Cisco Blogs

The Changing Rules of Influence

October 24, 2007 - 8 Comments

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.The”traditional” firms won’t disappear completely, but they will be hard pressed by emerging information delivery models and processes -along with a new breed of alternative influencers -that are fast-moving and in-the moment. And that’s the change agent at the heart of this evolution: Speed.Small businesses, enterprise companies and service providers now all share the same requirement that has been ever-present in the consumer game: access to information in real time that is customizable and easily digestible. 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.The blogging community is exploding. Community-based wikis and social networks -both real and virtual -for business professionals are on the rise. Consumers, especially the 16-to-25-year olds, are having tremendous sway in what technologies small/medium businesses and enterprises are embracing and adopting -the consumerization of IT that nearly everyone is talking about now. And as you’ll see at our C-Scape conference next week, CIOs are forming their own associations and teaming with peers even more than they have in the past. At Cisco, we’re also starting to position and treat our own customers as industry influencers in their own right.A company’s IT department has traditionally been the sole purveyor of all things technology, but that is no longer the case as CIOs and owners of a company’s underlying business model and processes gain an ever-increasing amount of influence and final say over purchase decisions.The established analyst firms would do well to heed the last verse of a little song Dylan recorded in 1964 (hey, I told you last time I was old) that has maintained its relevance to this day…The line it is drawnThe curse it is castThe slow one nowWill later be fastAs the present nowWill later be pastThe order isRapidly fadin’.And the first one nowWill later be lastFor the times they are a-changin’.

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  1. Skip, Carter,You might find this post of interest, as we’ve reached similar conclusions over a year ago:ARmadgeddon: Step up a geAR or disappeAR!

  2. Hi Skip,I think you correctly identify that analyst influence is diminishing. In fact, I think you might mean share of influence. The totality of influence on a market is always 100%, so the question is, if the share of analyst influence is diminishing, who’s going to replace them? I have not seen evidence of social media impacting influence substantially, other than in specific tech-driven fields. For example, CIOs don’t (generally) read blogs. My experience is that markets are influenced by a wide variety of types of influencer. It just so happens that analysts (and bloggers, and journalists) are well-known. What of the other, less obvious, influencers that impact decisions? I’ve linked to this post here – you raise some important questions on the influence of analysts.”

  3. Skip,I’m going to play devil’s advocate and incendiary – because I can, and because someone must. I see [tech] blogging as all but irrelevant to a conversation about influence [except, perhaps, among bloggers and their peers who enjoy patting each other on the back with links, trackbacks, kudos, countercomments, awards, rankings, etc.]. Blogging, generally speaking, is also a major contributor to the Internet clutter that has turned searching and Internet-based research into an exercise in frustration. Admittedly, we had a company blog a few years back but we quickly killed it after much back and forth about the long-term value. In the time since we have watched hundreds of analyst blogs pop up like digital daises, but we do not regret our decision. It has not affected us at all as far as I can tell. In fact, I also began moving my company away from a heavy publishing schedule and frequent media quotes to focus more on direct interactions. We have found no appreciable correlation between analyst blogging, press quotes, or publishing frequency and front-line end-user influence. Needless to say, we are much more selective these days about what we say to the media, and what we choose to publish. Now, about influence…Those who believe they know what they’re doing [i.e. the so-called insurgents and
    on-traditional”” analysts] will eventually figure it out on their own, or fail trying. But I can write with a great deal of confidence that blogs and podcasts, webcasts and a published book or two are not going to differentiate analyst bloggers from their non-traditional counterparts. I’ve personally visited quite a few of their blogs (and listened to some of their multimedia) to see what the fuss was about, and, quite frankly, there’s very little in the way of original thinking unavailable elsewhere on the Net (I suppose it’s a good thing much of their insight is freely available). The old adage “”you get what you pay for”” does apply. This is, of course, just my brutally frank opinion.Carter, over at HP, mentioned the importance of new media. I think he’s putting the cart before the horse [I believe there is a “”quality of insight”” issue that must be addressed first]. It is important to understand that new media channels cannot turn lead into gold. It will only enable the lead manufacturers to distribute/disseminate their product more quickly and efficiently. Right now, there are a few billion tons of lead weighing down the Net. And it doesn’t help matters that some analysts choose to give a blow-by-blow account of their personal lives on their professional blogs (i.e. more lead, more litter on the information superhighway). I could go on and on about that one.Regarding Second Life..please make it stop. I know Cisco invested heavily in it, but Second Life is not the future of business communication. It’s a distracting, geeky, nonsensical method of socializing never intended for business. If Cisco engineers want to mess around in virtual meetings, or teenagers want to wreak havoc (I know of three), have at it. I would not, in the foreseeable future, attend a Cisco analyst event or any serious business function held in a 3D virtual world.If ever you are interested in discussing these topics further, drop me a line. I have far too much to say [about traditional industry analysis and the wannabe “”insurgents””] to capture it all in a blog discussion.”

  4. Skip, I couldn’t agree more that the nature of market intelligence”” is changing, thanks largely to the increasing availability of timely, relevant and free information online, and also due to the fact that our customers don’t have time to read “”reports”” any more. However, making the transition from “”old-media”” market analysis to “”new media”” market intelligence is constrained in large part by our clients. Old-media batch-based analysis on tech topics (coming in the form of reports or presentations) is what clients pay for today. We haven’t figured out how to fully or consistently monetize New-media, just-in-time analysis focused on markets (and tech), such as in Online Meetings (WebEx), virtual discussions online and collaborative posts (blogs, wikis). And, this mirrors the broader Web 2.0 sector itself. Lot’s of ideas but still figuring out the true business metrics and financial models behind them.Many firms, particularly the boutiques like mine, are attempting to embrace new ways to develop and present market information and, more importantly, just-in-time analysis. I think you’ll see even more creativity in the analyst ranks in the coming years as the IT industry goes through the next stage of its evolution brought on by Web 2.0 business models and tactics. I doubt any of the big firms will falter, but you might see some rising stars from the boutiques (maybe mine!).Anyway, love the blog. Rock on! Looking forward to C-scape.”

  5. Skip, great post – loving the blog. Completely agree with you on the spotty evidence”” with analyst firms and Web 2.0.As a tangent, in attending Gartner’s Web 2.0 summit last month, there were a few analysts that participated in the “”new”” Web 2.0 tools i.e. Twitter, Flickr that they were trying to get attendees to create a community around for the conference. I think this lack of participation mirrors their own uncertainty to embrace new communication channels to younger audiences.”

  6. Skip, Re. The changfing role of influence(rs): Your point about Web 2.0 and the new influence of business people on corporate tech choices has been widely dessiminated in the analyst community for years – no news there. However, the ability of analysts to engage with their clients and create new synthesis positions is a real challenge. Who sets the agenda? I believe at the end of the day we all have to shift from a tech perspective to a customer segmentation perspective; and our analysis should not be validated by tech performance characteristics, but by the underlying business justification.

  7. Hi Skip, Thought provoking post. I linked to it at The need for speed – Cisco’s Skip MacAskill on the changing influence landscapeI think the key aspect is your speculation that the traditional firms will have less influence on tech purchases in three to five years.If this turns out to be the case, then it has huge implications for the vendor and analyst communities. If the traditional analysts become less influential, then vendors will not devote as much effort on briefing them leading to less insightful research. Also, a key – but unspoken – selling tool the major firms use on the vendors “Buy our research to see why our analysts are telling your customers and prospects” starts to whither. This could have a major impact on the flow of money in the industry with the traditional firms getting less cash from the vendors and thus having fewer resources to do research, client service and so on.On a related note is my Will established analyst firms become dinosaurs to the new media-oriented analysts?

  8. Interesting post and by large we’ve said similar things for over two years.More interesting would be to know what you think the impact on analyst firms’ business model, especially in case of an economic downturn? A related question is whether there is an economic model allowing them to reach out to SMB’s.