Wednesday, October 15, 2003

The Technology Analyst

by Asim Jalis

1. Clearly I have to do well at my current job as a developer to be considered for a strategy and analysis position. 2. The career path I am thinking of is: (a) I work hard as a developer, (b) I get promoted to be an architect or a team lead, (c) I acquire the leadership experience I need to switch to a strategy and analysis position. 3. However, this line of reasoning is incorrect. I don't want a leadership position. It's an artifact of how things are organized here that administrative leadership and strategic leadership coincide. This is not how it should be. At least this is not how it is in every company. 4. One approach might be to talk to the managers and ask them to separate out these positions. Administrative leadership is certainly quite important. However, we need a role for someone to keep an eye on the market and understand what is really going on. 5. I have to write a report and publish it with the group to gain the acknowledgement that I need. 6. But an even better approach might be to write an article for CIO magazine. That way I will have external credibility. If I pass around a PDF that will not be taken seriously. 7. The smallest possible step I can take right now is to build up a portfolio of good analysis of different industries and companies. The portfolio has to get credibility by being published somewhere else, besides my website. I can't publish it on my website. 8. What are some places where I could publish my analysis to build up credibility? (a) CIO magazine (b) Web Services Journal (c) On my own website (d) In non-technology magazines (e) In VC magazines 9. Here is another question: Who benefits from this kind of analysis? (a) Vendors who are trying to figure out what the value proposition for the products should be. (b) Customers who are trying to figure out what they should look for and what they should expect different products to do. (c) VC who are trying to compare different vendors against each other. (d) Investors who are trying to compare different vendors against each other to predict which vendor's stock will yield the highest returns. (e) Resellers who are trying to predict which vendor's products will be the most profitable. (f) Sales people who are trying to understand the value proposition of their products so that they can use it to sell the products in the field. (g) Marketing collateral builders -- usually the marketing folks -- who are trying to figure out how to design the advertisements and define the marketing campaign. Note that this group could figure out the value proposition on its own by talking to the sales people or to the customers, but in large organizations this is rarely possible. So all of these groups are dependent on the external analysts to put things together. (h) The engineering staff of the vendor who need to understand the relative priorities of the different features. The engineering staff needs to understand the value proposition. Many decisions about the product are taken inside the engineering department. The larger a company is the less synchronized the engineering group will be with the rest of the company. So the engineering group needs to understand the value proposition of the product. This can inform and guide their design decisions. (i) The pre-sales staff needs to understand the value proposition so they can initiate the conversation with the customer. (j) The support staff might also need to understand the value proposition. This will help them in anticipating user problems. It is possible that the support staff quickly learns why customers buy the product, and does not need analyst support. However, it is also possible that the analyst's vision helps the support staff ask the right questions from the customer when the customer calls. This scenario is still a little vague in my mind. It's possible that support does not benefit very much from analyst reports. 10. This list was generated by inspecting the supply chain of the software product, and by asking about each node on the chain whether he could benefit from the alignment that an analyst's vision would produce. 11. Even though the value proposition arises through conversations with the customers, and it might initially seem that the customer should be instinctively familiar with it, in fact, it frequently comes to the customer as a complete surprise too. But when the customer hears it he immediately senses the real value in it. It's hard to fool a customer with a fake value proposition that does not resonate with his real problems. 12. Many products sell better than equivalent competitors just because their marketing message communicates the value proposition much more clearly than the competitors do. 13. For example, TiVo had a great product, but they did not explain the value proposition very well to their customers. This was the reason for the lagging sales. This is an example of how a great product can be killed because the vendor does not understand, nor can he communicate, the true value proposition to his customers. 14. A single product might have more than one value proposition. In these cases the one that resonates with the customer the most, and the one that is the simplest should be communicated first. Instead of just trying to pitch any value proposition the salesperson should always use the no-brainer value proposition. The one that is simple to communicate and that immediately resonates with the customer.