Follow Me to Gartner Blog Network

May 17, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Posted in Analyst biz | 2 Comments

Yeah, this blog has looked a bit empty lately. I know you’re thinking “Doesn’t Craig still have thoughts on attention management, collaboration, content management, information work, SharePoint, and portals?” (yes, I just read that from my category cloud).

Of course I do! But I’m posting those thoughts elsewhere. As you may know, Burton Group was acquired by Gartner and they want us blogging on the Gartner Blog Network. Now my brilliant insights (and the other 99% of my postings!) will be showing up there exclusively.

I’ll keep this blog open to share broader thoughts on non-IT issues such as collaboration or governance in general, gaming, and book reviews. I’ve enjoyed my interactions with you all and look forward to continuing them on GBN! You can get to them by pointing your bookmarks or RSS reader settings to:

http://blogs.gartner.com/craig-roth/

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Long Time, No Post

January 5, 2010 at 11:41 pm | Posted in Analyst biz | Leave a comment

Yes, your blog reader is still working.  I just haven’t posted in a while as I took a lot of vacation around the holidays.  I’ll get back to blogging soon.

In the meantime, you may have heard that Gartner acquired Burton Group.  Big news, but surprisingly little changes for me right now.  Still working on the same research (a first look at SharePoint 2010 as applicable to creating enterprise portals) … with the same deadlines looming …

I’m Off to Catalyst

July 27, 2009 at 7:47 am | Posted in Analyst biz, Catalyst09 | 1 Comment

I may not be posting for a while since I’m headed off to our annual Catalyst conference in San Diego.  I’m looking forward to delivering an updated version of the SharePoint Planning and Governance workshop (“Now! With more governance!” as the ad folks would say).  And a couple of presentations on Thursday too. 

I’ve been doing these analyst conferences for 10 years now, first with Meta Group and now with Burton Group.  And as cliche’d as it sounds, I enjoy the chance to meet with our clients in presentations, at breaks, and in one-on-one meetings.  It’s an intensive update on what issues our clients are facing and how our research helps them or can be refocused. 

If you’re going to be there, be sure to say “hi”! If you can’t make it out this time, maybe Prague in April?

The Hype Pendulum

May 12, 2009 at 2:36 pm | Posted in Analyst biz, virtual worlds | Leave a comment

I’d like to follow on to yesterday’s posting about how Second Life articles seem to have veered from overly glowing to overly cynical and are now mildly positive.  I’m sure mildly negative is next before they settle in on a reasonable, non-hype-driven, balanced view. 

What this reveals to me is that the Gartner Hype Cycle isn’t as good a model as a pendulum.  While the hype cycle consists of a single “up, then down, then plateau”, I think what really happens is like the plucking of a string or the movement of a pendulum.  An event starts it in motion and it goes from very positive, to very negative, to slightly  positive, and so on, all the while eventually seeking the center.  The number of swings is determined by the size of the story. The virtual world topic plucked the string fairly loud, so it has swung to the positive side twice already. The hype cycle may be accurate for a small enough story where there is one iteration of high, low, then center.  But Second Life demonstrates that for larger stories there are multiple iterations before it centers. 

I’d also argue that there is a natural downward sloping trend for visibility for all technologies rather than a horizontal plateau as shown in the hype cycle.  To be more exact, it is exponential decay. Put ’em together and you have something more like the figure below.

hype pendulum

Design Your Own Conference

April 23, 2009 at 3:07 pm | Posted in Analyst biz, Fun | Leave a comment

I just blogged the other day about vendor conferences.  While it was written after going to a an IBM Lotusphere event, the issue was a more general one about whether conferences should preach to the converted or try to win over new converts.  There are actually many such decisions that need to be made when a vendor (or analyst firm or independent conference committee) designs a conference. 

So, I decided to put together a list of the tradeoffs that need to be decided.  There’s no right and wrong here. Vendors have to be profitable and want to get their message across, and attendees need to watch expenses but want to learn in an enjoyable atmosphere.

I’ve attached a handy “design your own conference!” guide that includes my default positions for where I’d put the sliders if I’m attending a vendor conference.  I go to a lot of different conferences as attendee and speaker so my view may be skewed a bit.  Let me know what you think!

 

Design your own conference

Software Due Diligence: What If All The Growth Comes from Emerging Markets?

March 5, 2009 at 2:56 pm | Posted in Analyst biz, Globalization | Leave a comment

In a conversation with a major software vendor recently, a product manager got (very) touchy when I questioned a statement that the growth opportunity outside the G7 (top 7 industrialized nations) was much greater than inside.  I hadn’t looked at these figures since the recession reared its ugly head, so I checked and it turns out I was indeed wrong to question it. 

Overall GDP growth figures (I follow the IMF data) show that emerging countries are expected to grow faster than then G7, although the difference has shrunken from the previous eight years when emerging economies were strongly outpacing developed ones.  Reduction in commodity prices, tightening of credit for growth, limits on growth due to carbon controls, and increasing protectionism are having a disproportionate depressing effect on emerging markets, shrinking the gap with G7 growth.  IT spending figures show flat to slightly negative growth in developed countries compared to single-digit to 10% increases in emerging ones (see “2009 IT Spending“).

Still, I could tell I hit a nerve.  It became obvious that a major part of the growth strategy for this large software unit was to count on sales in emerging markets to satisfy a substantial portion of 2009 growth.  Indeed, examples of account wins were much more globetrotting than in recent years.  One product slide listed accounts in China, India, Sri Lanka, and Brazil.  Another product slide listed wins in China, India, Singapore, and Taiwan.  It is not unusual for a large, worldwide software company to have so many accounts in emerging markets.  And the BRIC countries have been reliably strong in this decade.  But I’ve been an industry analyst for ten years and seen hundreds of these presentations and have never seen so many emerging market reference accounts (roughly half of those listed) from a global software firm.  I think emerging market accounts existed before, but didn’t make the cut on the logo slide until the recent dearth of G2000 (the 2,000 largest global companies) wins let them surface.

I think shifting to or enhancing sales focus on emerging economies is a good growth strategy for a large software company in 2009.  If I’m an investor I would be comforted by the efforts of this company to quickly adapt to the economic environment and use global channels to seek penetration in unsaturated markets.  But I’m not a financial analyst – I’m an industry analyst representing the interests of my end user clients who happen to be in large G2000 organizations in developed countries.  For one of my clients, how should I interpret growth figures I receive from a vendor as part of due diligence that show strong growth even in this recessionary period?

It is good practice to evaluate product and vendor growth during due diligence phases of software acquisition and during upgrade, migration, and sunset decisions.  But evaluators now need to dig deeper into these growth figures during due diligence since some of the underlying assumptions have changed if a substantial part of this growth comes form geographic regions different than those of the evaluator.  The evaluator should ask how much of that growth came from “my geographical region” and “organizations similar to mine”.

Why does that matter?  The vendor will surely argue it doesn’t matter since, as a measure of vendor viability (or product viability), growth is growth.  This is true – as far as viability, it doesn’t matter much where the growth is from.  If I’m in France and most of the new revenue is coming from China, that’s still good.  I can be reasonably assured the product isn’t going to be put on life support or have the plug pulled entirely since it’s making money.

But as a proxy for best practices or what my peers are doing, emerging market growth doesn’t suffice.  If I use what my peers do I’m assured that, for technology that doesn’t differentiate my services, my competition doesn’t have a productivity edge.  And we’re likely to be able to find employees, contractors, and ASPs from a shared pool of knowledgeable candidates.  But if the growth is coming from a vastly different market (like Sri Lanka is to a U.S. conglomerate), those assumptions don’t apply.

Growth is also seen as an assurance that the product is likely to keep pace with the newest features.  The assumption is that a vendor is not likely to let a growing product stagnate in light of trends towards web services, rich web-based interfaces, embedded presence, social computing, SaaS delivery models, or contextual collaboration.  But if the growth comes from emerging markets, that assumption may not longer be true.  Companies in emerging markets (often partially if not wholly controlled by the government) may be at very different spots on the technology maturity curve. The weighting for the newest technology on wish lists for the next version may start skewing towards other features.

In short, due diligence for software purchases will now require you to be even more diligent.

Note: This is a cross-posting from the Collaboration and Content Strategies blog.

Planning a Job Shift to Technology Industry Analyst: A How-to Guide

May 8, 2008 at 10:05 am | Posted in Analyst biz | Leave a comment

In interviewing for the open position on my team, I’ve had four conversations so far with people who were not applying immediately, but thought being an analyst sounded like a nice job and wanted to know how to position themselves for an analyst role in the future.  Here’s the advice I gave.

Of course, I first gave them a realistic view (warning?) of what the job entails.  When I first got an entry-level job as an analyst at Meta Group, I gave a good description of the job to one of my friends at the financial services firm I worked at previously.  She listened intently, nodded her head, and when I’d finished said “I’d rather have someone put a hot poker in my eye than do that job.”  It’s not what everyone would enjoy, and that’s fine.  I’d estimate there are only about 2,000-2,500 technology industry analysts in the U.S., so it’s pretty much a niche occupation.

Then, I described what I would (and did) do to position myself for an industry analyst position, whether it’s at Burton Group or any of the other technology research advisory firms as well.  I’m assuming here that you work in IT in a firm that uses (rather than sells) software.  It needs a few twists to be applied to people working at a vendor or consulting firm as well.  I’m also assuming you are not trying to get a “blank slate” analyst job (such as just out of college or total career change) since most analyst positions require experience.  There aren’t many intern or first-job analyst spots (at Burton Group it’s none – we require at least 5 years of experience for analyst hires, and the average on my team is actually about 15 years experience).

Start creating a portfolio of vendorless research positions

Analysts have to be unbiased towards any vendor, but if you’re coming from an enterprise or vendor you may have deep knowledge about the product you use (and specifically the capabilities that you’ve enabled) but none about the products and capabilities you don’t.  Rather than jumping into researching competing products, I’d first focus on creating frameworks, best practices, market segmentation, organizational structure recommendations, maturity models, and evaluation criteria that don’t even mention a vendor.  These exercise your capacity to think at a higher level of abstraction and then those frameworks can be applied across a slew of vendors using an analytical method of your creation rather than a self-serving one from each vendor.

Seek out speaking and writing opportunities

Depending on the analyst firm you go to, writing or presenting are a big part of the job.  Your current job may not require much in-depth writing or offer many chances for large presentations.  That’s when you have to take initiative to find opportunities, such as presenting case studies at a conference or speaking for local user groups or at universities. If someone really wanted a job with a lot of writing and speaking, wouldn’t you expect they’d have gone to extra effort to find writing and speaking opportunities for themselves in their current position?  For example, I had selected a special master’s thesis project (which wasn’t required) that involved developing a type of knowledge management and business intelligence methodology and wrote a paper on it.  I also proactively searched and found speaking opportunities at my two alma maters with professors I’d taken classes from.  These days it’s easy to set up a blog and start typing away.  Even if it doesn’t become a big hit, a potential employer can look at it for examples of writing skill, analysis, and long-term commitment to writing.

Get involved in some product evaluations

Try to line yourself up to be involved in some product evaluations.  The type of software doesn’t matter as much as the comprehensive analytical model you can demonstrate in making your selection.

Move into an R&D role

Many organizations have an internal group that researches new technologies and writes recommendations on if/how/when they should be applied to the business.  Both myself and another analyst on my team came from internal R&D groups (mine was called “advanced technology”) from within financial services and manufacturing companies.  These jobs are fun!  Plus they expose you to analysts, get you used to rapidly changing technologies, and providing opportunities for describing recommendations in writing and presentations.  An architecture team involved with product evaluations would be a good choice as well.

Read papers from the firms you’re interested in

Start learning their analytical style and applying it to your current projects.  Most of the firms have a rotating set of free research available on their sites or occasionally republish articles through partners. Burton Group’s free papers are here.

Determine which analyst firms are best for you based on what you like to do

Each analyst firm has a different mix of emphasis on quantitative research (like surveys), qualitative research (such as speaking with vendors and users, reading books/white papers, and searching), financial analysis, writing, presenting, advising clients, vendor consulting (marketing strategy), end user consulting (applying analytical and architectural frameworks), speaking to the press, and travel.  Ask yourself what you enjoy most and learn which firms emphasize those activities.

When interview time comes, do your research

Unlike applying for most internal positions, analyst firms, by nature, are easily findable.  As easy as it is to do a Google search there’s no excuse not to know what they cover, what positions they’ve been taking lately, and what kind of research they do.  An analyst is supposed to be a good researcher, so this is a good time to prove it.  Hint: all the analysts I know love to debate, so come in with an angle you think they’re missing or a position you think they’re wrong about and (gently) show you can find holes and defend a position.

Do You Want to Be An Analyst?

April 22, 2008 at 3:11 pm | Posted in Analyst biz | Leave a comment

I wanted to alert readers to an opening for an analyst on my team here at Burton Group in the Collaboration and Content Strategies service!  I’m open on location, but it does have to be in the U.S. (Alaska and Hawaii are fine as long as you’ll pay for us to visit you for team retreats!).  I enjoy working at Burton and you’d be joining a great team we’ve assembled here.  Let me know if you have any questions (my contact info is in the About page).

You can see the full posting on the Careers portion of the Burton Group website, but here’s a quick summary.

Analyst – CCS

The CCS Analyst is responsible for creating frameworks, research documents, presentations, and blog posts for Burton Group’s clientele. The Analyst will work with customers, vendors, industry leaders, and other Burton Group analysts.

Requirements:

  • At least five years experience researching, writing and presenting in one or more of the following areas:
    • Architecture involving communication, collaboration, content management, or portal systems (including enterprise, logical, and/or physical architecture)
    • Collaboration and content management capabilities of major vendor platforms including Oracle, SAP, IBM Lotus Notes/Domino, Microsoft SharePoint
    • Enterprise content management (including document and imaging management, records management, search, web content management)
    • Enterprise e-mail systems
    • Information architecture (including taxonomies and ontologies)
    • Real-time communications (including instant messaging, presence, Web conferencing)
    • Office productivity tools including document formats (e.g., XML, PDF)

The OOXML/ODF Storm Hit While I Was Out of Town

January 16, 2008 at 6:29 pm | Posted in Analyst biz, Content Management, Office | 2 Comments

I just got back from a business trip last night to find that a storm had hit.  My house is fine, but my e-mail inbox is wrecked.  The storm was caused by a document recently published by the Burton Group called “What’s Up, .DOC? ODF, OOXML, and the Revolutionary Implications of XML in Productivity Applications”.  A small minority of the comments address technical issues with the document, but the vast majority are mudslinging that call everything from our objectivity to our parental heritage into question.

This document was published in the Collaboration and Content Strategies service at Burton Group.  I am the manager of that service and the analysts (Guy Creese and Peter O’Kelly) that wrote the document are in CCS.  I stand behind the document, Guy and Peter, and Burton Group fully. 

In seeing this reaction to the document I am not entirely surprised.  My blog entry from September called Microsoft Loses Open XML Vote noted that much of the furor about the OOXML vs. ODF battle was not based on technical merit, but politics and techno-religion. That’s how it seems to have played out too.  It seems the majority of the negative comments in the blogosphere were written by people that haven’t read the report and are responding to a simple summary that they read somewhere.  Please folks – this report is free and available on the Burton Group website under “Free Research”

Microsoft had nothing to do with this document other than providing information and vendor review just like IBM, Sun, and others did.  If Microsoft was trying to buy or influence the writing of this document they would have to be pretty annoyed at how balanced it is.  Here is the entire conclusion of the document.  Does this sound like the fiery rhetoric of someone preaching for Microsoft?

The OpenDocument Format (ODF)/Office Open XML (OOXML) debate is part of a significant phase in the evolution of productivity application, with the shift to Extensible Markup Language (XML) file formats displacing traditional binary and proprietary file formats. The stakes are huge, with compelling new opportunities for content management, as well as both opportunities and challenges for software vendors. Organizations will gain important benefits by exploiting opportunities to improve information management and reduce vendor dependencies by shifting to XML file formats.

The articles on this debate like to pick up phrases from within the 37 page document or pro-OOXML recommendations (stripped of nuance of course), but they are doing a disservice to their readers.  Here’s the beginning of the analysis section.  The full doc has a lot more nuance and detail, but this gives the opening “attack”.  Is this a blustery, one-sided viewpoint? 

The recent industry debate about OpenDocument Format (ODF) and Office Open XML (OOXML) often comes down to the blunt question, “Which one will lead?” There are three answers. The first answer is, “It depends on who you are.” {description of applicability by industry given here … The second answer is, “Within the larger market, OOXML will lead,” for three reasons {the three reasons are detailed here} … The third answer is, “In the long run, perhaps neither.” {description of how OOXML and ODF may both be irrelevent as documents become more hypertext oriented}

Someone attacking our vendor independence pointed out a blog post I wrote about our SharePoint workshops.  This person seemed to believe that if we do workshops on SharePoint strategy we profit from SharePoint’s popularity and would therefore sell our soul to perpetuate it.  This isn’t a direct quote – this person was much less eloquent.  This assertion is flatly wrong.  Our workshop points out the flaws of SharePoint as well as the better parts.  It goes through the offerings of competing products from IBM, Oracle, Google, and more and points out where those products are better and where they are worse.  It points out that organizations have been unsuccessful with SharePoint and that if you fit the same profile, you might be better off with something else from another vendor.  If someone leaves that workshop deciding SharePoint isn’t for them, fine – I don’t lose a penny since we don’t do implementation and we offer the same objective advice about whatever other product they choose too.  And if SharePoint starts losing out in popularity to something like IBM’s Quickr/Connections products, then expect to see an IBM workshop from us that points out strategies, high points, and pitfalls there too. 

I have no trouble attacking SharePoint when it’s warranted.  One of the most popular documents I wrote when I was at Meta Group was called “Sharepoint: Why Not”. If anything, I’ve found Burton Group’s independence to be even higher.  We will not write a vendor document for hire (even for the vendor’s own internal use) or accept any money for a document we are writing.  We do present at vendor’s conferences (we are presenting at Lotusphere next week for example) and we do webinars and other events, but we give the same presentation we would at our own Catalyst conference. 

As stated by our vendor independence policy more than 80% of our customers are enterprise customers.  There are no catches hidden there (our split by revenue is approximately the same, we don’t count Microsoft as an enterprise customer, etc.).  We play to our base, and our base is large organizations and enterprises, not vendors. 

For more information, your first resource should be the document itself.  Go to the source and let us know where you agree or disagree.  If you want a summary of resources on the technologies themselves rather than the debate (good for you!) jump to the end of the report  and it links to information on the relevant standards.

  • The document itself can be found here under CCS.
  • Peter O’Kelly postings here and here
  • Posting on our service blog by Guy Creese here

Service Director? What’s That?

November 15, 2007 at 4:42 pm | Posted in Analyst biz | 1 Comment

Those of you that have seen me present at a conference, met me and exchanged business cards, or looked at my bio know that my title is “Vice President and Service Director”. I’m not hung up on titles, but I want mine to be descriptive and from my vantage point this one fit the bill. “Vice President” referred to a high level of analyst and “Service Director” said I also run a team of analysts in a research group. Little did I know …

It’s come to my attention that my title often has different meanings in the industry (among other analyst or consulting firms) that causes me some grief. I recently had an e-mail exchange with the analyst relations representative at a vendor that kept trying to sidestep my interest to get at a teammate. For example, when I said “Mike and I would like a briefing” I got emails back saying “To clarify, will Mike be at the briefing?” “Should I call Mike directly?”. After a couple such exchanges I clarified that I actually am an analyst and she admitted “My apologies Craig, your title is a bit misleading”.

In another instance last year, my initial attempt to get press registration to a conference was denied and the approver there strongly implied I was probably administrative overhead:

I’d like to inform you that we do not generally provide VPs and Directors of firms with press passes unless they plan on writing and publishing an article regarding our event or one of our exhibitors. Reason being that press passes are reserved for journalists and analysts who still write and plan on covering our event … If you no longer cover this area or do not write (work mostly as a managing director) …

Apparently from what I’m told, “service director” at some other analyst firms often means a backoffice paper pusher of some type who occasionally tries to swing a free trip by posing as a real analyst. At other companies “services” refers to consulting services, so that title would be for a person that drums up sales for a consulting group. “Vice President” is a bit better, but other firms still use this to designate one as part of the memo monkey class.

So, yes, I am an analyst. I do research, write analyst reports, speak at conferences, do consulting, and give 1-on-1 advice to clients because, well, that’s what we analysts do. While that’s a full plate on its own, I also have a side plate with a serving of management on it. The management part lets me enjoy the hands-on ability to shape what the Collaboration and Content Strategies service does.

On one hand it’s kinda funny and I get past it by sending links and articles. But it’s annoying, extra work, and who knows how many other briefings I’m left out of or how often I wind up talking to lesser people in the organization because of this.

For PR people out there, I’d recommend a simple 2-minute exercise before possibly alientating anyone. 1) Go to the firm’s website and type the analyst’s name to see what content pops up. 2) In your favorite search engine, type “analyst name” “firm name” and see what kind of hits you get on press quotes, webinars, etc. 3) Type “analyst name” blog and, if they have one, see the topic map and then check their authority rating in your favorite blog rating engine.

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