with "This does not constitute published Gartner research"?

During the introduction of each Gartner podcast, there is the statement "This does not constitute published Gartner research".

It seems interesting that Gartner, which brags about how its analysts take strong stands, is trying to weasel responsibility for what its analysts are saying.

Saturday, 11 March 2006

Kudos to Gartner Analysts for Re-examining their Predictions – Now Gartner should make this a Standard Practice

In the post Grading pundits and prognosticators: More famous = less accurate we expressed the wish that someone evaluate the accuracy of the IT industry analysts’ predictions. Well maybe Gartner is taking a small step in that direction for its research.

Over the last few months there have been at least four research notes that re-examined earlier predictions for accuracy:

  • “Former Web Services and Portal Predictions Re-examined” (ID: G00134789, 11/11/05)
  • “Yesterday's Security Predictions Re-examined Today” (ID: G00137715, 2/10/06)
  • "Assessing Our 2005 Manufacturing Predictions" (ID: G00137298)
  • “High-Performance Workplace Predictions Re-examined” (ID: G00138223, 3/1/06)
While the four notes are slightly different in titles and formatting, they share a basic approach of looking at past predictions, whether they were right/wrong and why, and offering lessons learned. Only subject matter experts will know how honest and accurate Gartner is being with the re-examinations, but it is a good step in the right direction.

To make this really valuable, Gartner needs to formalize the format and do it consistently across all research teams. Here are some suggestions free-of-charge:
  1. Parallel how the annual “Predicts” research notes are packaged and promoted
  2. Start the subject line with “Predictions Re-examined: “ to make searching easier
  3. Timing-- pair Predictions Re-examined: notes with the annual Predicts notes in November
  4. Use consistent formatting and labels for the section
  5. Focus on Strategic Planning Assumptions (SPA) like the November Web Services note did

Friday, 10 March 2006

NEW: AR 101 feed

In response to the success of our popular AR 101 series, we've introduced a specific feed, with a number of subscription options below. Note that any input and suggestions for upcoming topics is welcome.

RSS (Atom + XML feed)

Add to your MyYahoo!

Subscribe in Bloglines Add to your Bloglines

Analysts can be annoying when their written words contradict what they tell vendors in meetings

Sometimes analysts annoy vendors by praising the vendor during a face-to-face briefing – or a paid on-site consulting day – but then criticizing the vendor or its products in published research. Rather than trying to please the vendor while in person, it would be much better to be honest at all times.

What appears to be a related issue but is actually quite different is when the analysts tell the vendors’ customers or prospect something that goes against published research. Sometimes it's because a US analyst is advising a European customer or it often happens that a consultant who has no clue advises end-users. Another cause of this phenomenon is when the analyst is applying the research to the end-user client’s specific situation, which might be different from the assumptions that underlie the published research. For this situation, vendors have to be careful to peel the onion and understand what is actually causing the apparent contradiction between verbal and written research.

Thursday, 9 March 2006

IDC Directions in San Jose

IDC’s annual Directions conference was in San Jose on March 7th. The theme this year was “Agenda for a Shrinking Globe: Seizing Opportunities in a Connected World.” Attendance was announced as 1,200 and it did seem like there was a good crowd.

The plenary sessions were uniformly interesting, high energy and thought provoking. John Gantz on “Disruptions Ahead” and Shiv Bakhski on “Mobility Matters” were very useful with good ah ha’s.

Unfortunately, many of the track sessions did not measure up to the plenary sessions. Too often the speaker droned on about numbers without providing any context or specific strategic insights. Also, if you paid any attention to IDC’s research or even read business publications on a regular basis, you did not hear anything you did not already know.

If IDC is to take on Forrester and Gartner for end-user market share, it will have to uplevel its content to less box counting and more strategic advice.

Wednesday, 8 March 2006

Grading pundits and prognosticators: More famous = less accurate

Here is an interesting column from Fortune Magazine about a University of California professor’s seven-year project to evaluate the accuracy of expert commentators Grading pundits and prognosticators: More famous = less accurate. While not directly on the IT analysts, it certainly applies to them as well. Here is an extract:

"… Another part of the answer is especially troubling for the media. The awfulness of Tetlock's experts was almost uniform... He found but one consistent differentiator: fame. The more famous the experts, the worse they performed. And of course it's those of us in TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, and on the web who bestow that fame. We're now reaching a deeper answer to the question of why experts persist. The media like experts, the more confident the better, though Tetlock found that more confident means less reliable. The media like them because you, the consumers of media, like them. Experts like to appear in the media because it pays. Tetlock's conclusion: "The three principals--authoritative-sounding experts, the ratings-conscious media, and the attentive public--may thus be locked in a symbiotic triangle. ..."

Too bad the IT industry doesn't have someone like Professor Tetlock to take a look at the analysts, especially Forrester, Gartner and IDC with all their predictions. The results might be eye opening.

Tuesday, 7 March 2006

AR 101 series: briefing analysts

James, Jon and Andy kindly provided quite a lot of (free) advice on how to brief IT Analysts.

Here are six simple steps to get your briefing right (tell us if we forget anything guys).

1. Synch briefings with research agendas
A good briefing should be prepared before to make sure that the information given to analysts match their research agendas and interests. This is of course easier done for one-on-one briefings (some simple filtering questions at the start help). For one-to-many briefings (not the preferred briefing for most analysts but often the most practical compromise to update analysts on announcements in a short timeframe) it is good practice to send 2-3 questions to key analysts before the call.

Read AR 101 series: the research process for more. Jon made the following remark:

  • Take the time to understand research programs and assignments of the analyst firms you have in your sights, and use this information to make the correct people available to support the analysts that you meet. For example, if a firm is conducting a market analysis study, there is little point in providing a technical expert at a briefing; similarly, a brand manager will be of only limited use if a product comparison is taking place. Either of these situations may lead to the worst-case scenario of not being mentioned at all.

2. Don't give analysts a dog's dinner
Bear in mind that you may be talking to a diverse audience. Analysts fall into four categories: RAS analysts, market watchers, consulting analysts and sell-side analysts.

So, as Jon says in this great post, you need to "Make Briefings Worth It":
  • "At the best of times, briefings can be dull for analysts as much as for vendors. This is often down to the fact that briefing sessions are inappropriate, badly planned or conducted."
He suggests that a good preparation is paramount:
  • Only use source information that is relevant to the briefing at hand. Don’t waste anyone’s time in briefings, by slogging through irrelevant presentations that have been picked off the shelf
  • Customize your message before the briefing
Analysts usually want to hear the following:
  • Corporate strategy
  • What are you announcing? (high-level messages AND product details)
  • How is that going to fit with the strategy and go-to-market model
  • How are you going to compete?
  • How does this fit with your announcement roadmap?
And be flexible to respond to analysts prompts during briefings, do not hesitate to skip the introduction and go directly to the point. A common mistake is to explain granny how to suck eggs, for instance by lecturing numbers analysts (say from IDC) on market stats (say from Gartner/Dataquest). Andy illustrates this graphically in his post:

  • "That mistake is mostly made by smaller companies, where some VP or Director of Marketing is doing his (or her) run-of-the-mill pitch that would be equally used in any sales opportunity. So they go on and on about stuff that we have heard a million times already, have zero value to an analyst, and simply waste time. It's particularly annoying if those briefings are conducted via WebEx, because the analyst cannot [...] tell the vendor to skip to slide 32 [...]"
  • Vendors that do it very well [...] spend two or three minutes on chit-chat [...], then run through a few figures [...] and not more than 10 minutes after the call starts jump right into the product update, demo, or discussion.
Read also the comments Vinnie, Dean and Jon have left here on the subject. We had the following bottom-line in the same post:
  • ARmadgeddon is against unnecessary analyst cruelty and agrees that vendors could do a better job at scoping briefings to better address analysts needs.
Finally, read also: AR 101 Series: Don't use a sales presentation with analysts

3. The best briefings are interactive
Do allow time for analyst feedback during briefings ; bearing in mind that there must be something in for the analyst -the analyst should not feel like she/he is giving out all his IP for free. Bear in mind that analysts need to make a living and allow budget for buying reprints or getting the analyst under retainer. When the interaction is good, your company will gain a lot.Do not let short-term tactics waste this potential by making sure that your briefings are win-wins.

As Jon writes:
  • If you are able to provide an analyst and his or her company with timely, tangible value, the analyst is more likely to have something to say about your company and your products.
James made similar comments in his post Redmonk: how to brief analysts):
  • So, an analyst briefing is (should) a two-way conversation (otherwise it's called a press conference).
4. Don't forget NDA's
Analysts are interested first and foremost by future strategies and roadmaps. Do balance this requirement with the need to keep your job (and those of your executives) by being careful to flag what is presented to analysts under a non-disclosure agreement. Always keep the required paperwork at hand.

Read also Ovum breaks the iPod cellphone embargo?

5. Do a dry run
As we've said before: NOBODY should be talking to analysts without going through a good AR training first. This should be a corporate policy. If you don't have the skills or the credibility to deliver it in house, get some professional help. For instance from Duncan or David (to name only some who linked to us), if you pick-up someone else, make sure that they know the European market (not like KGC).

Furthermore, AR professionals should rehearse unless they're fully confident in the speaker's capabilities. This will not make them look appear as PITA's but rather as pros who need to make sure they avoid un-necessary risks.

5. Follow-up
Finally, do make sure that AR does the follow-up and stays in the loop -possibly by recommending that executives don't give out business cards. This should not annoy the analyst if you're responsive and has the benefit of being in a position to schedule additional briefings when required and stay abreast of the analyst agenda. This brings us back to step 1!

Additional bedtime reading:

Monday, 6 March 2006

[deal architect:] Credibility of Analysts

Vinnie has a special talent for finding the sweet spot and sharp comments.

In this post, [deal architect:] Credibility of Analysts, he comments on the Borg IP police: the Gartner Ombudsman blog.

They posted a lame rebuttal to the Information Week article on Analyst Credibility. The comments on that post (the Borg must be congratulated, yes congratulated, for having a real blog) are worth a read.

Carter Lusher, the HP (HPQ) AR head argues for greater separation and transparency.

Chris Carter (?) asks two penetrating questions, only to find deafening silence. Follow-on through to Vinnie's blog for more....

Sunday, 5 March 2006

Are the Gartner analysts stretched too thin?

What is motivating Gartner to make changes (e.g., 30-minute briefings and restricting SAS to 80% of last year) that acts to reduce vendor access to analysts? Is the Gartner analyst force stretched too thin, which is causing a client service problem with the all-important end-user clients leading to complaints?

Perhaps CEO Gene Hall has been too successful in pumping up Gartner Sales? Hall added over 110 sales reps in 2005, and plans to add between 80 to 120 sales reps this year, according to the Q4 earnings call. However, he is mum about analyst hiring beyond a vague statement last year about picking up analysts in the META acquisition. This could lead to problems as what they are selling is access to the analysts – access that cannot easily be expanded.

Have you seen examples of indications of the analysts stretched too thin (e.g., reduced publishing, new quality problems, grumblings from analysts about workload and difficulty scheduling inquiries or briefings)? If so, please report them. Maybe if we can bring to light analyst workforce issues, it will encourage Gartner to invest as much in the analysts as it is doing in Sales.

Saturday, 4 March 2006

The 30-minute Briefing Debacle – Amateur Hour by Arrogant Managers

First, it is Gartner’s privilege to set whatever business processes it wants. Second, there is a lot to be said for suggesting best practices and encouraging time discipline by both vendors and analysts. The problem is that Gartner’s Vendor Briefing department managers were not very smart about how they changed the policy.

In the "Clarification of Briefing Policy" e-mail, Pamela Miranda said that the vendors widely misinterpreted the policy change. The vendor community did not “misinterpret” the line item in the AR Quarterly Call e-mail, because it was very clearly stated that there was a change in policy:

“Updates and Reminders … As of March 31: … Standard Vendor Briefings will be 30 minutes long”.

It was not like the agenda item was worded as an open item like “Discussion: Should there be a standard for shorter regular briefings in order to open up more briefing slots?” So please Gartner do not blame the vendor community's reading skills.

Nor was this a case of Gartner “miscommunication” – the managers wrote exactly what had already happened, a change in policy. What took Gartner by surprise was the reaction. It never occurred to them that the vendors would object. It is common after all for Gartner to impose changes in policy by fiat without trying to get buy-in from those stakeholders affected. This is a classic case of a powerful near-monopolist doing whatever it wants. As Lord Acton said “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” and with its influence over vendor revenues Gartner is very, very powerful indeed. This leads to the classic arrogance of people or institutions who have never had their actions questioned.

Oh, did you notice that in the "Clarification" e-mail that the policy was not pulled for further discussion, but left in place? So, the Vendor Briefing managers screwed up and tried to spin themselves out of it, without really changing anything.

Another aspect of the amateur hour is the poor job done communicating the change both internally and externally. The policy change was not and still is not published on on the “Vendor Relations” page. Analysts did not know. A small non-scientific study of the analyst community showed that analysts were not told about the policy change.

There is an e-mail being passed around – always with a LOL – where a wag pulled some bullet points from the “Observations on Analyst Relations” presentation that Laura McLellan gave and made only one small change to turn the points back on Gartner:

IT Vendor Perceptions of Gartner Vendor Briefings Department - Negative

* Defensive & suspicious
* Gatekeeper (vendor AR = enemy)
* Self-important
* Territorial
* Roadblock
* Don’t understand how analysts work

Gartner talk with us, just don’t impose your will by fiat. Next time Gartner Vendor Relations is considering a policy change that impacts vendors, it should start a dialog on the Ombudsman blog to get the vendors’ input. You might be surprise that the vendors are more than happy to work with you rather than just scream bloody murder when the next change is imposed on us.

Friday, 3 March 2006

The Borg AR call

We were hoping that Joe, Duncan or Dave would write a take on Wednesday's Gartner call as it was really quite dull... The only really funny thing was that Pamela Miranda referred to the Miranda act, so she must have read this Gartner Watch post.

Laura McLellan, Gartner Research VP was first to speak. She covers vendor (IT providers) marketing strategies research. She started to say Gartner was not going to start to analyse AR (as the Oracle AR VP pointed out, this would be a conflict of interest) and compete with KGC.

She had an interesting take on analyst taxonomy, depicting it as an inverted triangle: on top analyst which are end users focussed (advise buyers), in the middle market watchers (who look at forecasts and trends) and on the bottom (tip) the vendor focussed analysts (advise sellers). Quite why the triangle is inverted, we don't know -there may be more user facing analysts in Gartner but in the overall analyst landscape the vendor facing analysts outnumber them by far. ARmadgeddon will be publishing an official Analyst Taxonomy soon. She then said that you need to adapt your approach to the kind of analysts. Not exactly new news but maybe a useful reminder.

She then further continued to explain grandmas (AR professionals listening into the call) how to suck eggs: one needs to segment the communication type to audience. Laura also plans to research which AR comms are effective or not and why. That would indeed make up for an interesting and more specific call.

She gave a quick round up on what analysts love most: face time, AR contact list (inc. responsibilities), announcement advance notice / pre-briefing and email opt-out.

She gave some insight on analyst psychology (gives a new meaning to analysing the analysts): they are motivated by influence and knowledge (explains the ego side) and turned off by community and reprocity (not sure what James will have to say on this).

These other points were on her charts:

  • Semi-annual tours with topic managers to discuss the “bigger picture”
  • Portal to find “basics” without bothering AR person
  • On-line presentations and [important] transcripts
  • Upcoming events calendar
  • Annual executive sessions [access to the “big cheeses”]
  • Opt out “push” e-mails with the news
  • Access to your customer presentations

Probably worth a reminder indeed. She finished by saying what makes a good AR person: being a good relationship builder. What does the R in AR stand for again?

She gave the following good and bad for AR managers:

  • GOOD: Enabler vs. roadblock, Proactive, Accountable, Responsive, Truthful, Trustworthy, Empowered, Persistent, Follows up, Management confidante, Value creator, Helpful, Relationship builder
  • BAD: Defensive & suspicious, Gatekeeper (analyst = enemy), Unresponsive, Self-important (does not mix well with analysts?), Territorial, Siloed (not like Gartner then?), Roadblock, Inconsistent, Inaccurate, Don’t understand own organization, Don’t understand how analysts work, Not influential in organization supported

She finally hinted that Gartner might create a research role to look at vendor marketing.

The call then moved on to Pamela Miranda, Head of Vendor Briefings who spoke about briefings. She did not really cover the points that were on her agenda:

  • How to seek analyst attendance at your events
  • What’s the latest on vendor-paid travel
  • Focus: The most frequently misunderstood parts of the process

Joe commented on the scheduling process here: Gartner's briefing on their briefing policy (Gartner Watch). As we've commented before, this process is lengthy and time consuming. One of the reasons that was

Read also:

Thursday, 2 March 2006

AR 101 series: selling the value of AR

As we previously wrote, AR is NOT an outbound tactic: briefing analysts and expecting them to write something is called PR and does only harness a small part of the value AR can deliver. However, few AR people feel confident selling the value of AR back to other stakeholders, such as sales and marketing.

Here are a simple 5 steps guide to getting it right.

Step 1: establishing AR
AR often grows out of media relations and tend to have communication as a reporting line (this seems to be the prevalent model for small organisations). AR practitioners should seek to clearly differentiate their audience (read AR 101: Analyst vs. press) as it will impact management and stakeholders expectations.
In this post (AR 101: Measuring Analyst Relations), we lay out three models for AR:

  • Outbound: pushing information out to analysts in the hope of generating reports
  • Transactional: pulling targeted analysts into a relationship with the firm
  • Insight: primarily using analysts to develop internal understanding and direction
AR professional should strive towards establishing an insight-based AR practice and align with sales and marketing rather than with comms. See Duncan's tips here.

Step 2: setting goals and measurements
Thanks to Pavlov, we know that rewards conditions behaviours: it is crucial to align AR with sales and marketing goals. In this post (AR 101: Measuring Analyst Relations), we give the following recommendations:
  • AR's primary goal should be create a positive external environment for business
  • Focus and attention should be given to setting up balanced metrics to measure AR not only on raw clippings and quotes but also by weighting them to reflect the importance of the analyst, by surveying all analysts and through independent perception audits.
  • AR need long term objectives and can contribute positively to developing corporate strategies.
Read also ANALYST EQUITY: Share of Voice: Useful, Often Vital.

Step 3: impacting the strategy
Well executed, AR can leverage the analysts privileged position and wealth of knowledge as a competitive advantage. Do use analysts to get a sanity check and/or coach execs, balancing independent analysts (they offer better value) from those having customer insight. Do schedule message testing sessions way ahead of launches (under NDA). Do allow time for analyst feedback during briefings (bearing in mind that there must be something in for the analyst, like buying reprints or getting the analyst under retainer). Do not let short-term tactics waste this potential.

Step 4: Shaping the agenda
Having engaged proactively with analysts should give your company clues about trends you might not have spotted before. This not only gives your execs the chance of fine tuning their strategy and messages, but armed with this knowledge you should be able to also synch briefings and announcement with the analysts' research agenda. Read also AR 101 series: the research process.

Step 5: delivering to sales and marketing
There are multiple ways for AR to help marketing. Do start by making sure that AR tactics are included into the marketing plan, it should also provide for analyst deliverables (such as speaking engagement, research projects, etc...) Do plan AR tactics way ahead of product launches.

Do spend some time to explain how analysts come in the sales cycle and do raise awareness with the sales community so that they come back to AR when they hear of an analyst being consulted by the prospect or client. If you have followed step 4, you should be able to know where the analyst is coming from and what should her/his objections. You should thus be in a position to balance this with either positive research (from another firm or sometimes from the same firm) or to help sales refocusing the discussion. Remember that sales always get the kudos for wins and will try to deflect the blame for losses.
Read also Reacting to an analyst attack and Advisory analysts do impact vendor sales and make/break products.

Good selling!

Wednesday, 1 March 2006

Borg softens 30mn rule

In an email today, the Gartner Vendor Relations (briefing police) and Ombudsman (IP police) appear to have read ARmadgeddon's posts on briefing length:

  • the 30 mn limit is now only a proposal
  • they recognise the vendor briefing request process is f****d-up, as vendors commented it leads to intolerable delays
  • analysts can extend the time if they deem it "required to obtain maximum value from the briefing"
ARmadgeddon's comment: recognising a problem is a first step to correct it, we will be monitoring Gartner's briefing process closely in the coming months.

In the meantime, there has been a lot of interesting comments on what briefings are and how long they should be, mainly here, there and there:
  • We agree with the analysts that vendors need to do a better job at briefings and to avoid death-by-powerpoint. Vinnie quite rightly says that briefings should be more focused ; that pitching to analysts is quite easier than pitching to the Wall-Mart procurement team.
  • There seem to be a consensus that 30 mn are okay for a quick update on a specific offering but does not allow enough time for wide-area-analysts (WAA, as opposed to Narrow Silo Analysts)
  • Dale and others however said that restricting briefings to a mere half an hour would eliminate the discussion. James argued that this was precisely what the Borg intended ; that it is an opportunity for independent analysts.
We look forward to today's call where the Borg will share its recommendations for AR professionals, and more.