AR I Knew Ye Somewhat

Recently I departed the walnut-lined hallways (ha, paperboard cubicles actually) of IT Industry Analyst Relations for product marketing, and therefore, no longer being an AR hack, have decided to pass on IIAR board reelection.  However, I strongly encourage AR professionals to participate in the IIAR:  You need an industry body that acts as your combined voice of AR with analyst firms and a safe place to share best practices.  The IIAR is not-for-profit and has only one goal – to help the AR pro.

My connection with AR is not completely severed – I will continue to lean on Gartner, Forrester, IDC, etc., for market intelligence.  But strictly in terms of AR, I am off the beat. It has now been over 15 years since I shifted out of product development/management into the analyst realm. How are things different than they were 15+ years ago when I first stumbled into IDC as a development tools analyst?

The More Things Change, the More Things Change, 5 Things Specifically

  1. The Digital Analyst:  The Internet and Mobility revolutionized so many things, including AR.  Today analysts’ phone numbers, emails and Twitter handles litter my smartphone, and tweets and blog posts pop up like weeds in an untended lawn during a dry July, and social web sites and blogs crawl with contacts out of the analyst ranks.  Hey, there were online communities back pre-1995; remember Compuserve?  It is still there!   Back then if you wanted to find tech influencers, there you went.  Today you go to FB, LinkedIn, or all kinds of “open” .orgs or other communities sites – and analyst sites of course which were not existent pre-1995.  This has led to the near death of analyst firm physical libraries.
  2. Coverage Overlap:  Because Internet/mobile enable and reward convergence, the circles of coverage are not as discrete as they were during the “client/server” era.  Overlaps due to the nouvelle technologies have forced analysts to think more outside their historic boxes.  Analysts who stubbornly remained totally in a silo have lost some ground.
  3. Analysts Doing Research, Researchers Doing Analysis:  Pre-1995 analysts were either IT advisors or statistical geeks, but those boundaries are blurred.  The qualitative analysts are somewhat more quantitative, and vice versa.  There is still room for improvement on both sides of that equation though.
  4. Sprouting of Small Analyst Firms:  Pre-1995 there was the big two, but today Forrester is usually included as tier-1, so now there is the big three – plus a few thousand others.  Today there are many independent analysts and very small firms, enabled by social media and the ability to type quickly on a mobile device – I think small fingers are a help to indie analysts
  5. PR Masquerading as AR:  Pre-1995 AR was more often aligned with product management, product marketing, sales and/or strategy/executive.  Today AR is more aligned with PR, and often treated like an adjunct to PR.  In my opinion, though, the best AR programs are balanced, and treat all of these constituencies with equal attention and budget.  Show me an AR program that follows in the trail of PR and I will show you a vendor who is unnecessarily losing battles of influence in the sales cycle.

But Some Things Stay the Same… 5 Things Specifically

  1. Pay-for-Play Remains Unchanged:  Several analyst firms have addressed it,  but blatant quid pro quo has not disappeared despite the occasional hypocritical piece written about it by someone in the media.  Heck, some “analysts” are nothing more than 3rd party marketing sites for their vendor customers.   Some day maybe I will name names, but suffice it to say that money to say something nice about vendors is still a legitimate business model.  Gartner remains quite pure though, even if they treat vendor customers like customers today, more respect and less disdain – thankfully.
  2. Relationships First:  A glass of wine still beats a Tweet, or email, or other electronic communication.  You want to form a trusted relationship with an analyst?  Spend some time face-to-face, make the human connection.  I don’t care if you have the most sophisticated social media listening technology in the world, it can’t compare to a handshake, a smile, and a genuine conversation.  Don’t forget we are in this together.
  3. Research wins:  Not every day, but the analysts and analyst firms who really have a survey leg to stand on will stand the longest.  Those that do their homework and share their findings in easy-to-digest fashion were around pre-1995, are around today, and will be around when the “Cloud” is considered legacy.
  4. Gartner is still #1:  Gartner’s imminent demise has been predicted for years. Some have said that peer networks or social media will destroy Gartner. Sorry, I don’t buy it.  Gartner seldom falls asleep at the switch, and they still possess, by far, the largest cadre of strong analysts.  Follow how Gartner has adapted over the past 5 years and you have to take your hat off to them.  But damn they are expensive.
  5. Get a Haircut, Wear a Suit, Take a Shower:  Okay, after lauding Gartner I have to make a complaint that is 15 years old:  some Gartner analysts are poor consultants, so spend your SAS dollars carefully.  Some of them never acquired the chops that professional consultants possess.  Gartner Consulting has those chops, but many Gartner analysts lack those chops.  I think Forrester is in the big three today largely because they hired analysts who could truly consult; who could dress, converse, carry themselves professionally and socially.   Some of those excellent Forrester analyst/consultants burned out because Forrester realized how yummy the margins were on a $10,000 per day consulting gig.  Some of those analysts went out on their own, figuring they could charge around the same amount, and sop up the overhead for themselves.  Maybe that is why some Gartner analysts remain untamed as consultants, but if I were Gene Hall I would require my analysts to attend consulting finishing school.

And with that, buh-bye AR, and thanks to the few CMOs out there who actually appreciate AR – you are an unfortunate rarity.

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