Hype vs. Reality – Big Noise vs. Big News out of Gartner Symposium

As Gartner Symposium – Gartner’s key annual event – draws to a close, the H+K Strategies Analyst Relations team takes a closer look at the key trends coming out of the show. At a very high level they could be distilled as encompassing:The merging of the real and virtual worldsThe advent of intelligence everywhereThe technology impact of the digital business shiftSo, what should we take away from this year’s Symposium announcements?Technology Convergence: The Blurring of BoundariesGartner’s predictions this year seem particularly abstract, but this ultimately reflects the reality of where technology is heading – a blend of co-dependent complexity, disruption and opportunity. Gartner’s top 10 technology predictions are a good example of this – the list includes technology areas that include a great deal of overlap, arguably much more so than in previous years. For example, cloud and mobile (or ‘Cloud/Client Computing’ as Gartner defines it) are increasingly seen as two sides of the same coin that have converged – whereas in previous years they were seen as distinct (albeit complementary) trends. Software defined infrastructure, for example, cuts across multiple technology sets as well as impacting areas such as operations, security and development. The list of technologies that Gartner cites reads not just like a list of technologies but is also (I would suggest) a set of interlinkedframeworks, processes and behaviors that IT will have to reconcile. This suggests tech vendors will also have to speak much more to governance, process and cultural changes than has historically been the case.Self Determination: A New Digital Carpe Diem?Gartner has predicted that by 2017, over 50 percent of IT spend will sit outside of IT – much of this will sit in digital environments. The intriguing result is that business units – such as HR, marketing and logistics – increasingly act as startups within the broader organization. Ubiquity is by its nature disruptive – and it changes the rules of engagement for users, decision makers and IT. Technologies have always operated in a specific context but as technology becomes increasingly pervasive within businesses – the ways in which technologies are connected and run will change. This new psychology of technology will rely on businesses capitalizing on what Gartner calls ‘business moments’ where a digitalized process creates new opportunities. This is much more fluid than many IT strategies today can accommodate and the pace of change is increasing.The Unstoppable Digital Stream: Adapt or DrownGartner outlined several predicted scenarios where co-dependence with technologies such as algorithms and smart machines will transform jobs, business models and the processes that govern the workplace and society as a whole.  For the vendor community the lesson is clear – it’s no longer enough to simply speak in relation to just offering end users a ‘product.’ The vendors who survive today’s digital disruption will do so by relating their offering back to a broader computing strata that runs the gamut from product to solution to services (and beyond). That’s not to say that you can’t just sell product per se, but you must be careful to position and message it correctly within multiple business contexts – each of which will likely have their own dynamic. These new environments are increasingly ruled by digital thinking which shirks away from traditional top down IT models. IT is becoming multi-directional and increasingly interlinked – driven by embedded intelligence and learning, and increasingly this will be by machines.CIOs: The Quest for ReinventionGartner’s CIO survey demonstrated that Chief Information Officers are well aware of the challenge and opportunity posed by the latest technologies – 75% of CIO respondents (representing more than $397 billion in CIO IT budgets in 84 countries) said that they need to ‘adapt’ their leadership style within the next three years. This requires shifting from a mindset which has historically been focused on cost related metrics to one that’s more geared towards innovation and delivering business value. This requires a new psychology from many CIOs and it’ll be interesting to see how many adapt, especially with line of business leaders, marketing and digital teams also having their own agendas (and IT budgets).H+K Strategies AR Recommendations:Gartner posed a suggested golden rule for those making technology decisions: ‘How would you like to be treated as a customer, citizen and a human being?’ We’d agree that’s a great maxim to work towards as all of these exciting technologies intersect and change life as we know it. For technology vendors we’d make the following suggestions when reviewing Gartner’s predictions and guidance:Keep Your Eye on the Long Game: While no one analyst firm has a monopoly on wisdom, Gartner does have an intimate grasp on the challenges and opportunities facing the Fortune 500 (the majority of its client base). As a result, Gartner’s views should be a key consideration in any technology vendor’s overall business strategy for 2015. Notice that I don’t just say the communications strategy here – true AR should also impact business strategy, positioning and product roadmaps.Assume Nothing – Retain an Inquiring Mind: The facts on the ground can change quickly. Be sure to run regular inquiry and audits with your key analysts to ensure you make company decisions based on the best possible information you have available. Analysts can help identify where your offering is experiencing issues, and offer the first steps on possible solutions. Work with your AR team to make sure you engage the right analysts on the right topics.Develop a Roadmap and Matrix for Your Messages: Many technology vendors have to balance reaching their traditional IT audience (CIOs/IT Directors) with newer emerging ones (Chief Marketing Officers, Chief Digital Officers, Chief HR Officers etc). Clearly, concepts and messages need to be tailored differently for a CMO or Head of HR than they would for traditional IT. Run message test sessions with analysts to ensure your message resonates as intended.

Tris Clark, Director of Influencer Relations

The Anatomy of a Great Analyst Briefing

At this time of year many vendors go into overdrive as Gartner, Forrester, IDCand other industry analyst firms update their vendor landscape analysis reports. It’s a busy time of year for briefings and the stakes can be high. Lots of analysts, and Analyst Relations professionals, have their own take on what constitutes a great deck. Recently ex-Forrester analyst Chenxi Wang wrote a great blog on how to design a deck for an analyst briefing.Vendors don’t mean to give bad briefings, they have the best of intentions when they design their PowerPoints. Unfortunately many vendors shoot themselves in the foot by either trying to ‘sell’ to the analyst as they would to a customer, or they try to pack in too much content. Analyst firms typically recommend between five to ten slides, but it’s not unusual for corporate decks to sometimes end up being as long as 40 slides.Ultimately, as with any communications activity –  you’re telling a story – in this case for someone who is very busy handling multiple client inquiries and vendor briefings each day. Brevity, relevance and impact matter hugely. So how do you make a story that appeals to a busy analyst? Here are three starting steps I’d encourage comms professionals to take when briefing an analyst:It’s Not Just About You: Take a step back and perceive the briefing from the analyst’s perspective. The sociologist Max Weber called this kind of psychological approach Verstehen, which loosely translates as ‘empathetic understanding.’ For an analyst, the primary purpose of being briefed by a vendor is to gain insight into how that vendor might be able to resolve a challenge that their clients face, and to source intelligence on market trends for their research (majority of emphasis on the client aspect). Vendor suitability touches on multiple areas: corporate viability, domain expertise, ability to execute and innovate. So, the product or service, is just one aspect of your broader capabilities. Interrogate each of your slides – try to put yourself in their shoes – is this really useful for them?Dialogue Not Monologue: Analysts are experts and they can be frustrated if vendors do not take heed of their advice. Check they’re still awake every few slides by asking thoughtful questions! Seriously though, be sure to engage with their feedback when they chose to give it. If they disagree with you – don’t argue, discuss – dig deeper on why they have that point of view. A meeting of minds rarely happens instantly. Always remember that a hero’s journey is a cycle, with challenges to overcome.Think Holistically: Get your key ‘take aways’ in early. Focus their attention straight off the bat. Frame content in terms of business problems, and how you think customers can best solve that problem. Never, ever dive straight into product ‘speeds and feeds’ without addressing context. Nothing kills a narrative – or analyst interest – faster than uninhibited technicality, jargon and detail. To be sure, analysts will sometimes want to dive into technical specifics, but start high up and speak to generalities and let their questioning guide you. Take your cue from the analyst on when they want to drill down.The actual shape and structure of your presentation will differ depending on whether you’re doing an introductory briefing with an analyst, de-positioning a competitor, or are updating them on your progress for a Magic Quadrant or a Vendor Rating. Different contexts can demand very different content and cadences. In some scenarios you may not wish to use a power point or visual aid at all – typically when the relationship with the analyst is very strong and the spokesperson is highly experienced. What’s your favorite technique when briefing analysts?

Tris Clark is the Director of Influencer Relations, H+K Strategies San Francisco

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