I was reviewing Duncan Chapple’s latest influence quadrant and thinking how much the analyst relations world has changed since my days at Gartner in the 90s
a) Vendor product portfolios have exploded
Microsoft needs a “One Microsoft” initiative to bring together its wide array of consumer and enterprise tech. In the last decade SAP has made nearly 50 seemingly disconnected acquisitions. That has led Mark Hurd, CEO of competitor Oracle (itself very acquisitive) to sarcastically observe, "I guess we could buy a Dairy Queen." How does vendor AR coherently present such a portfolio to analysts? And to how many analysts in each firm? I heard one firm sent 40 analysts to a vendor event last year. 40!
b) Left-field competitors are everywhere
HP’s infrastructure outsourcing has been tormented by Amazon. Accenture’s application outsourcing/BPO is being cannibalized by SaaS vendors like Salesforce – and soon will be challenged by machine learning and process automation. TCS’s offshore model is being challenged by crowdsourcing and rural sourcing. Samsung competes with appliance makers, Google may soon with car makers. Analysts do better when markets mature and a core group of vendors emerges. If you have read my New Florence blog for the last decade, the recurring theme is the “aha” from places and people where you least expect it.
c) Vendor marketing is often misaligned with AR
How does IBM AR explain why Watson and Smart Solutions have been on TV for years now and still contribute only a small percent of its revenues? How does the SAP AR person try to explain with a straight face what “Does your business have a soul?” commercials have to do with its customers? Or try to explain that hot air balloons are good imagery for cloud computing, just ignore the hot air part? Then you have idiotic tweets and other social media gaffes from channel and other partners. AR no longer controls the message.
d) The “analyst” has morphed
Enterprise software markets follow Diginomica, outsourcers follow HfS – neither firm existed a few years ago. Frank Scavo can balance his research with his consulting and benchmarking practices. Ray Wang presents to hundreds of executives every month. Through my advisory work and my book interviews I have had far richer conversations with business executives than I ever did as a Gartner analyst. There are so many of us “small guys”. Not just small - but with access to a large number of executives. Vendors struggle with this proliferation of smaller firms – a bit like Gulliver in Lilliput. The administrators at Oracle and others have taken the word “independent analyst” to literally mean “independent contractor” with all the paperwork needed for IRS compliance. Cannot blame them, but it sure complicates AR.
Long and short – I am looking forward to hugging a number of AR folks during the Fall event season. Their job has become increasingly more difficult. The least I can do is sympathize. So long as they don’t expect me to start writing puff pieces