Go with the grain: Why AR needs to fit Forrester’s imperatives

AR managers need to quit whining about Forrester’s role based research. To make progress, start speaking about the success imperatives its role-based research is founded on. It’s been more than two years since Forrester started the series of focus groups that identified the success imperatives. They gathered together people in each of the roles that Forrester is focused on and asked them what they things are that they needed to be successful in their jobs. The activity was a natural conclusion from Forrester’s mission of helping managers to be successful in their work. As a result, Forrester analysts are invited to align their research not only to roles, but also to the problems and opportunities of managers in each of their roles.

Vendors don’t like that. It doesn’t fit the way most of their products and services are aligned. Most vendors are not focused on specific roles. Vendors who are focussed on roles often have value-based marketing, which means they are focussed on problems that are most expensive for the buyer, rather than being more important for all people in that role. To take an analogy, the health problems people might spend the most to fix are the ones that are most severe; however the global impact of walking more, drinking more water and taking half an aspirin would probabaly have more impact.

For similar reasons, Forrester’s success imperatives aim to really focus on the problems that people in that role have. You don’t need to know anything about those roles to infer, from first principles, that the key success factors could be very similar across a wide range of roles. They also might not change much.

That really frustrates vendors who are focused on problems that effect 1% or 2% of users, rather than 50%. It really frustrates vendors who push new, innovative solutions to emerging issues. One might also add, it could frustrate analysts who want to write about the leading edge and the exceptional challenge, rather than the dull humdrum of daily corporate frustrations. But that’s the reality.

To get the most traction when speaking with Forrester analysts present your solution in terms of which Forrester roles it adds the most value to, and which of the success imperatives it contributes to the most. That will allow them to write more quickly about the information they have to focus on, and then that gives them more time to see what else you have to offer. But focus on the main course because, unless you get through that, there’s no dessert.

The frustrations that AR people have with the Forrester approach are pointless. Accept them for what they are, and that you can’t change it. Instead, realize that learning to use the priorities, terminology, idiom and taxonomy of Forrester gives your firm a competitive advantage over firms who refuse to adapt.

The same holds true for other analyst firms: as far as possible speak to them in their language and use their terminology.

6 Comments

  • Reply May 19, 2009

    Anonymous

    I think you’re missing the point Duncan: vendors are Forrester’s clients too, so they’re entitled to complain. Also, most Forrester and AR professionals analysts think the roles are a distraction and prevent them to covering well technology, industries and geographies.

  • Reply May 21, 2009

    Editorial

    This anonymous commenter misses the point. Forrester analysts are not there to cover things; they are trying to be different from other firms by focussing on the central questions that their clients have. Whether or not that’s right, that is what they aim to do. Of course, analysts might prefer to follow silos; and vendors go to market with solos. But Forrester’s trying to offer answers to business problems.

  • [...] recently, with vendors. Of course as AR people, vendor staff have to work with Forrester as it is: Go with the grain is our [...]

  • Reply June 15, 2009

    Marc Duke

    Bottom line: the best way to change the system is to work with it an ultimately the value of any analyst firm model is the quality of research, quality of insight and quality of analyst. I get the model and work with it as with any other firm. I am constantly amused at the way that the Forrester Account Managers I encounter present the model as being radical ;-) in my view it isn’t.

  • [...] format. I gave similar guidance a few years ago after Forrester moved to role-based research (http://www.analystequity.com/997). AR managers’ internal clients generally would prefer research that’s not like the Playbook: [...]

  • [...] format. I gave similar guidance a few years ago after Forrester moved to role-based research (http://www.analystequity.com/997). AR managers’ internal clients generally would prefer research that’s not like the Playbook: [...]

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