Analyst Relations budget – Use it, don’t lose it

It’s now July 22nd, about half way through the third calendar quarter. Many communications and IT vendors have budget policies in place where departments lose any budget that is not spent within a particular fiscal quarter or calendar year. AR managers frequently find it difficult to find a good use for remaining budget, especially when it might only be a few thousand dollars. Are you kicking yourself because you had had left over budget at the end of the last quarter that you did not use? In addition, you don’t want to blow any remaining budget on something that might not be used to its fullest extent, like a reprint of a so-so research note or a Gartner Advisory seat for someone who probably won’t do inquiries.

An excellent use of remaining budget is AR staff development because it increases efficiency and effectiveness, boosts staff morale and adds variety to the job. Staff development  is even more important during a recession when bonuses are meager and pay raises are not likely.

To make it easy for AR managers to spend odd amounts of end-of-the-quarter budget, SageCircle offers its services à la carte as well as by annual subscription. We have many services under $1,000 such as webinars ($95), Online SageContent Library ($395), AR briefings ($495), workshops ($495) and advisory blocks (2 hours $495, 5 hours $995) and seminars ($995).

Another advantage of SageCircle AR training offerings is that many are 90 minutes or less, making them easy to fit into a busy schedule or a regular staff call. Oh, did I mention that you can conveniently buy any SageCircle service via credit card to ensure you get it into this quarter’s purchases? We will also work around the clock to complete any paperwork you need for traditional purchase order/invoice.

Here are three examples of how you can mix-and-match SageCircle training services to meet various needs:

AR continuing education – This example assumes an experienced AR staff located in one office. The first two items are free, which of course is a great price. Using the AR DiagnosticTM as a continuing education tool is atypical, but the questions asked Continue reading

Gartner’s Hype Cycle – Anticipate and Influence

Tip o’ the hat to Hill & Knowlton Global Technology Practice Director Josh Reynolds (bio, blog) for getting the ball rolling on how to approach the Hype Cycle. I met Josh early summer 2007 at Buck’s of Woodside (famed and quirky Silicon Valley hangout for venture capitalists and digerati) to discuss his ideas for influencing the Hype Cycle. Josh’s ideas were quite provocative and no doubt he can see a bit of their DNA in this piece of SageContentTM. I have not seen how Josh evolved his ideas into best practices, but perhaps he will post them on the H&K ARcade AR blog sometime in the near future.

As we mentioned in Thinking about Gartner’s Hype Cycle, the Hype Cycle is the most read piece of Gartner signature research by its clients, but it is often ignored by the vendor community because it does not directly rate vendors’ products or impact today’s sales opportunities. However, this is shortsighted as the Hype Cycle is influential on future IT strategies and budgets. As a consequence, vendors should be investing time into the Hype Cycle today in order to have an impact two to three years down the road.

There are three broad categories that AR teams have to work on: flattening the curve, speeding progress, and ensuring that their company is considered an exemplar for a particular technology, service, or technique on a Hype Cycle. This post will focus on the first category.

Flattening the Curve - One problem that vendors face when a technology or service is mentioned on one of the Hype Cycles is that the Peak of Inflated Expectations can get so high that there is a backlash.  This can completely derail a promising market before Continue reading

How to use analyst market share numbers after Gartner makes a “huge mistake” with server market share numbers

photo-rob-enderle.jpgRarely do analysts call out another firm on perceived failures in research, but Rob Enderle does just that in Liars, Damn Liars and Statistics: Gartner Goofs on Server Numbers. Money quote:

“…However, the accuracy of these numbers even inside corporations (given how deals are accounted for) would suggest that getting within 5 percent of actual sales would be very difficult, let alone having a high level of confidence that under 1 percent actually signified real market leadership. …”

Rob then goes into an interesting discussion of the shortcomings of market share numbers and the methodologies used to create them. The article is well worth reading. It would be interesting – fun even – if more analysts engaged each other in the marketplace of ideas rather than having a monologue with clients.

SageCircle has long said that market share numbers from the market research analysts can provide interesting insights into the direction a market is going. However, relying on the numbers alone without Continue reading

Thinking about Gartner’s Hype Cycle

As AR professionals focus (obsess) on the Gartner Magic Quadrant and Forrester Wave as primary targets for influencing, an important signature research deliverable is often overlooked – Gartner’s Hype Cycle (click graphic to see a larger version). This point is driven home by the fact that is takes a fair amount of work to find a vendor reprint of any Hype Cycle, whereas you can easily find MQ and Wave reprints starting on the first Google search results page. This vendor attitude is unfortunate because Gartner says that the Hype Cycle is the most read/download type of research, even more than the Magic Quadrant. However, because the Hype Cycle does not directly compare products and rarely even mentions vendors in passing, it is easy for vendors not to give Hype Cycles a high priority.

The Hype Cycle might take on additional visibility in October 2008 if Gartner and the Harvard Business School Press (HBSP) promote the new book, Mastering the Hype Cycle: How to Choose the Right Innovation at the Right Time by Jackie Fenn and Mark Raskino, as effectively as Continue reading

Why analyst relations matter – Analysts do not have time to do all-inclusive research

(After an interesting Twitter-based conversation with Illuminata’s Gordon Haff and former IDC analyst Ida-Rose Sylvester over the use of the word comprehensive, we have decided to use the word all-inclusive instead. )

One aspect of the analyst industry that is not widely known by technology buyers (aka end users, usually IT managers) and vendors is that industry analysts do not have the resources (e.g., time and travel budget) to conduct and publish comprehensive all-inclusive research about a market.  Advisory analysts gather most of their data from client inquiry and vendor briefings.  The major firms do not conduct product evaluations, lab tests against specifications, or quality of service investigations.

 This point was highlighted by Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang in Starting the Forrester Wave: White Label Social Networks and Community Platforms about some research he is working on:

 “…I made a call for the vendor product catalog in this market, (and via email and twitter) that document is a detailed index of over 40 vendors in the space, (aprox 50% of the market) and will be available to Forrester clients…”

 “…Due to the rigorous methodology … The Wave will only include several vendors.”

There are two key points here, one is that the vendor catalog is only a subset of the market and, two, the Wave will be a further subset of the vendor catalog the analyst assembled.

For vendors in this market these points should send a shiver down their spines. If they Continue reading

Another top social media analyst leaves Forrester, this time Peter Kim

Well, well, Forrester loses another social media analyst inside of a week, this time Peter Kim (blog, Twitter handle). Unknown at this time whether Peter and Charlene leaving (see here) is a coincidence or the beginning of a trend.

Remember, most analyst firms have not invested in knowledge management systems so most information that analysts get in vendor briefings and other sources is stored between the ears of an analyst which means that it walks out Continue reading

Right services – Align the services you buy to better match the reason for info or advice [Purchasing Analyst Services, Part 3]

(Based on comment’s Forrester VP Eric Lobel and review of notes and Forrester quarterly earning call transcripts, we are changing this post to remove Forrester from the discussion that the move to role based research is a means to significantly raise the price of syndicated research. While Forrester executives do regularly talk about raising the average selling price of its services through reduction of discounts and annual price increases, there is no price difference between WholeView and RoleView.)

icon-budget-cuts-105w.jpgForrester and Gartner has have a variety of services that they offer at different price points. One of the products that both firms are Gartner is pushing their its sales forces to sell more of is the role-based products (“RoleView” at Forrester and “Gartner for Business/IT Leaders” at Gartner). During its 1Q08 earnings conference call Forrester’s CEO even introduced a new metric, “roles per client,” for financial analysts to track. Gartner’s CEO updates financial analysts each quarter on the progress his firm has made in switching clients from traditional Core Research seats to the role-based seats.

Why the emphasis? Switching a client from Forrester WholeView or Gartner Core Research to one of the Gartner role-based seats is effectively a significant (up to 100%) price increase. The draw is for the additional “analysis” more suited to the person’s role.  While a role-based seat might offer sufficient incremental value to be worth the price difference for some buyers, that might not always be the case. 

It is important for buyers of analyst services, whether enterprises or vendors, to carefully examine all the deliverables associated with Continue reading

Analyst firms should notify vendors about staff changes

Especially vendors with scheduled briefings, consulting days, or key projects by analysts  who submit their resignations

Analyst relations (AR) professionals are sometimes blindsided in the final preparations for a long scheduled briefing, analyst summit, or analyst consulting day (aka SAS) to discover that the analyst had submitted his or her resignation several weeks before. Worse yet are situations where the vendor has just conducted a briefing only to learn days later that the analyst has just left the firm. Either way it is bad for AR who now has to scramble to change plans and could experience the wrath of executives who perceive that AR just wasted their time by being uninformed.

For a variety of reasons, analyst firms are reluctant to admit that an analyst is leaving the firm. However, these reasons are insufficient for withholding critical information from AR teams who work hard to facilitate the flow of information from the vendor to the analyst firms. It is not appropriate for the firm to arrange a last minute substitution without Continue reading

Why analysts matter – “I get asked daily in one medium or another who to buy”

Some analyst relations (AR) managers are lucky in that their executives really get the analysts and their impact on the vendor’s leads and sales deals. Alas, not all AR professionals are so lucky. However, there is a resource to use to educate* executives about the impact of the analysts – the analysts’ own words. For example, here is a throwaway line by Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang in Starting the Forrester Wave: White Label Social Networks and Community Platforms:

          “I get asked daily in one medium or another who to buy”

Jeremiah is very good about keeping vendors and end-user clients alike up-to-date on what he is working on via his blog posts. This particular line was not bragging, but explaining one purpose of the Forrester Wave, which is to help technology buyers develop their short list of vendors to invite to a bid. Because it was not the main purpose of the post, I think that makes it even more powerful education tool as it Continue reading

Right reasons – Evaluate why you are purchasing analyst services [Purchasing Analyst Services, Part 2]

icon-budget-cuts-105w.jpgThere are many reasons why companies, enterprises, and vendors buy analysts services. Unfortunately, many buyers do not carefully document their reasons for acquiring analyst services which often leads to buying the wrong services from the wrong firms.

Two prime beneficiaries of this type of mistake are Gartner and Forrester because they are often the only firms with any significant mindshare with buyers. They also have the largest sales forces knocking on doors. Because both firms are the highest priced – and raising prices further still – going with the well known brands as a default can be an expensive mistake. That is not to say that Forrester and Gartner cannot deliver business value at market rates on particular topics, but other firms might deliver equal or better advice for less money.

Buyers should carefully examine the desired outcomes for using analyst research and recommendations. For instance, if a CIO wants to ensure that her budgets for a industry specific technology are in line with others in her market, then going with a firm with a strong research team in that vertical is important. Another example is a vendor looking to Continue reading

Top social media analysts leave Forrester and IDC

News is that IDC Research Director Rachel Happe (Twitter handle, blog) and Forrester VP & Principal Analyst Charlene Li (Twitter handle, blogless for now) are leaving their firms.

These departures are big blows for both firms, though in different ways. Rachel was really IDC’s sole expert on social media so her departure eliminates a big piece of IDC’s intellectual property on this market. Forrester has a team of social media experts, so expertise is not the problem. For Forrester, Charlene’s departure is a loss of prestige and credibility as Charlene is one of the most highly visible experts in this market. Obviously neither loss is a fatal blow to either firm,  but they need to work to fill the holes quickly.  

(Added 7/3/08 at 5 am PT. Links to Rachel’s and Charlene’s blog posts)

Leaving IDC…Joining Mzinga Rachel

Why I’m Leaving Forrester Charlene

Here is an update on Charlene via Twitter “Looking at options, likely will be on my own with a combo of blogging, speaking, consulting, and influence building”

Remember, most analyst firms have not invested in knowledge management systems so most information that analysts get in vendor briefings and other sources is stored Continue reading

Killer questions to ask PR agencies to see if they are AR pretenders or contenders

icon-the-press-110w.jpgThere are many drawbacks to using PR agencies to conduct analyst relations – not the least that most analysts hate dealing with agency staff.  Sometimes, however, communications and IT vendors have no choice but to farm out some analyst-related activities. To minimize the chance of agency staff causing problems with the analysts, vendors need to carefully evaluate whether or not a PR agency is actually competent in analyst relations before hiring them.

A technique SageCircle has developed is asking a series of questions in the form of scenarios about AR situations. The responses to the scenarios can then be graded for compliance with AR best practices and insights as to how the analysts work. As always, it is important to weight the questions because some will be more important than others. In addition, it is critical that a standard evaluation framework be established so that responses from different agencies will be graded consistently.

The killer questions should not just be asked of the agency’s senior executive that is trying to win the business, but also the staff that will actually be doing the work.  Reluctance by the agency to introduce you to the staff should raise red flags about the breadth and depth of AR expertise in the firm.

The first killer question to ask the PR agency rainmaker and staff is Continue reading

Analyst firms’ editorial calendars

Here are the links to the editorial calendars for Gartner and Forrester that we mentioned during the just completed Coffee Talk. Note: After I asked on Twitter, The451 ICE’s service director sent me a link to ICE’s upcoming research.

Gartner Editorial Calendar for Magic Quadrants and MarketScopes Don’t forget that at the end of July, the Gartnerians are going to expand their editorial calendar to include planned research other than MQs and Marketscopes.

Forrester Planned Research This page defaults to showing only the planned research for you role. Click on “Show all documents,” which is just Continue reading

Notes from Gartner’s Quarterly AR Call – Themes are royalty, expanded editorial calendar, org changes

On Thursday, June 19th Gartner’s Vendor Relations team held its regular quarterly analyst relations (AR) call. Because the Gartnerians do not currently offer a transcript of the call, just a replay, SageCircle is providing detailed notes.

SageCircle Advisory clients are encouraged to schedule an inquiry to discuss the call and how to apply the insights to their specific situations.

Themes – Research themes are important organizing principles like topics, roles and industries. Gartner themes cut across all boundaries and most research organizations write themes for their perspective. Themes are coordinated by the Senior Research Board. Themes are usually new or emerging topics, though some are existing topics with new relevance or enhanced impact. You should expect to get questions about themes during briefings and anticipate analysts using themes as a point-of-reference. Listed are the existing themes with their “champions.”

How to track a lot of analyst blogs and Twitter streams without spending a lot of time

icon-social-media-blue.jpgOne of the side effects of the growing use of social media by IT industry analysts and analyst relations (AR) is a pending sense of doom that we are going to get overwhelmed by too… much… stuff. This certainly came out in discussions at the US Forrester AR Council panel I was on and in blog posts like When do we get work done? I certainly have felt that way in the past, but slowly and surely I have picked up techniques that permit me to monitor a fairly large number of social media streams (110+ blogs and 140+ Twitter streams) without spending hours a day doing so. In this post I will share these tips.

Note: These tip and tricks are not necessarily the absolutely best-in-class, merely ones that we have found to-date. Nor are the tools mentioned the results of systematic research and evaluation, merely ones that we have played with and decided to use. As we continue to expand the portfolio of tips and tools, we will make sure to share them with you.

The main tips are to use an RSS reader and to organize your feeds in folders*. This saves you the time of checking individual blogs that might not have any activity. The following example explains Continue reading

Recent favorite tweets and other random Twitter comments

icon-social-media-blue.jpgAnalyst Twitter Directory just update – now up to 108 entries. Are there any analysts I am missing?

A fair number of Oracle AR team members started exploring Twitter in the last couple of weeks. Welcome to Twitterland!

Question: Would it be useful to have an AR Twitter Directory like the Analyst Twitter Directory?

Where do I think that Twitter currently falls on a Gartner-style Hype Cycle? Think about it for a minute and then see my analysis at the bottom of this post.

If you are not using Twhirl (desktop client), Tweetscan (search) and Summize (search) as part of your Twitter toolbox, you need to check them out.

Shameless marketing: Want to know more about how Twitter might fit into your AR plan and mix of interactions? Check out the SageCircle’s AR Briefing: Twitter 101. The briefing has lots of “getting started” tips and tricks that will quickly and easily get you up-to-speed, including how to set up an account, navigation tips, simple and efficient monitoring practices, use of tools and more.

jonathaneunice @carterlusher Your “welcome to Twitter” messages to A and AR folks proving very helpful to those of us who might want to follow. about 14 hours ago from twhirl

bmichelson @carterlusher re:MQ, on a recent briefing, when the vendor got to the MQ slide, he chuckled, apologized for its inclusion, and moved on about 18 hours ago from web

cote @carterlusher as I told @daveofdoom the other day, I prefer using The Jackhammer of Disillustionment. Cycle, not quadrant, but there you go. about 19 hours ago from web

lmantion @carterlusher Think you’re right. Research needs to be more specific and relevant, customized to Continue reading

SimpleSeating – online tool for creating seating charts for analyst summits

Jonathan Eunice (bio, Twitter, blog), principal analyst at Illuminata, sent along a tip about Simple Seating. A quick scan reveals that it might be a really useful tool for those in charge of planning an analyst event. We think it is a best practice to leave nothing to chance when it comes to who sits with who at an analyst summit or analyst conference. However, creating a seating chart can be a major time sink and a massive pain. Maybe this online tool can make it easier.

Tip o’ the hat to Jonathan for the tip.

An analyst has some advice for PR agencies

Redmonk’s Stephen O’Grady in Bad PR – The Bane of My Existence: Seven Suggestions for PR Workers has some practical advice for PR professionals at agencies. Here are his seven suggestions (details in the post):

  1. Analysts Are Not Press: Don’t Treat Them as if They Are
  2. Caller ID Works: Don’t Just Keep Calling, and Calling, and Calling
  3. Personalization: Don’t Address Your Notes “Dear Blogger”
  4. Press Releases: Don’t Use it as Continue reading

Avoid like the plague – Using pseudo-Magic Quadrants in your analyst briefing presentations

After completing the in-depth Magic Quadrant series I was going to give this topic a rest for awhile. That is until I saw this tweet:

 

jowyang is the twitter handle of Forrester social media analyst extraordinaire Jeremiah Owyang. Jeremiah joined Forrester only last October and already he has seen so many vendors use a pseudo-Magic Quadrant that he is commenting on it. Can you imagine how bored and annoyed with this graphic other analysts that been around longer must be? I have seen pseudo-MQs that I swear were built on the idea of who is the leading vendor among left-handed IT managers who buy technology on Tuesdays in Guam.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the competitive landscape slide should be a component of almost every presentation made to IT industry analysts. There is no better opportunity to Continue reading

Do your analysis before deciding to use social media like blogs or wikis

icon-social-media-blue.jpgBarbara French left an interesting question on SageCircle announces the Analyst Relations Wiki*, a tool to help AR teams be more efficient and effective. Basically, she asked why use a wiki instead of deploying more efficient PDF search technology on the existing PDFs?

We picked the wiki technology, because it became the logical choice after we did an analysis of the situation using the POST framework from Forrester’s Groundswell research: People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology. This same analysis process is valuable to AR teams for their own decision making.  Here is an overly simplified summary of our extensive analysis in making our choice:

  • People – AR managers are strapped for time. They have different levels of experience and as a consequence need access to different levels of information. They also have different levels of on-line sophistication.
  • Objectives – Save AR managers time and make them more effective by Continue reading

Using five rights to avoid a wrong when it comes to purchasing Gartner or Forrester services

icon-budget-cuts-105w.jpg

You can minimize analyst firm price hikes by buying the right services from the right firms at the right price.  This post is the first entry in a series* that will discuss how buyers of industry analyst services can manage their analyst contracts and minimize the impact of price hikes on their budgets.

Since Gene Hall took over as Gartner’s CEO in August 2004, he has diligently worked to raise Gartner’s ASP (average selling price) by eliminating discounts, enterprise-wide agreements and competitors while instituting price hikes for legacy products and launching new premium services. Under the cover that Gartner offers, other firms – especially Forrester – have been raising their prices as well. While it is entirely the firms’ right to price their products as high as the market will bear, these price increases are putting a burden on clients’ budgets. As a consequence, IT managers and vendor market research buyers need to carefully evaluate their analyst services purchasing decisions to ensure that they are maximizing the return on their purchase.

There is the old saying in the US and perhaps elsewhere that “two wrongs do not make a right.” For this series, we are going to flip that saying around with the idea that “five rights avoid a wrong.” The right actions that analyst services buyers need to take are: 

  • Right reasons – Evaluate why you are purchasing analyst services
  • Right services – Align the services you buy to better match the Continue reading

Sorry ‘Net searchers, you will not find a Forrester Magic Quadrant

We track the search terms people use that leads them to the SageCircle website and blog for SEO purposes. It is interesting the number of times that people search for some variation of Forrester Magic Quadrant. This reinforces our point that “Magic Quadrant” is a brand name that is become a generic description. However, this is very dangerous for vendors as we pointed out in Kleenex, Frisbee, and Magic Quadrant – what do they have in common? AR teams should always be on the lookout for colleagues that are using Magic Quadrant inappropriately and eliminate that usage before it causes you embarrasment in front of an analyst.

We received the first submissions to the “Vendor Analyst Events” calendar

Tip o’ the hat to Rachel for her tip about the Avaya Analyst Conference. Another tip o’ the hat to Shelley for the tip about Iron Mountain’ analyst event. A double tip o’ of the hat to Daniel for the two-fer tip about Deloitte’s Americas and EMEA AR Summits.

Remember, there is no charge to have your event listed. The goal of the calendar is to help vendors avoid  splitting analyst attendance at analyst summits or conferences, which can occur if vendor events are scheduled too close together. As Shelley said:

“The AR event calendar is a great idea and I hope all of ‘us vendors’ will share that info with you.”

Time is running out for influencing Gartner’s Fall Symposia agendas

I just came across some interesting tweets (click on image to enlarge) by Gartner’s Jeff Mann (bio, Twitter). It seems that he is deep into planning Gartner’s Fall 2008 EMEA Symposium in Cannes. Money quote from a tweet: “Pouring 10 kilos of Symposium presentations into a 3 kilo sack.” Do you think that topics and presentations that are critical to your company are guaranteed to make the list of presentations? Or, will your important topics get cut?

As we said in So, have you started planning and executing your Fall Symposium campaign yet?, vendors can contribute ideas on what to include at Symposia. However, the analysts are not mind readers so Continue reading

Harvest insights by having topic discussion tables at analyst summits

Most large analyst summits (aka as analyst conferences or days) are organized the same way: main tent presentations, breakout sessions, 1-on-1s, demos and booze-and-schmooze receptions/dinners. Breakfasts and lunches are typically organized by putting an executive at a table so that analysts can ask questions. Here is an idea for a new approach: topic discussion tables.

This is not a brilliant new idea, but a variation of the IT manager-centric “birds of the feather” tables at many analyst conferences. In this idea, the analysts are not invited to ask executives questions but to discuss amongst themselves an idea or issue (e.g., how rising energy costs will impact a particular market, how the vendor can expand globally beyond BRIC, or exploiting FireFox instead of being Internet Explorer centric). The vendor domain experts or executives are participants in the discussion and are asking questions instead of being the center of attention and answering questions.

Analysts from Gartner and Forrester will likely object or not want to participate in these sessions because they will not want to share their insights or data in front of competitors. That is ok because Continue reading

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