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Posts from the ‘Analyst Relations’ Category

Crunching the analyst firm numbers – what do they tell us about Gartner, Forrester, IDC & others?

Not all IT research is about numbers, but the IT analyst business definitely is. It’s a business after all, and if you don’t make the numbers, you don’t have a business. But what’s interesting is how many different ways there are to make the numbers stack up.

It’s somewhat ironic that while IT analyst firms often rely on public – and private – disclosure of information from both vendors and end-user organisations to make their prognostications, they often don’t like to reveal too much about their own businesses. The big public firms, Gartner & Forrester, disclose good detail about their revenues to meet their statutory requirements, and perhaps a little more, while the private firms tend to be fairly vague.

As a former analyst, I’ve always been intrigued about the insights you can gain by breaking down the numbers. Topline and bottom line figures tell you one thing, but there’s often a more interesting story when you dig a bit deeper – you can see this in my recent post analysing the 2012 financial results for Gartner & Forrester.

I’ve long considered analyst headcount a good indicator of the health of analyst firm. If the headcount is growing, then that’s a reasonable sign that the business is also growing – or has good prospects of growth. Analysts are a product, and typically you don’t hire more of them if the ones you’ve already got aren’t selling.

But it’s not as simple as that. If you can increase revenue without adding analyst headcount ie adding costs, then you’re going to increase the profit margin, which is also a positive indicator. So you need to look at the relationship between analyst headcount, total headcount and revenue to get a better idea of how a firm is performing.

This is where it gets tricky. Not all of these data points are available for all firms, nor are they necessarily comparable. But by poking around the websites of a few of the leading firms and asking questions of their PR folks, I’ve come up with some insights.

Analyst headcounts

For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to use the term “analyst” a little loosely because of the different way that each firm categorises their staff, combining analysts & consultants, because these roles are sometimes shared.

According to Gartner’s website, it has 902 analysts and 500 consultants (total 1,402), an increase of just under 10% from a year earlier, while Forrester employs 432 “research professionals”, a decline of 4% from last year. IDC told me it employs 1,075 analysts, which is higher than the 1,000 stated on its website, although that latter figure has been unchanged for some time.

Ovum advised me that it currently employs 102 analysts and consultants, which is lower than I’d estimated from the analyst bios listed on its website, but those include management. This figure seems largely unchanged from a year ago. Frost & Sullivan confirmed that it employs 1,800 analysts and consultants worldwide, and while this figure seems relatively unchanged, it is unclear how many of these are focused primarily on IT & communications, as is the case for the other firms.

Looking at analysts as a percentage of total employees, Gartner has the lowest ratio – just over 25% – while IDC has the highest, at 63%. Forrester – at 35% – and Ovum – 55% – sit in between these two extremes, and all appear to have drifted downwards slightly in the past couple of years. Of course, these firms have quite different business models, research services, analyst types and client bases, so it is not unusual that the ratios should vary, but it is interesting how starkly different they are.

Unfortunately, we don’t have accurate data for sales headcount for these firms (except Ovum, which is about 25% of its total), but we do know that Gartner has invested heavily in its salesforce over recent years, particularly in Asia/Pacific, but elsewhere as well. Forrester and IDC have also increased their sales hires in the past year, evidenced by total headcount growing at a greater rate than analyst headcount.

Mapping headcount to revenue

The headcount figures become more interesting when we map them against revenues. Forrester and IDC have similar revenue per employee figures – about $US236,000 – but Gartner’s is about 25% higher, just under $US300,000.

headcountThe differences become even more dramatic when we compare revenue per “analyst.” Gartner is generating more than $1.1 million per analyst, some 70% higher than Forrester, and more than 200% higher than IDC! Granted, the different business models don’t make this an apples-for-apples comparison, but the deltas are large enough to demonstrate the point.

So what does this tell us? Certainly, Gartner has optimised its sales-to-analyst ratio in recent years, but can it still make gains from pushing this approach further? At what point does reducing the analyst percentage of headcount start to have a negative impact?

Forrester blamed poor sales execution for its weak financial performance last year, and has indicated a greater focus on sales to turn the business around. But does it need to match Gartner to make that happen? Forrester is about one-fifth the size of Gartner, so does scale change the equation?

IDC obviously has a different client base to these two firms, and the analyst workloads are quite different, but can it benefit from adopting this approach, driving analyst percentages down and sales ratios up to increase revenues & margins?

And what does this mean for other, smaller firms, where the sales ratios tend to be lower? Can they learn and benefit from Gartner’s approach?

On the surface, this doesn’t look like a good trend for the analyst business, from an AR perspective. But on deeper assessment, fewer analysts with greater impact & influence are much easier to engage with than lots of analysts with less impact. In other words, simply increasing analyst headcount is probably less effective than improving the penetration of existing analysts by putting more sales resources behind them.

This is one of those areas where I don’t have all the answers, but I find the questions intriguing. What do you think? How important are these ratios to the performance of an analyst firm, to the health of the analyst business overall, to the execution of a vendor AR program? What else can we learn from this analysis?



Why LinkedIn is now more important than Twitter for tech analysts in APJ

While LinkedIn has long been popular with tech industry analysts in Asia/Pacific for some types of social media engagement, it has recently bypassed Twitter as the preferred platform for just about everything, as analysts focus more on how effective each platform is for engaging with their specific audiences.

It’s not to say that analysts have fallen out of love with Twitter – that’s certainly not the case – but it seems that they are less infatuated than they were. They are spending more time with their old flame, LinkedIn, and their new dalliance – a little surprisingly – is YouTube.

Why this has happened makes for some interesting discussion, and I’ll get to that a little further on.

First, some context around these conclusions

For the past 10 years, Intelligen has conducted a survey of industry analysts in APJ, primarily focused on analyst perceptions of specific vendor AR programs, but also exploring analyst preferences and attitudes on a range of issues. The most recent iteration of our Understanding the Influencers study was conducted in late 2012, and yielded responses from 132 analysts at 19 firms in 10 countries, overlaid with 20 in-depth qualitative interviews with senior analysts.

For the past two years, we’ve asked some specific questions about analyst use of social media, so we now have some comparative data to analyse. In short, we asked analysts to tell us whether they use key social media platforms for research and promotion “often”, “sometimes”, “rarely” or “never”. For simplicity’s sake, we equate the aggregate of “often” and “sometimes” to “regular” usage.

From a research perspective, analysts are using LinkedIn to search for subject matter experts (both users & vendors) and raise questions about user experiences in the many discussion groups; posting questions and testing hypotheses on Twitter; reading vendor and commentator blogs to gain insight into product and technology directions; watching YouTube videos to update on products, technologies and strategies; and many other ways of gathering information.

From a promotion perspective, analysts are posting links to research and events on Twitter and LinkedIn; earnestly expanding their networks on LinkedIn; building their personal brands through ongoing “news” commentary on Twitter; writing blogs which detail their research and/or opinions; and many other ways of raising their profile and building awareness of their capabilities.

The 2011 results were discussed in detail in this blog post, but in summary what we found was interesting and relatively unsurprising, confirming what we knew anecdotally. Nearly all analysts were using some form of social media, but fewer of them were using SM “regularly”, with analysts in India the greatest proponents. For research, analysts preferred LinkedIn & blogs over Twitter, while for promotion, analysts preferred Twitter over LinkedIn.

What’s changed in 2012?

When we compare the 2012 results with 2011, we can see that the usage patterns are fairly similar, whether we view them from a geographic or platform perspective. As there was a significant correlation between the response sample in both years, this gives us confidence that the differences are fairly real, not a result of sample differences.

Social media use 2012In the case of the research results, there is a very strong correlation between 2011 and 2012, with a couple of minor variances. What is interesting is that the percentage of analysts using LinkedIn for research has increased slightly, while use of blogs & Twitter dropped at a similar rate, and use of YouTube increased sharply (although the volumes are lower).

From a promotion perspective, use of LinkedIn decreased slightly, but the decline in use of Twitter and blogs was much greater, meaning that more analysts are now using LinkedIn for promotion than Twitter. LinkedIn is the preferred platform for promotion in India and Greater China, while analysts in Australia use both LinkedIn & Twitter equally, and ASEAN analysts still have a slight preference for Twitter.

So not only is LinkedIn the preferred platform among APJ analysts for both research and promotion, but Twitter is now used by more analysts for research than for promotion. The delta between research and promotion use has grown – analysts are now more focused on gathering information via social media than just pushing out their opinions.

Why is this so?

There is a strong likelihood that LinkedIn’s decision to stop supporting Twitter last year has changed analyst behaviour – analysts who were previously posting to LinkedIn via their Twitter accounts are now using LinkedIn as a primary platform, often pushing updates out to Twitter. But many analysts are still using these platforms separately.

What has taken place over the past couple of years is a better understanding among analysts of these platforms, and which ones yield the best results – and it has a lot to do with audience.

Research use 2012For analysts, Twitter undoubtedly has many benefits. It is quick, it is real-time, and through the use of hashtags, retweets & searches it allows analysts to reach people they couldn’t otherwise even identify. But engagement is relatively casual & ill-defined, and there continue to be doubts about how influential it is in enterprise B2B purchasing decisions – this post from Influencer Marketing Review last week provides some interesting insights into how sheer volume of tweets has a very limited relationship with influence over enterprise software buyers.

LinkedIn is more “formal”, but it has the advantage of a known audience. LinkedIn members have detailed public profiles which allow analysts to determine how relevant they are to their research areas (and assess credibility), connections are made in a more structured way, and discussion groups bring like-minded individuals together in generally more substantial conversations.

Both platforms have something to offer analysts and will continue to do so, but it’s hard to see how LinkedIn will not remain the partner of choice. Analysts are focused on depth, detail, specifics & context, and that’s what they get through LinkedIn. But analysts are also opportunistic and self-promoters, so they’re not going to walk away from Twitter any time soon.

Personally, I find the increased uptake of YouTube just as interesting. Once upon a time, you could never have engaged the analyst community with video, but the fact is that they are watching more, and YouTube is an extremely simple & accessible platform. Done well, done smart & done in moderation, it has a lot to offer.

What does this mean for AR?

While we’ve seen changes in how analysts are using social media, the fundamentals from an AR perspective haven’t changed. When I wrote about this topic last year, I provided this advice to AR professionals, and I think the guidelines are pretty much the same.

But what do you think?

I’ve relied on both quantitative data and qualitative feedback to draw my conclusions, but what do you think? Social media is still an evolving area, so I’d be really interested to hear experiences from AR pros & analysts alike, plus answer any questions. Let me know – you know how to do it!



10 things I’ve learned about AR & the analyst business – and that you should know too…

It’s that time of year when just about everyone in the analyst business and the broader technology industry comes up with their prognostications and predictions for the year ahead. Inevitably, many of those will prove wildly inaccurate, overly optimistic or simply embarrassing.

So rather than fall into that trap, I decided to cast my mind back and consider what I have learned about analyst relations and the analyst business in APJ over 10 years of running the only independent AR consultancy in the region (that milestone ticked over in November), working with dozens of vendor clients and engaging with hundreds of analysts.

Here’s my list. I’ve written about some of these issues before at length – you’ll find more detail on previous posts. And while I’ve thought a bit about the rankings, this is just my perspective. Don’t be afraid to give me your thoughts.

1.         It’s the relationship, stupid

AR is all about creating a two-way dialogue between a vendor and an analyst. Relationship builders take the time to understand the analyst’s interests & needs, and personalise the engagement accordingly, but they’re also pretty good at creating internal executive support for AR, which is when the magic happens. A good relationship builder with a weak story and/or content will mostly do better than an average engager with great content

2.         Most analysts are decent human beings

Yes, some are arrogant, anally-retentive or just downright difficult, but 99% of the time they’re trying to do the right thing for their clients. An engagement approach that recognises this can turn an adversary into an advocate. Analysts also need to have some relationship skills, and dickheads just don’t last.

3.         Vendors will continue to under-invest in APJ

I’ve written about this before, and sadly it’s just a reality of the technology business in this region – it applies as much to overall marketing & sales investment as it does specifically to AR. Vendors have a poor track record of making decisions at HQ which don’t take into account the growth & needs in emerging markets, and the current global economic situation isn’t going to change that. (But reading the goat entrails available to me, I feel cautiously optimistic that the needle is swinging back a little in 2013, after a very lacklustre 2012).

4.         Many vendors just don’t “get” AR – nor do some analysts

Some vendors will never “get” AR, simply because they don’t try to understand the value that analysts provide, or how they are differentiated from other influence communities. Their loss. On the flip side, some analysts fail to see that most AR professionals are advocates for analysts, not gatekeepers – despite all the evidence to contrary. It’s not a perfect world…

5.         Analyst targeting is the most important element of any AR program

Full stop. Understanding your audience is the cornerstone of any marketing or influence program, and AR is no different. Targeting is the first step, tiering is the second, engagement approach follows. All analysts have different needs & require different approaches, regardless of their prioritisation.

6.         Influence is global/regional, but engagement is local

Many analysts engage with clients right across the world, not just in their home countries or cities, and it’s important to understand where individual analysts have impact. But it’s much more important to engage with analysts in their own timezones. Regardless of how you manage that, you can’t assume that information will trickle down to an influential analyst who’s sleeping when you decide to run a briefing.

7.         Training spokespeople to engage with analysts is a no-brainer

Why wouldn’t you want to give your executives the best possible preparation for engaging with key influencers? Dealing with analysts is not that complex, but it is not innate, and spending a few hours upfront demystifying the analyst business yields immediate benefits and also avoids embarrassing outcomes.

8.         Measuring results is critical to AR success

You might consider this a bit self-serving, considering I provide a measurement program, but really – if you’re not measuring what you’re doing, then what are you doing? Don’t try to measure everything, and focus on measuring where you’ve actually influenced analyst perceptions – this is where you’ll demonstrate value to your internal stakeholders (and holders of the purse-strings).

9.         Some vendors will continue to confuse running analyst summits with an AR program

Sad, but true. An analyst summit is a one or two-day event which provides the opportunity to showcase your key messages, introduce some key customers, dig into some nitty-gritty around technology or go-to-market strategy, and develop relationships between key executives and analysts. An AR program is a day-to-day interaction process which ensures that analysts get the information they need, when they need it – and ensures those relationships prosper. To do the first without the second is a waste of time, effort & money.

10.       Change in the analyst landscape is a natural state

It is for every other business, so why not analysts? Firms will continue to grow & prosper. Some will be acquired because they offer something different, others because they have lost focus but retain analyst value and/or an interesting client base. Analysts will continue to become disgruntled with their employers, then quit to explore new markets, business approaches and delivery models. And so the cycle continues…

Just one more thing, which doesn’t require a number of its own…

In 2013, doing AR will continue to be fun/challenging/rewarding/ frustrating/boring/exciting/bloody hard work/just a breeze… Pick your adjective – it will be all of the above, and more, but the one thing I hope is that for AR pros and analysts alike : it will be worthwhile!! And fun, of course…

So tell me what you think. Have I missed anything? Would you rank these points differently?



What’s the point of running an AR program if you’re not measuring the outcomes?

Marketing is all about results – there’s no point doing something if it doesn’t deliver results, and there’s not much point doing something if you can’t measure those results. So it’s often astounded me that otherwise savvy marketing folks are quite happy to invest in AR, but not in measuring the outcomes.

As the saying goes, the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing again & again, but expecting different results. And so it goes that when you’re not prepared to examine your outcomes, then you’re bound to repeat the mistakes of the past.

You might think this is a bit self-serving, given that I’m about to bang on about a product that addresses this issue, but the fact is that monitoring, measuring & modifying AR programs has significant benefits for ICT vendors and analysts alike.

What got me thinking down this track was doing all the development work for our annual study of AR effectiveness in APJ, Understanding the Influencers 2012, which goes into the field early next month. This will be the 10th year of running Understanding the Influencers, and every year it has been tweaked to better reflect the market, better meet the needs of our clients & make it easier for analysts to provide feedback.

This year, the changes are slight, but the level of detail & insight we get now compared to when we launched in 2003 is incredible. Last year, we introduced some new questions about analyst use of social media, discussed in this blog post and this one, so this year we’ll be able to provide some comparative analysis of the changes in analyst behaviour.

The point I’m making is that just as this study has had to continue to evolve, so should AR programs. Just because something was working last year doesn’t mean that it is this year. Or that just because you think something is working, that necessarily means it is…

Too many AR programs focus on counting activities eg number of analysts briefed, number of white papers purchased etc rather than measuring outcomes eg positive report mentions, positive analyst recommendations in deals etc. That’s not to say it’s not important to know what activities you’ve undertaken – it is – but it’s not a measure of success.

Nor am I trying to suggest that measuring the success of AR programs is simple – it isn’t. There is no silver bullet, no single metric which can define success in AR, and that’s a frustration for many. Rather, any AR practitioner worth their salt will use a number of measures – some of them subjective, some of them objective – to build an overall dashboard.

Whichever way you look at it, analyst perception studies are an important element of that. They don’t provide all the answers, but they provide many of them, and they provide the opportunity to get insight which is very specific to an individual vendor, and to identify issues which are actionable.

So what’s the benefit to a vendor from an analyst perception study?

Objective, third-party validation

Most vendors value analyst reports because they provide an independent assessment of markets or technologies, and analyst perception studies such as Understanding the Influencers are just the same. Individual responses are not identified, so analysts can be completely open & honest in their assessment – and believe me, they mostly are – so feedback doesn’t get moderated by politeness or commercial imperatives as it might in a direct conversation.

Depth, detail & richness of data

Syndicated studies such as Understanding the Influencers are structured to capture feedback from as many analysts as possible in a short period of time so that sensible comparisons with competitors can be made and enable detailed analysis. In 2011, we received responses from 140 analysts at 20 different firms in 12 countries, covering more than 70 different vendors & service providers, which provides a wealth of perspectives. The ability to slice & dice this data is significant.

Tailored, actionable advice

This ability to cut the data many ways provides us with the ability to drill down into issues specific to each client, and recommend appropriate actions to address problems and leverage opportunities. Apart from the quantitative research, we also conduct 20+ in-depth interviews with senior analysts, in which they provide very specific feedback on what’s working, and what’s not.

Insight into analyst thinking

Apart from measuring a number of key attributes to evaluate vendor AR programs, we also ask a number of questions about the analyst’s involvement in & likelihood of recommending vendors in a deal. While this is an indicator rather than an absolute, it quite clearly shows whether a vendor is getting traction at the “business” end, or not.

And what’s the value to an analyst in responding?

The analyst’s voice is heard

Analysts tend to have strong opinions, and most aren’t backward in coming forward. They want vendors to understand that analysts’ information needs are different to other audiences, but they don’t have the time or energy to tell them one by one why their AR program sucks, or how they can improve it. But by spending 15 minutes to complete a survey once a year, they can get their message across load and clear.

The analyst/AR ecosystem benefits

Many analysts value AR and know that a good AR program can make the analyst’s job easier. They also know that AR pros are powerful advocates for analyst research & insight inside the vendor organisations. They know that if they help the AR pros do their jobs, AR will help the analysts build their profile, and so the process continues.

There are many analysts who have participated in every study I’ve conducted over the past nine years, and most of them are the heavy hitters of the APJ analyst business. These are the analysts who put up their hands year after year to participate in 15-minute qualitative interviews, on top of completing the online survey. They know that it’s a good investment of their time, and some of them just like to give a little bit back.

As usual, that’s the perspective through my lens. I see plenty of upside in analyst perception studies for vendors and analysts alike, but what do you think? All benefit? Or is there a downside? Join the conversation below.

Or if you just want to know more about Understanding the Influencers, click here.



Constellation adds an Aussie analyst to lead digital marketing transformation

Constellation Research has added to its research portfolio with the appointment of an Australian digital media veteran to lead its coverage of digital marketing transformation, a new research theme which again shifts focus away from traditional IT purchasers and on to business buyers. And while it’s easy to look at this as a regional/local appointment, it’s really a global story.

Based in Sydney, Gavin Heaton was for five years the leader of social media engagement for SAP’s Premier Customer Network, a CEO peer group encompassing 300 of the software vendor’s most strategic global accounts – not surprisingly, few of these customers are located in the southern hemisphere.

Heaton has an extensive IT and marketing background, having worked with IBM Global Services and DMR Consulting, an Australian services firm acquired by Fujitsu, and then as director of interactive with marketing agency Creata, where he lead the global digital strategy for McDonalds.

He also walks the talk. Heaton is a prolific tweeter and blogger – his Servant Of Chaos blog is one of most-read business sites in Australia and a source of constantly-updated insights into what’s happening in social media, digital strategy and related business issues. He is also a passionate advocate of crowd-sourcing, micro-financing and other community-based, social media-enabled processes.

The appointment of a single analyst is not news in itself – this brings Constellation’s roster to just 13 – rather another data point in the ongoing discussion about the changing roles and focus of the analyst business. In the IIAR APJ Forum on new & emerging analyst firm business models a couple of weeks ago, Constellation founder Ray Wang talked about the firm’s focus away from traditional IT purchasers.

“We’re focused on business needs and business challenges – we’re not focused on technologies, or roles, or markets… we’re targeting people who are buying from the business side, not IT,” he said.

According to Constellation’s press release on the appointment of Heaton, his research will focus “on the changing role and expectations of CMOs, the fusion of marketing channels and change-driven marketing innovation, [and] expand Constellation’s ability to provide digital marketing research and advisory services to its early adopter clients worldwide.”

In a blog post discussing his new role, Heaton continued the theme of disruption in IT spending. “There is no doubt that we are seeing a dramatic shift in the role of marketing. Advertising is under pressure, social is changing our customer relationships and the consumerisation of IT is changing the way we do our work. There has never been so much change or opportunity…” he wrote.

From an AR perspective, this trend is a challenging one. While traditional analyst firms have fairly clearly focused on influencing purchasing through IT departments (or working directly with vendors), the business buyers are a little less obvious. Vendor salesforces don’t necessarily target business buyers – yes, some do, but many don’t – which makes aligning AR to sales a much tougher proposition.

Social media influence on enterprise IT buyers of any stripe is also still unresolved, but it’s a trend that AR pros cannot ignore. Once again, though, the level of focus that AR should apply to this channel is unresolved, and varies considerably depending on the product/solution portfolio.

It’s the speed of movement – not necessarily change – in this space that makes it both interesting and challenging. Current information and insight has more value than research published only a few months ago, but it doesn’t always make it more correct. (Though I must give Gavin Heaton a thumbs-up in that respect – his Twitter, LinkedIn and Servant of Chaos bios were all updated within hours – if not minutes – of this announcement).

It’s a bit lame not to come to a solid conclusion with a piece like this, but this is still an evolving space. AR pros need to watch, listen & learn and – picking up a few tips from the analysts driving the agenda here – engage outside the traditional IT purchasing silos.

And ask questions of these new firms and new analysts. And ask questions of your peers – that’s what these platforms are all about.



It’s Symposium season! What should AR pros do to prepare?

UPDATE: Some things change, some things don’t. One thing that doesn’t change is Gartner Symposium – it rolls around like clockwork every year. And another thing that doesn’t change is the need for APJ AR pros to have a plan to get the most out of their attendance at Symposium. And the time to start planning is now.

Gartner is again running three events in APJ – Tokyo October 15-17, Goa October 21-24, and Gold Coast October 28-31. From an APJ AR perspective, the Gold Coast is probably the most important one, but the other locations also offer the opportunity for plenty of engagement with analysts from across the region & around the world (although the Tokyo event is a little more local in focus).

This year’s theme is “Leading in a Digital World” – hardly earth-shattering, but we would be more surprised if it was something very different to this! This theme plays through all of the tracks, and most notably the CIO stream. Sadly, the CIO sessions are pretty hard for vendor AR folks to get into, so you might have to rely on chatting to a friendly end-user executive to get any insights from that stream…

In terms of changes, the most notable this year is the introduction of a full day of sessions devoted to seven vertical markets – banking, education, energy & utilities, government, healthcare, manufacturing and retail – indicating that industry insights are becoming just as critical as technology understanding.

Below is a post I wrote a year ago, providing advice to AR pros about what they need to do to prepare for Symposium. That advice remains true today, so it’s worth taking a few minutes to review, even if you read it last year. It’s also worth checking out the short video interview with Gartner’s Ian Bertram, who also provides some sound advice.

Just as Gartner itself is the 800-pound gorilla of the industry analyst business, Symposium/ITxpo has become the dominant analyst event as the firm has continued to invest and expand across the globe. The portfolio now includes eight separate events – three of them in the Asia/Pacific & Japan region – enticing thousands of high-quality, paying delegates to invest up to a week of their valuable time to listen to and engage with the cream of Gartner’s analysts.

The events business is big business for Gartner, and it’s growing. In 2011, Gartner generated a touch under $US150 million from events, a 21% increase over 2010. That’s only 10% of Gartner’s total revenues, but it equates to more than half of Forrester’s total 2011 revenues.

The events business is getting bigger for other firms too – as I write, Forrester is running its first CIO Summit in Singapore, and IDC runs a continuous stream of conferences, summits and other events across the major cities in APJ. But it’s the sheer scale of Gartner Symposium/ITxpo that means that AR pros need to take it seriously, and need to put a plan in place if they want to get the maximum benefit out of attending.

I’ve attended most of the Symposiums held in Australia since the late 1990s, both as a full fee-paying delegate and via the cheaper option of a showfloor (ITxpo) pass only. I also attended the Orlando extravaganza – on a showfloor pass – in 2008, when the onset of the global financial crisis dampened attendances and enthusiasm.

There are two things I’ve learnt from these experiences – if you plan well and work smart, you’ll get value out of Symposium; and as an AR pro attending the APJ events, you get way more access to the people who matter to you – the analysts, the customers and the Gartner executives – than you could ever hope for at the Orlando event, where it’s just too easy to get lost in the crowd.

As a consultant, I get much of my value from networking so I spend a lot of time on the showfloor – and hanging around near the one-on-one desk – where I can catch up with analysts as well as vendors. Inhouse AR pros will get value from this approach too, but need to spend a lot more time attending sessions, so you know exactly what analysts are saying about you.

Another way to know exactly what analysts are saying about you is to engage with them directly well in advance of Symposium – about now is a good time start, if you haven’t already.

That’s where the benefits of planning come to fruition. Well before getting on a plane, AR pros should know which analysts are speaking (and doing one-on-ones), which of their colleagues are attending, and which key customers are attending. They should have a pretty good idea of which sessions they’re going to attend, who they need to set up meetings with, and how they’re going to spend their time.

Once you get there, it’s just a case of executing on your plan. And knowing that you’re going to have to adapt that plan on the fly as new opportunities arise and others disappear.

A couple of weeks ago, I sat down with Ian Bertram to talk about what AR pros should do before and at Symposium to get the most value. As well as being the global manager of Gartner’s analytics and business intelligence research, Ian is the head of research for APJ and also leads the vendor relations function in this region. A 14-year veteran of Gartner, Ian has attended his fair share of Symposiums too, so his advice in this video comes from experience, and is pretty much the same as what I give my clients.

So, just one more piece of advice from me – work hard, but make sure you have fun! Symposium really can be an enjoyable experience…

Of course, more suggestions for best practices at Symposium – or any analyst event – are welcome, so just hit the comments box.



So you want to train spokespeople to talk to analysts – but what do you teach them?

A good spokesperson who can effectively communicate with industry analysts is a valuable asset to any IT vendor or service provider, and while some executives enjoy this as a natural skill, the majority of them have to be taught.

As I covered in my post last week, there are lots of great business reasons to train spokespeople to engage with analysts, so having put together the value proposition, the next thing that an AR professional needs to consider is – what are you going to teach them?

Executives can be a tough audience. They think they know it all (or most of it, anyway), they have short attention spans, and if they’re going to give you a few hours of their time, then you’d better make sure that you surprise them.

Often, the way to teach people new things requires “unteaching” old things – effectively making them forget about things they thought they knew, so that you can replace that knowledge. Sounds complicated, but it’s really just about laying the foundations.

Understanding the analyst landscape

Pretty much every executive I’ve ever dealt with has reckoned that they knew all about analysts, but very few do. Some have negative perspectives caused by analysts not writing what they want them to (if at all), while others think analysts are just fine, because you can pay them to write nice things about you. Pretty much wrong on all counts…

Explaining and defining the analyst landscape helps executives understand that there are lots of different types of analysts, different research methodologies, different business models, different deliverables and so on. Which helps them understand that all analyst engagements are not the same, and that real business benefits can be derived from the right ones.

I usually get push-back from my clients about spending too much time on the analyst landscape, but if you cover this topic properly and in detail, everything else falls into place pretty quickly. Time and time again, this is where I’ve seen the lights come on in executives’ eyes, as they say “now I get it!”

 Unlearning media training

Media training is all about getting spokespeople to deliver tight, pithy soundbites that sound good but often say little. To a large extent, it’s all about techniques to push the points you want to push, and avoiding talking about stuff you don’t want to discuss. As Rob Curran from Waggener Edstrom pointed out in a comment on my earlier post, “bridging” away from an uncomfortable topic is more likely to annoy an analyst than have any positive impact.

Analyst discussions are all about candour, and breaking the defensive habits learnt in media training is key to effectively communicating with this audience. Yes, you can still focus on the topics and points that you want to cover, but it’s quite acceptable to say “I can’t answer that / I won’t answer that / I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll get back to you.” In fact, a spokesperson is more likely to gain an analyst’s respect by not trying to BS their way out of the discussion.

 Understanding how analysts work

This is a combination of blowing away misconceptions eg explaining that analysts think and work differently to journalists, and educating ie pulling back the covers on what actually happens in an analyst firm.

In the same way that the analyst firm landscape discussion looks at different types of analyst firms and business models, this part focuses on understanding how different types of analysts think, conduct research, engage with vendors and users, construct their deliverables, and generally go about their day. Getting this insight helps executives better prepare for analyst engagements, and hopefully better execute.

Understanding briefing structure

It’s way too easy to pick up the standard corporate slide deck, walk into an analyst briefing and hope for the best. But when you’re midway through the 63-slide deck with five minutes to go and you still haven’t got your key message across, you know that the wheels are going to come off.

Analyst content and conversations need to be tailored to the audience. If the analyst is technical, you go in with lots of product specs and details; if the analyst is market-focused, you’re going to talk about go-to-market, partner ecosystems and sales approaches. You can still be telling the same story, just differently. And the content needs to be structured to suit the time available – to ensure that you actually have a conversation with the analyst, not just a presentation.

 Putting everything into context

Training spokespeople to engage with analysts can be a somewhat abstract process unless it’s aligned with what your company is trying to achieve. Just about every vendor has a different approach for its AR program and a different target group of analysts, so there’s no point focusing on things that just don’t apply.

Of the many spokesperson training sessions I’ve conducted over the years, the most successful have been those where I’ve tag-teamed with the inhouse AR leader. While I can talk at length about landscapes, concepts, strategies and tactics, the AR leader can apply those to specific examples in the vendor’s activities, highlighting approaches that have worked, and with whom. This is another period where “the lights come on.”

 Enlisting external training resources

This might come across as a gratuitous plug, but the reality is that external consultants (such as me, and my colleagues at KCG) are significantly more effective in training executives to engage with analysts. External trainers do this all the time, we can provide real world examples and evidence of best practices across the industry, and we don’t buy into the corporate Kool-aid.

And we don’t have to tread as carefully around company politics as the inhouse AR leader might, because we’re not relying on someone in the room giving us a positive performance review at the end of the year!

It’s not unusual to stray into other topics when conducting spokesperson training, but these are core areas that I typically focus on. Have I missed anything? Let me know.



Gartner anticipates strong business growth with IDEAS integration

Gartner sees significant opportunity to deepen its penetration of the “technical” side of end-user clients following completion of its acquisition of IDEAS International, with further investment into expanding the Australian firm’s product portfolio anticipated once the integration process has been completed.

Speaking during a visit to Sydney earlier this month to on-board the IDEAS team, Gartner group vice president, IT professionals, Gary Hein, said that the IDEAS products aligned well with the existing Gartner for Technology Professionals (Burton) offerings, but were completely different.

“IDEAS is very different for Gartner. It’s unique – we didn’t have anything like this,” said Hein, who was VP of operations at Burton Group prior to its acquisition by Gartner just under three years ago, and who is managing the integration of the research team. “It’s not like we are buying a customer base or slightly adding to a product, it’s a totally new area for us.”

“We see a lot of the growth on the end-user side. IDEAS has some end-user clients, but what we hope to achieve with the Gartner brand and the Gartner worldwide presence is to really grow the market presence.”

Gartner made a takeover offer for IDEAS in April this year, with completion of the deal taking place in July. The deal was valued at about A20 million, and was strongly supported by the major shareholders who included company founder, John Tulloch; CEO Steven Bowhill; and board members, including former CEO, Ian Birks.

Established in 1986, IDEAS expanded into the UK and the US, increasing its presence with the acquisition of DH Brown in 2004. Primarily focused on providing comparative performance data to server and storage vendors, it broadened its focus to include end-users in more recent years, with the IDEAS Advantage portfolio offering tools for server consolidation, data centre analysis, and server and storage comparison.

IDEAS had been looking for a buyer for several years. Just about every analyst firm of any substance – including Gartner – had looked at the IDEAS portfolio at least once, but had been unable to either agree a price or identify a synergy.

Hein said he wasn’t in a position to comment on what made IDEAS more attractive to Gartner in 2012 than previously, but it’s likely that IDEAS’ inroads into the end-user space provided some encouragement. As well, the successful integration of the Burton business probably created a more logical “home” for the IDEAS portfolio than existed previously.

“It’s the same end-user base that we address (with GTP) – it’s the technologist, it’s the architect, it’s the folks who are responsible for doing implementation, and they need tools like IDEAS brings them to help them do that a lot more quickly and lot more efficiently,” Hein said.

The short-term focus for Gartner is to put the products into the hands of its 1,400 sales reps worldwide – training commenced at the recent Catalyst conference in San Diego – and completing the integration of the IDEAS analyst, sales and support teams.

Gartner has taken on board all of IDEAS’ analysts and staff, and has integrated them into its internal research communities. It has also retained IDEAS’ head office in the northern Sydney suburb of Hornsby, and is looking at the possibility of expanding that to support other local Gartner staff. According to Hein, Gartner has learnt much through the acquisitions of both AMR and Burton in recent years, and is applying the best practices it has developed to the IDEAS integration.

Once things are bedded down, the focus will shift to enhancing the research portfolio by introducing other Gartner data to IDEAS research processes, and possibly applying IDEAS methodologies to other Gartner products.

“There’s always a lot of great ideas (in a small firm) but there’s only so much you can do as a self-funded organisation, so one of the things that Gartner brings is that we can make investments that pay off over many years,” said Hein.

“The growth rate on the product side I think will be very high but Gartner has a lot of other data that we can bring into the IDEAS products. If we are talking about data centre build-out or data centre consolidation, not only can we help the CIO understand the vision, but we can go down to vendor selection, look at the architecture, and we can even print out a parts list for your preferred supplier.”

From an AR perspective, Hein doesn’t believe that the engagement model with IDEAS analysts will change significantly, although AR pros will now have to work through the Gartner vendor briefing process rather than directly with the analysts as they have in the past.

As the reach of both the vendor products (Competitive Profiles) and the end-user services (IDEAS Advantage, now Gartner Technology Planner for Technical Professionals) increases, the importance of vendors providing more comprehensive and accurate technical information will also increase.

“The data which is provided by vendors will be put into the hands of a lot more end-user organisations,” said Hein.





Train spokespeople to speak with analysts? You know it makes sense!!

Just about every AR pro I’ve ever met has a war story about a spokesperson – long on confidence and short on common sense – who has gone feral or badly off-message at an analyst briefing or meeting. Not quite as bad as doing the same thing in front of the media, but still cringe-worthy at the very least.

Yet many of those same AR pros struggle to get adequate time with these spokespeople to prepare them for individual briefings, let alone train them to engage effectively with industry analysts.

Ironically, time invested in proper training of analyst spokespeople tends to reduce the time needed to prepare for individual briefings and meetings. Often, prep time for a briefing consists of a quick review of the key messages and the analyst backgrounders, but if a spokesperson understands why they’re doing the briefing, then even that limited information provides more context and insight.

So, that’s the question, really. Why train analyst spokespeople?

Analysts influence sales

Any vendor investing in AR accepts this. Not everyone agrees on how, but every AR pro and most senior executives understand that analysts directly or indirectly influence how their customers perceive them and therefore have an impact on how, what and when those customers buy from them. So equipping spokespeople with the best tools to take advantage of that just makes sense.

Analyst conversations are different

Analysts are a different audience to press, to customers, to partners, to just about everyone else a vendor communicates their messages to. That means the conversations are different – they’re mostly more detailed and far-reaching, they can sometimes be broad and theoretical. Understanding what analysts want to hear about just makes sense.

Analysts are different

Analysts aren’t just different to other audiences, they’re different to each other. Some analysts are thoughtful and technical, others are interested in go-to-market approaches and partner ecosystems, others just want to know what you’ve sold. Each type requires a different approach, so understanding what individual analysts want to hear about just makes sense.

 Analysts want insights, not sound bites

Media training is well-accepted and very useful for engaging with journalists, but it’s next to useless in preparing executives to speak with analysts. Bridging to safe ground, speaking in bullet points and compressing messages to 30-second grabs simply add no value in analyst conversations. Understanding how to talk with analysts just makes sense.

 Executives don’t know what they don’t know

Most senior executives who engage with analysts come from sales and/or marketing backgrounds – they’re good at rallying the troops, sweet-talking customers, speaking to scripts on stage, and generally being positive. So they’re pretty confident that they can talk to analysts without help. But if they don’t understand the objectives of the discussion (because they don’t understand analysts), then they don’t know how effective they’ve been. Helping your executives be successful just makes sense.

Not all spokespeople are executives

I could have said “executives don’t know everything” and been equally correct. Because executives don’t know everything. They’re pretty good at talking about the business, the strategy, the customer engagement approach and lots of other higher level topics, but they’re usually weak on technical detail. Product marketing and management is often the source of good technical spokespeople, but depending on your circumstances, the best person to engage in-depth with analysts could be in pre-sales or a line of business. Helping the business get the message across just makes sense.

 There are simply too many misconceptions about analysts

Just about everyone in the ICT industry has an opinion about analysts, and the majority of them are wrong. They vary in degree from simply not getting the nuances of different analyst firm business models to believing that analysts will write favourable research if only you put enough money on (or under) the table. Battling these misconceptions on a daily basis just makes an AR professional’s job harder, so blowing them away & getting everyone on the same page just makes sense.

Having figured out that it does make sense to train analyst spokespeople, the next question is what do you teach them? That’s the topic for another post, but in the meantime, let me know if you think I’ve missed any good reasons, let me know and I’ll add them to the list.



How cloud, adjacencies & intersections are making the analyst business interesting again

Analyst firms have traditionally been structured in silos. In the past, this made sense – hardware was different to software, which was different to services. Breaking down just one of those segments as an example, PCs were different to servers, which were different to storage, and so it goes on….

The silos were a reflection of how products were sold (by vendors) and bought (by users). They were also a reflection of how research about those products was sold, and to whom. Many analyst firms – the big ones particularly – have done very well out of selling siloed, compartmentalised research programs to narrowly-focused product managers in vendors and technology specialists on the buy-side, slicing & dicing to match their specific interest.

The silo approach still works for (some) analyst firms – up to a point. But it’s started to break down over the past few years, and it’s going to break down even further over the next couple of years.

This is a good thing! Silos may be deep, but they’re narrow – and frankly, just a bit boring & artificial. I don’t think we’ll ever see them disappear, but the way that vendors market, sell & support technology continues to evolve, driven by changing preferences in how users buy & deploy it. And the same is true for analyst firms.

The largest analyst firms have started to break down the silos, to a greater or lesser degree. But it is the newer, more nimble firms which have most enthusiastically embraced the new order, partly because it provides them with differentiation, but also because that’s what their clients are asking for.

Probably the single most important factor driving this change is cloud computing, but it’s not the only one. Cloud sort of sits at the centre of this, but there are other adjacent “technologies” and “trends” which have a play – data centre transformation, mobility, application awareness, big data, broadband, social media, BYOD, always-on, possibly a couple of others…

But I’m not here to lecture to you about technology market dynamics – if I was, I’d still be an analyst! But these dynamics do have an impact on analyst relations, and how AR pros should go about engaging. From that perspective, I think it’s one of the most interesting periods I’ve been involved in over three decades of observing the tech space.

So what’s the upside, from an AR perspective?

 Access to a bigger audience

AR is not a numbers game, but it is a lot more fulfilling engaging with a number of experts than just a few. Service providers can now talk to software and telco analysts, software vendors can talk to mobility specialists, hardware vendors can talk to outsourcing analysts, and so on. Tiering is still important – within and across the silos – but you’re not restricted to core technologies.

Analysts get a little broader

Once upon a time, a storage analyst was a single-focussed hardware guy. Today, he might still be a hardware guy, but he probably covers servers and enterprise networking. He might also be developing a pretty good understanding of the infrastructure management software layer. The “old” handheld devices guru now covers a bit of network infrastructure, applications, security and service delivery models, as well as the device itself. Through necessity, analysts in APJ have always been broader than their colleagues in North America and Europe, but this trend is putting more structure around it.

 Analysts get a little better informed

Being exposed to these broader conversations has the potential to create better analysts. Context is important in understanding & explaining the deployment of technology, so looking and thinking outside the silo adds depth to the advice that they provide to clients.

But what’s the downside?

 Analysts sacrifice depth for breadth

There are already some analysts who try to be experts about everything, and there is a danger that more analysts will start providing commentary outside their areas of expertise. Deep domain knowledge is where analysts can add value, and that will be eroded if they allow the pendulum to swing too far.

Too many opinions from one source

Diversity of opinion is one of the great benefits of a competitive analyst business, but there needs to be some consistency of perspective within individual firms. Some firms are better at collaborating than others, and it’s important that analysts whose coverage intersects or abuts with others are actively communicating & collaborating with their colleagues. They don’t have to agree 100 per cent, but two perspectives which are poles apart within a single firm tend to destroy the credibility of both.

Targeting gets more difficult

Putting analysts in a single box has always been tough, and probably a little dangerous. These days, you need to map analysts right across your portfolio, and across your adjacencies. You’re still going to tier them with your usual methodology, and it’s going to take more time, but in the process, you’re probably going to learn more about them.

Like all things in technology and the analyst business, this isn’t black-and-white. There are lots of fuzzy edges, but what else do expect in a market which continues to evolve? For mine, it makes the analyst business much more interesting than it was a couple of years ago, and I’m pretty sure it will continue to be for the next couple of years – at least!