Thursday, 5 October 2006

Step up a geAR or disappeAR, redux (updated)

In April we wrote about whether AR should cater for wider audiences: Step up a geAR or disappeAR!

Two related posts bring further points.

James McGovern wrote that AR should focus on bloggers, and on analysts independence in this post:
Enterprise Architecture: Thought Leadership: Software Vendors and Analyst Relations...

"Analysts’ claims of impartiality are being eroded in our minds on an almost daily basis. The bigger analyst firms stand accused of engaging only with organisations that buy their services, such as not showing open-source projects next to commercial closed-source offerings in terms of ESB, BPM and Portals thus eroding the perception of even-handedness. Meanwhile, “Analysts-For-Hire” can be commissioned to write collateral on behalf of vendor clients.

In this other comment of his here, one might read a hint of envy?

In the meantime, Duncan Chapple from Lighthouse posted a robust response to Influencers50 on their paper indeed dramatically titled "Analyst influence is diminishing": Is the headline mightier than the humdrum?

We planned to respond but Duncan got there before us. We can't either support Influencers50 research methodology or conclusions. What's more, Influencers50 seem to ignore (deliberately?) the "ripple effect": IT analysts are super-influencers: they are a small target audience (less than a few thousands for a given vendor, from which 50-100 are top tier) who influences other influencers such as media, bloggers, consultants, system integrators, financial analysts, etc... Bearing this in mind, it does seems that maintaining close relationships with top-tier IT analysts might be a good idea. This should probably include other top-tier influencers such as super-bloggers. Second and third tier should be dealt by one:many tactics, maybe such as this one?

Bottom line: tiering the audience is AR best practice. In those diminishinging budgets and need for increased accountability it is a logical choice to concentrate on analysts directly impacting the sales cycle. In addition, firms such as Gartner, IDC and others do in turn influence other key influencers. AR leaders should nevertheless look at ways to scale their programs in a one:many fashion to include other super-influencers, on a case-by case basis.
After harvesting those "low hanging fruits", they should establish a strategy to transform AR into IfR.

UPDATE: a great conversation on IfR or Influencer 2.0 started in the comments threads of this post (see below) and on James'. Our position is that people influence to people. Consulting, advising, blogs, research reports, press articles, speeches, web sites, etc... are different medium with specific attributes. One has to revert to communication studies to frame it ; in the end, only a few things matter:

  • trust & reputability
  • content
  • influence
  • "interactionability"
  • medium and its characteristics (synchronicity, etc...)
In our eyes, some analysts are super-influencers because of that "ripple effect". They influence other influencers by shaping perceptions and markets. When we speak to analyst firms reps and ask them who are their best customers, not the ones who spend the most (that's usually a TLA company based in Armonk) but those who are the most clever at using analysts, they invariably mention consultant and systems integrators: Accenture, Deloitte, CMG Logica, etc... They also influence Financial Analysts (read this). Why and how? Mainly by being ahead of the curve, by inventing TLA's or even creating the hype, by measuring how vendor perform and infusing best practices into IT user organisations.

What about bloggers then? Does the read-write web change everything? Can boutiques be heard over Borgs? We're sorry to disagree with Jon, but we don't think he gets the point. It's all about who has to say what. Some bloggers are super-influencers and we also know of dull analysts.

Are there pragmatic guidelines for AR Managers then? Yes, focus on the person, on the research agenda, on the real, original content and first and foremost on one's real influence, to tier your audience, not on the medium. Make sure you end up with a manageable number of Tier 1's which whom you want to have deep and regular conversations, regardless of whether they are bloggers or analysts.

Links:

12 comments:

Duncan Chapple said...

Thanks for the link. My original post was a little too robust, tso I took it down overnight and have just reposted an updated verion.

You should also check out the SageCircle date here http://analystrelations.blogspot.com/2006/10/analysts-determine-opinions-industry.html.

In my discussion of it I make a similar point to yours on 'super-influencers', but not as nicely as you do.

Dean Bubley said...

There are some interesting corollary trends, such as analysts who also blog (eg myself) and bloggers who analyse & consult.

More interesting still is that some vendors/operators treat me better from an AR standpoint now, because of my blogging activities.

Duncan Brown said...

These are all interesting comments, and it’s great to have a debate centred on influencers. I particularly liked James Governor's comments - seems to hit the arguments square on. http://www.redmonk.com/jgovernor/archives/001548.html

I didn't expect the AR community to endorse the "Analyst influence is diminishing" message, and so it has turned out.

We've been guilty during Influence50's 3 years of business of not talking publicly about our take on Influencers - something we are addressing now. So expect more content to digest over the coming months…

I've also blogged on the influence of blogs - http://www.influencer50.com/infuse/2006/09/influence-of-blogs.html

Duncan Chapple said...

Duncan,

Rather than endorsing messages we should be looking for facts; if you think that the paper is being disputed out of self-interest only, then you can simply produce some facts, can't you? If the AR community was being driven by self-interest then wouldn't be be claiming that analyst influence is rising as much as influencer50 claims its is falling?

It would be cool if the notion that "Analyst influence is diminishing" could be turned from a "message" into a testable hypothesis. I understand that both influencer50 and Outsell share this "message" as an opinion. The AR community, and marketers more widely, will look forward to looking at any data you have,

Duncan C.

Anonymous said...

I wish some AR people would get their head out of their behinds and start briefing with quality analysts regardless of which "brand" they work for. Most vendors know IDC analysts are the worst - and Forrester's are fast deteriorating - but just like to check the boxes and don't care about quality anymore.

Duncan Chapple said...

From the vendor's viewpoint, it would be an ineffective AR strategy to prioritise analysts by their research quality. The quality of an analysts' insight is not a strong predictor of their rapport with corporate buyers. Most vendors want to allocate their AR outreach more or less in line with which firms corporate buyers use. But whether or not an analyst is used by a corporate buyer is only partly determined by their individual research quality, but also their their experience, empathy, rapport, connections, questioning skills, advising style and so on. Furthermore, these individual qualities are amplified by the firm massively. That is why an average analyst at a big firm is normally more influential than a highly able analyst at a boutique.

AR managers' focus on analysts at influential firms is certainly irksome for analysts at no-name boutiques, however these managers have a good case for arguing that they are acting in the best interests of the firms that employ them.

It's disarmingly naive to think that quality should be the main thing, but anyone who follows tech and telecoms should just look at the technologies they are forced to use in daily life. Little of it is of the highest quality; and it is for exactly that reason that is is widely adopted.

Best wishes from Symposium.

Duncan.

Anonymous said...

Fair comments from Duncan here. However, I do believe the previous post has some valid criticisms. For example, Duncan makes the following statement:

"Most vendors want to allocate their AR outreach more or less in line with which firms corporate buyers use"

I'll use the example of IDC for simplicity's sake. That firm only has vendor clients. It is a virtual unknown advisory source among corpoate buyers and the majority of its analysts never/rarely associate with corporate buyers. However, it is still treated as a top-tier entity by AR. The same also applies to several other top analyst brands. It is high-time AR professionals re-evaluated the real "buyer influence" of the analyst firms in which they invest and not simply follow a "structured roadmap" of brefing the usual suspects. We are seeing an increasing number of specialist niche analyst boutiques open up which have a lot to offer, and if AR folks can help support and recognize their quality, this will unltimately impact the improve the analyst industry. I also believe AR professional will have a more fulfilling and enjoyable career if they started wideing the net. Will be a welcome wake-up call to the big brands as they continie to hold vendors to ransome with their "pay-to-play" mentality and lose focus on quality and ethics.

Duncan Chapple said...

IDC is certainly not treated as a top-tier firm by all vendors. Some vendors feel that AR effort is wasted on IDC, since its effect on sales is very limited. Other firms liaise with IDC because of the insight they gain from IDC, and do so quite consciously despite IDC's weak impact on sales. However, it's true to say that IDC is on the list of 'usual suspects', largely because of IDC's impressive media profile.

AR people have tightly limited time. Almost all of them would be well advised to focus on fewer analysts rather than more. Indeed, more effort should be expended on national and vertical boutiques. But normally this needs to be reallocated, wich involves ruling one person out for every one perosn ruled in.

AR would be more "fulfilling and enjoyable" if managers prioritised getting spokespeople to meet analysts with deep expertise. However, this would not reflect corporate interests. If you want something fulfilling and enjoyable, try growing sunflowers.

Anonymous said...

interesting comments from Duncan. Not sure I agree with people gaining "insight" from IDC...but am sure there are some out there who feel they do. Good point regarding AR bandwidth - amazing how smart AR folks can nurture and develop a first class analyst network across bloggers, boutiques and te big brands, whereas others (namely the IBM, SAP and Oracle droids) are simply "buffers" or "switchboards". So to conclude this debate, there are some good AR people and some awful AR people, just like there are good analysts and terrible analysts. over and out ;)

Jon Collins said...

You'll have to remind me what you disagree with :-) I think it was the line about, "isn't the blog just a medium," and I said, "maybe so," or, "no not really," or something. Of course the blog is just another medium, but don't assume all media are equal. Which, no doubt you weren't. If indeed, this was what you were referring to in the first place.

Think I'll shut up now :)

"Some bloggers are super-influencers and we also know of dull analysts."

Absolutely.

Anonymous said...

I find it curious that Charlene Li believes she can conduct a worthwhile briefing session in 30 minutes. Moreover, she seems to have the attitute that these are for the sole benefit of her asking the supplier some generic questions. Isn't it her JOB as an analyst to listen to suppliers and have a deeper discussion than what she believes she can have in 30 minutes?

Also - 30 requests per week? C'mon! If each analyst set aside 6 hours per week to have 6 1-hour briefings, all suppliers would get their airspace and the analyst would get some decent education on the market. From some of the reports I've seen these days, most of them need it -:)

James McGovern said...

James McGovern is NOT an industry analyst unlike James Governor. You should not mix these two folks up. There is no envy in my post...