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Posts tagged ‘APJ’

The metamorphosis of Springboard – a chat with Dane Anderson of Forrester

It’s been a little over 12 months since Forrester Research acquired Springboard, the last – only? – independent pan-region Asia/Pacific analyst firm, and it’s been fascinating to watch the metamorphosis. Any company integration is fraught with pitfalls, but it seems that both sides have invested the time and effort necessary to make this one work.

What differentiated Springboard in the past was its almost total focus on APJ, easy engagement with its analysts, and a complete absence of corporate BS. Nothing much has changed on the first two points, and the latter is within tolerable limits. Forrester had limited presence in APJ previously, so building their footprint in this region has obviously been important to their credibility, not only in the high growth markets in this part of the world, but globally.

Last week, I had the opportunity to catch up and talk in detail about the transition with Springboard co-founder and now Forrester VP and AP region manager, Dane Anderson. Dane spent more than an hour speaking with regional AR pros at our regular Institute of Industry Analyst Relations APJ Forum in Sydney (my report of that meeting on the IIAR blog), then agreed to subject himself to my first ever video interview. We then adjourned to the pub to catch up with AR pros and various local analysts – but those conversations remain largely off the record 🙂

So this week, rather than write at length about my impressions, I’m going to let Dane do the talking. Brevity is key with video, so it was impossible to include all of the interesting vignettes, but hopefully this will give you some interesting insights into where Forrester is at – and where its going – in APJ.

Disclaimer: I’ve known Dane since the mid-90s, when he was catapulted into Asia as one of several young analysts tasked with building the first IDC quarterly trackers. I’ve always respected him as an analyst and admired his gumption in building Springboard with his sales sidekick, Chris Perrine. We’ve interacted many times over the years on both a professional and non-professional basis (the latter episodes usually involving quantities of beer) and have engaged in some spirited discussions about the realities of the analyst business. It’s fair to say that we haven’t always agreed, but we always respect each other’s opinions.

But enough of me. Here’s what Dane has to say:

I’d be interested in feedback not only on the content, but the format of this post. My goal is to make this blog as interesting and relevant as possible, so if video works for you, I’ll do more of it!! And hopefully the production values will improve too 🙂



What makes a great analyst summit?

While ICT vendors might be under-investing in other areas of AR, there certainly seems to have been a swing back to multi-day analyst summits in APJ over the past couple of years. These events are a key element of any AR practitioner’s toolkit, but they’re a big-ticket item, and they can be fraught with danger.

There are many things that can go wrong when staging a large-scale event. Some of these things can’t be anticipated, but most of them can. And most of them can be avoided with a little bit of foresight.

I’ve been involved with dozens of one, two & three-day analyst summits over the years. I’ve run them from concept to execution; I’ve mentored other AR pros through every stage of the process; I’ve consulted around content & structure; I’ve coached spokespeople; I’ve managed feedback processes; and I’ve even attended a few as an analyst – though they certainly weren’t as prevalent back in the ‘90s.

Most of the events I’ve been involved with have run fairly well – though a few have induced a panic attack or two. All could have run a little better, most often because someone chose to deviate from the plan.

But with all this experience, I admit that I was a caught a little short when a colleague asked me for “10 dos & don’ts for analyst summits.” It’s one thing knowing how to do things, but I’d never actually captured my knowledge like that.

So, no time like the present. I’m going to focus on the “Dos” today, which I’m sure will attract some great feedback from my analyst readers (and the vendors too!). The negative side of things – what to do if you want to screw up an event – we can cover in a separate post.

To create a great event, you need to take into account the objectives & needs of both the vendor and the analyst, not just one or the other. So that’s the context of the best practices detailed here:

Structure                               Every event needs to have an over-arching structure which creates a logical flow and allows the vendor to tell a story. In simple terms, you need to start with the “big picture” and work down to the detail level over the course of the event.

Strategic context                 It’s easy to assume that analysts understand who you are and what you do. Most have a perspective, but is it the right one? Vendors need to explain where different solutions, technologies & target markets fit into their overall strategy, and why they’re important.

The right audience              If you’ve read my previous posts on analyst targeting & tiering, you’ll know how important it is to identify analysts who have influence & alignment with your solutions. While the incremental cost of an additional analyst is often low, these events are about value, not volume. And your executives need to understand that, too.

Content                                 Seems logical, doesn’t it? But it’s not about masses of Powerpoint, it’s about content that’s tailored to an analyst audience. However it’s delivered, analyst content needs to contain depth & detail, strategic context and real proof points, not marketing hype or messaging.

Breadth & depth                  Not all analysts are interested in the same things, although they may share common interest areas. Great analyst events provide the opportunity for “techies” to dig deeper while also allowing those on the GTM side to explore country-specific approaches or vertical markets.

 Spokespeople                     The best spokespeople at analyst events are defined by their domain knowledge, not by their titles. They’re also defined by their attitude. Spokespeople need to be positive, knowledgeable, well-briefed & keen to engage with analysts, not hobnob with their peers & managers.

 Networking                           One of the great benefits of an analyst summit – apart from educating & informing analysts about the latest & greatest – is the opportunity to build relationships with key influencers. Informal networking opportunities are available at breaks, over meals & during cocktail receptions. Attendance should be compulsory for (most) spokespeople.

One-on-ones                                    In an ideal world, every analyst would have a personal discussion with everyone from the CEO down. That doesn’t work in the real world, but summits provide a great opportunity to provide analysts from each firm with some dedicated discussion time with key executives, away from the prying ears of their competitors.

Real-world access              While it would be nice to think that analysts would totally focus their attention on you for the whole time, that just ain’t gonna happen. Wifi access throughout the venue is essential so analysts can deal with email during the course of the event. Some “non-compulsory” sessions give them the opportunity to withdraw to their hotel rooms to deal with bigger work projects, whether that’s writing a report or dealing with an end-user client enquiry. This is a much better option than analysts returning to the office & “forgetting” to come back.

Feedback                              There is no point in running this type of event without measuring the outcomes & learning how to do it better (or what to do next). Analysts will be happy to provide feedback on the event, the content, the structure & your executives. What they won’t do is give you direct advice & commentary on your products, solutions & strategies – that requires some “thinking time”, and there are better ways of getting that advice.

 Flexibility                               On re-reading this, I realised that I’d omitted the most important point. Structure & timetables are important in making events work, but stuff will change! The better you plan, the better you equipped you are to respond to changing schedules and different requirements.

That makes, 11, not 10. I haven’t listed these best practices in order of importance, more in a (hopefully) logical flow around a typical analyst event. There may be others, so tell me what I’ve missed. What’s more important to you? Both analysts & vendors should apply J



Is AR really considered strategic in APJ?

That’s a pretty scary question for me to ask, when I spend many of my working hours pitching the strategic value of AR to ICT vendors and service providers of all shapes and sizes. It’s a question posed partly out of frustration, but mostly out of curiosity.

As with many of these things, it took a single event to trigger broader consideration of the state of AR across APJ, and how this marketing discipline is truly regarded by vendors.

The trigger was a phone call from the regional AR lead for a large multinational vendor telling me she was leaving – this week – to take on a bigger, more challenging role with another vendor. Not unusual, this happens all the time – personnel turnover is just part & parcel of the IT business – but it left me wondering, what happens now?

Out of respect for the individual and the company she most recently worked for, I’m not going to name names, though many folks reading this will know who I’m talking about. She’d be embarrassed to hear it, but her departure will leave a gaping hole in the marketing communication function within the vendor concerned, though there are several others who contribute positively to the AR program in various ways.

Without doubt, this individual is one of the savviest AR professionals I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve worked with her on several projects at a couple of different vendors. She is held in high regard by all the analysts in the region who matter – and many who don’t – as well as by her internal stakeholders and spokespeople. She “gets” the strategic value of AR, and is a passionate advocate of leveraging AR to influence sales.

When she took on the role of AR lead at this vendor, the APJ AR program had been in hiatus for over a year. It was performing poorly in our AR perception study, Understanding the Influencers, but over a couple of years she was able to bring it back into the leadership groups in the market segments where it competed.

 In praise of “AR heroes”

But this isn’t a story about this individual or the company she worked for. It’s not a criticism of that vendor, or the other folks who contributed to the AR program – it’s about the bigger picture of AR in the APJ region. She is just one of a handful of “AR heroes” who lead the profession in this region, who apply their passion and organisational skills to deliver great results for their employers, despite having far fewer resources at their disposal than their peers in other parts of the world.

And this is pretty much the nub of the issue. Vendors continue to under-invest in AR in the APJ region, though they have some great champions who punch above their weight. I’ve seen this scenario before, and sadly, I think I will again.

In most cases, vendor AR programs in this region are driven by single individuals, some of whom juggle their AR responsibilities with other disciplines such as PR or market intelligence. They are generally supported by other marcomms professionals to a greater or lesser degree, as they should be – they’re generally engaging with analysts in at least six of the 13 or more countries included in their sales territory.

When one of those individuals leaves a vendor, so too does much of the knowledge built up about the analysts & which ones are the most important, which areas they focus on, how they like to engage with the vendor, and much, much more.  Rarely is there any succession planning, so the search for a replacement often starts with a blank sheet of paper and a long lead time.

In the meantime, the AR program slowly grinds to a crawl, if not a complete halt. Analysts are demanding individuals – when they’re being looked after, they’re happy, but when the information flow dries up, they can become difficult. They become reluctant to recommend vendors & solutions to their clients, because they’re not sure they have the latest insights & information.

Different strokes for different folks

This situation wouldn’t be tolerated at “headquarters”, but it’s situation normal in APJ. Why do vendors continue to under-invest in AR in APJ? Is it that they don’t consider AR strategic? Or that they don’t consider the APJ markets important? Or both?

Maybe it’s because vendors tend to apply standard frameworks across the world, regardless of the local market conditions. One analyst whose opinions I respect – located in APJ but supporting clients worldwide – has repeatedly told me over the years that most vendors regard APJ as a sales territory, therefore not requiring any depth in product management or marketing. Another – who also has extensive regional marketing experience – has often lamented that there is no correlation between regional marketing budgets (low) and regional sales targets (high).

I’ve certainly seen plenty of these situations – global marketing budget cuts of 10% imposed universally, including in countries growing sales at +100% each quarter! Global headcount freezes placing regional AR requisitions on hold indefinitely, despite “exceptional circumstances” bypassing the rules back at headquarters. The list goes on…

As I noted in my earlier post Why do AR in APJ? this region is home to two of the fastest growing economies in the world – China & India – which are buying technology at unprecedented rates, high growth markets in ASEAN, and more mature but technology-hungry markets such as Australia and Japan.

Certainly, it makes sense for vendors to invest in sales resources to service these markets, but doesn’t marketing pave the way for sales? Doesn’t it make sense to invest in marketing – and in AR specifically – to educate, inform and influence those sales prospects?

Personally, I’d like to see this role replaced with another “AR hero” within 2-3 months, but there ain’t that many of them, and only time will tell.

What do you think? Why don’t vendors invest in AR in APJ? Are “AR heroes” the best answer? I’d love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree.



Did the earth move for you? No, but the landscape changed…

Like the technology market it supports, the industry analyst business is in a constant state of movement. There is always a new technology to observe & analyse, a new geographic market emerging, a new way of delivering research, new analysts deciding they can do a better job than the incumbents – this in itself is nothing new.

But when you live in a relatively niche market like analyst relations every working day – as I do – you sometimes focus more on the tactical, day-to-day shifts and spend less time thinking about the big picture, and the change that’s taking place over time.

This point came home to me this week when I was co-hosting an Institute of Industry Analyst Relations webinar with my mate and occasional business partner Bill Hopkins, the founder & CEO of KCG. While we sometimes disagree on the detail, Bill & I share a similar “world view” of the analyst & AR businesses. We’ve both worked in AR for well over a decade, we’ve both worked as analysts – though at different firms – and we’ve both spent a long time working in the technology business.

The topic of the webinar was KCG’s Global Analyst Landscape update, with me providing the Asia/Pacific & Japan perspective. There are many differences in the way the analyst landscape looks at a global level and the way it looks in APJ, with some firms actually using different business models in different parts of the world. But there are similarities too.

Some things don’t change

At the global level, it’s interesting to see that the breakdown between sell-side (vendor) revenue and buy-side (end-user) revenue has remained reasonably constant over the past five years at about two-thirds/one-third. But the growth in buy-side revenue last year was about twice that of sell-side revenue.

The other constant was the share of total revenue enjoyed by the Big 3 – Gartner, IDC & Forrester – remains at 56 per cent, about the same as it was five years ago.

Outside of the top players, there are probably another 350 firms slicing up less than half the market between them. Some of those firms are relatively sizable, most are quite small. Some of them cover a range of technology markets, the majority are quite focused. Some of them have a presence in multiple countries, the majority are confined to the US or one or two European countries.

One of the most visible trends over the past few years has been the gradual thinning of the middle layer. Small firms come and go – particularly when analysts leave the big firms, voluntarily or otherwise. But the number of midsize firms has continued to shrink, as the larger firms have acquired competitors before they’ve gained sufficient scale to seriously challenge them.

Asia/Pacific – same/same but different

While it’s impossible to get accurate regional revenue breakdowns, anecdotal evidence would suggest a similar pattern in APJ. Certainly Gartner & IDC are the dominant players in APJ, Forrester less so despite its acquisition of Springboard Research last year.

Certainly there has been a significant growth in buy-side revenues as Gartner has expanded its sales teams in growth markets such as India and China, as IDC has grown its Insights business, and as other firms have capitalised on the increasing appetite for technology advisory in both mature and emerging economies.

And the thinning of the middle layer has been evident in APJ too. Certainly some of the midsize players have a solid presence – Ovum, Frost & Sullivan, AMI Partners have multiple offices, for example – but others have scaled back their APJ activities in recent years.

Gartner’s recent acquisition of Ideas International (still to be finalised) removes the only regional firm which arguably was a global player, with reasonable analyst teams in Australia, the US and the UK. Forrester’s acquisition of Springboard in May last year removed the only organically-grown pan-regional firm.

Nearly all the other firms which have a notable presence on the APJ analyst landscape are primarily focused on their domestic markets. There are firms such as IBRS, Longhaus & Telsyte in Australia; CCID, CCW & Analysys International in China; ITR & Nork Research in Japan; and CyberMedia Research in India, which for 23 years was the IDC licensee on the sub-continent. Yes, some of these firms may stray into regional markets, but the bulk of their research and revenue is driven from their home markets.

I noted in one of my first posts that while technology might be global, influence and insight are local. For that reason, we can expect that many of these local firms will survive and even thrive. Will any of them expand sufficiently to become pan-regional or even global players? That remains to be seen.

What is clear, though, is that AR remains multi-layered. Any AR program that wants to have impact has to engage at a global, regional and country level. That isn’t always easy, but that’s the way you support sales teams and influence purchasing decisions.



How are APJ analysts using social media?

Analysts have been using social media for years – that’s no secret. But understanding how analysts are using social media, which platforms they prefer, what they are actually doing and so on – these things are a little trickier. It’s the classic onion – the more layers you peel off, the more you discover, but the more questions you have…

Late last year – as part of our annual Understanding the Influencers study of analyst preferences – we asked a couple of specific questions about how analysts are using social media. While some of the results pretty much confirmed what we already knew, other insights that came out of the study really changed our thinking on using social media to engage with analysts.

I’ve delivered many of the findings from this study to our clients already, and also discussed the issue on an IIAR webinar last month, but it’s an interesting topic with many elements and angles, so I think it’s worthy of a broader discussion.

What are analysts using social media for?

Essentially, analyst use of social media can be allocated into two fairly broad categories – research and promotion. Within those categories, though, are a number of activities and approaches.

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.

Which analysts are using social media?

We asked analysts whether they used a range of social media platforms “never”, “rarely”, “sometimes” or “often”, and categorised those who answered “sometimes” or “often” as “regular” users. The survey covered 136 analysts of various levels of seniority at 20 different firms in 12 countries across the Asia/Pacific & Japan (APJ) region.

Only seven per cent of analysts in APJ never use any social media platform for research, and only 14 per cent never use social media for promotion. This suggests fairly high adoption, but not all analysts are using social media regularly, and few of them are using more than a couple of different platforms on a regular basis.

Overall, we found that analysts in India are the most prolific users of social media, both from a frequency perspective and in terms of the range of platforms. Analysts in ANZ and ASEAN have also adopted social media fairly extensively, but preferences vary considerably depending on the activity and objectives.

Analysts in Greater China and Japan have been less enthusiastic to embrace social media, though this is in part due to the fact that many of the leading platforms are predominantly English-language. And this is changing.

Which platforms are analysts using?

Across APJ, LinkedIn and blogs are the preferred platforms for research, with 61 per cent of analysts using LinkedIn regularly, and 60 per cent using blogs. Twitter is further behind at 45 per cent, while use of Facebook and YouTube is significantly lower. LinkedIn ranked as the top platform for research in India, ANZ and ASEAN.

For promotion, Twitter is the preferred platform – used regularly by 49 per cent of analysts in APJ and 59 per cent in ASEAN – but only just ahead of LinkedIn. Some 46 per cent of analysts in APJ use LinkedIn regularly for promotion, and this platform ranked highest in India and ANZ.

Interestingly, analysts in Japan were most likely to use Facebook for research and promotion, while in Greater China, “other” platforms such as Sina Weibo – the Chinese equivalent of Twitter – were seen as more relevant.

What does this mean from an AR perspective?


But this post is already too long, so I’ll come back in the next couple of days to look at that in more detail. I’ll discuss some of the qualitative insights into why – and why not! – analysts are using social media, plus the key issues AR professionals should consider when developing a social media engagement strategy.

In the meantime, if you have other questions or comments, let me know – I look forward to your feedback.



Why do AR in APJ?

Anyone involved in the analyst relations business knows that it’s a tough concept to explain – even savvy marketers who’ve worked in the technology business for years find it difficult to believe or understand that there is actually a job which involves providing a bridge between industry analysts & technology vendors. Or a need…

So when I begin a conversation with an AR neophyte, there’s usually three questions in order:

  •  What is AR?
  • Why do AR?
  • Why do AR in Asia/Pacific?

I’m assuming that anyone who’s read this far is already across the first two questions, so I what I really want to discuss is the third – why is it important to do analyst relations in the Asia/Pacific & Japan region?

 Influence is local

Regardless of the greater level of technical/domain knowledge that might exist among analysts in the northern hemisphere, IT decision-makers ultimately rely on their peers. Those peers may be connected at a social, commercial or academic level, but they are primarily “local.” We trust people we know. Depending on the country, analysts will move up or down the scale, but they will always offer something “outsiders” can’t.

 Context is local

Technology may be global, but go-to-market is local. How well a vendor delivers can only be determined at a local level. “Ability to execute” is generally measured at a global level, but there can be a multitude of issues which impact in any given country – and a “local” analyst will be more aware of them than the domain knowledge expert sitting in corporate headquarters or his home office who spends much of his time doing enquiries in his own timezone.

 Information silos are universal

Analysts love to interact & exchange ideas with their peers, and most analyst firms are structured to enable that. But they’re not structured to simply disseminate information across their technology focus areas or geographically. When analysts get together, they exchange ideas, not the latest product briefing they received. Oh, and by the way, not all analysts work for global firms…

Global thought leaders live anywhere

Within the largest analyst firms, their global thought leaders might live anywhere in the world, and outside of those firms, others punch above their weight beyond their local markets. They don’t get out of bed at 2am for vendor briefings, so if you don’t engage with them locally, you miss the opportunity to inform, educate & update them.

 Insight is local

Not all analysts are good – that’s as true for our profession as any other. But most local analysts will be able to provide good insights into the behaviours & dynamics of their local markets. Dialogue & discussion is part of the analyst engagement “game.” Why not take advantage of that?

 This is where the growth is

China, India – two of the world’s largest & fastest growing economies. They are generally unsophisticated buyers of technology, but they’re getting sharper. They’re not historically comfortable with paying external advisors, but they’re starting to understand the value of that. Collectively, Gartner, Forrester & IDC have probably employed more analysts in these countries than anywhere else in the world in the past couple of years. Plus the local & regional firms are growing at similar rates. By they way, those same firms have spent a lot of time & money building up their local sales teams, and consequently their local customer bases. Do you want to ignore that?

 Bottom line

Some – not all – analysts in APJ have influence on how & why your customers make buying decisions, and that influence is growing. Increasingly, they are working with their global domain knowledge expert colleagues to provide detailed & insightful advice to their local customers. They are not in all of your deals, but they are in some of them – and generally they’re in the ones that you really want to win.

I know the AR game in APJ well, but I don’t pretend to have all the answers. What have I missed? What else do you need to know about why you should be doing AR in APJ? I look forward to your feedback & questions.