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Customers as Influencers

Who owns the customer?Ask that question at a company meeting and nearly every hand at the gathering will shoot up in the air. Sales. Field marketing. The channel folks. Product managers. Product marketing. And at some level, all those factions do have some piece of the customer relationship. (That sarcastic chuckle you just heard came from the account manager.) Well, I’m happy to say that I now proudly raise my own hand when I hear that question. We made a small -but telling -change to my organization recently, and I believe it will significantly extend and enhance our influence strategy because my team is now responsible for driving our strategic customer engagements in addition to our relationships with the analysts.Hmm, Skip. Sounds like a bunch of meaningless buzz words. Spell it out for us. Read More »

The Changing Rules of Influence

Whether you like it or not, the influence game is changing. And if you don’t get on the train that’s rumbling through the industry now, you face the real prospect of being relegated to the dust bin of irrelevancy. Right next to the Slyvester Stallone movie 3-pack of F.I.S.T., Rhinestone, and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.The traditional business models that analyst firms have employed for years -some combination of specialized analysts providing seat-based syndicated research through year-long retainer contracts to a highly technical, IT-focused customer base -will become less relevant within the next three to five years. I don’t welcome that development with any type of mirth or glee -as an Analyst Relations guy, I’m quite interested in things like job security and my function’s own continued relevance -but I definitely sense a shift in the air. Read More »

Old School in a New Media World

I’m old. Or at least old school.When someone on my team asks me to look at a document they’ve written, I usually print it out and then mark it up old-fashioned style with a red pen -reminiscent of my days as a copy editor at Network World in the early 90′s. When I hand my co-worker back a hard copy with my notes in the margin, they look at me like I just walked out of the caveman exhibit at the Natural History Museum. Read More »

Creating a Strategic Asset

Many people across our industry believe that the role of an effective Analyst Relations function is to get the industry analysts to say and write nice things about their company and its products. I don’t subscribe to that philosophy.Hey, don’t get me wrong -having analysts opine (that was for you, Jim) on the fabulousness of your products and technologies is a good thing, and it’s definitely an expected deliverable from my program here at Cisco. [Disclaimer added for my supervisor's benefit.] But, that’s the hoped-for result of my team’s efforts; not its role. Read More »

Productivity via Collaboration

I attended our Financial Analyst Conference earlier today, and while there were several interesting themes that emerged, I was most intrigued by the discussions around how companies will achieve productivity gains in the future. To no surprise of long-time followers of Cisco, we believe that collaboration will be at the heart of that winning formula.In his opening keynote, our chairman and CEO, John Chambers, indicated this was the most excited he’s been in a decade because Phase II of the Internet evolution is about to take off. That’s good news not only for companies that will be able to enable new, innovative business models and processes, but also for governments in developing nations who’ll be able to achieve true country transformations. And the bottom line for both will be measurable gains in productivity.The combination of capital expenditure with business process change and innovation will lead to those productivity gains, according to Chambers. That innovation wave will be driven by collaboration, which will manifest itself in things like video. If there is a killer application out there, it’s video -and we’re not necessarily talking about that solely from an entertainment perspective, but as a way to change the way we work. One aspect of that play for us is our TelePresence high-definition video platform, which enables business transformation and aligns very nicely with the portfolio of Web 2.0 tools that are emerging across the industry.Another aspect of productivity discussed at FAC was globalisation (after three years of living in Great Britain, I’m permitted to randomly replace my zeds with esses). An effective globalisation strategy will allow companies to tap into new talent pools; find new areas of growth; and scale their innovation efforts, thus increasing their overall productivity and expanding their business. And companies -as well as countries -can use collaboration to drive that business or socio-economic model transformation. What’s at stake for these organizations as they head down this path? What are they risking? And how do they ultimately measure the effectiveness of their strategy shift? Each situation will have its own unique wrinkles, but the one common thread that will be pervasive is the cultural and behavior changes required. We’re in the 7th year of that journey at Cisco, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s that you can’t change human behaviour (see, I can also randomly add the letter ‘u’ to words, as well) by merely implementing a process.