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Essential Reading for the AR professional: Skip MacAskill

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Skip MacAskill runs AR for Cisco. He has lately posted some really insightful blog entries about the (changing) nature of influence. Skip manages to be non-confrontational but ask really tough questions (would that I had this skill…). I particularly like Skip’s approach notion of what I will call conversation-based analysis. Its surely no accident that the kid on the phone is listening not talking. One interesting aspect of the approach he advocates is that it doesn’t appear to start with the question – “who are the top tier analysts?” Skip talks of the “analyst community”, rather than the analyst cadre that writes RFPs. For Skip positive coverage is a side effect of good AR, rather than its core purpose.

I see our responsibility in AR as twofold. First, we have a responsibility to inform the analyst community about our products, technologies, customers, markets, strategies and overall corporate direction. It’s critical that the analysts have a clear understanding of our offerings and strategies as well as accurate product data and technology information when doing their research and analysis for their clients. While the analysts will not always agree with a direction we taken or support our product and technology strategies, it’s important that they at least understand why we’ve gone down a certain path and have the correct context to put our activity in perspective. The other half of our job is to take the analyst feedback, input, views and criticisms we receive and bring it back into the organization so we can validate or challenge our messaging, positioning, roadmaps and strategies. When used effectively, analysts can be a critical piece of a company’s strategic planning process. The earlier you get them engaged in a development effort – whether it’s for a new product, positioning around an industry-level issue, or messaging for a key campaign – the more they can help you craft something that will be successful and impactful.

If only more vendors realised the value of feedback with analysts. We’re mavens after all. Just trying to push a message past us can really be self-defeating. Who knows – we might help you find an opportunity or rethink an approach. Skip also asks some tougher questions. So tough in fact, I hope he doesn’t go the way of Carter Lusher. I don’t want to be self-serving here. I freely admit Skip is making points similar to ones I have made in the past. But they surely have a completely different weight coming from the head of AR at one of the tech industry’s biggest and most powerful companies. So what are The Changing Rules of Influence?

I believe that the number of users that buy a product or invest in a technology off the back of a traditional Gartner, Forrester or Yankee report will significantly decrease over the next five years. I also believe most analyst firms understand that the rules are changing, but I’ve seen only spotty evidence that any are moving aggressively to develop and implement new delivery mechanisms based on new Web 2.0 tools and collaboration applications. Several firms, including Gartner, Forrester and IDC among others, are pushing roles-based products and services, and that is a huge step in the right direction. But I strongly believe these firms need to move faster and more aggressively into the new world because users have far too many alternative sources of information and influence to pick from now.

But of course- the real chestnut is how do you measure any of this stuff? how do you measure word of mouth in loosely-coupled communities? I don’t know the answer to that question – but I do do anyone in AR that believes social software is important should start tracking Jeremiah Owyang. jeremiah

He has significantly strengthened Forrester’s coverage in the space. Just check out the quantity and quality of comments on his Web Strategy blog. No disrespect to Charline and Josh but the Groundswell was evidently consuming a fair bit of their time. Jeremiah though is living social networking, and it shows. Skip and Jeremiah should hook up, if they haven’t already, given Cisco’s ambitions in social networking.

Influence- its about people, not numbers.

disclosure: Cisco is a minor client.

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3 Responses

  1. Ok, have taken the time to thoroughly read this great post. James, it’ll be interesting to see how conversation tools (listening and talking) will impact our industry to be better and finding out the truth, and providing insight to clients.

    Thanks so much for reading!



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Continuing the Discussion

  1. […] James outlines the future of Analysts, how listening in addition to talking are skills needed. […]